God alone is eternal. The Bible plainly asserts that God had no beginning, and that He will never end, or die—He possesses eternality. Consider Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Isaiah wrote: “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in a high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15; see Deuteronomy 33:27). The apostle John wrote: “Grace to you and peace from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come...” (Revelation 1:4, emp. added). In beautiful, poetic language, God said: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). It is difficult for finite, human minds to comprehend anyone Who possesses eternality, because every earthly person and thing known to us had a beginning, and has either died, ended, will die, or will end. To emphasize God’s majesty through His eternality, consider several items, which, though striking and awe-inspiring, are not eternal.
The Universe is not eternal. For many years, evolutionists attempted to prove that the Universe never had a beginning. For, they reasoned, if scientists were to arrive at the conclusion that the Universe had a beginning, they must turn to the next logical question: What caused the beginning of the Universe? Attempting to answer that question makes rationally thinking evolutionists uncomfortable. Of course, scientists have shown definitively that the Universe has not always existed, and that it will not exist forever. Because it exists, therefore, someone, or something must have always existed. Astronomer Robert Jastrow observed: “The lingering decline predicted by astronomers for the end of the world differs from the explosive conditions they have calculated for its birth, but the impact is the same: modern science denies an eternal existence to the Universe, either in the past or in the future” (1977, p. 30, emp. added). In her book, The Fire in the Equations, award-winning science writer Kitty Ferguson wrote in agreement:
Our late twentieth-century picture of the universe is dramatically different from the picture our forebears had at the beginning of the century. Today it’s common knowledge that all the individual stars we see with the naked eye are only the stars of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, and that the Milky Way is only one among many billions of galaxies. It’s also common knowledge that the universe isn’t eternal but had a beginning ten to twenty billion years ago, and that it is expanding (1994, p. 89, emp. added).
Furthermore, the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that both matter and energy can be neither created nor destroyed, precludes the idea of an eternal Universe. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that systems become more disorganized, rather than more organized, also establishes that the Universe had to have a starting point. Because matter exists, but has not always existed, then something or someone must have caused its beginning. Some have suggested that the Universe simply created itself. Sproul wrote:
For something to bring itself into being it must have the power of being within itself. It must at least have enough causal power to cause its own being. If it derives its being from some other source, then it clearly would not be either self-existent or self-created. It would be, plainly and simply, an effect. Of course, the problem is complicated by the other necessity we’ve labored so painstakingly to establish: It would have to have the causal power of being before it was. It would have to have the power of being before it had any being with which to exercise that power (1994, pp. 179-180).
Obviously, the idea that the Universe was, at one time, nonexistent, but then independently came into being, is contradictory. Creationists do not have to wonder about the start of the Universe; they understand that God is the cause, and the Universe is the effect. That event is recorded in the first few pages of the Bible (Genesis 1-2).
Humanity is not eternal in the same sense that God is eternal. Humans have immortal souls—souls that will never die (Romans 5:21; 6:22; Galatians 6:8), and humans can access eternal life (Matthew 25:46; 2 Corinthians 4:18), but the human race is not eternal, because it had a beginning (described in Genesis 1-2). And, when the Earth ends (see 2 Peter 3:10-12), humanity on Earth will cease. The Greek word translated “eternal” in passages like Mark 10:17,30, Luke 18:18, and John 3:15 is aionios, a word that is also used to denote the eternality of God (Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 5:10). “Eternal,” then, has approximately three meanings in the New Testament: (1) without beginning (Romans 16:25; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2); (2) without beginning or end (Hebrews 9:14); (3) and without end (Matthew 25:46; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; see Arndt and Gingrich, 1974, pp. 27-28; Kittel, 1981, 1:208; Robertson, 1934, p. 272). Humans are eternal in that their souls will never end, but only God possesses eternality in the first two senses of the word.
Why are humans instructed to live in view of, and prepare for, eternity? A few of the many reasons include: (1) Christians will live for a much longer time in heaven than they will on Earth (Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:17); (2) dire consequences await those who refuse to prepare for eternity in this life (Matthew 9:44-48; Matthew 23:33; Luke 13:28; John 5:29); (3) and there are great blessings associated with eternal life (Matthew 8:11; Hebrews 9:24; 1 Peter 1:4, 3:22; Revelation 21:2,3, 22).
Marriage is not eternal. Some religious people teach that marriages will endure throughout eternity. For example, James Duke, representing the Mormon religion, wrote:
Latter-day Saints believe that life is more secure and more joyous when it is experienced in the sacred relationships of the eternal family. Those who maintain such worthy relationships on earth will live as families in the Celestial Kingdom following the resurrection. Thus, a person who lives a righteous life in mortality and who has entered into an eternal marriage may look forward to an association in the postmortal world with a worthy spouse, and with those who were earthly children, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters (1992, emp. added).
