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Chapter 1 in About God
Faith in God starts with a belief in His existence:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 (KJV)
However, the existence of God implies more than just that he exists right now, in time as we see it, but may be absent or different tomorrow. In Exodus 3:6a, 13- 15 (WEB), it is written:
Moreover he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob..." Moses said to God, "Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you;’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM," and he said, "You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’" God said moreover to Moses, "You shall tell the children of Israel this, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations."
Thus, the name God desired his people Israel to remember was "I am" and "I am who I am." As will be demonstrated below, this name implies at least five things. The name God revealed to Moses clearly implies that God exists only in the present, so that what we perceive as past, present and future is all present to God ("I AM the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob"). God's name "I am" also asserts that He exists in Himself and that He was not created. God's self-existence, in turn, implies that He is eternal, existing both before and after His creation.
God's self-existence also implies his omnipresence in space - He exists both outside His creation and at every point within it. And because God is present at every point of time and space, and exists only in the present tense, He is now present at every place and at every time simultaneously.
God's name "I am that I am" is not just a name in the modern sense of the word — it is not merely a handle, devoid of information about His true nature. Instead, this name tells us the core of God's nature. God exists in Himself and exists always in the present. This fact was forcefully clarified by Jesus on two different occasions. In Matthew 22, answering the Sadducees' question about the resurrection, Jesus said:
But concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven‘t you read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Matthew 22: 31-32 (WEB)
Here Jesus asserts the self-existence of God, as shown through a name of God which even the Sadducees would acknowledge, as proof of the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection is a future event, even today, and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob died more than a millennium before Jesus' birth, yet Jesus told the Jews of his day that God was presently the God of these dead patriarchs.
This implies not only that there will be a resurrection, in the future in time as we see it, but also that God sees this resurrection day as being present rather than future. As Jesus spoke, almost two thousand years ago, God was already present in the day of resurrection. It is also noteworthy that, after Jesus' resurrection, when He commissioned his disciples He promised them "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." [please see note 1.] Matt. 28:20. So in these places the scriptures clearly assert that God now exists in both the present and the future.
In another place, Jesus also asserted that he simultaneously exists in both the present and the past, thus identifying himself as God:
"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad." The Jews therefore said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM." Therefore they took up stones to throw at him...
John 8: 56-59a (WEB)
Thus, God, being self-existent, is found simultaneously in the past, the present and the future. He is not limited by the flow of time, as we are.
God existed before time began and will exist after time ends. Gen. 1:1; Matt. 28:20; John 1:1-2; I John 1:1; I John 2:13-14; Rev. 21:1-4. But God's existence before and after time is simultaneous with His present existence - He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. Rev. 1:8, 17-18; Rev. 2:8; Rev. 22:13. Since God exists before time, He must exist before all things that exist subject to time - He is the only possible Creator of the things we see. Only God existed before the creation, therefore, only God could have created it, as He said through Isaiah:
Isaiah 43:10-13 (WEB)
"You are my witnesses," says Yahweh, "With my servant whom I have chosen; that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am. [please see note 2.] Before me there was no God, formed, neither will there be after me. I myself am Yahweh; and besides me there is no savior. I have declared, I have saved, and I have shown; and there was no strange god among you. Therefore you are my witnesses," says Yahweh , "and I am God. Yes, since the day was I am; and there is no one who can deliver out of my hand. I will work, and who can hinder it?"
Isaiah 43:10-13 (WEB)
Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel my called: I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Yes, my hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand has spread out the heavens: when I call to them, they stand up together.
Isaiah 48:12-13 (WEB)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
From the beginning, God has created through his Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John 1:1-3 (KJV). See also John 17:5 and Micah 5:2
God, as Creator, also fills and sustains all of His creation. God gives rain. Psalm 65: 9-13. God preserves man and beast. Psalm 36:6. He both gives life to and feeds all living things. Psalm 104:10-30. It is God that gives man crops and increase. Leviticus 26: 4-10; Deuteronomy 8:18; I Chronicles 29: 12, 14, 16. He particularly provides for the needs of his own people. Psalm 34:7-10; Psalm 37. Indeed, of Christ it is said that he...
is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things are held together.
