Get your mind in fourth gear and come to understand answers to some questions almost nobody dares ask. If God has existed forever in the past, and He is going to exist forever in the future — then, how did He ever get to now?" asked a bright young student in my sophomore class in Old Testament Survey. At the time, I gave the answer every professor has in reserve for questions he doesn't have the answer for: " Charles, that is a very good question! — now, the assignment for next week is.."
But of course, once the process gets started, you can't just stop thinking about good questions like that. I'd like to tell Charles and you the nearly science-fiction answer the Bible supplies.
Not only does the Bible answer Charles' question, but in the process of answering it, many other mute, mostly unasked questions become answered! Like: If Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved (Acts 4:12), then what about all those generations before Jesus; what about all the generations since Christ who have never so much as heard His name; what about the great majority of mankind today, living, who have either never heard of Jesus or serve some other god? Like: If God is all-powerful, and He is trying to save the world now — how come He's not succeeding?
Or, more to the point of the title, like: What has time got to do with eternity anyway?
And what about the embarrassing questions our children ask us that we never answer satisfactorily? Like: "Mommy, how old is God?" or "Daddy, who made God?" Blessed be little children, for they have more open intellectual curiosity guts than most of us jaded adults!
Get your mind ready, because the answers are overwhelming to these questions organized religion hasn't even asked, much less answered!
In the Beginning. There are two major scriptures most are familiar with that state something about "the beginning." We all know the Bible starts with the words (in English) "In the beginning God created ...." And the other favorite text, proving Christ equal to God: " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Find that one by yourself.) Hebrews 1:10 confirms this by saying: "And, Thou, Lord [speaking of Jesus], in the beginning hast laid the foundation Of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands."
Let's think about some of this. And add a couple of puzzling, at first, statements Jesus made. The� Bible says there was a beginning — everything has to start sometime, you know. But, it also says that in the beginning Jesus, the Word, already was! Because He is without beginning — or end.
There was an interesting exchange between Jesus and the religionists of His day, captured in essence in the eighth chapter of John. "Look," Jesus said, "Abraham observed what I came down from heaven to do, and when he saw it, it made him very happy." (Jon's translation of John.) Well, that statement was too much for His audience, so they sarcastically remarked: "Hey man, you're not even fifty. Where do you get off saying you saw Abraham?!" So Jesus answered their remark, befuddling them even more, and getting them mad enough to try to kill Him ("Then took they up stones to cast at him" — verse 59). Jesus' answer was:" Believe it or not, the truth is that before Abraham was, I am!" (Jon's translation again.)
Now, that kind of an answer, to a question. they didn't intend Him to answer in the first place: was enough to churn their "endoctrine" glands into a sour mash. Fact is, if my old high-school English teacher ever got hold of a sentence like that, she'd have apoplexy! You can't mix tenses like that! What do you mean, "Before Abraham was, I am "? You can't be AM before WAS! — can you? Maybe it's got something to do with what Jesus said in the Lord's prayer (that's in John 17) when He said: "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." (King James translation of John.)
Before I ask any more questions, before you quit reading, let's start on some answers.
What Is Time Anyway? If there were no such thing as the planet earth, would there be days? Answer: No.
If earth didn't have a satellite called the moon, would there be months? Answer: No.
If both earth and moon didn't have a thing called the sun around which to orbit, would there be years? Answer: No.
There are some answers.
That's enough for now. Let's think about what they mean.
Time is made up of segments of something else all neatly arranged in order and with names: nanosecond (that's a billionth of a second, identified and named for the benefit of scientific buffs and computer operators); second (that's 1/60th of a minute, or one billion nanoseconds); minute (that's 60 seconds, or about as long as most of us can hold our breath); hour (that's 60 minutes, or about as long as some people mean when they say, " Just a minute"); day (that's 24 hours, the thing that hours, minutes, seconds and nanoseconds are all smaller parts of — it's also the first word for time that gives definite meaning to all the others, because it is the amount of time it takes the earth to revolve once); week (an arbitrary period of seven days having. no physical phenomena to justify its existence); month (I have to cheat here and use a dictionary because there is some confusion: "1. any of the twelve divisions of the calendar year, 2. a period of four weeks or 30 days, 3. one twelfth of the solar year" [Webster's New World Dictionary]). Some cultures have a lunar calendar (like the Hebrews), and that is actually where we get the word " month." So, basically a month is the time it takes for the moon to circle the earth, which varies unfortunately, hence the confusion: 28-, 29-, 30- and 31-day months!; year: "... 2. the period (365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 46 seconds) of one revolution of the earth around the sun" (ibid.).
In short, time is divided into various segments of the distance covered by different created physical bodies, i.e., earth, moon, sun. So if there were no different created physical bodies, there would be no time.
Time is physical. Time is temporary — look that word up in your dictionary! Time is limited. Time had a beginning. Time will have an end (Heb. 1: 11 ). Time is a part of creation. And eternity has nothing to do with time!
Two More Answers. "Mommy, how old is God?" God is as old as creation; as old as the earth, the sun and the stars; as old as time. But "old" is only a physical expression, because time is a physical thing. The "age" of God doesn't change Him one bit. He just doesn't "age." No matter which scientific group you want to favor with the estimate of the age of creation, it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference. The theories range from about four through 24 billion years old! But He hasn't "aged" a day in all that time!
God isn't "old" or "young" - He's eternal.
Eternal is a spiritual designation for a Being without beginning or end (both of those words dealing with time), an expression outside the realm of time, having nothing to do with time.
A different plane of existence.
"Daddy, who made God?" Physical things are made. And God even made some spiritual things — angels, a beautiful throne in heaven, a vast throng of spiritual things of which many are reflected in the physical things we see here on earth (Rom. 1:20). But no one made God — He just is, he always was, and He always will be. As a matter of fact, that just happens to be one of His names: "Was-Is-Will-Be," or in Hebrew, YHVH, Yaveh (or Jehovah as some prefer).
You think the kids won't understand that? Just give them a chance. This generation is used to the unusual. The world of science fiction and its TV series will help.
Super Beings from outer space! Totally different from us, yet they look the same because we are made in their image.
Pure Energy Beings. A race of Beings so fantastic they don't just build houses, cars and cities — they build universes! They stabilize a small portion of their limitless energy into suns, stars and worlds — for a time! They make living things like you and me and all the animals, to be sustained in that life, for a time. But they never change, never lessen or weaken or age. They are Pure Energy Beings; called Spirit Beings, called God!
Why Time? "If God has existed forever in the past, and He is going to exist forever in the future — then, how did He ever get to now?" "Past" and "future" are time words. Past tense and future tense are time tenses. You have to think about God in a different way. He's eternal, and that doesn't have anything to do with time.
Eternal is always now. There isn't any "past" or "future" to eternal. So God has always been now; He is now and He will always be now. He never had to arrive at now; He just IS NOW!
Eternity surrounds and permeates time. Time has no effect on eternity — and eternity has no effect on time.
God just created, invented and produced time when He made the physical creation. It's an automatic by-product. But it doesn't alter eternity one whit.
You and I are. hampered, imprisoned with our sense of time. But that's just because we're physical, stuck in time — and at that for such a short time!
But if we use just a little of the imagination God gave us, and if we tap spiritual sense, above, beyond, apart, outside of the limiting physical senses, we can stretch our minds to understand God's purpose in making the universe physical (as opposed to spiritual) and making us physical and all subject to time — and still not limit eternity with our time sense.
God put spirit in your mind (Job 32:8; Rom. 8:16; I Cor. 2:10-15) and in addition offers His own personal Spirit to join with that spirit in your mind to help you escape the bondage of time sense and comprehend God's purpose: to make you His Son, for you to be God as God is God, for you to be eternal!
Wouldn't you like to escape the limitations of time? Wouldn't you like to live forever? That's what God has in store for you — it's in the Book! Really, the promise of God, His purpose in making mankind is even better than forever — it's eternal! I'm sure it says that somewhere in the Book — would you believe at least 29 times!? But let's just quote one for now: " And this is the record, that God hath given [notice the tense] to us eternal life"! (I John 5: 11.)
But to make possible that gift of eternal life, God created all this temporary universe, you and me — and gave us time to become eternal!
Change... In Time. You and I are physical.
God is Spirit.
If we are to become like God, we have to be changed — a fantastic and mind-boggling change. Changed so time no longer affects us. I'm sure you have read about that change in I Corinthians 15: "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God", but "we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump" (verses 50-52).
Once it is time for the change to take place, it takes no time — but God waits and you and I wait for the time of the change! That waiting is difficult for you and me, but not for God, because He views time differently. "For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night," Moses informs us in Psalms 90:4.
It is rather difficult to understand, or explain once you do understand, how God looks at time. But Moses put it as well as a physically time-limited human being can to communicate it to another like himself.
A thousand years! A millennium! That seems like such a vast reach of time. The United States has celebrated its 200th anniversary, and its beginnings seem like ancient history. No one is alive now that was alive then. Our threescore and ten don't allow us much flexibility to view time God's way. But Moses says, to God, a thousand years is viewed much like we view yesterday after it has passed! Usually yesterday doesn't have much significance, nor does it seem after it's gone to be even as long as it was. Being outside of, through and around time, God can afford to look at it that way. So when the Father and the Son devised the plan of augmenting their family limitlessly, they made the creation — and, of necessity, time.
The plan God had in mind was to take about a week — a week the way God looks at time. All the thousands of years since mankind's creation seem an overwhelming time to us. Because we don't understand how His plan fits into the time God gave us for the perfecting of that plan, it sometimes seems God js never going to do what He promised!
Upset Applecart. Looking at the passing of time and the many generations since Adam, and falsely assuming that God has been all that time trying to convert mankind, it seems God has been a failure for millenniums!