Jesus, however, said that, after they are resurrected, no one will be married or given in marriage (Matthew 22:30). Marriage has been created by God, Who is eternal, for the enjoyment and benefit of mortal men, but the institution of marriage will end when Earth ends (Genesis 2:24; Proverbs 18:22; Hebrews 13:4).
Angels are not eternal in the same sense that God is eternal. Here, we refer to spiritual messengers, and not humans (on occasion, human messengers are also called “angels” in the Bible; see Haggai 1:13; Bass and Thompson, 2001). Angels, like humans, are created beings. Paul wrote: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” (Colossians 1:16). Nehemiah 9:6 reads: “You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the Earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You” (emp. added; see Genesis 2:1; Exodus 20:11). Job 38:1-7 makes it clear that angels were eyewitnesses to the creation of the Universe, so we are left to wonder if the angels were created during the Creation week, or at some earlier time. Respected Bible scholar Herbert Lockyer commented:
The heavens include all that are in them created by God, and among these must be the angels (Genesis 2:1). Among the hosts of heaven the angels are the principal part. They are expressly called “the heavenly host” and “the armies of heaven” (Luke 2:13) [1995, p. 14, emp. in orig.].
We cannot be certain when the angels were created, but we do know that no other being beside God is eternal in the fullest sense of the word (see Bass and Thompson, 2001).
The devil is not eternal in the same sense that God is eternal. Deity is eternal in the fullest sense (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 102:27), but Satan does not possess the qualities of Deity. Bert Thompson commented:
Scripture affirms: “Greater is he [God] that is in you than he [Satan] that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). When he sought to “sift” the apostles as wheat, he first had to “ask for them (Luke 22:31). Satan is not omnipresent. His position as “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) was “delivered unto him” (Luke 4:6). When he eventually is cast permanently into his place of eternal torment, the devil will be powerless to resist (Revelation 20:10) [1999, pp. 4-5].
Wayne Jackson noted:
…[S]ince the devil is not of the nature of deity, it is obvious that he is a created being, for all things and being (outside the class of deity) are the result of creation—“for in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers (Col. 1:16); this would include Satan as he originally was (1980, p. 78, emp. and parenthetical item in orig.).
While it is true that Satan will exist forever, it is obviously also true that he had a beginning. Genesis 1:31 reveals that all things which were created were, originally, “very good.” God did not create Satan to be humankind’s evil adversary; rather, Satan made the choice to become evil, and to work to convince others, both spiritual and mortal beings, to do wrong. Both Old and New Testament passages imply that Satan, at some point before he tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, led a revolt, the result of which was the ejection of Satan and “his” angels from heaven (Job 4:18; Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). There is every reason to believe that angels still have the ability to choose to do evil. Lloyd Ecrement observed: “They, therefore, have the ability to choose good or evil. It is possible, but certainly not necessary, for them to sin. If they choose evil rather than good, that is no reflection upon their Creator, but simply a rebellion against Him—they abuse the powers of reason and a free will given to them by God” (1961, p. 33). Little is known about why Satan chose to do evil initially, but it is easier to surmise why he chose to become the archenemy of God and man: he had once inhabited glory with God, but had been cast out (see Jackson, 2004; Thompson, 1999, pp. 7-8).
If a man composed a work in which he considered every temporal item, the work would be enormous, because the number of the things that will, at some point, cease to exist, is inestimable. However, there is only One Who possesses eternality. We should be impressed and thankful that our Creator is ageless, timeless, uninterrupted, and perpetual, not only in His existence, but in His personality and attributes. The truth of His message, like His very personage, will never change (Mark 13:31).
Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1974 reprint), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Bass, Alden and Bert Thompson (2001), “When Did God Create Angels?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/468.
Duke, James T. (1992), “Eternal Marriage,” [On-line], URL: http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/family/marriage/eternal_eom.htm.
Ecrement, Lloyd L. (1961), Man, the Bible, and Destiny (Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans).
Ferguson, Kitty (1994) The Fire in the Equations: Science, Religion, and the Search for God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Jackson, Wayne (1980), “Satan,” Great Doctrines of the Bible, ed. M.H. Tucker (Knoxville, TN: East Tennessee School of Preaching).
Jackson, Wayne (2004), “Spiritual Warfare Is Real, Difficult, and Dangerous,” [On-line], URL: http://www.christiancourier.com/penpoints/spiritualWarfare.htm.
Jastrow, Robert (1977), Until the Sun Dies (New York: W.W. Norton).
Kittel, Gerhard, ed. (1981 reprint), Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Lockyer, Herbert W. (1995), All the Angels in the Bible (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Robertson, A.T. (1934), A Grammar of the Greek New Testament In Light of Historical Research, (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Sproul, R.C. (1994), Not a Chance (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Thompson, Bert (1999), “Satan—His Origin and Mission,” (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
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