WHEN GOD BEGAN
When God began? When did His life start?
There is a simple answer of course: It didn’t. The Scriptures tell us God exists “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 90:2). He is “the eternal God” (Deut. 33:27). But I’m sure you want a little more than that. Here are some big ideas to think about.
Each of us human beings had a beginning. There was a time, before our conception in our mothers’ wombs, when we did not exist. But once we begin our lives, they will go on forever. We are “eternal” in the sense that God has created us to live on for endless time. Even that is hard to imagine! The last verse of the hymn “Amazing Grace” is startling. Speaking of Christians living with God in our heavenly home it says, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, / Bright shining as the sun, / We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise / Than when we’d first begun.” If we watch a television program, every minute we watch is one less minute till the end of the program. But that is not like the heavenly kingdom. Ten thousand years is 3,650,000 days. Yet even after all those days have passed, believers will have no fewer days to enjoy the blessings of eternity!
Actually, the question is itself a contradiction. When we talk about things beginning and ending, we are speaking of matters of time. God created time, as a part of the setting in which the universe and man would function. We speak of minutes and hours, days and years. But God exists outside of time. The Bible says He “inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15) and He exists in an eternal now. As the Lord told Moses, His name is “I AM” (Exod. 3:13-14). Past, present and future are all alike to Him. That is why He knows what is going to happen tomorrow, or next week, or next year. In some way we are unable to grasp, He sees it all as now. So He is able to say, “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isa. 46:9-10).
As creatures of time, these are big ideas to get our minds around. Concepts such as infinity (cf. Ps. 147:5), or eternity, are virtually impossible for us to imagine because we are finite beings, existing in time. Before, during and after are what we understand. But God is different. Perhaps we could think of time as a straight line from “A” to “B” If we go to a football game, it has a beginning “A,” and an end “B.” But God is not like that at all.
Compare a straight line with a circle. Where would you put the “A” and the “B” on a circle? It has no beginning or ending. And that is like God. If He had a cause–someone that brought Him into existence–then that someone would be greater than He. But God is, by definition, the Supreme Being. There is nothing and no one greater. He says, "I am God, and there is no other" (Isa. 45:22). As theologian Samuel Harris wrote, “He is uncaused. Therefore He must be without beginning.”
God invented time. Hebrews says, “He made the worlds” (1:2). But the writer did not use the Greek word kosmos for “worlds,” but aion, better translated “ages.” He made the ages, originating the orderly progression of time. And He is able to step into time when He chooses, but still inhabit eternity. So we read, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4).
God the Son took on our humanity. “The Word [Christ] became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14). But unlike each of us, that is not when His life began. When the prophet Micah foretold that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, he said His “goings forth are from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2). Although He was to be born as a human Baby, He never had a beginning. He became Man, but He did not stop being God when He did that. Jesus Himself declared, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn. 8:57-58). We could not speak that way. Even if we were enormously old–older than Abraham (who lived around 2000 B.C.)– we could only say, “Before Abraham was I was.” But that is not like God. At any point in history He is always “I AM.”