"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened" (Matthew 7:7-11)

The above verse offers encouragement that truth does exist, and not only does it exists, but it can and will be found by those who honestly seek after it. This site is dedicated to this quest. We hope it will help you in your personal Search of Truth.

The Eternal Compassionate God

Preface

The Sadducees once posed a question to Jesus, which they believed to be unanswerable by those who believed in the afterlife (Matthew 22:23-28; Mark 12:18-23). Before Jesus stunned them with His profound answer, He commented that they were “mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29-33; Mark 12:24-27). Mark additionally includes Jesus’ closing observation, “You are therefore greatly mistaken” (Mark 12:27). Similarly, in any discussion of God’s eternal nature and His relationship to time, we risk the same rebuke because we have no direct experience with eternity or God outside of our time (2 Corinthians 4:18; Colossians 1:15). We would be entirely ignorant on the subject, if it were not for God’s revelation, which although surely sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:2-3) is not as verbose as we might like so as to easily draw conclusions or completely satisfy our curiosity.

Furthermore, Paul warned about the dangers for anyone intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind (Colossians 2:18) or generally turning “aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Timothy 1:6-7). Elsewhere he warned that no one strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14). Given these daunting warnings and charges, which we desire to neither ignore nor fail, why would we attempt such a difficult topic?

Motivation

In addition to God speaking on the subject, which brings the topic into the realm of “things revealed … belonging to us” (Deuteronomy 29:29), the following questions are occasionally raised while discussing practical questions regarding man’s free-will and the errors of Calvinism:

  1. “Does God’s foreknowledge of man’s sins make God accountable for them?”
  2. “Does God’s foreknowledge of man’s actions deny the possibility of man’s free will?”
  3. “Does God’s eternal nature imply that He does not react to man’s prayer?”

If incorrectly answered the following dangerous conclusions may be drawn:

  1. “God is only guessing at the future; therefore, His promises are not certain.”
  2. “Calvinism must be true. Man must not have free-will.”
  3. “Prayer changes nothing but the person praying. Prayers are never really answered.”

The potential harm of these erroneous conclusions compels closer examination of the topic they contradict, which is God’s eternal compassionate nature. Therefore, recalling the previous warnings and charges, let us tread carefully, humbly, and piously; going no further and no shorter than the light of God’s Holy Word reveals (Psalm 119:105; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:2-3); being content to leave the secret things as secret (Deuteronomy 29:29); and committing to not think higher than our place (Psalm 131:1; Job 42:1-5; Romans 12:3; Isaiah 5:21). Here we seek to “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We aim to cling to the truth and discard the error based on Scripture - not our own experiences and opinions. Only by doing this and being careful to not underestimate God, may we avoid the same condemnation Jesus delivered to the Sadducees.

Plan of Study

Our outline of study will be to first briefly introduce two popular but erroneous viewpoints, positioned at opposing extremes. Although both of these views offer some commendable points, they both contradict the Scriptures significantly on other points, which produce the above dangerous conclusions. Second, our goal will not be to fully dismantle these two perspectives. Rather, our goal will be to note their contradictions with Scripture on this topic, while creating an outline sketch of a third perspective that harmonizes with Scripture and satisfactorily answers the above questions. Our goal is not to fully satisfy our curiosity or dogmatically define the nuances of God’s relationship with time. We are merely providing a plausible alternative, thereby disarming the false dilemma proposed by the other two extreme positions. I suspect the truth is more complicated than the simplified model presented here.

Failings of Two Erroneous Extremes

Classical Theology

From Augustine to Calvin and even to now, notable members of the Catholic and Reformed churches have taught that God is absolutely sovereign both in power and exercise of it. Augustine viewed God as all knowing (omniscient), everywhere present (omnipresent), and all powerful (omnipotent). However, he and other so-called “classical” theologians also viewed God as impassible, that is without emotion and disconnected from His children. Tightly coupled with this logically derived attribute is the notion of God’s immutability, which supposes Him to be unaffected, unchanged, and uninfluenced by His creation. These theologians have well advocated God’s eternal, timeless nature; however, to varying degrees they have also denounced man’s free will and any real power in prayer. This position would be most likely to suggest that God’s foreordination precludes any possibility of man’s free will. Yet, this position would also generally reject that God is responsible for man’s sins, laying all blame at the feet of man. Although this presents a self-evident contradiction within this position, the dilemma is typically dismissed out of hand as a “mystery”, forfeiting a rational self-consistent position.

Open Theism

At another extreme stands Open Theism, which emphasizes God’s love, God’s relationship with man, and man’s free will. In the effort to explain conundrums regarding God’s foreknowledge and man’s accountability, the open theist has gravitated to an open-ended, unknown, and undefined view of the future, where even God does not know the future. This startling reflection on God is explained not as a limit of God’s knowledge, but rather as a logical consequence of God’s relationship to time. God exists within time, the open theist affirms. Therefore, God’s foreknowledge is defined only by His measure of intervention. He is limited to probabilities and calculations based on functions of individual character and the mechanics of the universe. The future is unknown to God because it does not yet exist, or so the open theist might explain.

To the open theist, the dilemma is escaped because God does not really have absolute foreknowledge of man’s actions. However, this escapes comes at the cost of creating a greater issue. In fact, the open theist accepts that God may occasionally miscalculate man’s next move. The men of Keilah not betraying David as God foretold is sometimes used as a proof-text, an alleged example of God’s failed foretelling (2 Samuel 23:1-14). This kind of uncertainty places unnecessary, even blasphemous doubt upon God’s ability to foresee and guarantee the future. Moreover, it directly contradicts God’s showcasing His ability to reliably foresee, foretell, and foreordain the future as a proof of His divinity (Isaiah 41:21-26; 44:6-8). If true it also narrows the gap of distinction between Jehovah and all false gods, whose prophets are also occasionally accurate (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

A Word of Warning: God Is Not Man

Before introducing a simplified model of an alternative position, please consider the following general observation which will help us avoid drifting to dangerous extremes.

