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It is common to hear phrases such as "God exists outside of time" used to explain away anachronism or avoid addressing it altogether--for example, the idea that God has in the past progressed to become Who He Is today is sometimes dismissed as nonsensical because being "outside of time" is interpreted to preclude such contemplation. But if that were true, then why do Scriptures make reference to the acts of God within time, and ascribe causality at all to His acts and attributes?

We might take license from such expressions so as to hand-wave further understanding of the true nature of God out of our minds. However, numerous passages in the Bible describe God and His acts in time, including His progression and development. The law of causality is never violated. For example, Luke 2:52 states, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." The central message of the Bible is that the Son of God came down from the presence of His Father, took upon Himself a tabernacle of flesh, and submitted to the Father in all things, including paying the price for sin so that we could be redeemed on conditions of repentance. For all we might say about being "outside of time", an assertion that God does not obey or is not consistent with laws of causation is clearly untenable.

What Bible verse or verses suggest that God "exists outside of time", or gives a sensible definition to what that might more appropriately mean? I am not asking for philosophical interpretations, lawyerisms or hand-waving references to what so-called "mainstream Christianity" teaches. I am asking what the Bible says.

Note that verses saying or suggesting that God has always existed or is eternal (which I accept) are not the same as saying He has never changed or is "outside of time". Such verses explicitly mention notions of time and causality as being valid and applicable to God as well as everything else.

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    The question is making a false assertion. Just because Deity acts at a certain point of time and influences his own creation within time does not somehow 'bind' him to a self-imposed 'law of causality'. 'I am that I am' and 'with the Lord a thousand years is as one day and one is as a thousand years' are sufficient to disprove the false assertion that the question is trying to impose on the bible.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 20, 2023 at 22:53
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    @NigelJ The question is essentially asking for Scriptural support for the notion that God exists outside of causality. If He exists "outside of time" in such a way as to defeat causality, that should be made known. Relation of two different ways of measuring time (God's time and Man's time) does not in any way contradict causality or even the relevance and applicability of time to the nature of God. God never had a beginning, but this does not logically equate to His existing "outside of time". All things that had no beginning are still existing in time.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 5:45
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    You are denying that God is eternal. Eternity is not a long period of time. Eternity is other than time. God, himself, is the cause of everything else. 'Without him nothing came into being that did come into being', John 1:3. He is Alpha and Omega. The First and the Last. The beginning and the Ending. Those who worship him worship his eternal Being.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 8:05
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    @NigelJ Where did he deny that God is eternal? He explicitly affirms that God never had a beginning.
    – LarsH
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 16:36
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    @NigelJ Not remotely. The eternity of God is perfectly consistent with causality and causation, otherwise there could have been no creation. The God of the Bible is both eternal and causally active.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 16:46

11 Answers 11

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It is common to hear phrases such as "God exists outside of time"

I prefer to put it a different way: time is an attribute of the created universe. If we then accept that God created the universe it follows that God must exist outside of time, because that's part of his creation. But that does not preclude him acting in or on the universe, including time, as he chooses.

That time is part of creation is not expressly stated anywhere in scripture, but it makes abundant sense to me on its own, and I have always found it entirely consistent with scripture. It is part of my personal theology, and I'm inclined to think that it is also the underlying belief of many who go directly to "God exists outside of time".

used to explain away anachronism or avoid addressing it altogether--for example, the idea that God has in the past progressed to become Who He Is today is sometimes dismissed as nonsensical because being "outside of time" is interpreted to preclude such contemplation.

Perhaps "anachronism" is not the word you're looking for. I don't see anything anachronistic about that idea. Or its converse.

I do see that the idea is inconsistent with Malachi 3:6 ("For I the Lord do not change [...]"). And inasmuch as we identify Jesus with God, it is also inconsistent with Hebrews 13:8 ("Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever"). And Hebrews 1:12 / Psalm 102:27 ("But you are the same, and your years have no end.") If we accept scripture as authoritative then it is quite sufficient on its own to reject the proposition that God changed over time to become who he is today.

But if that were true, then why do Scriptures make reference to the acts of God within time, and ascribe causality at all to His acts and attributes?

