Does God experience time like we do, or is all of time “present” to God?
Rev. 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
“Who is” is first, “I am!”
Exodus 3:13-14 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
Which indicates God present everywhere, even throughout all of time, the name “I AM” can also be read “I will be who I will be,” different tenses can be read here. And God’s experience of time is certainly different than ours:
Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
2Peter 3:8 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.
How can both be true? Yet they are, and this is possible if God is outside of time, for then God need not experience all time every moment at a constant rate.
John 8:57-58 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
Not “I was,” this implies more than self-existence, this implies here that God is present at all past and present points in time, “before Abraham, I AM.” And this is also true of future points in time:
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
I knew you! Not “I knew what you would be like,” or “I knew about you.” Again, a mode of speaking that indicates real present knowledge of Jeremiah before he was born.
Luke 20:38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.
Maybe all future men! They too may indeed be alive to God.
Also, even if God makes some decisions in a sequence, one moment after another, does he know his decisions, in every possible future situation? If he does, then they have already been made, in a real sense, and there can’t really be any moment of time when God makes an actual decision. And thus, in this sense, God is not in time.
And God speaks of events that were yet in the future as if they were done in the past, really done then:
2 Timothy 1:9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.
And once you have foreknowledge, and omniscience, you have “eternal now.” So I don’t think the philosophers are even required here to make the case in this area. If God knows all the future in every detail, how is that different than actually being there? And similarly, if God knows every detail about the past, doesn’t that make “virtual reality” essentially the same as actual reality?
And also, time is like another dimension, in space even, the scientists tell us, and God is omnipresent!
If God is not in time, this resolves several difficulties, such as a difficulty for the Calvinists, “When did God’s decrees occur?” But if God is not in time, then his decrees are also timeless. And for every view which does not include timelessness, when did God decide to create the world? If he didn’t know before then that he would create it, did he not know all there was to know about himself? That would then not be omniscience.
Here is another difficulty:
Rabbi Peli began his first lecture by asking the question, “Why did God create the world?” Then he answered his own question by stating, “Because God planned to create Man, and wanted a place to put him.” Next came the second question, “Why did God create Man?” The answer this time was, “Because God was lonely, and wanted someone to talk to.”
Or in James Weldon Johnson’s words, “And God stepped out on space and looked around and said: I’m lonely – I’ll make me a world.”
But if God is not in time, God was not lacking or lonely before he created man, nor Jesus missing his Bride, for God knew every person before they were born.
Also, we need not be concerned about when God knows what people will do in the future, such as in this question: “Which came first? The certainty that I would do X, or the actual moment in which I freely chose X?” Or this objection: “For a decision to be definitely foreknown, it must already be certain which means that the free agent that caused the decision has already acted.”
There are also further difficulties for those who are not Calvinists, Does God lack some experience? If he flows through time as we do?
And if there is some fulfillment in creation, some gain God has by creating, then he did not have it before, was there then a lack until God said “Let there be light”?
This next verse here indicates an event in the future that was considered as if done in the past, and the second verse indicates the same event, the death of Christ, as if it was also present in the future:
Revelation 13:8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast– all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
Revelation 5:6 Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne…
And “faith is [now] the substance of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), indicating reality now, for parts of the future yet to come.
Must we think of God as having this emotion now, then that emotion next, and so on, one emotion at a time, in a sequence? But if so, how could God rejoice with all those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep, and be angry with the wicked every day, and also not angry?
Isaiah 27:4-5 “I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire. Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.”
So for God to have all these quite different emotions, even all these opposite emotions, simultaneously, this would seem to be better explained by timelessness, than by God experiencing linearly each moment of time.
“Don’t bother about the idea that God ‘has known for millions of years exactly what you are about to pray.’ That isn’t what it’s like. God is hearing you now, just as simply as a mother hears a child. The difference His timelessness makes is that this now (which slips away from you even as you say the word now) is for Him infinite. If you must think of His timelessness at all, don’t think of Him having looked forward to this moment for millions of years: think that to Him you are always praying this prayer.” (C.S. Lewis, Letters)