These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought that I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, And set them in order before your eyes. “Now consider this, you who forget God, Lest I tear you in pieces, And there be none to deliver: (Psalm 50:21-22)

God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)

That God is not man seems so obvious, yet as humans we tend to think of others as we think of ourselves unless we deliberately attempt to do otherwise. Even then, such “outside the box” thinking is extremely difficult, if not impossible without some outside spark to ignite the imagination. In the ignorant absence of such revelation, our view of God gravitates toward an extension of ourselves: Someone who is stronger, faster, smarter, wiser, and older - but still human, just super-human. Yet, repeatedly the Scriptures remind us that we should not conceive of God as being like ourselves:

How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you like Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; My sympathy is stirred. I will not execute the fierceness of My anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim. For I am God, and not man, The Holy One in your midst; And I will not come with terror. (Hosea 11:9)

In regards to the justified burning of His anger, God plainly declared that He is not like man. Specifically, from the context of Hosea we learn of Israel’s insistent rejection of God, despite His efforts to nurture and woo them (Hosea 11:1-4). Consequently, God justly condemned the northern kingdom of Israel. Their time had come and utter devastation was their due recompense. Insulted, incensed, and utterly rejected, man’s natural inclination would have been to annihilate his betrayer. Unlike man God stooped once again in mercy, sympathy, and compassion to providentially chasten, while proclaiming a message of repentance and hope (Hosea 11:8-11).

Although created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), we must be careful that we do not assume God is like us in any particular given point. For example, we should not assume that God is bound by time traveling in time along side of us as the open-theist would suggest.

Frequently, the Calvinist and other so-called “classical” theologians, repudiate such proof-texts as anthropopathisms, figures of speech that attribute human emotions to non-human entities, such as God, solely for the purpose of dramatic emphasis. By figuratively interpreting the text, they hope to escape the force of a literal interpretation. However, this passage does not yield itself to such a hasty dismissal. Please recall that the very point of the text is that God is not like man (Hosea 11:9)! How can a figurative comparison to man be used to make the opposite point, that God is not comparable to man?

God’s emotions are different from man’s in His exercise and control of them. Explained in Hosea’s message, God’s just anger would be patiently delayed by His loving sympathy, as man would never do under such extreme rejection. This revelation that God governs His emotions differently than man not only necessitates that He has emotions, but it also requires that His emotions are sensitive to the plight of man (Hosea 11:8)!

A Hybrid Perspective: The Eternal God

Before developing a hybrid perspective of God, blending aspects from both classical and open theology thereby providing a middle ground between these two extremes, please consider that one of the most prominent unique attributes of God taught in Scripture is that He is eternal, transcending time, existing outside of it. This one point of belief is shared with the “classic theologians” (e.g., Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin). He is described in the Bible as:

  • Being “eternal” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
  • Being “One Who inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15)
  • Being “from everlasting” and “from everlasting to everlasting” (Habakkuk 1:12; 1 Chronicles 16:36)
  • One who “cannot lie, promised before time began (Titus 1:2)
  • Possessing “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20)
  • Possessing “infinite understanding” (Psalm 147:5)
  • Being the “eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:5)
  • Having “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)
  • Reigning as the “the King eternal, immortal, invisible” (1 Timothy 1:17)
  • Possessing from eternity “tender mercies and loving kindness” (Psalm 25:6)
  • Associated with “the eternal Spirit” (Hebrews 9:14)
  • Even putting “eternity in their hearts”, speaking of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

But, what does it mean for God to be “eternal”? A casual word study of the original words translated as “eternal”, “forever”, “everlasting”, and so forth, reveals that these words do not inherently teach by definition “timelessness” or “time transcendence”. In addition to being applied to God and His dwelling place, they are also applied to physical objects that are clearly bound in time - objects that had a beginning and an end in time. Therefore, if we are to determine whether God possesses a unique relationship to time, whether He exists outside of time, we must closely examine these words in their context, looking for specific implications beyond the general definitions alone.

Jehovah, the Always Existing God

One of the earliest explanations in the Bible of God’s relationship to time is found in His self-designation to Moses at the burning bush passage:

Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ’I AM has sent me to you.’” Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’” (Exodus 3:13-15)

God’s old covenant name, “Jehovah” (translated as “LORD” in the King James and New King James versions), is derived from the verb “am”. His very name indicates He is the “existing one”, the “I AM”. He has neither beginning nor end. He is not the “I was, I am, and I will be”, but He is the “I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14)! For any given point in time, He is. This is the very definition of time transcendence.

Furthermore, from this declaration we also learn that God is unchanging. He is not becoming, but He is existing. This also suggests timelessness, since He is neither growing nor diminishing. (This could be construed to support the classical view of God being impassable and immutable; however, that position goes too far and draws conclusions contrary to God’s responsive nature.)

Moreover, He is both self-defined and self-existing. He is the “I AM WHO I AM, not the “I AM WHO someone else determined”. The fact that this designation is synonymous with His identity and name implies that He alone possesses this nature. (If others “gods” possessed the same nature, then the designation fails to distinguish Him and is therefore no name.) Therefore, in one brief statement, God asserts that He is uniquely independent, unchanging, and timeless.

Time, Not Applicable

Reaffirmed near the close of the Bible, in describing the duration of God’s patience, Peter reminds us:

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

If time passed slower for God than us (explaining His ability to scrutinize every instant), we would expect Peter to say that for God “one day is as a thousand years”, but nothing more. If time passed more quickly for Him (explaining His great age), we would expect the other phrase, “a thousand years as one day”, but nothing more. The fact that Peter uses two contradictory phrases, that time for God is simultaneously both dilated and contracted, implies that time is not applicable to God. Time is neither faster nor slower for Him. It simply is not relevant to Him personally because He is independent from it, and so He is not limited by time in any way.

Based on these descriptions, we might say that God is “omnichronopresent”, simultaneously existing at every point time. He is not a “time traveler”, rather He resides in all times at once, just like He is omnipresent, existing in all geographical places at once (Psalm 139:7-12). This divine attribute alone would enable complete foreknowledge of all events in all time past, present, and future. To such a God - a God outside of time - how would temporal man, his choices, his life and all time appear?

Foreknowledge or Recall?

