Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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March 2012  •  Volume XIII, Issue 23


The Eternal God (3)

The truth that God is eternal, that is, without beginning, without ending and without succession, is vital not only for the Trinity and the truth of God’s attributes but also for the biblical and Reformed doctrine of His eternal decree. Scripture clearly teaches that, before the foundation of the world, Jehovah determined an all-encompassing plan for all things (Eph. 1:11). But if there were time in God, surely it would have taken Him time to decree all things? And if the Almighty spent time thinking and formulating His purposes, what about His absolutely perfect knowledge and will?

God’s first work outside of Himself was creation. This was the making of space (there was no space before this!) and time (there was no time before this!). Genesis 1 speaks of God as king and sovereign over time (I Tim. 1:17). He ordered the periods of darkness and light with both together constituting a day. The seven-day week is modelled on God’s creating in six days and resting from creating on one day. From Genesis 1, we also have our months, seasons and years (14).

Romans 1:20 states that the creation declares Jehovah’s "eternal power and Godhead." Everything that is made proclaims, in effect, "God created me. Therefore He was before me, for He is eternal!" Note the significance of our young earth, just a few thousand years old. It highlights God’s eternity, as Calvin points out (Institutes 1.14.1). Evolutionism postulates millions and billions of years. Who then thinks of God’s eternity? This is just another lie of the devil to blind foolish man from God’s glory.

The truth of God’s eternity also answers the foolish questions: "Why did God wait so long before creating?" and "What was God doing before He created?" There was no time before God created!

God’s eternity sheds light upon our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. With the incarnation of the Second Person, the eternal Son has a beginning, according to His human nature. The man Christ Jesus began in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary some 2,000 years ago. Now the blessed Son, according to His human nature, experiences succession of moments, time, in Himself! He entered space as a human and He entered time as a human.

Have you ever wondered how Christ’s sufferings can deliver us from eternal punishment? How can the sufferings of one Person atone for millions of the elect? How can the sufferings of one Person during 33 years and especially during His public ministry and particularly during the three hours of darkness deliver millions of people from eternal fire? The answer is that Jesus is a divine Person and God is eternal. Being eternal, Christ’s divine nature gives His human sufferings an eternal worth. Stephen Charnock explains, "As the eternity of God is the ground of all religion, so the eternity of Christ is the ground of the Christian religion. Could our sins be perfectly expiated had he not an eternal divinity to answer for the offences committed against an eternal God? Temporary sufferings had been of little validity, without an infiniteness and eternity in his person to add weight to his passion" (The Existence and Attributes of God, I:294).

The first practical lesson for us is how gloriously transcendent God is! He is eternal, infinitely exalted above time as its creator and sovereign ruler. How unlike us! The Bible speaks frequently of the brevity of man’s life. Man’s age is as an handbreadth or even as nothing (Ps. 39:5). We are like a flower that fades or grass that withers (Job 14:2; Isa. 40:6-8). We are vapour or smoke that vanishes (James 4:14; Ps. 102:3). Moses even presents man’s short life as a sleep (Ps. 90:5). Even the angels, both good and evil, are only about 6,000 years old, the same age as the universe. The world itself, in its present form, is passing away (I Cor. 7:31), as are its lusts (I John 2:17).

So let us worship the eternal God! "Now unto the King eternal [i.e., the king of ages, the sovereign over time] ... be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (I Tim. 1:17). The Lord’s Prayer closes with this doxology: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" (Matt. 6:13). Many biblical doxologies include the phrase, "forever and ever," for our praise of the eternal God will be everlasting.

The eternal God is our "portion for ever" (Ps. 73:26). Let us believe in Him; let us hope in Him; let us enjoy Him. Near the end of his lengthy and eventful life, Moses holds this out for the comfort of the church: "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut. 33:27). The God who is without beginning and without ending and without succession envelops us, protects us and cares for us!

The eternal God makes an everlasting covenant with His people in Jesus Christ so that the church and every believer is preserved everlastingly (Jer. 32:40). The God who inhabits eternity dwells with him who is of a humble and contrite heart forever more (Isa. 57:15; Rev. 21:3-4).

The eternal God has two eternal destinies: eternal life in the new world for believers or everlasting death in the lake of fire for the unbelieving who refuse to forsake their sins. Scripture speaks of "everlasting burnings" (Isa. 33:14), "everlasting punishment" (Matt. 25:46) and "everlasting destruction" (II Thess. 1:9). Repent and trust in Christ!