I don't see any inconsistency there. What do you imagine would prevent God, creator and master of the universe, from acting in a way that we perceive as an event at a particular point in time? Why should such an event not have causative effects?

My limited, human analogy is of God as a painter and the universe as His painting. He exists outside the painting, but he can act on it and within it by adding new brush strokes, painting over parts, or anything else he wants. The painted subjects perceive only what is actually in the painting. Can God not paint manna on the ground in one corner without covering the whole canvas with manna?

We might take license from such expressions so as to hand-wave further understanding of the true nature of God out of our minds.

And you know the true nature of God better than I do? Rubbish. I do not insist that I must be right, but I totally reject your apparent assumption that I must be wrong. I do not "hand-wave further understanding" via my theological views, and I find the suggestion rude.

However, numerous passages in the Bible describe God and His acts in time,

Yes. nothing in my theology is inconsistent with that.

including His progression and development.

You'll need to be more specific about what you mean there.

The law of causality is never violated.

I'm not sure what "the law of causality" is supposed to be, but I guess you mean something along the lines of events having causes in the past that lead to effects in the future. That's hardly a law, though. It's an interpretation. A definition.

And I don't see the significance you're attributing to it. If God acts in a way that we perceive as an event at a particular point in time, and if we perceive that having effects propagating through time according to some idea of causality, then how is that inconsistent with God existing outside time? All I see there is that time and causality are properties of the universe.

For example, Luke 2:52 states, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." The central message of the Bible is that the Son of God came down from the presence of His Father, took upon Himself a tabernacle of flesh, and submitted to the Father in all things, including paying the price for sin so that we could be redeemed on conditions of repentance.

Yes. And?

The Bible teaches that Jesus was both God and man. To reconcile the gospels with scriptures such as Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8, I think we need to understand Luke 2:52 and similar scriptures as describing Jesus-as-man, not Jesus-as-God. And if you find that a bit unsatisfying then please understand that so do I. Jesus's dual nature is a mystery that is fundamentally beyond human understanding.

For all we might say about being "outside of time", an assertion that God does not obey or is not consistent with laws of causation is clearly untenable.

I'm getting the idea that you take issue with some specific assertions that you have not disclosed. Perhaps those are indeed inconsistent, but I see nothing inconsistent with the general idea that time is an aspect of the universe, created by God, and that God therefore exists separate from and outside it. In particular, that does not preclude God from acting in and on the universe at particular points in time (as humans perceive it), nor does it preclude any such actions producing effects that propagate through time in the universe in a way that we identify with "causation". We perceive only the universe, not whatever is beyond.

Nor does the fact that God sometimes works in ways that we perceive to be consistent with causation imply that he never works any other way. If he did, how would we describe it? How would we even perceive it?

What Bible verse or verses suggest that God "exists outside of time", or gives a sensible definition to what that might more appropriately mean? I am not asking for philosophical interpretations, lawyerisms or hand-waving references to what so-called "mainstream Christianity" teaches. I am asking what the Bible says.

So you get to present an argument, but we are not to present a counter-argument? You are unwilling to hear positions on the matter that have emerged from the work of generations of theologians and philosophers? I'm sorry, but I reject those ground rules. I do agree to base the discussion on the Bible, however, to the extent that it speaks to the matter.

Note that verses saying or suggesting that God has always existed are not the same as saying He has never changed or is outside of time.

I agree that "God has always existed" is a different proposition than "God has never changed", but both are supported by scripture. You seem to acknowledge that scripture supports the former, and I presented some verses supporting the latter above.

Such verses explicitly mention notions of time and causality as being valid and applicable to God as well as everything else.

Do they?

Such verses describe God's nature and attributes using human language that is contextualized to and a product of our universe, of which time is indisputably a characteristic.

In what way do you think they should be expressed differently if God is indeed outside time? Would they say that God has not always existed? Would they say that he has changed over time? Short of being more explicit about God's relationship with time, how would scripture distinguish?