Although the Bible never uses the word “omniscient” (all-knowing), it repeatedly proclaims God’s limitless knowledge and the impossibility of hiding from God for both man and beast (Amos 9:2-4; Matthew 6:26-32; 10:29-31; Job 38:33-39:30). Underestimating or doubting His omniscience is a common pitfall (Isaiah 29:15-16). More specifically, please notice how the Psalmist portrays God’s view of David’s actions in relation to time:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. … Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:1-4)

Notice that all of David’s life and ways, including those that were still future to David and uncertain to him (Proverbs 19:21; 27:1; James 4:13-17), were past tense to God. These events had already transpired from God’s vantage point! Furthermore, this language is not unique to David. It is used also of God’s interaction with our world, including His plan of salvation and offering of Jesus:

Known to God from eternity are all His works. (Acts 15:18)

but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. (1 Peter 1:19-20)

If God’s works are known, then as far as those works interact with man, their works must also be known by implication! Furthermore, why would we assume this attribute of God is limited in application to David, Jesus, or Himself? These verses combined previous establishment of God’s timeless, eternal nature assures us that this same language can be applied to all events in time, including the moral choices of men - even us.

Therefore, if all events are past tense to God, then He has already observed all events. He knows the end from the beginning, because He has already been there (Isaiah 46:10)! What we understand as God’s foreknowledge (because the events have yet to occur from our perspective) could be considered as recollection to God.

Engaging Time Bound Beings

How can we visualize God’s unique relation with mankind, human beings moving through time? For the purposes of illustration, please consider all of history for all time captured in a long, detailed picture or drawing. As you scanned the picture from left to right, you could study scenes of history, representing the progression of time. To make it more accessible, please imagine it rolled into a large circle, except the end and the beginning do not touch. Can you imagine standing in the center of such an encircling panorama, where you could turn and see all of history with people moving through time as you scanned the image from left to right? As a concrete example of such a work, consider the Frieze of American History, located in the United States Capitol Rotunda. It shows significant scenes of people and events in American history. Can you imagine adding increasing levels of detail to it until it showed all people and all events throughout time - past, present and future? (We may not be able to imagine it in every practical detail, but for the sake of discussion we can accept it in the abstract.)

If you can imagine such a work, now please imagine a powerful being standing in the center of the circle. He does not exist in the picture. He exists outside of it. He transcends it. However, he can “magically” reach into the picture at any point and repeatedly manipulate it to whatever degree he desires, except he cannot modify the internals of the people in the picture. He can only modify their externals. After disengaging from the picture, he can scan and observe how the picture reacted to his intervention. Only he would be able to recall the state of the picture before his engagement. Those inside would have no memory of the prior state, because for them, the other never happened. There would only ever be one timeline, one picture for them.

Even if the behavior of the beings trapped in the picture was somewhat unpredictable, through repetition and experimentation he could eventually manipulate the picture at various points until it produced whatever composite picture he desired.

From the vantage of this powerful being, all history would be past. He could see it all once, “the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:10). It would enable him to speak about future events to those in the picture in the past tense, appearing as one who “calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Romans 4:17) To those people, it would appear as if their days and works were all written in a book, before they even occurred (Psalm 139:16). If he were to engage it sufficiently, even this being might appear in the picture, captured in its record.

Manipulating Time, A Team Effort

Continuing the development of the above illustration, please further imagine there was more than one powerful being, who was observing and manipulating the picture, who existed outside of it. If one of these beings did not just partially engage, but fully entered the picture such that he was now also consciously moving through time in the picture, we would expect him to be unconscious of the long-term consequences of his actions while in the picture. Depending on his abilities, he could assess the present status of all things and people around him while immersed in the picture, but he would be unable to know the exact future with certainty, because he would be changing it by his ongoing presence and interaction with others in the picture. For this powerful being fully immersed into the picture’s timeline, from his perspective at that time, the future would be open-ended, undefined, uncertain as the open-theist proposed for all of deity, except these limitations would apply only while fully immersed.

Any one of these powerful beings that remained outside of the picture, if only partially engaged, would still be cognizant of the the whole picture, continuing to see “the end from the beginning”. He could even communicate to this other great being, who was fully immersed in the picture; however, any such information would only be disclosed at the discretion of the beings outside the picture and from their vantage. By manipulating the picture on two fronts - from both without and within the picture - unique outcomes could be generated, which could not otherwise be produced by beings limited to operating inside the picture.

Does this illustration truly represent God’s and Jesus’ interaction with man through time? I doubt it. Please consider the above illustration as a simplified toy model of reality, an extremely limited analogy that fits the available Scriptures and data. There are too many unknowns, and we are too far removed from experience with too little means to test our hypothesis to develop much more. Consider this an argument from the lesser to the greater: If we can resolve these dilemmas using a simplified model, how much more easily are they resolved with God’s greater power and station, which we cannot begin to fully comprehend?

This model can be used to conceptually explain why only the heavenly Father knew the day and time for the end of the world, while Jesus was here:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:31-32)

When Jesus spoke those words, although divine Himself, He might have been unaware of the timing of Judgment Day, since He was actively modifying the criteria (i.e., mankind) upon which that judgment would be based. With such a two-pronged approach (the Father outside time and the Son inside time), we can reconcile Jesus’ ignorance of the last day’s date with His omniscient deity, God’s composite eternal nature, and the free-will of mankind.

Foreordination or Foreknowledge?

Calvinists and similar theologians have affirmed that foreordination preceded foreknowledge, that is God decided first thereby establishing the facts and knowledge of it. If true, this also could provide an escape for the dilemma of God’s foreknowledge and man’s free will.

Although God may have indeed first foreordained many things apart from any foreknowledge of men and their choices (Genesis 41:25, 28, 32; Isaiah 46:5-11; 41:21-26), in regards to man’s moral choices, Paul establishes that foreknowledge came first:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29)

It was those who were first foreknown or foreseen, who He then (“also”) predestined or foreordained.

Of course, if God foreordained men to sin generally - thereby requiring them to commit all of their sins, then not only would Calvinism be true, but we would have a bigger problem to reconcile against His just nature than just a few sins foretold in prophecy.

Maybe God Chooses Not to Know?

If God knows all of man’s choices before they are made, does that not imply men must make those choices? Otherwise, God could be in error, even a liar if He foretold those choices. And, if man must make the choices that God has foreseen, then is man not cleared of all related responsibility? Would not God be responsible for those choices, since He essentially fixed them by His foreknowledge?

