Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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January 2012  •  Volume XIII, Issue 21


The Eternal God (1)

Psalm 90 is, as the heading indicates, the earliest known Psalm and the only one of the 150 written by Moses, plus it is Scripture’s most profound meditation on God and time. There is something entirely appropriate about this in the divine wisdom. Moses is the greatest historian in the Bible. The five books he penned, Genesis to Deuteronomy, span over two and a half millennia. When he wrote, Moses covered the whole period of time that the world had then existed. He even recorded the creation of the universe and time, and the ordering of time in Genesis 1.

Moses wrote of many generations: Adam, Seth, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve sons of Jacob, etc. Moses recorded the generations before the flood and after the flood. From Genesis 12 to Deuteronomy 34, he wrote of the generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as sojourners in Canaan; the generations of Israelites as strangers and slaves in Egypt; and the generations in the wilderness wanderings. "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations" (Ps. 90:1)!

Moses wrote of people who lived a long time, some almost a thousand years, such as Methuselah 969 (Gen. 5:27), Jared 962 (20) and Adam 930 (5). After the flood, peoples’ ages declined to the 600s, then the 400s, the 200s and the 100s. In Moses’ day, 70 was a good old age; 80 was rarer and brought additional pains (Ps. 90:10).

Moses himself lived to the ripe old age of 120: 40 years in Egypt as Pharaoh’s daughter’s adopted son; 40 years in Midian as Reuel’s son-in-law and shepherd; 40 years in the wilderness as the shepherd of Israel, God’s first-born son (Ex. 4:22). Psalm 90 was written in the wilderness by an old man who had seen much in his long life. Its tone is thoughtful, meditative, reflective, solemn. It is beautiful poetry as befits the silence and horizons of the wilderness.

In Psalm 90, Moses writes of man’s experience of time, whether as good days of gladness in God’s mercy (14-15) or sorrowful days, as when Israel was consumed by God’s wrath and anger in the wilderness (7). Man’s days on earth end with death, as Moses saw in the hundreds of thousands of carcasses which fell in the wilderness. Psalm 90 also speaks of the eternal God and the relationship between Him and time.

First, God’s eternity includes His being without beginning: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (2). God is before the mountains, which seem so ancient, and even before the earth itself as the One who created the world. But it is not as if God were merely one thousand years or one million years before the world. For what would be before God? No, God is without beginning.

Second, God’s eternity includes His being without ending: "from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (2)." You could say, man is without ending and angels are without ending (for both men and angels will be everlastingly in heaven or hell) and the creation is without ending (for it will exist forever in the new heavens and the new earth). But there are vital differences between God the creator and His creatures. God is without ending necessarily and by His own power. Men, angels and the creation are without ending only according to God’s decree and as sustained by His omnipotence.

Moreover, God is without ending and without beginning of and through Himself, whereas men, angels and the creation not only are sustained everlastingly by God, but also were formed by God and have a beginning.

So far, we have seen that God is without beginning and without end, but Jehovah’s eternity is even more astounding, for it includes, third, His being without succession. What is time? Time is the succession of moments. The future becomes the present which becomes the past; what is past was present and was future. Time is something that flows or moves and can be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years. With regard to time, we speak of now or before or after and the present or the past or the future. Time involves succession, with one moment coming after another and another, remorselessly, unstoppably.

In affirming that the true and living God is not only without beginning and without end but also without succession, we mean that there is no time in God. Of course not! If time were in God, time would be God, for everything in God is God, since He is absolutely one or simple. There is no past, present or future in God; there are no succession of moments in God. Moreover, God is not in time, in the sense that there is some sort of clock external to God that measures Him. Thus God never grows older.

Psalm 90:4 teaches that God has a different relationship to time than we do: "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." To man, a thousand years are a thousand years. To God, a thousand years are as a day, as "yesterday," or even "as a watch in the night," just three hours or so, only an eighth of a day. Psalm 90 is alluded to in II Peter 3:8: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Here we are told that for God both one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years are as one day. Even while noting that similitude is used ("as"), it is clear that Jehovah has a different relationship to time than we do.

These three texts from Paul’s letters indicate that God is before (and hence outside and above) time. First, I Corinthians 2:7 refers to "the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world," literally, "before the ages" and so before time. Second, II Timothy 1:9 speaks of God’s "own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," literally, "before the times of ages" and so before time. Third, Titus 1:2 states that God promised "eternal life ... before the world began," literally, "before the times of ages" and so before time. Since God is before the ages, times and time, then time has a beginning and time is not in God.  Rev. Stewart

Are All Infants Dying in Infancy Saved? (4)

Our readers will recall that in the last three issues of the News, we have been treating a number of texts sent in by a man who uses them to argue that absolutely all infants in all the world who die in infancy are saved.