Are you supposing that God could not interact with the universe in a way that humans perceive as an event at some particular time? (How limiting!) Are you supposing that such an event should not produce observable effects that propagate through time? (Why?) Are you supposing that God does not also influence the universe in ways that we don't perceive as such events? (How would we know?)

God being outside of time resolves some troublesome issues, such has how to reconcile God's omniscience with man's free will. That does not prove anything, but it's a reason to favor the idea. In the end, though, it makes little practical difference. I don't see any reason to think that there's anything you interpret as God being subject to time that I cannot interpret as God choosing to act in the context of time, without being bound to do so. In that sense, mine is a bigger God than yours. A less comprehensible one. But his love toward me and his desires of me and the salvation he extended to me through Jesus are the same either way.

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  • This is a great answer.
    – justhalf
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 6:18
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    "[T]ime is an attribute of the created universe." That's a definition. Your strongest argument for that is, "it is part of my personal theology," indicating that I could at least believe the same without immediately dying or imploding because of it. Not an especially strong case.
    – jpaugh
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 23:37
  • You're right, @jpaugh, it's not a strong case. It's a good thing, then, that I am not attempting to persuade the OP -- or you -- to believe as I do. I apologize if that was unclear. Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 3:02
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    Then how does this make for a good answer?
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 4:01
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    @Jason_c_o, it responds to the actual question -- "What Bible verse or verses suggest that God "exists outside of time", or gives a sensible definition to what that might more appropriately mean?". It is primarily descriptive of that position and its (limited) scriptural basis. If the criterion for a good answer to this question is that it must make a convincing case for or refutation of the position, then the question does not afford any good answers and should be closed. Commented Dec 23, 2023 at 13:58
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Eternity is not a long period of time. Eternity is other than time.

God, himself, is the cause of everything else. He is neither a part of, nor is he subject to, some greater thing called 'causality'.

'Without him nothing came into being that did come into being', John 1:3. (EGNT interlinear literal translation.)

He is Alpha and Omega. The First and the Last. The beginning and the Ending. Revelation 22:13.

Those who worship him worship his eternal Being.

Time began when God acted in such a way as to start 'the beginning'.

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    Unfortunately this doesn't answer the question, which asks whether there is biblical support for the statement that God exists outside of time. Asserting that "eternity is other than time" might support that statement, but where does the Bible say "eternity is other than time"?
    – LarsH
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 16:39
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    Revelation 10:6 states that 'there should be time no longer'. If time ceases and eternity continues . . . . then they are different things. And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: Revelation 10:6.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 18:22
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    At least that's in the Bible. Yes, the word in Rev. 10:6 is khronos (Χρόνος), which does generally mean time. But the statement that the angel swore in that verse is usually understood (and translated) to mean that there would be no more delay before "the mystery of God would be fulfilled" (v. 7). It's like saying I don't have time, or we're out of time ... it doesn't mean that time in general will cease to exist.
    – LarsH
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 3:03
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    @LarsH I do not accept that interpretation. Time shall cease when this present creation ends in conflagration and all that is left is a lake of fire. Then shall there be new heavens and new earth and eternal glory. There is no sun there. The light is the glory of the Lord himself. Without a sun, there is no time.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 6:46
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    @LarsH True. But there was created light. In eternity, there is only the glory of God.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 10:56
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Time and Eternity Could Co-exist? (Fefferman's answer) Did not Einstein's research on Relativity show that "time had a beginning" as well as the physical universe had a beginning!? If time was created it could not refer to one of God's attribute. That would violate the Law of Non-contradiction. (Time could not be created by a Being who is already time-bound.)

From eternity to eternity you are God! (Psalm 90) What greater statement could be made, regardless of the limitations of human vocabulary, than this, to describe the existence of God unrelated to time! Since time was created---by God---He exists outside of time. (See Law of non-contradiction). The second half of the verse of Psalms 90 does not deal with His existence, but His Providential oversight of His creation. (1,000 years) "Notions of time and causality" fit in this category. They do not speak to His eternal existence but His deeds within the universe which is bounded by a thing called time.

The Tanach (Holy Scriptures) is clear on this issue. And as well, the New Testament of Christianity: Since the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9); Time shall be no more (Revelation 10:6)

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... even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. - Psalm 90:2

Everlasting is how the KJV renders עֹלָם    עוֹלָם (‛ôlâm    ‛ôlâm).