To answer these questions some have suggested, “Maybe in some instances God chooses not to know, escaping the force of His foreknowledge?” In answering these questions, let us first try to imagine that God really did “close His eyes” to certain parts of the future and “chose not to know”. How would He know that He had not missed something important? Maybe somebody would do something, or a natural accident would happen such that His foreordination and prophesy would be derailed! If all people’s moral decisions were suddenly “blind spots” in God’s foreknowledge, then He would not be able to foretell anything! For example, how would He be able to foretell Cyrus’ future obedience to His proclamation to release His people from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 44:24-45:13; 2 Chronicles 36:20-23)? Moreover, how would He know what to inspect and what to ignore without first looking at it and knowing it? He could not know to shut His eyes to some events unless He first looked at them, which would fix them at that instant, even if He somehow managed to forget them. (This overlooks the complications associated with assuming God could somehow unknow what He knows.) For this theory to be true and consistent, God would need to avoid all foreknowledge. Anything else defies reason. This absurd conclusion demonstrates the error of suggesting that God chooses not to know man’s moral choices, plus it unnecessarily limits God’s nature with no Scriptural justification.

Second, please recall the previous observation and associated warning: “God is not man”. Returning to the Bible depiction of God’s eternal nature, let us not fall prey again to imagining Him trapped in time, traveling along side of us. If this were true, there might be some justification to this paradox, because God would be foretelling events that have yet to occur. Notice how Scriptures record the historical fact of man’s sins:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

As seen in other choices of man, the commission of mankind’s sins are all regarded in the past tense! From God’s perspective beyond time, all men are not destined to sin in the future, rather they already have sinned! His power to foretell the future offers no force in committing sins yet to occur, because the veracity and power of these words are derived from His observation after these sins occurred.

Moral Responsibility for Man’s Sins

Some have suggested that such dilemmas can be avoided, if we understand no long range prophecy would require man to sin. Although an interesting shortcut, it is not consistent with Scripture. Please consider:

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” (Psalm 2:1-6)

This Psalm clearly foretells the rejection of Jesus by both Jew and Gentile, and its ongoing application is applied by the apostles of the Jews’ persecution of the newly established church (Acts 4:24-28). This is but one example of God foreseeing and foretelling moral choices resulting in sin.

We could go on to ask, “How could God justly punish the Jews for crucifying Jesus, since they executed what He had predetermined?” Simply by manipulating events ensuring that wicked men rose to power (as He did with Pharaoh - “for this cause I have raised you up”, (Exodus 9:16-17)), who would react violently in pride and arrogance (Matthew 27:17-24; Mark 15:10-11; John 11:47-53; 19:10-11), He was able to ensure the fulfillment of His will. They were punished not for their granted position of power for which God was responsible. Instead, they were punished for their sinful abuse of it for which they were responsible. Other examples of God using wicked people to accomplish His predetermined will include:

  • Joseph’s brothers selling him to Egypt, so he could deliver them (Genesis 50:15-21).
  • King Jehu’s “zeal for the Lord” in annihilating Ahab’s house and Baal worship, only to be punished for it (1 Kings 21:18-28; 2 Kings 9:1-10:31; Hosea 1:4).
  • Babylonian’s destruction of Jerusalem, only to be punished for it (Habakkuk 1:5).
  • Work of all evil bent to serve His purpose “for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28).

In every case, these people were used and manipulated by their own sinful ambitions and desires. They were punished not for accomplishing God’s work, but for accomplishing their work:

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation. I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations. For he says, ‘Are not my princes altogether kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus? As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols, Whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria, As I have done to Samaria and her idols, Shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?’” Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.” For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it, And by my wisdom, for I am prudent; Also I have removed the boundaries of the people, And have robbed their treasuries; So I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man. My hand has found like a nest the riches of the people, And as one gathers eggs that are left, I have gathered all the earth; And there was no one who moved his wing, Nor opened his mouth with even a peep.” Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it? Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it? As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up, Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood! (Isaiah 10:5-15)

Assyria was not punished for executing God’s punishment against Judah and Jerusalem, rather they were punished for their arrogance, blasphemy, and cruelty. Even in performing the very act God wanted, they could be punished because they performed it not only ignorant of His will but in fact, contrary to it.

What about Jesus foretelling Judas’ and Peter’s specific sins (John 13:18-30; Matthew 26:31-35)? His prediction of their immediate sins can be explained differently. We know that Jesus could read the minds of men, knowing their thoughts (John 2:24-25; 6:61-71; 13:1-30; Matthew 12:14-15). Furthermore, both Judas’ and Peter’s character was manifested well in advance of their foretold sins (Matthew 16:21-25; John 12:3-6; Luke 22:1-6; Mark 14:1-11). Therefore, Jesus would have been able to foretell their sins simply based upon their already compromised character. They could not avoid falling into temptation because their hearts were in the wrong place. Of course, the Father could have also communicated that information to Him, revealing it silently and directly. Although the exact mechanism is not revealed, either of these explanations would suffice in avoiding any dilemmas or perceived contradictions with other truths.

A Loving God

Although God is eternal and unbound by time, He does however interact with humans, who are temporal, mortal, and finite - currently limited by time. Therefore, His temporal reactions to us must necessarily change as we change, in order to maintain His eternal consistency. Why? The underlying divine nature does not change over time as a result of God’s eternal existence (Hebrews 13:8). And, God must maintain His character and be true to His own nature (2 Timothy 2:12-13; Romans 3:4). However, God’s eternal nature has moral qualities that pertain to us, who are also moral beings although temporal. Therefore, as our moral nature changes over time, God’s reaction and treatment of us must also change; otherwise, God’s eternal principles and nature would be violated. For example, He would cease to be just, if He permitted a righteous man to sin and go unpunished. He will be true to His nature, even if it means condemning those whom He loves and for whom Jesus died (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

A Responsive God

Please consider God’s own explanation of His response to our moral changes:

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord GOD. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:20-32)

This explanation is not just hypothetical or theoretical, because the case of King Hezekiah demonstrates this behavior of God in practice: Hezekiah initially exhibited profoundly courageous character and godly ambitions by restoring true worship of God in Judah (2 Chronicles 29-31; 2 Kings 18:1-8). However, he apparently grew arrogant and self-reliant, stooping to strip the treasures of God’s temple to pay off the threatening king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:13-16). In response, God told him to, “Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live” (2 Kings 20:1). Yet, Hezekiah repented and sought God’s mercy, and before the prophet could even leave the courtyard, God reversed His decisions adding 15 years to Hezekiah’s life based on Hezekiah’s prayer for mercy (2 Kings 20:2-11).