Knowing God as eternal, Moses began Psalm 90 with these confident words: "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations" (1). The man of God is filled with amazement: "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). He marvels at Jehovah: "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night" (4). But man’s life on earth is, literally, just "a sigh" (9). Thus Moses prays for wisdom: "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (12). He asks the eternal God that He would grant us glad days (15) and "establish the work of our hands" (17). May this be our portion in the service of the eternal God!  Rev. Stewart


"God’s Glorious Perfections," an attractive box set of CDs or DVDs on God’s incommunicable attributes, is available from the CPRC for £10 (inc. P&P). As well as the eternity of God, the ten sermons cover His sovereignty, unity, spirituality, unchangeability, omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence.


One of our readers asked whether the cremation of the human body is permissible for a Christian when he or she dies.

The question arises out of the reality that some Christians face in countries with large populations and small land masses. In some of these countries, land is at a premium and cemeteries seem to be a waste of space. This is the case, for example, in Singapore. This independent country, which consists mostly of one island, is about 274 square miles in area. Currently, it is inhabited by some five million people, of whom about three million were born locally. It is a financial and banking centre in Southeast Asia and there are many foreign firms with offices or plants within its boundaries. This makes the country crowded. Land is expensive, there is little room for cemeteries and funerals are costly.

While the Singaporean government does not forbid burying bodies in cemeteries, it encourages cremation. And the time may not be too far in the future when cremation is mandatory.

It is doubtful that one can say, on the basis of Scripture, that cremation is wrong under all circumstances. Certainly cremation does not prevent the resurrection of the body, either of the wicked to damnation or of the righteous to glory. Too many of God’s people have been burned to death. Some were burned accidentally and their bodies cremated in structures in which they had found shelter. Others were burned to death by their persecutors. It is written of Nero, the first-century Roman emperor, that he lit his nighttime, garden banquets with burning crosses on which hung Christians. Burning at the stake was a common method of administering the death penalty in the Middle Ages onwards when the Roman Catholic Church fiercely persecuted faithful people of God who refused to deny the truth they loved. We need only think of Jan Hus, Guido de Brès, Thomas Cranmer, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley.

The mighty power of God through Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of Christ preserves every body of the elect, no matter what is the manner of their death and no matter how long they have been dead. God will raise them in the final resurrection. Even the bodies of Adam, Abel, Seth, Methuselah and all the saints who died before the flood that tore the earth and everything in it to shreds, God has preserved.

But, at the same time, the emphasis of Scripture lies on the burial of the human body at the time of death. One reads nowhere of a godly person cremating the body of one he or she loved; one does read repeatedly of burying human bodies; and Scripture teaches that the burial of the body is an act of faith.

The Christian respects the human body. It is created by God, preserved by God and will be saved by God along with the soul. The Christian is happy to confess in the first Lord’s Day of the Heidelberg Catechism that he has a comfort that embraces the body: He belongs with body and soul to Jesus Christ. Paul even reminds the Corinthians that their bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s" (I Cor. 6:19-20).

As a parenthesis, the respect for the human body that characterizes the life of a Christian is not the idolatry of body worship, a fundamental part of ancient Greek pagan religion and increasingly a part of Western culture. Nor does a Christian allow the body to be mutilated by tattoos, cuttings and piercings of various kinds.

When the burial of the body of a loved one is an act of faith, the believer follows the example of Abraham, who buried his wife Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah, which he purchased from the sons of Heth in the land of Canaan (Gen. 23). It is profitable to read this chapter; I have always found it a very moving description of the burial of Sarah.

This burial by Abraham was an act of faith. It was an act of faith, first of all, because it expressed Abraham’s conviction that although he had to purchase the land, nevertheless, one day in the future God would give his seed Canaan for their inheritance as He had promised.

It was an act of faith, secondly, because Abraham did not fix his faith on the land of Canaan as a treasure to be acquired for its own sake, but, as Hebrews 11:9-16 tells us, he saw in Canaan a type of heaven.  And so he buried Sarah in the hope of the resurrection of the body and the inheritance of heaven.

We too bury the bodies of our loved ones in the ground, because we know that this earth in which the bodies of our loved ones are buried will also be changed to be like the heavenly and, when this earthy is made heavenly, our bodies buried in the earth will also be made heavenly.

There is another point to be made. In I Corinthians 15:36-38, Paul compares the burial and resurrection of our bodies to the planting of a seed, which must die in the ground before it can bring forth new life. This is a picture of the resurrection.

We put the bodies of God’s people in the grave, because it is in and through the grave that these same bodies rise again to a glory and blessedness that is part of the new heavens and the new earth, which we shall inherit.

We bury God’s people in the hope of the resurrection and in the faith of the inheritance of a new heavens and a new earth.

We ought to bury our bodies and not cremate them.  Prof. Hanko

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