by Bob Burridge ©2015
There was a moment, in a sense the first moment, when complete otherness came into being.
Before that most unique of all events there was only God, the only eternal and unchangeable being. He alone existed in that era of the eternally prior. Nothing else had been brought into being.
The only diversity before creation was within the divine nature itself. The persons of the Trinity related with one another in a manner beyond what we finite creatures are able to grasp. The Persons of the Trinity are eternally of the same substance, nature, power, and glory. We distinguish them each as a “subsistance”. Though there was no change in those particulars, there must have been some kind of eternal intra-subsistantial dynamic within the Trinity. In this dynamic, nothing new could be discovered by any of the persons since God knows all things eternally. No improvement could take place because God is eternally perfect. It is not possible that any change could take place in the eternal plan which had no beginning and has no end.
Psalm 33:11, “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”
James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
To communicate this unchanging yet dynamic internal relationship God reveals himself to us using the terms Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In each of these subsistences the one unified God exists in ways we only know as they relate to relationships familiar to us and as they are explained in Scripture. The Father decreed and provides for all things, while the Son carries out the Father’s decrees. In this era the Son made atonement and redeemed his people from among the fallen human race, and as the “Word” (John 1:1) he communicates the eternal plan. The Holy Spirit moves upon chosen lost hearts to apply the redemptive work of the Son. To those redeemed he brings understanding and comfort. The Father is said to “speak” to the Son, and the Son directed his prayers to the Father. Both the Father and the Son are said to “send” the Holy Spirit.
We are unable to perceive fully how these three persons of the One Being related to one another before creation. We can conclude though, that in this dynamic there was no change in substance, knowledge, or perfection. They worked together as the one Creator to bring all things into existence.
Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”
Both the Father and the Son were involved in the work of Creation.
1 Corinthians 8:6, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”
Hebrews 1:2, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
Speaking of God the Son the Bible shows his direct involvement in the Dawn of Otherness.
John 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
Colossians 1:16-18, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”
God the Holy Spirit was also directly involved in the work of Creation.
Genesis 1:2, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Job 26:13, “By his wind (the same word translated as “Spirit”) the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.”
Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
Before that point of creation, outside the Triune nature there was nothing. There was no “outside” because there is nothing else that has always been eternal. There was no external clock to measure how long it took between events of the Father speaking to the Son, or between the declaration of God to create all things he eternally determined to make and the actual coming into being of those things.
As odd as it sounds, we may in one sense speak of the “time before time”. Of course we are obviously using the word “time” in two different ways. Before we can speak of the dawn of something we need to have a good understanding of what it is. We need to define what we mean by time itself.
We most commonly think of time in terms of measurable intervals such as seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, centuries, and millennia.
These intervals are marked out by a beginning and an end. The duration of those intervals is measured by comparing it with consistent changes taking place in some agreed upon standard.
Those intervals have been measured at times by counting the swings of a pendulum. That gives an approximate standard which depends upon the length of a swinging line connected to a suspended mass as it moves in a particular gravitational field with a measurable resistance.
Time intervals have also been measured by counting variations in a specific electrical circuit, the production of electromagnetic waves of a particular wavelength, the hyperfine transitions that take place in certain isotopes of some elements, and other changes which seem to take place at a fixed interval.
These measured intervals are not as absolute as time seems to be to us who live here on the Earth. In God’s creation the intervals that mark out segments of time are relative to the frame of reference of the observer.
Objects traveling past us at a velocity near the speed of light appear to be aging at a different rate. To those traveling at near light speeds every experiment or measurement they make would confirm that time was passing the same as if they were not in motion at all. When compared with things moving relative to an observer in another frame of reference, these differences in time intervals seem to take place.
The Before and After
Before God created things other than himself, there were no externals by which intervals of time could be measured. There was no physical frame of reference. However, the basic idea of a before and after existed. God is certainly aware of his eternal existence before the moment of his first creation. He can recognize that the changing events in the universe he made began to take place after the first moment of creation. He knows that prior to that event there were only those dynamic interactions between the Triune persons.
Colossians 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
This verse makes it clear that God existed before all things came into being, and that he has an awareness that things began to happen after creation took place. This is the sense in which we can speak of “time” in terms of God being aware of the change brought about by creation when the “before and after” took on the property of measurable intervals. It was then that things which actually change relative to one another came into being.
Though God knows all things in all their fullness eternally, he is not in the total sense “timeless” since he is eternally aware of beforeness and afterness regarding the things he brought into existence and the sequence of all things after the first creation moment.
The Dawn of Otherness
When the moment of creation first took place, otherness came into being.
People often think of God as being something that is “wholly other” than his creation. Some have even included those words in their theological writings. It may be far more accurate to turn it around. Since God was here first and always, we are that which is wholly other.
The spirit world seems to have been created first, although this is not directly stated. We do know that by the time Satan approached Eve to tempt her, he and some other spirit beings had already been created and fallen into rebellion against God.
Passages in the Bible often used to describe Satan’s fall are more figurative than physically descriptive. They are events in the realm of the non-physical, so terms like “fall” “lightning” “cast out” (Luke 10:18, etc.) are terms used to communicate relationship issues and moral standings before God. These passages are there to teach those of us who can only relate with things in terms of our physical world.
Since changes were taking place in relationships between these created spirit beings, the interval concept of time must have existed beyond just an awareness of the before and after. Rational beings experience things on a time line upon which they could perceive how relatively long or short periods of time were between events and changes that take place.
We do not know if the physical universe came into being at the same time as the creation of the spirit beings. It could have been before or after material things were called into being. We do know that once physical forces, atoms, and the fundamental particles that constitute them came into being, there were actual physical events by which intervals of time could be measured more objectively.
This consideration of time and of the eternal unchanging nature of the Creator brings us amazing comfort. From all eternity, not just from when we were born or from the moment of God’s promises in Eden, the Creator has eternally loved us whom he redeems. Though knowing we would rebel and do many things that offend him, God determined to display his amazing grace and unimaginable power by the rescue of his redeemed children. The promises of our unchanging God cannot fail.
Ephesians 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
2 Timothy 1:8-9, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,”
Note: Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.