These changes in God’s temporal course of action can only be explained by God’s response to our change over time. His statements are predicated upon man’s behavior at that moment in time. Any other explanation of God’s changing is not only without Scriptural support, but contradicts the Bible description of God by ascribing either ignorance (open-theism) or deception (Calvinism) to God.

This same responsiveness is also demonstrated toward entire nations, not just individuals:

“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! ”The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, “if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: ”Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.“’” (Jeremiah 18:6-11)

Although the Bible records few instances of large scale repentance in response to God’s warning, Jonah’s blunt preaching to the capital of Assyria followed by their repentance and forgiveness demonstrates the behavior explained in Jeremiah:

Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!“ So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish? Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:1-10)

The Unchanging God?

Some may ask, “But, what about the verses that insist God does not change?” For example, please consider:

And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien – Because they do not fear Me,“ Says the LORD of hosts. ”For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you,“ Says the LORD of hosts. ”But you said, ’In what way shall we return?’ (Malachi 3:5-7)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

First, notice that even some of these proof texts contain rebuttals demonstrating the Lord’s change in the same context (Malachi 3:7), assuring us that God never intended we interpret these verses absolutely or understand that God never changes in no way whatsoever. The better questions to ask are, “In what ways does God change?” and “In what ways does He not change?”

Second, we often speak of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west; however, the sun has not really moved. We have moved! The earth has rotated on its axis as it revolves around the sun. We speak by accommodation from our vantage point, assuming it as a reference point. Similarly, the above passages demonstrate that God does not change His character or the basis of His judgment as He reacts to our changes. Rather, we have moved with respect to God from a position warranting wrath to one of mercy. In these instances, God has no more changed than the sun. God more frequently communicates to us (and similarly we communicate with each other) as we see God from our perspective, which assumes we are the fixed point of reference. But, from the true perspective, His perspective, He remains the same and is unchanged.

A God Open to Mediation

Beyond God changing his judgment against a man in response to his own changed thoughts and behavior, Scriptures contain several examples of God deferring or postponing His original judgment based on another man, an intercessor or mediator. Please consider:

  • Moses interceded for the Israelites on many occasions, avoiding their almost total and instantaneous annihilation. The golden calf incident is just one of many recorded instances demonstrating Moses’ role of mediator (Exodus 32:9-14).
  • Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah, potentially altering their fate. God agreed to spare the cities if He could find 10 righteous people. Regretfully, the cities had become so vile, that even 10 decent inhabitants could not be found (Genesis 18:16-33; 19:1-29). Even though the cities were destroyed, the fact that God was willing to spare the city for Abraham’s sake shows His willingness to postpone destruction on behalf of another.
  • Once the Israelites became absolutely corrupt, God instructed righteous Jeremiah to cease all prayerful interceding for the Israelites (Jeremiah 11:11-14). In this case, their destruction was not to be postponed any longer.
  • Although prayer is not mentioned, Paul reported that Epaphroditus recovered as a result of “mercy” shown toward both Epaphroditus and Paul (Philippians 2:25-30).
  • Although not stated necessarily in response to prayer, Paul was also told that “God has granted you all those who sail with you” before his ship wrecked on an island at sea (Acts 27:21-26).
  • John gives very clear instruction regarding intercessory prayers offered on behalf of sinning brethren:

    If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (1 John 5:16)

    This verse provides the principle and elaborates on the instruction for Jeremiah to withhold intercessory prayer (Jeremiah 11:14). Godly, wise intercessors should recognize when God’s delay of judgment is no longer effective and helpful, even harmful (Matthew 7:6).

Effective Prayers

But, does God actually listen to these prayers? Do they really influence God or effect Him in any way?

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14-15)

John uses this confidence to justify the intercessory prayers proscribed above (1 John 5:16). We should intercede, because we have the confidence that God will hear and respond, if it is in harmony with His will. However, God is not a genie bound to grant all our wishes. God wants to bless us, and He hear us, but He will not grant desires that are outside of His will. Please compare Luke 11:1-13; Luke 18:1-8; James 1:5-8 with James 4:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Acts 16:6-10; Matthew 6:1-24; Luke 18:9-14.

James also describes the prayers of the faithful as “effective”:

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:16-18)

Some may reply that Elijah’s prayer - and prayers of other righteous people are only effective upon themselves. In other words, prayer only helps the person praying by helping them to calm, focus, trust, etc. Although this may additionally be true, the above passage is clear about the nature of this effectiveness. It changed the weather, which is controlled by God - not Elijah!

True, God had already warned that rain would be witheld because of idolatry and disobedience (Leviticus 26:1-4, 14-20, 40-43; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; 28:12, 24) and therefore, Elijah’s prayer was consistent with God’s will; however, the timing of the drought and the rain was effected by Elijah in this case.

Likewise, Daniel’s prayer for the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity exemplifies such an effective prayer:

in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “… As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. … we have sinned, we have done wickedly! O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. … O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision: (Daniel 9:2-23)

Except for their righteousness, was there anything else special about these people that would cause God to listen to their prayers and not our prayers? Remember what James said about Elijah, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours? The whole point of that verse is to exalt Elijah as an example we can repeat, if we pray according to God’s will.

Yes, God hears our prayers. They can be effective, assuming they are in accordance with His will. He has repeatedly proven that He is open to intervening based on our request. We must reconcile our theology with these passages. Returning to the illustration of the independent panoramic timeline, if a powerful transcendent being could observe our prayers from outside of time, respond, and manipulate the picture at his convenience, how much more God Almighty? In such a way God could maintain both His foreknowledge and responsive compassion.

Conclusion

Based on the above development, the original questions can be succinctly answered as follows:

  1. “Does God’s foreknowledge of man’s sins make God accountable for them?” No. Because God exists outside of time, He sees man’s choices as completed, already past. In this way, man’s choices precede God’s foreknowledge, while allowing Him to speak prophetically and certainly to those who exist in time.
  2. “Does God’s foreknowledge of man’s actions deny the possibility of man’s free will?” No, for the same reasons as above. God cannot be proven a liar in regards to events yet to come, because from His perspective they already have occurred.
  3. “Does God’s eternal nature imply that He does not react to man’s prayer?” No, in fact, His eternal nature must react to man’s prayers to preserve His own just nature, especially prayers of repentance, for mediation, or for judgment.

