As the fireworks exploded in a flash of light and colour to mark the opening of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the word Eternity appeared in beautiful copperplate on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was a salute to the iconic ‘graffitiest’ Arthur Stace who, having accepted Jesus into his life, began to proclaim to Sydney that he was in Christ for eternity, by writing the word on the pavement.
Eternity is the most famous of the incommunicable attributes (those attributes that we do not share with God). It refers to the fact that God is not held by time and is closely related to his omnipresence – that God is not held by space. The big problem with eternity and omnipresence is that the longer you think about them the harder they get to understand, and they become even more confusing when philosophers begin to meddle with them. It is especially important, therefore, to only remain within what has been graciously revealed to us in Scripture, because if we were to fully understand eternity or omnipresence then we would surely be God.
The idea of God being omnipresent comes from verses such as Psalm 139:7-8 where the psalmist proclaims, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” God is clearly seen to be everywhere, he is inescapable. One immediately thinks of Jonah’s futile attempts to escape God by hiding in the bottom of a boat going in the wrong direction. Yet contrast this with passages which speak of God’s unique presence in a specific place – such as his presence indicated by the pillar of Cloud that led the Israelites in the desert (Ex 33:15-16). Here God appears to come in and out of the world at will, but doesn’t this seem like a contradiction?
The truth that we can draw from this is that God is not held by human concepts of space, while he is at all times in all places, still he can appear in specific places, revealing himself to us in a way that we can understand, bringing assurance. Likewise with Eternity – when the Psalm declares that, ‘a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night’ (Ps 90:4), we are not given a definition of eternity, rather we are only able to draw the truth that God does not experience time as we do. Time appears to be a gift given with creation, for creation. While God is not held by time, he nonetheless enters into time as a gracious gift to make himself known to us.
God’s eternity and omnipresence gives us much to praise God about. There is great comfort that God is everywhere, he knows all our triumphs and equally all our troubles. When we need him he is there with us, regardless of whether we can feel his presence or not, because it is a crucial aspect of His character that he cannot deny. Furthermore, that God is not held by time points to the truth that made Arthur Stace proclaim the word ‘eternity’ to all. Because God is eternal, we can have confidence that when we are in him, he bestows eternity on us; only in him can we have life everlasting! Praise God!