Thank God We Do/Don’t Know the Future

There are occasions in life in which we would all like to know the future. We come to times of sorrow and wonder when our tears will be dried, times of pain and wonder when we will be healed, times of uncertainty and wonder when we will gain confidence. In such moments we may wish we could elevate our gaze beyond the present moment to see into the future. And we know that it would be within the power of God to reveal it to us.

Become a Patron

As Christians we have confidence that there is nothing—not one thing in all of time or space—that is beyond the knowledge of God. He knows all that was, is, and ever would, could, or will be. God knows the past because he existed omnisciently and omnipresently in every moment and part of it. God knows the future because he holds the future. He knew the position of every atom at the moment he brought it into being and he knows the position of every atom the day he will bring it all to a close. His knowledge of the future is every bit as extensive and intimate as his knowledge of the present and past. He is the one who “declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:10).

Because God knows the future in exhaustive detail, he could have chosen to reveal the future in exhaustive detail. He could tell you and me about every event that will befall us, every blessing we will receive, every trial we will endure. But he hasn’t. And I am grateful.

I am grateful we don’t know the future. While our desire to know what will come is understandable, it is not wise. If we knew the future in detail, it would undoubtedly hinder us, paralyze us, destroy us. Imagine knowing the day your child is going to die and how that knowledge would change your relationship with her. Knowing she has a short life you’d be tempted to idolize her (“I only have a few months left!”), while knowing she has a long life you’d be tempted to neglect her (“We have many years left together!”). Imagine knowing the moment your life will end and all you might do to try to avoid that moment, that place, that situation. Imagine knowing the results of a vote before the ballots were collected or knowing the score on an exam before a word was written. Spend a few minutes imagining the impossibility of that life and you’ll conclude it is an expression of divine wisdom that God withholds the future from us.

Yet just as I’m grateful we don’t know the future, I’m grateful we do know the future. In God’s wisdom he has chosen to give us some detail. Particularly, he has chosen to tell us about what comes last and about what comes after that. He tells us that at an unspecified time in the future, a time known only to God, Jesus Christ will return to this earth and bring history to an end. He will separate the people who have believed his gospel from those who have not. Those who have rejected him will be cast out forever; those who have believed in him will be with him forever in perfected bodies on a perfected earth. That is the future God reveals to us and it is enough. It is enough to give us confidence that our sorrows will come to an end and our tears will be dried, that the afflictions we encounter are but “light and momentary,” that the uncertainty we face will be replaced by wonder at what God has accomplished in and through us for his own glory.

Until that great day, we hold fast to what God has made clear about the future. Until that great day, we continue to look in faith to Jesus Christ. Until that great day, we cling to the many powerful promises God has given us. Our confidence is not in knowing the future, but in knowing the one who holds the future.