Too often people gravely underestimate God by imagining Him as a super-human traveling through time with us. Others rely on the philosophies of men to project attributes of God, clinging to them despite their contradiction of Scripture. Yet, contrary to the beliefs of both Open-Theists and Calvinists, the Scriptures clearly reveal God to simultaneously be a timeless, transcendent, eternal King who exists outside our time as well as a loving, compassionate, responsive Creator who answers prayer. Admittedly, that fact may be difficult to comprehend. However, the Scriptures make that point abundantly clear, and simplified models have been demonstrated that explain all the relevant passages. All that remains is to accept or reject God’s clear teaching on Himself. From that vantage point, we will more clearly see how to fit our theology to God, rather than attempting to fit God to our theology.

Appendix: Additional Links

The folloing links from our forum lead to discussions about these topics that led to the development of this article:

Appendix: Questions and Objections

“1. If Jesus fully immersed Himself in our time, giving up His perspective that He shared with the Father, would He not have also given up His eternal nature and therefore His deity?”

The Bible speaks of Jesus as one who “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:6-7). As part of Jesus being God and coming in the flesh, some attributes associated with the “form of God” would have been set aside to assume the “form of a bondservant … in the likeness of men”, while other characteristics would be inherent in His divine nature and maintained. For example, existing beyond temptation to sin is attributed to God (James 1:13-14); however, Jesus clearly surrendered that power when He was clothed in human flesh (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 4:14-15). But, His power to forgive sins (Mark 2:3-12; Luke 23:40-43) and willingness to accept worship (Matthew 8:2-3; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; 20:27-28) while in the flesh manifested His ongoing deity as did other unique behavior. For those that accept the Bible as the ultimate authority on all things related to deity, we must be careful that we give room to the Scriptures to define what are the essential attributes of deity and which are unique to the “form of God” from which He can be separated, while in “the form of a bondservant … in the likeness of men”.

Jesus declared Himself to be eternal predating Abraham by adopting the same title that Jehovah ascribed to Himself as the unchanging timeless God: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:54-58; Exodus 3:13-14). The Jews understood Jesus’ claim for deity, because they attempted to stone Him immediately after He said it (John 8:58-59; Leviticus 24:16). However, He is also shown as being absent from God’s throne scene while He was on earth (Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9-11; Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 4:1-5:9), indicating that during His time here, He was absent from the eternal perspective shared by the Father. If we understand that Jesus normally inhabited eternity and only exceptionally inhabited time while in the fleshly form, we can resolve this apparent contradiction by understanding Jesus’ self-designation as the “I AM” to relate to His normal form, His form “before Abraham”. It follows that He would have resumed this form, at least the eternal nature, when He rejoined the Father at His throne in eternity (Acts 1:9-11; Daniel 7:9-14; Revelation 4:1-5:9).

“2. It seems you are using some kind of circular reasoning by using chronological terms, such as before, after, and then, when speaking about God’s activities outside of time. How can there be time outside of time?”

The language cannot be entirely invalid because the Bible uses this type of language. Assuming we accept God’s Word as more authoritative than the philosophies of men, the Scriptures speak of God accomplishing things before time began (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2). Does this imply that our time is somehow encapsulated inside another time, which is independent of our own? Or, is this language used by accommodation for beings who cannot otherwise relate to dependency ordering? We know the spiritual bodies that await us after the resurrection are unlike anything we know here (1 Corinthians 15:35-54), so could the sequencing of events and realization of dependencies also be unlike our time too? I cannot say. I know of no Scripture that speaks further, and everything else seems like dangerous conjecture, where multiple possibilities exist - not to mention the possibilities that lie beyond our imagination.

“3. How could God have foreordained Jesus to be sacrified before the foundation of the world? Would that not imply some knowledge of our time before He created it”

Before committing ourselves to God as Jesus’ disciples, Jesus warns us to “sit down first and count the cost” and that if each of us are unwilling to “forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:25-35). Each of us are instructed to prepare ourselves to be ready to sacrifice everything for the Lord. Not knowing the exact future, but being prepared for the worst, we commit ourselves as His disciples. Could it not be that God and Jesus speak not only out of wisdom in this passage but from personal experience? Like what God asks of us, He previously “purposed in His heart” to sacrifice Jesus before He “began to build a tower” or “go to war” (Daniel 1:8; Luke 14:28-33).

Appendix: Word Study References

Each person may have different connotations of the word, “eternal”; therefore, let us look a few sources to better understand this quality, which is ascribed to God.

Young’s Analytical Concordance breaks out the following original words various original words (in parentheses) and brief English definitions for the most prominent words, which were translated as “eternal”, “ever”, “everlasting”, “forever”, etc.:

  • Duration, continuity (Hebrew: ad).
  • Age lasting (Hebrew: olam).
  • To the age (Hebrew: leelom).
  • Pre-eminence, perpetuity (Hebrew: netsach, lanetsach).
  • What is before in time or place (Hebrew: qedem).
  • Continually (Hebrew: tamid).
  • Always, aye (Greek: aei).
  • Perpetual (Greek: aidios).
  • Age (Hebrew: aion) (pl.).
  • Age lasting (aionios).
  • Alway, at all time (Greek: pantote).

The following lexicon and expository dictionary entries provide a little more background on the key, original words:

ad (Hebrew)

ad - n. m. perpetuity (= advancing time, df. As. adu, time at the present times); - 1. of past time: Jb 20:4; Hb 3:6 ancient mountains. 2. of future time, for ever: a. during lifetime, of king Psalm 21:7, Pr 29:14; of others Psalm 9:19, 22:27, 61:9, Pr 12:19. b. of things Jb 19:24. c. of continuous existence, of nations (of Babylon) Is 47:7; anger, Am 1:11; elsewhere Psalm 83:18, 92:8, Is 26:4, 65:18. d. of divine existence IS 57:15; attributes Psalm 111:3, 111:10, 112:3, 112:9; residence in Zion, 132:14; law of God 19:10; promise as to dynasty of David, 89:30; 132:12, inheritance of land, 37:29; continuous relations between God and his people 1 Ch 28:9, Is 64:8, Mi 7:18. … (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon (Unabridged), 6791, p.723, Strong 5703)

