A number of verses deal with foreknowledge. See these at the end of the essay.
As noted in other essays, God created space, matter, and time all at once. Time is under God’s sovereign control, and is God’s chosen method to constrain his holy response to sin.
You and I are sitting on a sofa and I tell you we’re invited to party. It’s about an hour’s drive. Not only do I know about the party, I helped plan it. I know who the guests will be, what festivities will transpire, etc. I tell you movie stars and sports personalities will be there – name brands you recognize. Now you’re excited. So we hop in a car and go. It’s one hour into our future. And when we arrive, it’s exactly as I said it would be. Is this foreknowledge? Of course not. I planned the party and knew what was coming.
I call you from a party and invite you to join me. It’s about an hour’s drive away, so it’s one hour into your future. I describe all the movie stars and sports personalities who are in attendance. Get here as quick as you can. So you freshen-up, hop in a car and get here about an hour later. Everything is as I described it. The movie stars, personalities, and festivities. Is this foreknowledge? Of course not. I’m at the party in real-time.
But in Example (B), what if I’m a twenty years in the future? I call you from this future time and tell you everything going on. The weather, the people, the signs of the times. I tell you – you are married, have three kids and your firstborn is about to enter college.
But for you – today – you are single and in college, no plans for marriage at all.
Twenty years later, all these things come to pass. Was this foreknowledge on my part? Of course not. I was there, twenty years into your future, relating to you what to expect “when you get here”. For you, it’s foreknowledge. No way can you know these things unless someone in the future tells you.
Think about Example (A) above. Is God merely standing alongside us, experiencing time as a second-per-second existence the same as we? Or is time, being his invention, under his complete control? Is he here and now, and also in the future, at the same time?
God says he is the same yesterday, today and forever. Who was, and is, and is to come. The Alpha and the Omega. All references to God concerning time have a common theme – it goes like this:
- God created time (time had a beginning) (Titus 1:2)
- God is sovereign over time.
- God lives outside of time.
- God exists at the beginning of time, and the end of time, and every nano-second in between – all at once.
- God is everywhere.
- God is everywhen.
This is the difference between “foreknowledge” and “knowledge”. God is with us right now, in real time. At the same time, he is one second from now. He is five minutes from now.
This is how God can claim he knows all the things in our future, even though we haven’t experienced them yet.
Back to Example (B) above. God is already in the future. He may as well be standing next to the manger in Bethlehem, telling the prophets of old what to expect when time caught up with Him.
Jesus was already in Heaven when the Apostle John arrived for his survey recorded in Revelation. John recorded the events we will eventually encounter. They are in John’s past, but in our future – simultaneously.
Example (A) above suggests God himself is harnessed in the same second-per-second existence as the creation. If God wants to “foresee” something, he has to “orchestrate” it to come to pass. For example, if it’s approaching the time for the birth of Jesus, he has to pull out all the stops to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, even if it means putting a bug in Caesar’s ear to announce a census. This “orchestration” is required if we want something to come to pass.
But if God “orchestrates” then it’s not really foreknowledge either. It’s good planning.
The Example(A) concept also limits God’s capacity to understand the future. Conceptually, it presumes God is trapped in time, experiencing the clock in second-per-second form (as humans do). This reduces God to the H.G. Wells version of a “Frantic Director”, where God is busy orchestrating or directing the Grand Performance in real-time while attempting to setup what he has planned, while the play is going awry in real time. Either way, it firmly places God’s presence in real time (right now) rather than across all time.
“Foreknowledge” is for those who can “see” the future while trapped in the present. God is neither. He exists in the past, present, and future, all at once. It is the human (or the created beings) who are trapped in the present. Anything shown to us about the future is “foreknowledge”.
But God knows all things, past, present and future, all at once. The concept of foreknowledge helps us understand how God lives outside of time, outside of his creation. But the concept of foreknowledge applied to God himself, limits God’s omnipresence, in fact limits God entirely. It’s not foreknowledge to God, but knowledge.
One famous evangelist was asked – why doesn’t God punish the wicked now? Why does God allow evil to continue?
The answer was a bit roundabout, but the final conclusion was “He will”. That is, if we read what God has in store for the wicked, none of it is good.
But “He will” is an answer assuming God does not “already exist” in future the same as he exists in our present. He is already there. He’s already punished the wicked and he’s told us how.
So the real answer is more concrete and final: “He already has.”
Or rather, “He already has, but we haven’t experienced it yet.”
In the books, a character jokes about how his father discovered a light bulb was out in his closet, and took steps to replace it. He found the problem and intended to tell his dad, but had to leave and never did. In the meantime, Dad replaced the bulb. When the son arrived home, he told his dad of the bulb and his dad twiddled his fingers as if doing magic, and said “All fixed.” The conversation escalated into one of dad not taking him seriously. But when he got to his closet, he discovered the bulb fixed. This was an object lesson his dad used on occasion to show how God provides for us even before we ask. God is already out in front, not “only” standing next to us in real time.
Think about the Example (A) and Example (B) above – where the arrival to the party was an hour into the future. If in Example (B) I told you “such-and-such movie star will be here when you show up” – am I making a promise in the hopes that the movie star will be there, or am I certain because the movie star is already there – and you not having arrived yet – have not experienced it yet?
God has already dispatched his enemies. We haven’t experienced it yet.
We worship a God much bigger than our imaginations can handle. Next time one considers the concept of foreknowledge, ask – how big is the God I worship? And rest assured God has everything under control.
Romans 11:2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew…
Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son…
1Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…
Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: