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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
We bury God’s people in the hope of the resurrection and
in the faith of the inheritance of a new heavens and a
We ought to bury our bodies and not cremate them.
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