Today, I had to privilege to officiate the funeral of Mrs. Christina Chappell. She was born on January 22, 1914, and passed away last Friday. You read that right, she was 104 years, 10 months, and 1 day old when she died. Without a doubt, she is the oldest person I’ve ever known and had the honor of eulogizing. It’s incredible to realize she was almost 67 years older than me (that’s a lifetime in-and-of-itself).
While I can’t go into all the details, her story is incredibly fascinating. She was born the year World War I began and didn’t just attend a one-room school, but actually taught in one for 9 years. In her 104 years, the history I studied as a child was written by some of the world’s best and brightest. Truly, it’s remarkable to consider how different the world is since she was born. As I prepared for the message today, I searched the population statistics and found that only 1.7 billion people were alive then compared to 7.7 billion today.
While our world changes and generations come and go; milestones that once seemed impossible are met and new ones set, God remains the same. There’s something about that idea that we just don’t appreciate like we should. He is from everlasting to everlasting. He is from a time before the beginning of time. He is something beyond us.
Since time means everything to us, since we’re defined by it, a being that exists outside of time just makes our head hurt. Yet, that’s exactly how God exists. There is one classic verse used to describe God’s otherworldly nature as we consider time and its relevance to His creation. 2 Peter 3:8 says:
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.
As Peter wrote those words, he was addressing God’s promise of salvation to those who were facing the mockery of false teachers asking, “where is the promise of His coming?” (see 3:1-4). I believe he was trying to teach Christians something that is just plain beyond our ability to completely understand – time doesn’t matter to God. Since He is eternal, minutes, days, and even years hold no significance. They are our measurements and not His.
While this is purely speculation, I believe God sees through events, not time. For His will to be accomplished, certain events had to occur – creation, the fall, the flood, and so on. Those events represent steps on the plan of salvation that was brought to this world. There are more steps than we can reasonably acknowledge or even validate, but God saw them, established them, and gave them purpose. That ability to work, unconstrained by time across generations, allowed God’s promises to Abraham, Joseph, and many others find their fulfillment hundreds (if not thousands) of years later. Only God, able to overcome the limits inherent to our lives could see them through completely.
Don’t forget about Psalm 90:1-4 which says:
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You turn man to destruction, and say, “Return, O children of men.” For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.
That poetic description of God’s eternal nature should still ring true to each of us today. I particularly like Moses’ description of God’s existing “before the mountains were brought forth and the world was formed,” in 90:2. It’s said in Deuteronomy 34:10 that the Lord knew Moses “face to face.” Surely, if anyone knew the power of God, it was Him.
We should connect 2 Peter 3:8 to the words of Christ in Revelation 1:8 when He told John:
“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.”
It seems noteworthy that He described Himself as the “One who is (present), and who was (past), and who is to come (future).” That is unprecedented, divine, and only possible because of His Deity. We should also remember that He said in John 8:58:
Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.
That immediate connection to one of the OT names of God, first spoken in Exodus 3:14 to Moses from the burning bush, was a not-so-subtle lesson to the Pharisees who questioned Christ’s divinity. That quality makes even the longest of lives here in this world look insignificant.
As I considered all that happened during the life of Mrs. Chappell, I found myself wondering, what would a eulogy for God look like? Could we even begin to describe all the works He accomplished, all the people He influenced, all the events He witnessed? I believe any attempt would be futile, for He has seen, heard, and been a part of everything this world has ever known.
It seems to me the eternal nature of God is strangely overlooked. Just like His power and ability to create, it is one of the qualities that separates God from everything else. We are all made, He is not. We all have a beginning, He doesn’t. We all have a preset time in this world, He’s been a part of it from the beginning and will be a part of it until the end. In Moses’ final blessing to Israel, he said, “the eternal God is your refuge,” (see Deuteronomy 33:27), hallelujah, that is still true!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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.2 Peter 3:8