" ...God...Calleth Those Things Which
Be Not As Though They Were..." (Romans 4:17)
The Apostle Paul gives us another key to Bible interpretation (Rom. 4:17), "As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations, before Him Whom he believed, even God, Who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were."
God, who knows the end from the beginning, can speak of things that have not yet happened in either the present or past tense. The verse quoted above is a prime example. Paul is referring to (Gen.17:5) where God says to Abraham "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee." At this point Abraham had no child by his wife Sarah, so his national paternalship was in the future. Yet God spoke of it in past tense.
In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah we find the prophecy of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This was written over 600 years before the birth of Jesus. Yet out of twelve verses ten are in the present or past tense. We find phrases such as: he hath no form nor comeliness... he is despised and rejected of men.. surely he hath born our griefs... the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all . . . he
was oppressed, and he was afflicted . . . he was cut off out of the land of the living... he made his grave with the wicked... he was numbered with the transgressors.
At the birth of John the Baptist it is recorded, that his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people" (Luke 1:68). This was before the birth of Jesus and long before his ministry. The people of God (the Jews) had not been redeemed. (This is to take place in the future at the return of Christ). The fact that this is so sure to happen is why the words can be spoken in past tense.
Another similar verse is (Heb. 2:8), "Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things under him." Although the first part of the verse is in past tense, the last sentence reveals that it has not happened. When the Messiah returns to this earth all things will then be subject unto him.
It is good to be aware of this key to understanding the Scriptures to keep the Divine sequence correct.