This Hebrew phrase is variously rendered as "eternity to eternity" (HCSB), "once upon a time to kingdom come" (MSG), "beginning to end" (NLT), "before time was and forever" (BBE), "from forever in the past to forever in the future" (CEB), "from eternity past to eternity future" (CJB), and others. By far, the most common rendering is "from everlasting to everlasting".

The word itself indicates the vanishing point; the horizon, and even more than that, a continual approach to that horizon since the horizon can never actually be reached. It is essentially saying "to the horizon and again". That is, if you can actually reach the horizon then lift up your eyes to the horizon from that position and keep approaching. It is a statement of temporal unreachableness; of eternity.

"...even from the unreachable horizon of the past to the unreachable horizon of the future, thou art God."

This is what is being conveyed here; that there is no reachable point in either past or future where God is not God. It may include either an infinity of time in both directions (for those who hold that time was not created but has always been) or the ungraspable concept of actual timelessness (for those who hold that God is outside of time and created time). Either way the verse is declaring that God did not have a beginning but has always existed and has always been and always will be God.

The theological concepts of God being eternal and immutable are tied in here. He has never not been God whether inside of time or outside of time. Entirely ruled out are the notions of a "time" before God was God and, in connection with that, of God becoming God.

Related: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/43597/32868


Related note:

Jesus growing in wisdom and stature is not an example of God "progressing and developing". The Word, who was with God and who was God, emptied Himself and became flesh. He grew in wisdom and stature as a man. This is not development toward divinity but development as humanity. It is not God developing but God condescending. He cannot develop and progress as God because He is God from everlasting to everlasting.

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There are hundreds of bibles verses that speak of God's eternity, but the phrase "outside of time" is not mentioned. That issue is resolved with reference to philosophy, not the bible per se. In defining the issue, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:

The claim that God is timeless is a denial of the claim that God is temporal. First, God exists, but does not exist at any temporal location. Rather than holding that God is everlastingly eternal, and, therefore, he exists at each time, this position is that God exists but he does not exist at any time at all. God is beyond time altogether.

A Bible verse cited in favor of God existing outside of time is Isaiah 57:12:

For thus saith the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. KJ21

Here, God lives "in eternity," which may support the idea that God is "outside of time." On the other hand, Psalm 90 says:

From eternity to eternity you are God. 3 You turn humanity back into dust, saying, “Return, you children of Adam!” 4 A thousand years in your eyes are merely a day gone by.

In this verse, although God's sense of time is very different from ours, he does not seem live outside of time. The ratio of God's time to ours is 1 day to 1000 years.

Of course, both of these verses are open to interpretation. The ratio mentioned in Psalm 90 may not be literal, and - conversely - other translations of Isaiah 57 say that God "lives forever" or "dwells eternally," not that he lives "in eternity." Moreover even if "in eternity" is the best translation this still does not say "outside of time," because time and eternity could co-exist.

Conclusion: No bible verse says directly that God exists "outside of time." The issue must be settled through philosophy and theology, not by a definite biblical proof-text.

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  • "From eternity to eternity you are God." Lovely verse! "The ratio of God's time to ours is 1 day to 1000 years." A wonderful observation. "time and eternity could co-exist." Also a wonderful observation.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 6:03
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    2 Peter 3:8 NKJV: "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." So the ratio is not literal, otherwise it would be contrdictory.
    – Seggan
    Commented Dec 21, 2023 at 18:32
  • @Seggan ... or the ratio is being expressed in both directions (it's a symmetric relationship), in which case it could be literal without being contradictory. But it doesn't seem like a literal number is the point here.
    – LarsH
    Commented Dec 22, 2023 at 11:21
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Does the Bible say that God exists outside of time?

God cannot be subject to time.

He knows the future, and every detail of the future. The future to us is not future to him:

"I declare the end from the beginning, and ancient times from what is still to come. I say, 'My purpose will stand, and all My good pleasure I will accomplish.' " Isaiah 46:10

He names Cyrus 150 years or so before he becomes king of Persia. Isaiah 44:28-45:1.

