Time and Eternity

God created time. Whether you believe in a literal seven day creation week or take a more symbolic view of those “days” I would direct your attention to Genesis 1.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. -Gen. 1:1-5

Verse 5 describes the first day. Things had happened before the first day. God existed before any days and before heaven and earth. Days add up to make weeks, months, years and so forth. The cyclical rotation of the earth and revolution around the sun give us a basis for which to measure time. I’ve actually had someone, even after looking at those verses, argue that nowhere in the bible does it say God created time. If you’re still in that camp I submit John 1:3 All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. If it exists, God made it. Everything not made by God, is God.

God exists outside of time but that doesn’t mean he cannot interact with those of us in time. Imagine putting together an aquarium. You add gravel, a few plastic or live plants, maybe a treasure chest or sunken ship for decoration. You fill the tank with water to create an environment for the fish you will add. That’s a lot like what God did creating the world, with specific attention given in Genesis 2 to the Garden of Eden where the man and woman were placed. Time, like gravity and a 20% oxygen atmosphere, are features of our environment. Sometimes God reaches into that environment to make his will known, open a path through the Red Sea, hold back the water of the Jordan River, turn back the sun a few degrees in the sky, etc. Just like you or I might reach into an aquarium with a net to scoop out the fish in order to clean the tank.

Another example I often used with middle and high school students is a basketball court. The rules of the game apply to the players, not the officials or the spectators in the stands. If a player steps over the boundary line he is out of bounds. The refs, however, enter and leave the field of play constantly. They are not in the game. You can walk to the concession stand, buy a bag of popcorn and a Coke, then return to your seat. That’s not to say there are no rules. If you yell obscenities at the refs or throw your food items at the players you will be removed from the gym. God exists completely outside of our field of play but not so far outside that he cannot hear or speak to us from time to time. He created the rules, though, and they do not apply to him. Some Christians believers still hold on to ideas about what God can and cannot do. There may be things God will not do, but “Can God….” is always the wrong question.

Time will end. It had a definite beginning recorded in scripture and will have an end point. The description of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 describes a new environment: And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. -Rev. 21:23-35 You really ought to read the full chapter. There’s a whole new heaven and new earth because the former ones have passed away. We need to think about eternity not in terms of a long, long time but in terms of there not being any time. Eternity is the absence of time. God was there before time began and we will be in God’s presence after time comes to an end. Time is temporary, if you will. It’s days are numbered, literally. We will spend once endless day with God and all the saints and, without getting too far off topic, those cast out will not be tournmented for millions and millions of years either. Some have reasoned that one can only dwell in paradise for so long, worshiping God in some sort of never-ending church service, without getting bored. One argument against belief in hell, as eternal punishment, is the idea that torment would go on for millenia. I don’t know if your imagination can fathom being outside of time but that’s what scripture describes.

How does any of this share the Gospel? I’m glad you asked.

Jesus stepped into time. As the second person of the trinity, Jesus is not a created being. As a matter of fact a careful study of John 1, Hebrews 1 and perhaps a few others indicate he did the creating. Jesus voluntarily condescended to our level, giving up some of those qualities we use to define God. During the incarnation, as God in the flesh, Jesus was not all powerful (omnipotent) all knowing (omniscient) or everywhere at once (omnipresent). The baby Jesus needed to be clothed and fed by his mother. There’s an interesting passage at the end of Luke 2 in which his parents lost track of a 12-year-old Jesus for a couple of days. At the end of that passage we are told he submitted to their authority and he “increased in wisdom and stature.” Jesus grew up just like all little boys and girls do. Jesus the Son had a special relationship with God the Father. I believe he knew what he needed to when he needed to. But it took time. When told by his brothers in John 7 he should go to Jerusalem and present himself, he replied “My time has not yet come.” -John 7:6 He would later tell his disciples that his time was short.

Abraham believed God concerning his promises, even when God told him things would not happen right away but in another 400 years. God did not need to wait 400 years, but the tribes of Israel needed to grow and multiply in the land of Egypt so that God could bring them out with a mighty hand. The people of Canaan had not yet increased in sin and polluted the land the way they eventually would before God led Israel in to wipe them from the face of the earth in judgement. These are not things God expected or even predicted would happen; he is omnipresent in time and space. He knows the events of tomorrow as surely as you and I know what happened yesterday. We are stuck in yesterday, today and tomorrow in a way that he simply is not. He does not live in the aquarium. He is not playing the game. Jesus stepped right into our mess with us, entering the fray of battle, walking into the fiery furnace, the lion’s den, the belly of the beast… to take our place and receive God’s wrath. That is the Gospel. When we could not come into God’s presence, he came here. He submitted to the rules, accepting the limitations of life on earth as a human being. He was despised and rejected, suffering physical and emotional pain, ultimately dying on the cross. He was tempted to sin during his lifetime but did not. So we do not have a god made of wood or stone that cannot see, hear, speak or move. Nor do we have a god that cannot empathize with our weakness.

Life is tough. May not seem fair. Jesus knows. Cast your burdens and cares on him. What we have to look forward to is so much better than this, the toils of this life will quickly be forgotten. There are some blessings we can experience right now. Because God is great, he will be sought. Because God is good, he will be found.

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