Adam and Eve were the apple of God's eye, but the devil stepped in and upset the applecart! Within about 1600 years things got so bad on earth that God erased life from it with a global flood, in hopes, some seem to think, of saving mankind. But that effort was all wet, because in a few years Nimrod and his bunch came along and humankind were right back to their old devilish tricks again. The family plan was tried with Abraham and Sarah, eventually producing 12 sons through his grandson Israel. But that seemed to flop also; the whole family degenerated into abject slavery in Egypt within a few generations. The national plan was tried: Israel the nation was created amidst a staggering display of miracles, given laws, territory, a king, etc. But within a few hundred years the nation dissolved, its descendants wandering into anonymity, lost! Then God sent His own Son for another, and perhaps last effort to save mankind. Sadly, and thankfully erroneously, viewed by the bulk of Christianity, this seems to be the summation of God's effort to save mankind!
Obviously, God failed in that last effort, because it's been two thousand years since that Son (usually pathetically portrayed as a babe in a manger or a dead man on a cross — both helpless!) was here on earth with promises of eternal life He has not yet fulfilled! And so, too many give up too soon because they can't see time God's way!
"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (II Peter 3:8), Peter varied Moses' premise. There's one thing we as human beings, limited the way we are with time, must get straight: God's view of time is vastly different from ours! The way God looks at time, He has decided that within seven days, one week, He is going to add billions of members to His eternal family!
Now, that's not a bad week's work!
God is telling us through Peter that it may appear, on the human-view surface, that God is not performing as promised. But that view is entirely in error! "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (verse 9). God is patient but we're not. God is right on schedule — but most of us human beings now inhabiting the earth don't even know the schedule, much less whether God is on time or not!
Planned Ignorance. Understanding God's timetable for executing His one-week plan for bringing mankind into His Kingdom answers the agonizing question about all the vast majority of the billions of past and present generations who never even heard of the only name given under the sun whereby men may be saved.
This is not the only day of salvation. (Read our free reprint article "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?" and the booklet After Death... then What? for proof.) God has never yet set His hand to "save the world." God didn't try and fail in half a dozen plans to get humanity saved. He's not willing that anyone should perish — but He reserves the right of when to intervene in each individual's life to offer him or her that salvation — the chance for the change from human to divine, from mortal to eternal, from physical to spirit.
"What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.... For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel SHALL BE saved.... For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might [at some future time] have mercy upon all"! (Rom. 11:7, 25, 26, 32.)
So if all those people are dead and in their graves without having had the knowledge of salvation available to them during their lifetime, how is God going to save them all?
By a resurrection! Bring them back alive, physically, again. Give them their one and only, first chance. This time offering them His Spirit, opening their minds, converting them.
When, God — on His own schedule — sets His hand to save the world, IT WILL BE SAVED! And not only the dead of Israel, but the dead of all other nations in all other generations.
Surely you've heard that song about the "dry bones"! It's a real, prophesied event — read it again in Ezekiel 37.
Bones, sinews, flesh, skin and the breath of life are given to all those "concluded... in unbelief" from both houses of Israel. A new physical life — not a resurrection to spirit life, because bones, sinews, flesh and skin with the breath of life surely describes a renewed physical life. God will then give them His Spirit — as He does with a selected few Christians today. He will be their God, and they will know it and be His people.
And not Israel alone, but as Jesus explained to the generation of His day, the generation of Nineveh at the time of Jonah, the generation of the Queen of Sheba's time will rise in a day yet to come and have words of condemnation against the generation that Jesus was addressing! (Matt. 12:41-42.)
Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah coming up to a time of judgment, all the dead of past generations of all nations having their first opportunity to know the truth, to be "saved" along with all the dead generations of Israel, including that generation which heard, but did not heed Jesus of Nazareth two thousand years ago (Matt. 11:20-24).
God's Schedule Right on Time! The devil is not winning. The vast majority of mankind is not lost forever, condemned to fry forever in some unbelievable hellfire by some jealous god who never even gave them a chance to even know his name. The score is not yet tallied. There is still more time to come.
The offering of the Son of God on the cross, shedding His blood for our sins, was not a last-ditch, desperate effort on God's part to figure out some way to save mankind — that sacrifice was planned from the beginning: "... The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world!" (Rev. 13:8.) Read it and weep — tears of joy!
God's week of thousand-year days is just about up. His thousand-year, Sabbath day of rest is close. The time for His intervention in all of mankind's lives is at hand. His second coming, with all His power and glory, when He will set His hand to save all mankind, of all generations, is near!
God has deliberately left hands off mankind for about six thousand years — except for those few of each generation whom He called. He has let mankind labor away, influenced by Satan in all his governments and religions for those six days.
But God will have the last laugh. Life is in His hand, none other. God gives life and takes it away, but it is His express will that all come to repentance. To accomplish this, He and His Father go to the tremendous effort of resurrecting all past generations to offer them the same hope of glory you and I are offered now.
Eternity for everyone... in time!
Chance of a Lifetime. Will those ignorant generations rising to a truth they never heard also condemn us along with the generation of Christ's day? — because we didn't heed the call when it was offered? Don't let that happen to you. Today — now — may be your day of salvation.
Your opportunity to become God, as God is God, His real Son. Will you grasp Eternity in Time?