"From everlasting to everlasting you are God".

If there is change in God, if there is progress, then before he created the Universe, how old was he when he became, say more powerful, or more kind, or more godlike in some way or other.

Could he have lived a trillion years and then improved in his character or godlikeness? He is from everlasting to everlasting. It is illogical and wrong to speak of God's age. It is illogical to speak of change in God: God has always been and there is no logical reason why he should change now, which couldn't have happened a trillion years ago, or a trillion trillion years ago.

God is of infinite age. A trillion trillion years ago God was still of infinite age. So he is no older now than he was a trillion trillion years ago. That is what is implied by "from everlasting".

There can be no improvement nor any decline in God because there is nothing outside of himself that affects him, and any change would have happened an infinite time ago.

If God were subject to time then he could not have made the Universe, because he would always be waiting for an eternity before he could make it. If God is subject to time then the Universe could not start.

God does not violate cause and effect. God is the Ultimate Cause of all things. The Universe need not exist, but God cannot not exist. The Universe cannot have always existed because then we would have to be waiting forever before this moment can arise. The whole of eternity has to be traversed before we can reach Now. And since eternity cannot be traversed inside time then God must have a nature which traverses eternity (outside of time).

So when God's word says "I am the LORD, I change not", Malachi 3:6, this agrees entirely with both logic and intuition.

God cannot be subject to time, he is outside of time.

Secondly, God cannot change because he is infinite in all his attributes: he is infinite in wisdom, power, holiness, justice, and mercy. He is the Truth. If he has changed then he was not the Truth before or he is not the Truth now.

You cannot reach infinite wisdom by addition of more wisdom. The same is true for all his other attributes. It is impossible to grow into infinite anything.. the only way to be infinite in anything is be infinite by nature always.

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  • To reiterate a point in the question, "If there is change in God, if there is progress..." is not relevant to the question. The question pertains to the assertion that God exists "outside of time" in such a way as to violate causality, or contrary to the possibility that He may have changed in the past.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 4 at 1:46
  • Whether there is change in God is precisely relevant. Change implies time. Eternity does not.
    – eques
    Commented Jan 4 at 18:51
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James 1:17:

all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

Therefore, because He does not alter, "the idea that God has in the past progressed to become Who He Is today" is not feasible.

That He is outside time is a conclusion from such things, not the reason to accept them.

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  • You have identified the critical element in the question being asked - the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints beliefs about the god they call Father.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 7 at 8:34
  • "there is no alteration" -> "there was no alteration" is a logical leap, and I do not follow. How can one conclude He is "outside time"? This explanation is lacking. The present tense is used to describe His nature. Therefore are His attributes immune to sequence? What is meant by "outside time"? This is part of the question.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 8 at 0:33
  • @Lesley I am not understanding your comment here. What is that critical element?
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jan 8 at 0:33
  • @pygosceles What tense are you expecting to be used? Which tense would you admit disproved your case?
    – Mary
    Commented Jan 8 at 1:27
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    @pygosceles - The critical element is that "the idea that God has in the past progressed to become Who He Is today is not feasible." According to the Christian Bible "there is no alteration or shadow caused by change" in the Lord God Almighty, the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jan 8 at 11:20
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Time, space and matter are all attributes of creation. They all have to come into existence simultaneously because if you have matter where (space) will you put it? And if you have matter and space, when (time) will you put it? Time is an automatic dimension of creation, and if it's part of creation, then its creator must be doing it from outside.

It's simply a question of what, when and where? The what is the object to be created and the where is the space the what will occupy and the when is the point in linear time the first two will occur.

