“Now to the King eternal” 1 Timothy 1:17
Most of our children have asked how old God is, as have many of us. You don’t get very far in the story of God before you start to wonder about it.
But that question can’t be answered. Not because we just don’t know, but because it’s the wrong question to begin with. God isn’t old because God exists outside time.
God is eternal. When things take a really long time, we say they take an eternity. But that’s not what eternity really means.
The dictionary defines eternity as “infinite time, duration without beginning or end.” That makes sense to us, but notice that definition uses time to explain something outside of time. We are in time, but God is not.
God is outside of time, but we can’t think outside of time to imagine him there.
Our minds don’t work without referencing time, but here’s an illustration which may help. Think about a glass fish bowl on a glass table. Now pretend the glass disappears, leaving the water suspended in the air. That is how time exists surrounded by eternity.
Now, imagine you are a fish in that water. Even though the water is suspended in air, you look at everything through the water. Things that are outside the water, like people in the room, look like they are in water, because that’s what you see them through.
Suppose the owner of your fish tank reaches his hand into the water, moves some things around and pull his hand out. That’s what it’s like when an eternal God inserts himself into time. Can you imagine all the stories the fish would have to explain that?
In many ways, that’s us. We’re the fish who only live in time, and can’t imagine living outside of it. God exists outside time, and yet he acts in it. How do we know that?
The Bible is full of stories about when and how God has acted in time. It also gives us glimpses of God outside of time (Eph. 1:4).
But God came into time, so we can know him (Col. 1:15-20). He did what we couldn’t, and by giving his life for us in time, we can have life beyond it (1 Tim. 3:16).
Not until we die and leave time will we be able to know what God is like outside of it. We don’t understand eternity, but we can sense it’s there, because we were made for it.
In other words, time is temporary, but eternity is forever.