To understand how God is first and last is to look beyond our temporal universe to His eternal nature. All things exist in and through Him, the creator of all, who is Lord of life and death and sovereign over all.
Who has performed and done it, Calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the Lord, am the first; And with the last I am He.’ (Isaiah 41:4)
We mistakenly define eternity as a circle – the notion being without beginning or end. Yet the very definition of a circle is of a cycle, something on loop or repeat. At some point, it has a beginning and an ending, even though we can’t necessarily determine where. It isn’t something endless but merely the same thing repeating itself. If we’re looking for an accurate definition of eternity, we could use God Himself to define it – who was, and is, and is to come, forever and without end. Our problem with eternity is that we want to define it by our temporal understanding – our human perception of time. True eternity is every moment of time as we know it existing in a single moment in God. We can only define eternity in terms of first and last when we accept that it exists in Him who has no beginning or end.
How is God first and last?
This universe and everything in it is created and is therefore temporal – it has a limited lifespan. But it all exists within the context of eternity. The universe doesn’t exist separate from or unconnected to eternity. We don’t live out our temporal existence and then pass on to an eternal existence that is somehow removed from this one. Our life, our world, and our universe are part of eternity because God’s creation cannot exist separately from Him. We have natural and temporal laws that govern life as we know it but these emanate from the will of God who put them all in place. Think of a snow globe – the scene inside is our universe, the glass that holds it in place is eternity. The outside is first and last because without it, the inside couldn’t exist. The outside defines the inside but can exist without it.
God is first because He existed as eternity before the created universe came into being. He is last because He will continue to exist even when the universe has passed away. First and last do not mean that there was a time God didn’t exist or that there will come a time when He will cease to exist. It means He was, and is, and is to come. He is eternal and has no beginning or end. Temporal and natural laws cannot affect Him. The limited lifespan of this universe won’t alter His eternal existence. Time as we know it is immaterial to His existence or the nature of eternity. He has the power to override any laws He has put in place to govern our universe any time He chooses. His supernatural kingdom is evidence that eternity controls the ‘real world’ rather than the other way round.
The sovereignty of first and last.
In a world where technological advances seem to daily validate man’s superior intelligence and ability, first and last is a sobering reminder of the sovereignty of God. The arrogance of humankind is laughable when we consider the vastness of the eternal I AM. While we pride ourselves on our ability to prolong life in comparison to a few decades ago, we forget that God created us to live eternally. We celebrate when someone lives to a hundred, but forget Methuselah, who lived 969 years. Our triumphs are simply limited attempts to reclaim what God had originally given at the beginning of time. While I’m all for the benefits technology brings, it’s very much the modern-day version of the Tower of Babel – man building his own monument to his perceived accomplishments. The problem isn’t the advancements, it’s leaving God out of them.
When we look at the context in which our universe exists, we’re reminded of the fact that God is first and last. This makes Him sovereign. He is the creator and sustainer of all. We and our universe exist in, through, and by Him. Without Him, everything would simply cease to exist. Before all our cleverness, God was. After all our advancements have passed away, He will continue to be. Nothing we do or achieve can alter the nature, power, will, purpose, and existence of God. Everything exists and continues to exist because He desires it. If God were to withdraw Himself and His will from the universe, the end would be swift and sure. It is Him, and only Him, who ensures the continued reality of what we know. Life in any form is utterly impossible without God.
First and last and life and death.
The reality of life is the one thing that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that God, the first and last, is utterly sovereign. Despite advances in medical and biological research and the short but famous life of Dolly the cloned sheep, scientists cannot produce life. They can manipulate existing life but the ‘spark’ that defines life cannot nor will ever be within the reach of man, no matter how brilliant a researcher may be. The creation of life is God’s prerogative alone. Even Satan, who certainly possesses far more supernatural power than we could collectively summon, cannot create life. Until creation, life existed only in God. He is first and last, and His life created life in all its forms. In the case of man, He literally breathed His life into us. No life will ever come into being unless God wills it so.
This truth is why murder has always been reviled. It is the taking of life which God alone can give. It’s not ours to take, and every death is something God is personally present for. To God, the giving and taking of life is infinitely precious because it is a part of Himself. The sanctity and value of life is powerfully illustrated in the sacrifices that accompanied worship. The shedding of blood was especially significant because, as God told Noah, the life is carried in the blood – life flows to all parts of the body through the blood, keeping it healthy, strong, and alive. The shedding of blood was the exchange of one life for another, the very basis for the cross. As first and last, God is present at both the giving and the taking of life. At death, the life He gave returns to Him for judgement.
Our place in the first and last of eternity.
We existed in God way before creation, time, or this world. He is first and last, so His existence was before ours and will continue after hours. But we are part of Him because our life is from Him. Because our life here is a temporary moment in eternity, we tend to think in finite terms. But it’s in eternity, so it already existed in God’s consciousness before He brought it into being. We may not be able to ‘see’ beyond our temporal lives, but anything that is of God now has always existed in God. He simply brings into being the things that are within Him. It’s a sobering thought that all that we are has a real place in eternity. Nothing is accidental or by chance. We simply live out part of eternity in the universe He has created and for His purposes.
Lord God, creator of all, we are humbled when we consider Your eternal power and sovereignty. That You should care enough to give Your life for us is something we can never fully comprehend. Help us to treasure Your life in us and to live daily in a manner worthy of this great privilege. Help us to share the truth of who You are and to rejoice in the knowledge that in You, eternity is our place of true belonging.