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    God is good and he created and cannot change. He can do all that and remain the same as the beginning Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 18:56
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    @pygosceles What do you mean "one day"? You are starting with the premise that He is in time. That is the position you are arguing for and therefore can not be what you argue from. Furthermore, the Bible clearly states that the first day was not even "when" Creation began. The first day was when light and dark could change, and so change occurred. Therefore, there were no days before it.
    – Mary
    Commented Jan 7 at 15:27
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    @pygosceles What do you mean it began on a day? Does the Bible say it began on a day? No, it does not. And does the Bible say that something was before it? Then why do you leap to the question of what that thing that may not exist was before establishing whether it existed?
    – Mary
    Commented Jan 8 at 1:26
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    @Mary, and I agree beginning is not a day rather a point in our time that decided to call light out of darkness Commented Jan 8 at 2:18
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    In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It does not say and morning came and night came, first day. No it just says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and then the day counting comes later Commented Jan 8 at 2:24
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What is the Biblical evidence that God exists outside of time?

Before going on, I would like to explain briefly the difference between eternity, aeviternity, and time.

Aeviternity generally refers to time as experienced by the Angels, since they outside of time in correspondence to our physical universe. As to what is the difference between time, aeviternity and eternity, I will let St. Thomas Aquinas speak:

Aeviternity differs from time, and from eternity, as the mean between them both. This difference is explained by some to consist in the fact that eternity has neither beginning nor end, aeviternity, a beginning but no end, and time both beginning and end. This difference, however, is but an accidental one, as was shown above, in the preceding article; because even if aeviternal things had always been, and would always be, as some think, and even if they might sometimes fail to be, which is possible to God to allow; even granted this, aeviternity would still be distinguished from eternity, and from time. - Question 10. The eternity of God (Summa Theologiae)

Time as we understand it in Christian notion has a beginning and an end. Aeviternity of the Angels has a beginning, but no end. Eternity has neither a beginning or end!

The psalmist in Psalm 90:10 uses a simple yet profound analogy in describing the timelessness of God: “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

What is God’s relationship to time?

We live in a physical world with its four known space-time dimensions of length, width, height (or depth) and time. However, God dwells in a different realm—the spirit realm—beyond the perception of our physical senses. It’s not that God isn’t real; it’s a matter of His not being limited by the physical laws and dimensions that govern our world (Isaiah 57:15). Knowing that “God is spirit” (John 4:24), what is His relationship to time?

In Psalm 90:4, Moses used a simple yet profound analogy in describing the timelessness of God: “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” The eternity of God is contrasted with the temporality of man. Our lives are but short and frail, but God does not weaken or fail with the passage of time.

In a sense, the marking of time is irrelevant to God because He transcends it. Peter, in 2 Peter 3:8, cautioned his readers not to let this one critical fact escape their notice—that God’s perspective on time is far different from mankind’s (Psalm 102:12, 24-27). The Lord does not count time as we do. He is above and outside of the sphere of time. God sees all of eternity’s past and eternity’s future. The time that passes on earth is of no consequence from God’s timeless perspective. A second is no different from an eon; a billion years pass like seconds to the eternal God.

Though we cannot possibly comprehend this idea of eternity or the timelessness of God, we in our finite minds try to confine an infinite God to our time schedule. Those who foolishly demand that God operate according to their time frame ignore the fact that He is the “High and Lofty One . . . who lives forever” (Isaiah 57:15). This description of God is far removed from man’s condition: “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

Again, because of our finite minds, we can only grasp the concept of God’s timeless existence in part. And in so doing, we describe Him as a God without a beginning or end, eternal, infinite, everlasting, etc. Psalm 90:2 declares, “From everlasting to everlasting You are God” (see also Psalm 93:2). He always was and always will be.

So, what is time? To put it simply, time is duration. Our clocks mark change or, more precisely, our timepieces are benchmarks of change that indicate the passage of time. We could say, then, that time is a necessary precondition for change and change is a sufficient condition to establish the passage of time. In other words, whenever there’s change of any kind we know that time has passed. We see this as we go through life, as we age. And we cannot recover the minutes that have passed by.

Additionally, the science of physics tells us that time is a property resulting from the existence of matter. As such, time exists when matter exists. But God is not matter; God, in fact, created matter. The bottom line is this: time began when God created the universe. Before that, God was simply existing. Since there was no matter, and because God does not change, time had no existence and therefore no meaning, no relation to Him.

