What Was God Doing Before Creation?

TimeAn article by Ken Ham (original source a man approached me and said, “But it makes no sense to believe in a young universe. After all, what was God doing all that time before He created?”

I answered, “What time do you mean?”

The person answered, “Well, it doesn’t make sense to say that God has always existed, and yet He didn’t create the universe until just six thousand years ago.” Apparently, he was worried that God once had a lot of time on His hands with nothing to do.

I then went on to explain that because God has always existed, then it is meaningless to ask, “What was God doing all that time before He created?” No matter how far you were to go back in time, you would still have an infinite amount of time before He created! So even if the universe were billions or trillions or quadrillions of years old, you could still ask the same question.

Time Was Created with the Universe
I then answered, “But you are missing the fact that there was no time before God created.”

Time is actually a created entity. The first verse of the Bible reads: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, emphasis added).

A study of this verse reveals that God created time, space, and matter on the first day of Creation Week. No one of these can have a meaningful existence without the others. God created the space-mass-time universe. Space and matter must exist in time, and time requires space and matter. Time is only meaningful if physical entities exist and events transpire during time.

“In the beginning . . .” is when time began! There was no time before time was created!

God Is Separate from Both Time and the Universe
When I’m teaching children, I like to explain it this way. There was no “before” God created. There was not even “nothing”! There was God existing in eternity.

This is something humans, as finite created beings, can never really understand. That’s why the Bible makes it clear there is always a “faith” aspect to our understanding of God. Now, biblical faith is not against reason, but such things go beyond our understanding.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

In Psalm 90:2 we read: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

So what was “before” creation? God existing from everlasting to everlasting—God existing in eternity.

Do you remember what God said to Moses when he asked God who he should say sent him to lead his people out of Egypt’s oppression?

“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”’” (Exodus 3:14).

God is the great “I AM.” He exists in eternity. He was not created.

In Revelation 1:8 we read, “‘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.’”

Isaiah 43:10 records these words from God: “‘You are My witnesses,’ says the Lord, ‘and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.’”

In other words, it’s a mistake to talk about what God was doing “before creation” because the concept of time (before, during, and after) did not come to be until Day One of Creation Week. God exists—He is—He is the eternal self-existent One. He is outside of time.

A Question of Time

“Surely one of the most difficult things for us to understand about God is His eternal nature. We are limited to time. We experience reality as a series of events- past, present and future. Our language is based upon our experience of time. We have past tenses, and present tenses, and future tenses. We think in a temporal, time-based way.

But God does not exist as we do. We have seen that He is unique, and one of the greatest ways in which this is seen is His relationship with time itself. When we speak of God as eternal, what do we mean? Are we simply asserting that God has always existed and will always exist? While that may be true, God’s eternal nature is not limited to simply exhaustive existence for a very long, long time. We are speaking of God’s actually transcending the boundaries of time, of existing outside of the realm of time!

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” -Isaiah 40:28

Jehovah is the eternal, everlasting God. Yet, if He is limited to an existence within time, then we have to believe that time existed prior to God. Is time an absolute that is higher than God? Is God subservient to time? Does time exist outside of God, beyond His control, and is He limited to it? Or is time itself a creation of God, defined and directed by Him? I believe the Bible clearly teaches the latter position, despite the difficulty we have in understanding it! God is the Creator of all things, including time itself, and is therefore not bound to an existence that is marked by the “past–present–future” mode of being.

What this means is, quite obviously, mind-boggling for us creatures. God has never once predicted the future. What I mean by this is that God does not simply sit here in the present with us and, through some strange power, peer into the future so as to be able to predict future events with uncanny accuracy. No, God does not “look into the future” because He is already there! He is with the first and the last of the generations as Creator, and all that takes place in time does so at His sovereign command… God’s knowledge of the future, then, is based not upon predictive powers, but upon the simple fact that God created time, and is already present in that future that exists solely because He decreed it to be so.” – Dr. James White, God’s Sovereign Grace

Time, Matter and the Eternal Love of God

An excerpt from Dr. R. C. Sproul’s book, Loved by God.