ad - 1. Perpetuity. ASV, RSV translate similarly, except in Isa 45:17. Here the former has “world without end” while the latter has “to all eternity.” It should be noted that there is no general word for time in Hebrew, neither are there special terms for the past, present, future, and eternity. The word olam should be compared, with special attention given to the nineteen times when these words are used together. … The word is used only twice relative to the past. The knowledge that the success of the wicked is short, has been known from of old (Job 20:4). In Hab 3:6 reference is made to the antiquity of mountains. Otherwise it always denotes the unforeseeable future … Frequently the word ad is applied to God. His existence is eternal (Isa 57:15). While the righteous endures forever (Psa 111:3; Psa 112:3, 9), his anger does not (Mic 7:18). God is worthy of praise and will be praised forever (Psa 45:17 [H 18]; Psa 52:9 [H 10]; Psa 111:10; Psa 145:1, 2, 21). The throne of God (Psa 10:16; Psa 45:6 [H 7]; Exo 15:18) and the law of God (Psa 19:9 [H 10]) will endure forever. … The word is used temporally to indicate a continuation of an event from a point in the past to the present (Gen 19:37, 38). It can be used of an event clearly in the past (Gen 8:7) and also of an event in the future (Gen 3:19; Deut 7:20, 23). As a conjunction it can refer to action which has already happened (Deut 2:14) or one which has not yet been completed at the time of the writing (2Sam 17:13). A continuing event can be designated under such translations as “while” and “during” (“the exalting of the wicked is but for a moment,” Job 20:5; cf Jon 4:2; 2Kings 9:22). … (Harris, et als, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

ad - continuing future, always: la ad for ever Is 64:8; minni ad always (in the past), from the beginning Jb 20:4, ade ad for ever Is 26:4; olam waed continually & for ever, for ever & ever Ex 15:18, = laad leolam Ps 111:8; ad olme ad for ever for all time Is 45:17; harre ad everlasting mountains Hb 3:6, abi ad father for ever Is 9:5. (Holladay, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, p.265)

olam (Hebrew)

olam - n. m. long duration, antiquity, futurity; … - 1. of past time: a. ancient time: days of old; ancient people; b. the long dead … c. of God … his existence Psalm 93:2. d. of things … 2. a. indef. futurity … b. = continuous existence, (1) of things: the earth … heavens and contents Psa 148:6, ruined cities …. (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon (Unabridged), 6791, p.723, Strong 5703)

olam - forever, ever, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient, world, etc. (RSV Similar in general, but substitutes “always” for “in the world” in Psa 73:12 and “eternity” for “world” in Eccl 3:11.) Probably derived from alam l, “to hide,” thus pointing to what is hidden in the distant future or in the distant past. … Though olam is used more than three hundred times to indicate indefinite continuance into the very distant future, the meaning of the word is not confined to the future. There are at least twenty instances where it clearly refers to the past. Such usages generally point to something that seems long ago, but rarely if ever refer to a limitless past, Thus in Deut 32:7 and Job 22:15 it may refer to the time of one’s elders. In Prov 22:28; Prov 23:10; Jer 6:16; Jer 18:15; Jer 28:8 it points back somewhat farther. In Isa 58:12; Isa 61:4; Mic 7:14; Mal 3:4, and in the Aramaic of Ezr 4:15, 19 it clearly refers to the time just before the exile. In 1Sam 27:8, in Isa 51:9 and Isa 63:9, 11 and perhaps Ezek 36:2, it refers to the events of the Exodus from Egypt. In Gen 6:4 it points to the time shortly before the flood. None of these past references has in it the idea of endlessness or limitlessness, but each points to a time long before the immediate knowledge of those living. In Isa 64:3 the KJV translates the word “beginning of the world.” In Psa 73:12 and Ecc 3:11 it is translated “world,” suggesting the beginning of a usage that developed greatly in post biblical times. Jenni holds that its basic meaning “most distant times” can refer to either the remote past or to the future or to both as due to the fact that it does not occur independently (as a subject or as an object) but only in connection with prepositions indicating direction (min “since,” ad “until,” le “up to”) or as an adverbial accusative of direction or finally as the modifying genitive in the construct relationship. In the latter instance olam can express by itself the whole range of meanings denoted by all the prepositions “since, until, to the most distant time”; i.e. it assumes the meaning “(unlimited, incalculable) continuance, eternity.” (THAT II, p. 230) J. Barr (Biblical Words for Time (2 1969), p. 73) says, “We might therefore best state the ”basic meaning“ as a kind of range between ‘remotest time’ and ‘perpetuity”’. But as shown above it is sometimes used of a not-so-remote past. For the meaning of the word in its attributive use we should note the designation of the Lord as el olam, “The Eternal God” (Gen 21:33). The LXX generally translates olam by aion which has essentially the same range of meaning. That neither the Hebrew nor the Greek word in itself contains the idea of endlessness is shown both by the fact that they sometimes refer to events or conditions that occurred at a definite point in the past, and also by the fact that sometimes it is thought desirable to repeat the word, not merely saying “forever, ” but “forever and ever.” Both words came to be used to refer to a long age or period-an idea that is sometimes expressed in English by “world.” Post biblical Jewish writings refer to the present world of toil as ha olam hazzeh and to the world to come as ha olam habba. ad (q.v.) has substantially the same range of meaning as olam (usually long continuance into the future, but cf. Job 20:4). … (Harris, et als, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

olam - 1. long time, constancy, all (coming) time (in Eng. usu. ’eternity,’ ’eternal,’ but not to be understood in philosophical sense) … 2. adv. for all time, for ever … 3. long time ago, the dim past … $. referring to God … (Holladay, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, p.265)

qedem (Hebrew)

qedem - n.[m.] front, east, aforetime; … 1. loc. a. front: Isaiah 9:11 “from the front” (i.e. East) … b. East: Genesis 10:30 “mount of the East” … 2. temp., “ancient time, aforetime”: a. Deuteronomy 33:15 “ancient mountains” … b. Psalm 44:2 “in ancient days”, cf: “from of old” … c. “from of old” Micah 5:1 … d. alone, as adv. “anciently”, “of old” Psalm 74:2, 199:152 … e. beginning, Proverbs 8:23 “from the beginnings of the earth” … (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon (Unabridged), 8417, p.869, Strong 6924)