And this brings us to the meaning of the word eternity. Eternity is a term used to express the concept of something that has no end and/or no beginning. God has no beginning or end, but He cannot be wholly defined by eternity, especially as a measure of time. (God is eternal, but eternity does not equal God. Similarly, God is all-powerful, but power does not equal God.) Eternity is one of God’s attributes, but, having created time, He is greater than time and exists outside of it.

Scripture reveals that God lives outside the bounds of time as we know it. Our destiny was planned “before the beginning of time” (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2) and “before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20). “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). In other words, the physical universe we see, hear, feel and experience was created not from existing matter, but from a source independent of the physical dimensions we can perceive.

“God is spirit” (John 4:24), and, correspondingly, God is timeless rather than being eternally in time or being beyond time. Time was simply created by God as a limited part of His creation for accommodating the workings of His purpose in His disposable universe (see 2 Peter 3:10-12).

Upon the completion of His creation activity, including the creation of time, what did God conclude? “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Indeed, God is spirit in the realm of timelessness, rather than flesh in the sphere of time.

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We need go no further than Moses' encounter with God in Exodus, Chapter three, to understand why saying God exists outside of time is quite biblical.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation" (vss. 13-15 NIV).

Theologians like to say that God exists in the eternal present. The great "I AM" of Exodus 3 reveals that God is the eternally present One. Since there was never a time when He was not God, we must say that His existence was, is, and always will be eternal, and what is eternal cannot be measured in time.

God's image bearers exist in the realm of time and space. God Himself exists in a completely different realm of existence; namely, the eternal, which is timeless and omnipresent. That Jesus chose to inhabit a spiritual body forever is a miracle of the first order. Having been conceived by the eternal Spirit of God, Jesus was and will always be the God-man.

Jesus caused quite a controversy when he said to the Jews who accused him of being demon-possessed, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV, my emphasis). In fact, the Jews picked up stones to stone Jesus to death!

In short, both YHWH and Jesus claimed to exist eternally, and for that reason they exist outside of time. In obedience to his Father's will, however, Jesus in the fullness of time chose to be born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who are born under the law (Galatians 4:4-5).

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Time is frequently used in Scripture in a singleton sense without an article (in the English KJV), but it is also frequently used with the indefinite article ("a time", as in Joshua 8:14, Judges 9:8, Ezra 4:10, Nehemiah 2:7, Psalm 32:6, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, Daniel 7:25, Revelation 12:14 and dozens more). "A time" in every such instance refers to a span or period of time, an era, or a deadline.

Apparent singleton uses are rare and will be addressed shortly.

First, it does not make sense to say that "time does not apply to God" or that "causality does not apply to God". He would have had to have caused causality before He could cause causality, which is simply circular reasoning and is absurd on its face. God is not absurd. His ways are higher, not lower, than our ways. Without the eternality of causality, it would be impossible for God to have created, or to have condescended and participated in time with all of its constraints and demands. This was and is no illusion; otherwise we make the prophecies of Isaiah and every Messianic saying a deceit. God not only became subject to time, but the Son of God subjected Himself to our time in order to redeem all Creation that pertains to it.

In Hebrew, there is no indefinite article comparable to what we often see in English, further complicating attempts to differentiate between seeming singleton time and instances of time.

In terms of causality, the nature of time can easily be visualized and understood using a computing metaphor:

while(True):

    with newHeavensAndEarths() as heavens_and_earths:

        redeemAndPerfect(heavens_and_earths)

Of course God is able to (and does) create many different worlds in parallel, but this serial example is sufficient to understand the nature of time and causality relative to eternity.

Those familiar with the computer science concept of scope will have a head start in understanding this. A scope in computing is essentially the lifetime of a piece of data or of a function. Scope begins when a data item is created or allocated and ends when it is destroyed or deallocated, or when a function begins and ends. According to the strict definition, all functions begin and end. All scopes except the so-called "global" or "universal" scope will have a definite beginning and a definite ending in all useful programs. Scope is visualized in the above program by the indentations. An indentation denotes the beginning of an inner scope, and an unindentation denotes the end of that scope, and the dissolution (but not annihilation) of what was created within it. Scope essentially means that an item is created within a certain context and does not exist outside of that context.