When Genesis speaks of a beginning, it is referring to the advent of the universe in time and space. It is not positing a beginning to God but rather to the beginning of the creative work of God. One of the most enigmatic questions of philosophy and theology relates to the nature of time. Was the universe created in time, or was it created along with time? Did time exist before creation, or did it come into being with creation? Most classical theologians affirm that time correlates with creation. That is, before matter was created, time, at least as we know it, did not exist. How one approaches this question of the origin of time is usually bound up with how one understands the nature of time. Some see time not as an objective reality but merely as a category or construction of the mind.

However we conceive of time, we will agree that the ordinary manner by which we measure time requires a relationship between matter and motion. A simple clock uses hands that move around the face of a dial. We measure time by the motion of these hands. Or we may use an hourglass, which measures the passing of sand through a narrow aperture in the glass. The sundial measures time by the movement of a shadow. There are many devices to measure time, but in the final analysis they all rely on some sort of motion relative to some type of matter.

If there is no matter, we cannot measure motion. If we cannot measure motion, we cannot measure time. However, just because we cannot measure time without matter does not mean that without matter time does not exist. Genesis merely asserts that the universe had a beginning. It does not explicitly declare that time began with the universe. That concept is derived via speculative philosophy. The philosophical concerns are usually linked to our broader understanding of the nature of God. Especially when we declare with Scripture that God is eternal, the question of His relationship to time arises. Does His eternality mean that He is somehow outside of time, that He is timeless? Or does His eternality mean that He exists in an endless dimension of time?

However we answer this question, we conclude that God Himself never had a beginning. He exists infinitely with respect to space and eternally with respect to time. His existence has neither a starting point nor an ending point. The dimensions of His existence are from everlasting to everlasting. This means that He always has been and always will be.

In the Beginning God

Though God Himself had no beginning, nevertheless He was already there in the beginning. He antedates the created order. When we affirm that God is eternal, we are also saying that He possesses the attribute of aseity, or self-existence. This means that God eternally has existed of Himself and in Himself. He is not a contingent being. He did not derive from some other source. He is not dependent on any power outside Himself in order to exist. He has no father or mother. He is not an effect of some antecedent cause. In a word, He is not a creature. No creature has the power of being in and of itself. All creatures are contingent, derived and dependent. This is the essence of their creatureliness.

In the Beginning God Created

Thinkers hostile to theism have sought every means imaginable to provide a rational alternative to the notion of an eternal self-existent deity. Some have argued for an eternal universe, though with great difficulty. Usually the temporal beginning of the universe is granted but with a reluctance to assign its cause to a self-existent, eternal being. The usual alternative is some sort of self-creation, which, in whatever form it takes, retreats into irrationality and absurdity. To assert the self-creation of anything is to leap into the abyss of the absurd because for something to create itself, it would have to exist before it existed to do the job. It would have to be and not be at the same time and in the same relationship. Some speak of self-creation in terms of spontaneous generation, which is just another name for self-creation. This would involve the logically impossible event of something coming from nothing. If there ever was a time when absolutely nothing existed, all there could possibly be now is nothing. Even that statement is problematic because there can never be nothing; if nothing ever was, then it would be something and not nothing.

Understanding the eternality of God is important because without some understanding of this attribute, our understanding of the love of God will be impoverished. This is so because the love of God must be understood as an eternal love. Just as He is from everlasting to everlasting, so His love is also from everlasting to everlasting. His is not a fickle love that waxes hot and cold over time. His love has a constancy about it that transcends all human forms of love. Just as human beings often fall in love, they also often fall out of love. This is not the case with the love of God.

If God’s love is eternal, we must ask whom or what did God love from all eternity? What was the object of that love? In the first instance we see that God’s eternal love had Himself as both the subject and object of His love. As the subject, God did the loving. Yet at the same time He was the object of His own love. Though this love was a kind of self-love, it was by no means a selfish love.