Colossians 1:15-17 (WEB); compare, Revelation 4:11
As Creator, God also continuously gives us life; in him we live and move and have our being, as Paul declared in his sermon to the Areopagus of Athens. Acts 17: 24-28. God both created the universe through his Son and now sustains the universe through his Son, his powerful Word. Hebrews 1: 2-3.
God's self-existence also implies his eternity. Not only did God exist before his creation, before the beginning of time, he also will continue to exist after its end, forever. As Moses wrote:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place for all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, before you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.
Psalm 90:1-2 (WEB)
God's eternity - his eternal power - is visible to all from His creation, so that no one has an excuse for not understanding it. Romans 1:19-20. God has also set eternity in the hearts of people - it is a concept all people understand to some degree. Ecclesiastes 3:11. Yet, in our rebellion, we attempt to apply it to ourselves and to gods of our own making rather than to the true God. Romans 1:18 ff. Nevertheless, in spite of our foolishness, it is God who remains the eternal, unchanging one who is above time and the Creator of all that is. He was before all things and will continue after all we see perishes. See Hebrews 1:10-12, quoting Psalm 102:25-27.
Just as God's self-existence implies His eternity, so also it implies His omnipresence. This connection between self-existence and omnipresence is often not understood because people view time as very different than space. Although we are limited to occupying only one small region of space at any one time, we are free to go where we want in space, within limitations set by natural laws and human economics. I may choose to go from my house to my office. Within limits, I may also choose how fast I get there - e.g., by deciding whether to walk, ride a bus or drive my car. And, once I reach my office, I may choose to go back home, stay at the office, or go somewhere else.
Of course, our common experience with time is not like this. Time draws me along. I cannot choose either where I am going in time or how fast I get there, and I certainly cannot decide to return to a time where I have already been - i.e., to go on to yesterday instead of going on to tomorrow.
However, because God is self-existent, he transcends all time just as he transcends all space. Isaiah 66:1-2. For God, there is no fundamental difference between space and time, as there is for us. He is now present at every point in space and time, because all space and time has its existence in Him, as has previously been discussed. Colossians 1:17; Psalm 139:7-12. Indeed, as Jeremiah said:
Am I a God at hand, says Yahweh, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places so that I shall not see him? says Yahweh. Don't I fill heaven and earth? says Yahweh.
Jeremiah 23:23-24 (WEB)
This means that God is present both now and from the beginning of time to its ending to observe every decision I will ever make and everything good or evil that will ever happen to me. This also implies that God is able to leave me truly free to choose my own way and yet make plans from the very beginning, based his knowledge of what my every choice will be, in order to make the consequences of each decision ultimately work his will. And, as will be seen in later chapters, God's self-existent eternity, when combined with His love and the unity of His character, explain how God can work good out of the consequences of sin without Himself being the cause of sin.
Behold the magnificence of God. He exists in himself. He exists apart from his creation. But he simultaneously exists at every place and at every time within his creation, having no need to go from place to place or from today to tomorrow. He is still at the beginning of time. Yet He is already beside me, and on the farthest star, tomorrow, next year, and at the end of time. Praise his name!
 Some modern translations helpfully translate eimi in this verse as a future tense, e.g., "I will be with you always." This agrees with our grammatical sense of time - future events should be in future tense. However, eimi is clearly in present tense, and Greek has quite serviceable future tenses. KJV, NIV and WEB therefore render this correctly, "I am with you always."
 Here, the translators of most English translations add the word "he," so that the end of this verse reads "that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am ." The word "he" is not in the Hebrew text. Further, although forms of the copula usually may be understood to imply a predicate, even when one isn't stated, in this verse God is clearly declaring himself to be the self-existent God, the one who is before all creation, the one who told Moses that his name is "I am." Thus, in this verse, and a number of other verses having similar themes, the translators' addition of "he" is erroneous, and I will omit it.
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© 1998, 2005 Ian Johnson
Next Page: Chapter 2: God is One
Some Thoughts and Tracts
for the Gospel
Speaking in Unknown Tongues
and Related Issues
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