qedem - The root qdm incorporates two basic concepts: first, (and most often) “to confront (meet) someone with either a good or bad intent, ” second, “to precede someone or something either temporally or geographically.” … qedem. East, antiquity, front. The noun qedem has either a geographical meaning, “east,” or a temporal notion “ancient time, aforetime”.“ This noun occurs sixty-one times. It denotes an idyllic state whereas olam, ad denote perpetuity, azqen, agedness, and rishon primacy (q.v.) … H. W. Wolf likens the Hebrews conception of time to the situation of a man rowing a boat. He sees the past as before him (qedem); the future is behind his back (aharit). There is truth in this, except that this was not necessarily the concept of time of the Hebrews, for this etymological usage was determined before the Hebrews adopted the language (H. W. Wolff, lecture notes). In poetic passages qedem describes the created state. So Joseph is blessed with the chief things of the ancient (idyllic) mountains (Deut 33:15), and God is enthroned (abides) of old (since creation, Psa 55:19 [H 20]). Our word is used of the Exodus as typifying the intended ideal (Mal 3:4). The Psalmist recalls the glorious works of God performed then (Psa 44:1 [H 2]), especially in his times of distress (Psa 77:5 [H 6]). Surely, these references recall the divine covenant (Psa 74:2). qedem is also used of the Davidic period (Neh 12:46). All three ideas (creation-Exodus-Davidic reign) are joined in Psa 74:12. So we see that the three from a theological model. This is further emphasized in statements about the Messiah (Hic 5:2 [H 1]; Ezek 36:11), and the eternal covenant (Mic 7:20). Finally, Isaiah applies this model (from creation to perfection) to the Lord’s coming (Isa 45:23) according to the counsel of God. All is known and done by him (Isa 45:21). (Harris, et als, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

qedem - 7400 pl. cs. Pr 8:23: - 1. In front Ps 139:5; miqqedem from the fron Is 9:11; - 2. in front = east: in the east Gn 2:8; eastward Gn 13:11; miqqedem from the east Is 2:6, miqqedem east of Gn 3:24; - 3. east (as a geographical region) Gn 25:6 bene qedem Easterners Gn 29:1; har haqqedem East Mountains = northern border of Sinai Gn 10:30; - 4. temporal: before, earlier, ancient times (adv.) keqedem as of old Je 30:20; miqqedem for the first time Ne 12:46, from ancient times Is 45:21 - 5. (noun) antiquity, primeval times: elohe qedem God from primeval times = eternal God (Dt 33:27). (Holladay, Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, p.313)

aidios (Greek)

aidios, -on (for aeidios from aei), ’eternal, everlasting’ (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, 132)

aidios on: eternal - 67.96 aidios, on; aionios, on: pertaining to an unlimited duration of time - ’eternal’. … The most frequent use of aionios in the NT is with ’life’, for example ’so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life’ Jn 3:15…. (Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon, 139)

aion (Greek)

aion, -onos … Hence, in the N. T. used: 1. a. universally: in the phrases eis ton aiono, (Gen 6:3), ’forever’ … apo ton aionon from the ages down, from eternity, Col 1:26; Eph 3:9; tro ton aionon before time was, before the foundation of the world, 1 Cor 2:7; … 2. by metonymy of the container for the contained, oi aiones denotes ’the worlds, the universe,’ i. e. the aggregate of things contained in time (on the plural cf. Winer’s Grammar, 176 (166); Buttmann, 24 (21)) … 3. … most of the N. T. writers distinguish ho aion outos ’this ag’e (also simply ho aion, Matt 13:22; Mark 4:19 G L T Tr WH; ho enestos aion, Gal 1:4; ho nun aion, 1 Tim 6:17; (2 Tim. 4:10); Titus 2:12), the time before the appointed return or truly Messianic advent of Christ (i. e., the parousia, which see), the period of instability, weakness, impiety, wickedness, calamity, misery - and aion mellon ’the future age’ (also ho aion ekeinos, Luke 20:35; ho aion ho erxomenos, Luke 18:30; Mark 10:30; oi aiones oi eperxomenoi, Eph 2:7), i. e., the age after the return of Christ in majesty, the period of the consummate establishment of the divine kingdom and all its blessings: Matt. 12:32; Eph. 1:21; cf. Fritzsche on Romans, vol 3:22f. Hence, the things of ’this age’ are mentioned in the N. T. with censure: ho aion outos, by metonymy, men controlled by the thoughts and pursuits of this present time, Rom. 12:2, the same who are colled uioi tou aionos toutou in Luke 16:8; 20:34; kata ton aiona tou kosmou toutou confromably to the age to which this (wicked) world belongs, Eph 2:2 … (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, 171)

aion onos m: (a) era - 67.143 aion, onos m: a unit of time as a particular stage or period of history - ’age, era.’ … In a number of languages there is no specific term for ’age’ or ’era.’ closest approximation in the context of Mt 12:32 may be ’not in these many years and not in the many years which will follow.’ … (b) universe - 1.2 aion, onos m (always occurring in the plural): the universe, perhaps with some associated meaning of ’eon’ or ’age’ in the sense of the transitory nature of the universe (but this is doubtful in the contexts of He 1.2 and 11.3) - ’universe.’ di ou kai epoihsen tous aionos ’through whom (God) made the universe’ He 1.2. In He 1.2 it may be essential in a number of languages to translate ’he is the one through whom God created everything,’ … (c) world system - 41.38 kosmos, ou m; aion, onos m: the system of practices and standards associated with secular society (that is, without reference to any demands or requirements of God) - ’world system, world’s standards, world.’ … ’if anyone among you thinks that he is a wise man by this world’s standards, he should become a fool’ 1 Cor 3:18. aion in 1 Cor 3:18 may also be rendered as ’by the way in which people in this world think’ or ’by the things which people in this world think are right.’ In Mk 4:19 the phraise ai merimnai tou aionos may be rendered as ’the cares which people in this world have’ or ’the way in which people in this world worry about things.’ (Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon, 179)

Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright © 1994 by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Questions and Comments can be sent to us using this form. Logo, name, and graphics are copyrighted by © insearchoftruth.org 1999, 2017. All other content is hereby released to the public domain, and therefore, may be freely copied and distributed without inquiry. However, it would be appreciated if you provided a link back to our site.

All material on this site is informational only and provided "as is" without warranties, representations, or guarantees of any kind. insearchoftruth.org disclaims any and all implied warranties respecting your judgment before God. Only Jesus can stand beside you in final judgment; however, insearchoftruth.org is unqualified to guarantee His representation. Use of insearchoftruth.org is entirely at your own risk and is not a substitute for conducting your own honest Bible study and search for truth.

Share

Article Updates

Forum Updates