I’ve been a writer my entire career: newspapers, sports, public relations, corporate communications, magazine articles, speeches, publishing a book, etc. And my wife just retired from 34 years of teaching English.
She’s an expert at English mechanics, while I “just do it” (write) without knowing the finer points of grammatical rules that I should probably know. So it’s not the least bit unusual, though maybe a bit weird, for us to discuss grammar: verb tenses, punctuation for possessive pronouns (such as ‘its’ vs. ‘one’s’), subject-predicate contractions (you’re), dependent clauses, compound sentences, and (yawn) on and on. Bet you wish you could have dinner at our place.
Anyway, a handful of things recently colluded in my mind regarding past, present, and future verb tenses to shed light on the uniqueness and distinction of God’s eternity. To wit:
This summer I reread 1942 classic The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, wherein senior devil administrator Screwtape coaches a junior devil trainee on how to entrap a human being into Hell. Chapter 15 discusses the importance of keeping humans focused on the past (sin, guilt, shame, pride) or the future (fear), but steering them clear of the present. That’s because God is in eternity and, Screwtape writes, “the present is the point at which time touches eternity.” Because there is neither past nor future in eternity, it’s always the present for God. That’s where mankind finds God, in the present.
Our congregation recently commissioned a new pastor, Dr. Rick Grover, whose opening sermon series “Legacy” focuses on the past, present, and future of our church, and individual Christian walks. My aforementioned wife was scheduled to present an early August worship service communion meditation, but due to voice troubles traded for my October date. My “aha!” moment came while preparing the August meditation when I learned that the communion intro hymn was “There Is a Redeemer.”
See? It’s present tense. When Moses asks God’s name (Exodus 3:14), what is God’s answer? “I AM who I AM!” Not “I was” (past), not “I will be” (future). I AM. Present tense.
When Jesus is questioned about His identity by the famous doubting disciple Thomas in John 14, how does Jesus reply? “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Present tense.
There are no wasted words in the Bible, and the specificity of complex verb tenses in Greek, far beyond those in English, assure us that the present tense, as it is recorded throughout the Bible, is grammatical truth. It is not coincidence or accident.
When we feel God’s presence, it is a divine piece of eternity. How could any present be more of a gift than that?