I have pointed out that most, if not all, of the texts referred to have little or nothing to do with the point at issue. The reader who sent in the questions, in fact, did not even take the time to explain how a text to which reference was made actually supported his contention. I found it quite difficult to determine why a given text was quoted in support of the error that all infants who die in infancy are saved.

It is interesting that none of the Reformers, with the exception of Ulrich Zwingli, held to this position. Zwingli, while sound in most elements of his theology, was a friend of Erasmus and something of a humanist himself. The humanists were admirers of pagan Greek and Roman mythology and literature. It was difficult, and apparently impossible, for Zwingli to escape all the teachings of the humanists, and it was undoubtedly this influence on him that prompted him to take the position that he did. But this error is not taught in Scripture.

But on to the texts that the reader quotes. He asks, "How do you explain the contrast in David’s response to the deaths of his two sons? Compare II Samuel 12:15-23 with II Samuel 18:29-19:5."

Once again, it is difficult to understand why a comparison of these two passages should prove that all infants who die in infancy are saved. The first passage includes David’s prayer that God would spare the child born of his adultery with Bathsheba. When the child died, David said, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (12:23).

As I mentioned in an earlier article, commentaries differ on the question whether David refers here to the grave or to heaven. It makes no real difference to the issue we are now addressing, although I prefer the latter interpretation. The child, though conceived in adultery, was a child of the covenant. Therefore, even if David referred to the grave or the intermediate state of the soul between death and the resurrection, David was confident that, as a covenant child, the infant went to heaven. Although he sinned grievously, David knew his sins were forgiven and that he too would go to heaven.

Canons of Dordt I:17 is very clear. Because of God’s covenant with believers and their seed, we have no reason to doubt the salvation of our children who die in infancy.

II Samuel 18:29-19:5 tells us of the great sorrow David experienced at the death of his son Absalom. The point of the text, as support for the reader’s contention, is unclear. Absalom was not an infant; he was a grown man. David’s sorrow, while surely in part the result of the death of one who was his own flesh and blood, was particularly due to his knowledge that Absalom died in wickedness. Absalom had defied David as Jehovah’s anointed king, had rebelled against God-given authority in the Old Testament church and had scorned the fact that David was in the line of the Christ. Absalom had sinned grievously, had died fighting against his father and had gone to hell.

Many parents through the ages have experienced the great sorrow that comes from seeing their children live in sin and die without repentance. But what has that to do with the salvation of all infants who die in infancy?

The last question in this long list reads: "When the Shunammite woman was asked, ‘Is it well with the child?’ she replied, ‘It is well,’ even though the child was dead (II Kings 4:26). Why did she respond so positively?"

The reasoning of the questioner, apparently, is something like this. The Shunammite woman answered the question of the servant of Elisha the way she did because she was convinced her child was in heaven and, therefore, knew all was well with the child.

Supposing that this interpretation were correct, this proves nothing at all about the question at issue, for the Shunammite was a covenant mother and covenant mothers have God’s promise (in spite of what Baptists teach) that God saves His people in the line of generations. Even if she meant that the child was "well" because he was in heaven, it proves nothing concerning the salvation of all infants who die in infancy.

We may also ask this question: If she was convinced that her child was in heaven, why was she so agitated, and why did she rush off to see Elisha? Further, the son of the Shunammite was grown when he died: "And when the child was grown ..." (18). The question is, therefore, totally beside the point for he was not an infant. The questioner ought to read his Bible more carefully.

However, it is my conviction that the Shunammite said that the child was well, because she did not want to tell Elisha’s servant, but wanted to speak with Elisha himself. After all, she had received the child because Elisha had asked her what he could do for her (11-18). She was perhaps troubled by the question: Why did Elisha pray to God to give her a son, if she was to lose him anyway? So she had to talk with Elisha himself. Perhaps we can say that she lied; but I think that I too would have brushed the servant aside and wanted to talk with Elisha himself.

I am aware that this is somewhat speculative. It is clear that the Shunammite needed to talk with Elisha and not with the servant. In any case, the whole matter has nothing to do with the question of the salvation of the infants of unbelievers who die in infancy.

I close with a word of warning. We do not deal with Scripture properly when we simply quote texts at random and in rapid succession when trying to prove a point. We must carefully consider a text and demonstrate precisely why it teaches the point we want to make. When we appeal to a text in support of a position, we must not only carefully explain the text, but we must do so in the context of the whole of God’s Word. We do well to heed Luther’s observation that if we merely quote texts at random and not take them in the light of Scripture, we can prove any heresy under the sun. My old high school Bible teacher said to our class that he could prove the need for immediate suicide by quoting the following texts: "And [Judas] went and hanged himself;" "Go, and do thou likewise;" "That thou doest, do quickly." Prof. Hanko

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