By Steve Wyatt
Jesus Christ exists beyond time. He had no beginning and will never experience an end. He is eternally constant, eternally present.
Now relax. We’ll never completely understand the concept, and most likely, we’ll continue to shrug and sigh at the mere suggestion that Jesus eternally “was.” Even so, a proper understanding of Jesus depends on what the meaning of “was” is.
I have in my photo library the ultrasound images of each of my grandchildren. Admittedly, when these pictures were taken, they weren’t much to look at. But as each pregnancy advanced, there eventually came to be 10 fingers and toes, plus two eyes, two ears, and a tiny little pea-sized heart that soon started beating.
At first, each of these little ones was microscopically small. But then one cell soon became two, and 10 became 20, and 100 become 15,000 until one day, we had ourselves another grandbaby.
Now understand this. These babies weren’t running around Heaven waiting to be sent to earth. There were no babies until God began to make them—creating and weaving and stitching them together, both their physical makeup as well as their unseen substance, the soul.
This is what makes Jesus eternally different from you and me. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was nowhere near his beginning. Because even “in the beginning
. . . the Word [that’s Jesus] was” (John 1:1).
Even more amazing than was is the. Because the word the doesn’t appear in the original text. There is no definite article in the Greek. So this phrase’s literal translation is, “In beginning.”
In what beginning? In eternity past. Before the beginning of anything—space, time, or matter. In that indefinite realm of timelessness, in a beginning that really was no beginning at all, the Word already “was.” He was before anything that is.
Is it getting any clearer? In John 1:1, the word was is the imperfect past tense form of the Greek word eimi, which means, “to be.” The verse literally reads, “In beginning was existing the Word.”
Before even one “is,” Jesus already “was.”
How do we know the Word refers to Jesus? Verse 14 says so: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14).
And “in beginning,” which was actually no beginning at all (since there was no beginning)—back there, in eternity past, Jesus already “was.” And he was “with God” (v. 1).
That’s the Greek preposition pros, which suggests familiarity. The Word, and the Father from whom he came, have always existed together in intimacy and oneness. So interwoven are these two that “the Word was God.” The Word and the Father shared the same essence, so everything that was and is true of the Father, was and is true of the Word as well.
So what is the Father like? What are his attributes? Pope Gregory warned us about even trying to answer such questions: “Almost everything said of God is unworthy, for the very reason that it is capable of being said.”
Even as the Bible writers try to describe him, they invariably default to sweeping and thoroughly generic words like marvelous and awesome.
But what do such words mean? In my experience, the three best terms used to describe God have to be the “Three Omnis.” Each of these words, though typically ascribed to the Father, are also true of the Word.
Both the Father and the Word are all-knowing (Hebrews 4:13).
God thoroughly knows us. He knows our thoughts before we think them, our actions before we perform them, and our words before we speak them.
No question can confound God, no dilemma has confused him, and no event will surprise him. He has absolute, comprehensive, and perfect knowledge.
He understands biology, physics, and genetics. He knows everything about our atmosphere. He knows everything about Heaven.
God’s knowledge isn’t limited by time, either. He reads our future as clearly as our past.
Hebrews 4:13 says, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before [his] eyes.” In Psalm 139, David says, “You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. . . . You are familiar with all my ways” (vv. 1-3).
Both the Father and the Word are omnipotent (see Psalm 115:3). He is all-powerful.
“He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35).
He is always with us. No matter where we go. One of the most comforting promises in the Bible is, “I will be with you” (see Joshua 1:5, Isaiah 43:2, Philippians 4:9).
God gave that promise to Adam and Eve, to Noah, Enoch, and Abraham, plus Moses and Mary and Paul—and dozens of others as well.
But far from using his everlasting presence as a means to control people, God’s promise is always a reason for continued courage and renewed strength.
That’s why, even if you you’re walking through “the valley of the shadow of death,” you don’t have to “fear evil” (Psalm 23:4, NIV 1984). Why? Because he will be you. The promise extends even to the end of days, when “God’s dwelling place [will be] among [his] people, and he will dwell with [us]. [We] will be his people, and God himself will be with [us] and be [our] God” (Revelation 21:3).
God’s “with you” promises extend before any actual beginning—and beyond any supposed ending. Here’s how Moses eloquently spoke about God’s eternality: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:1, 2).
The Hebrew word translated “everlasting” is olam and was most likely a derivative from the word meaning “to hide.” Picture it like this: If something you’re watching keeps moving farther from you, eventually you’ll no longer see it. It will appear to disappear because it has moved beyond your vision.
That’s how it is with the Father. Looking back even past the past and looking ahead even beyond the future, he has always existed.
A.W. Tozer observed, “The mind looks backward in time until the dim past vanishes, then turns and looks into the future till thought and imagination collapse from exhaustion; and God is at both points, unaffected by either.”
The eternal Word was not only with God, he was God. In eternity past, before time began, the Word and the Father were together. And they were one.
Understand it? I can’t. Because my limited understanding is too imprisoned by my need for time and space. But Jesus is our pre-existent, “before anything” God. He never began, but always was.
God had no beginning. Jesus Christ has eternally existed—before a beginning that wasn’t a beginning at all.
He always was, and still is, and always will be. From vanishing point to vanishing point.
In the unlikely event that you come to fully absorb that truth, consider John’s next phrase: “Through him all things were made” (John 1:3).
“Things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things have been created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16).
Or this phrase: “In him all things hold together” (v. 17).
Or this one: Even though “in everything [Jesus was given] supremacy” (v. 18), and though “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (v. 19), this Word that was, and is, and will always be went to the cross—anyway.
Wow! The glory of Jesus absolutely befuddles my brain.
Steve Wyatt is a minister and freelance writer in Anthem, Arizona.
The Attributes of God
As you read each section:
1. Think of a time God demonstrated this attribute in Scripture.
2. Consider a time he has demonstrated this attribute in your life or in the life of someone you know.
3. Praise him for this attribute.
4. Ask God to help you see this attribute more clearly in all he does in your life.