I recall going to a neighborhood boy’s house with a group of my friends when I was about 6 years old. We made fun of the poor kid for whatever reason we thought we had to make fun of him. I remember taunting my victim and belittling him mercilessly. I really didn’t have a grasp on loving my neighbor as myself at that point in my life! I don’t remember many events from (ahem!) forty-some years ago, yet I remember that one. Actually, I’m quite thankful that I don’t remember what are certainly scores upon scores of sinful acts I committed throughout my youth. I suppose nobody is capable of keeping such a scorecard of their life. A little lie here, a bit of thievery there. It’s all a faint memory after a short while then, eventually, completely forgotten as the years pass. God’s memory, however, does not fade with the passage of time.
Scripture informs us that God has a completely different perspective on time than ours because He is timeless. That is, He exists outside of time. God has always existed! It strains the mind to contemplate that God had no beginning and He has no end. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2, ESV)
Since God is timeless, how does His perspective of time differ from ours? Well, the Bible tells us, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” (Psalm 90:4)
Wayne Grudem sheds some light on this verse in his book Systematic Theology. With regard to Psalm 90:4, he states that “When we realize that the phrase ‘a thousand years’ does not imply that God forgets things after 1,100 years or 1,200 years, but rather expresses as long a time as one might imagine, it becomes evident that all of past history is viewed by God with great clarity and vividness: all of time since the creation is to God as if it has just happened.” (Systematic Theology, Pg. 170). It’s absolutely devastating to consider that every sinful act ever committed, even those that are long forgotten by man, are ever before almighty God.
Similarly, Peter informs us that “. . . with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8). Now, with the first half of this statement, we glimpse some additional information about God’s perspective of time. Grudem remarks that “. . . any one day from God’s perspective seems to last for ‘a thousand years’: it is as if that day never ends. Again, since ‘a thousand years’ is a figurative expression for ‘as long a time as we can imagine’, or ‘all history’, we can say from this verse that any one day seems to God to be present to His consciousness forever.” (ibid, pg. 170).
So, consider these questions: “If you sin against God today, when would it start bringing sorrow to God’s heart? When would it stop bringing sorrow to God’s heart? Does this reflection help you to understand why God’s character requires that He punish sin?” (ibid., pg. 181). Considering the previous discussion, I believe the answers are painfully clear.
For the sinner, all of this is really bad news. Sin is often fleeting to us and so easily forgotten, but God does not forget. And our sin is so offensive to Him. So offensive that He sent His Son, fully God and fully man, to live the sinless life that we are unable to live.
Now, a perfectly just God requires that sin be punished. Just as a human judge would be considered unjust for letting a convicted murderer go free, sin cannot justly escape God’s punishment. By God’s grace, our sin was placed upon Jesus Christ. At the cross, Christ bore the full wrath of an infinitely righteous and holy God against sin. Jesus died in the place of sinners such as you and I, and conquered death for us by rising from the grave after three days. Once we repent (i.e. admit that we’ve sinned against God, and turn from our sin) and trust in the work of Christ alone for our forgiveness, God saves us. Just as our sin was placed upon Jesus at the cross, Jesus’ righteousness is placed upon us through our faith in Him! Instead of receiving God’s justice, we receive mercy. And we live for the greatest treasure the world will ever know, Jesus Christ. That’s the really good news. That’s the Gospel, actually. And for those who are in Christ, God no longer “remembers” past sins!
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8: 1)
“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity . . .” (Psalm 32: 1-2)
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5: 8 – 11)