which be not - as though they were
That is, some things that God has promised are going to happen, are stated in words that one would normally use to describe things already in existence.
For example, the Apostle Paul makes this comment about God's promise to Abraham, "I have made thee (Abraham) 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." (Romans 4:17). This promise was to be fulfilled in a son not yet born. Yet God made this promise in terms like those we would normally use if Abraham already had a huge number of descendants - "thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee." (Genesis 17:5)
ALL LIVE UNTO GOD
The Lord Jesus identifies this same principle in a statement God made to Moses in Exodus 3:6 saying, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." All Israel knew that Abraham Isaac and Jacob, were dead long before the time of Moses. Yet they failed to perceive the following simple truth that proved the resurrection from the dead If the God of Moses was also the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob at the time God spoke to Moses, then there was a real sense in which they were alive to God. But how could this be, seeing they were already corrupting in the dust? Let Jesus Himself answer. "Now that the dead are raised, even Moses shewed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him." (Luke 20:37-38)
So to the mind of God, the dead were already raised and living. The passage is quite clear that Jesus is referring to the resurrection from the dead - (nothing else). So those faithful believers asleep in the dust, are already alive to God in that resurrected state. It is difficult for us to understand this, but God sees His people of the past present and future, as if they were always existing in the present.
GOD IS NOT CONFINED TO OUR TIME FRAME
If God was bound to our perception of time; that is, time we see as a straight line from A to B: then He would not be all knowing. But because He is the centre of all time, He can at once see from past events forward to our present, and into the future. All the redeemed from the past, present or future, are always alive unto Him.
So because He is not limited to our perception of time, God said to the young prophet, Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5) God was referring to Jeremiah who had not yet been formed, as though he already existed. So he was living to God, even then. Yet Jeremiah, himself was not conscious of it. This is a clear statement showing that God calls "things that be not as though they were."
It should be clear that Jeremiah had no knowledge of anything before his birth. Proof of this is found in the Book of Job. Because of his terrible suffering, Job regretted that he had been born and said, "Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth out of the womb? Oh that I had given up the spirit, and no eye had seen me! I should have been as though I had not been; I should have been carried from the womb to the grave." (Job 10:18-19). So Job makes it clear that prior to being formed in the womb, no person has any being at all. Yet God spoke to Jeremiah as though he were already a conscious responsive living person.
GOD'S ELECT GLORIFIED BEFORE THE WORLD WAS
A similar thing applies to all the faithful. God had a foreordained purpose for His elect family of believers. He knew them before they existed, and ordained them to His glory. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." (Romans 8:29-30).
So God's entire family of believers in Jesus Christ our Saviour, were foreknown, then called, justified, and even glorified prior to their birth. That involves all those who have taken on the name of Jesus Christ by faith and baptism, as well as those who are yet to do so, as many of these have not yet been born. But they have already been chosen and glorified with God and His Son.
OUR LORD GLORIFIED BEFORE HIS BIRTH
It is not surprising then, that our Lord Jesus Himself was foreordained and glorified before the foundation of the world on the principle that all live unto God. Peter says, "Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things....But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you."(1 Peter 1:18-20)
Just before His death He prayed to be glorified with the glory He had with His Father before the world was. (John 17:5). This was the supreme glory of being victor over sin and death. For had He not been slain from the foundation of the world? (Revelation 13:8). He had already shared that glory with His Father before the world was, on those two principles already discussed. viz, God calls "those things that be not as though they were." Also, "all live unto Him." God's foresight is crystal clear, and carefully planned to perfection. Jesus was as real to the mind of God then, as He is today.
OUR LORD'S GLORY IDENTIFIED
This truth becomes clearer when we read from the twelfth chapter of the Apostle John. "These things said Esaias, when he saw his (Christ's) glory, and spake of him. (John 12:41). Isaiah foresaw the triumph of Jesus, who himself refers to it in John 12:23-40. He says, "The hour is come, that the son of man should be glorified." (John 12:23). Then Jesus identifies that glory with His impending victory over both sin and death, for He proceeds to explain those very things.
He refers to the grain of wheat that dies and bears much fruit (v24) - to the cross whereby He would draw all men unto Him. (v32) - and in Vs 38-40, to His rejection by the Jews, and His victory over sin and death. Isaiah 53 (the suffering Messiah chapter) refers to these, making it clear that the glory Jesus had with His Father was that of a victor over sin and death. Isaiah in spirit, also refers to Christ's future exalted glory when His train would fill the temple. "I saw also the Lord (Heb adoni meaning my Lord, or my exalted one) sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train (Heb glory) filled the temple." (Isaiah 6:1).
He is now a risen, glorified exalted man. He had always been that to God, even from before the foundation of the world.
OUR INVITATION TO SHARE CHRIST'S GLORY
Jesus invites us to share that glory with Him. He said, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one." (John 17:22). We can only do that by accepting the victory He has achieved under the direction of His Father, being baptised into His death, and sharing in His resurrection to life. (Romans 6:3-5)
In view of this glorious promise, Peter says, "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:4) God's family will then be complete, being immortal like God. Yet as we have already seen, it was always complete to the Father, even before the world was. For God calls ….."things which be not as though they were."