"Time" is analogous to the inner loop where new heavens and new earths are created, and God does His work on each of them. Within that inner loop or scope, time is measured according to the system or systems in which the work occurs.

Eternity is likened to the outermost loop, which has no end (and unlike a computer program, also has no beginning). One could replace this with "always and forever" or some such thing. Suffice the analogy to say it is recognized as an infinite loop.

By this very simple example we can see certain properties, for example that there are many different times, each pertaining to and measured by its own heavens and earth, and each has a definite beginning and ending. Of course I am not saying that Creation is a simulation; it is not a simulation and is very real. Crucially this analogy allows us to dispense with nonsensical notions such as that universal progression (which we might call universal time) or causality itself was "created". Existence itself makes no sense if we dispense with causality, and Creation would have been impossible.

When time is referred to in the singleton sense in English renderings of Scripture, it refers to global time, not universal time. In other words, it refers to the time of this Earth, not God's time.

with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).

This shows that although progression is measured with respect to a different system in God's eternal realm, it is not devoid of progression, causality or forward movement, which are properties of the time we are familiar with. All things that are earthly are types and shadows of the heavenly.

A second analogy is a watchmaker. God is likened to a watchmaker creating, tuning and winding up watches. When a watch has wound down or worn out, it needs re-winding or repair or replacing. "A time" in the singleton or even global sense therefore always refers to time as measured by and within a specific system.

This allows us to make sense of this verse in Revelation that states that "time will be no longer":

And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: (Revelation 10:6)

That is to say, the grandfather clock of this Earth around its Sun will cease, and our appointed time of probation will have ended. The Greek text shows this instance of time, rendered in English in a singleton sense without an indefinite article, is the same word as occurs elsewhere in the New Testament to specify "a time" (indefinite, non-singleton usage). Thus "singleton time" is an illusion imparted by the English language, the King James translators, or our own modernist projections of meaning. Proving the pattern of the Watchmaker or the Programmer creating new things and assigning each its time within the infinite scope of eternity, we further read:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; (Revelation 21:1)

Therefore God, while He lives in eternity, uses eternity everlastingly to create, finish and perfect His works in various frames of time. God existed before and will remain into eternity outside of our time when it has ended but He is not immune to causality. He never had a beginning and will have no end. Even though the heavens and Earth shall pass away, we will continue also. We are eternal beings; the Scriptures say so, for otherwise we would cease to exist when this Earth's time is ended. But the Scriptures say that such an idea is false, and that all will continue to exist forever, either in a state of endless misery or in a state of never-ending joy according to our works done in the time appointed to us, and the desires we grew and exercised during that time.

Neither the ubiquitous passages in the Bible referring to God as the Creator (nor any other passages) indicate that God does not use time, does not respect causality, or exists "outside time" in a sense interpreted to violate progression, causality, or time in His sphere. We might appropriately call His time Celestial time. Per all of our observations, I cannot say it ever goes backwards. The eternality of God cannot contradict His causality, nor does anything preclude the continuation of further Creations.

It is true that for our purposes who dwell here on this Earth, our time will run out, and we must stand to be judged before God and enter into an unchangeable eternal state.

Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling? (Job 7:1)

This life is our time of testing, and it will surely end.

Of that rapidly approaching day, the Lord says:

the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:10-12)

God having foreknowledge is not at all incompatible with scoped time in eternity, and the immutability of causality, nor is it incompatible with our ability to choose. If God wanted to redeem all of His children and could do so by having Adam and Eve go back in time and preventing them from partaking of the forbidden fruit, I suppose He could have done so, but He didn't, doesn't, and by all appearances never will, which strongly suggests there is an unmovable reason for that. In the end, it is necessarily true that God's own time respects causality and the course of eternity is irreversible, otherwise there could be no such thing as the eternal and final judgment of which the Scriptures continually warn.

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    You have effectively defined "eternity" as "time but at a higher level" but that's exactly the point -- most wouldn't define eternity that way.
    – eques
    Commented Jan 4 at 18:54
  • 1
    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Christianity Meta, or in Christianity Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jan 12 at 22:30

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