Of all the names God could have given Moses for himself, he chose YHWH, which scholars often refer to as the tetragrammaton. While this sounds like a name for a Transformer, it comes from the Greek tetra (four) and grammaton (letter). In Hebrew these four letters are often translated as, “I Am Who I Am.” But as the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, YHWH was translated to mean as, “I Am the One Who Is.”
It seems John sensed a certain kind of timelessness within the tetragrammaton, which he expressed in his Book of Revelation. It’s there that he seems to extend the meaning of God’s name a bit further than his contemporaries, often referring to God as, “Him Who Is and Who Was and Who Is to Come”—a statement that really encompasses the full scope of what it means to say “I Am.” The Tetragrammaton is perhaps expressed as timelessness in another way as well, for occasionally, the Hebrew YHWH is translated into the Greek IAO, which John may have used as an acronym when he reports God saying, “I Am the Alpha and the Omega.”1
Many would be quick to express this timeless truth, saying, “Of course. God is outside of time.” But that’s an expression I don’t believe is ever really found or expressed within the Scriptures. Instead, God is consistently seen throughout the Bible as a deity who has always been, always will be, and who currently is with us right here, right now.
God does not need to be outside of time in order to be omniscient. He is omniscient because he knows all the ways in which our story can go, not because he knows only one way in which our story can go. He is omnipotent because, one day, he will ensure that his story is completed as he would have it completed, not because he’s forced every detail in this time to perfectly pave the way forward for his ending. He is omnipresent because there is no time or place outside of his sight, making him the perfect judge when he comes to correct the world. Using his omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, YHWH is the one who “Is, Was, and Is to Come.”
In the Book of Revelation, there is a war between God’s timelessness and Satan’s timeliness. In our current time, Satan is the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), just as he demonstrated when he offered Jesus the world if Jesus would bow down and worship him (Matthew 4:8-9). Satan continues to use what power he has to dominate and abuse creation as he tries to overthrow God and take his throne. But John puts Satan in his place, giving him a different name: “The Beast that Was and Is Not”—for one day God will bring an end to Satan and his time will be up.
And as Satan’s time transitions from “was” to “is not” in the Book of Revelation, John alters the tetragrammaton one last time, calling YHWH the “Holy One, Who Is and Who Was.” After the day of judgment has come, there is no longer a need for God to be the one who “is to come”—for at that point, the fullness of his omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence will be made manifest among us, the rule of Satan will be ended, and the utopia of resurrection life will begin.
- For more information on everything stated so far, see, Greever, Joshua M., and Douglas Estes. “Tetragrammaton in the New Testament.” In The Lexham Bible Dictionary, edited by John D. Barry, et al (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).