by Bob Burridge ©2017
The idea of “time” is not as absolute as it seems.
Time has a different meaning to our Creator than it has to us who are part of his creation. For us humans, we understand “time” in the way we experience it passing by day after day. We are each born at one particular point on the timeline of human history. Then as hours, days, and years go by, we get older until our time here on Earth is completed. We put deadlines and coming events on our calendars, and have some fixed times when we go to Church, celebrate holidays and birthdays, and go through our regular workday schedules.
We also understand that time zones make the same events seem to happen at different times of the day depending upon where we are on the planet. When the New Year comes at Midnight on January 1st, it happens sequentially in each time zone until all have started the new year. When it’s midnight and the New Year comes to New York City, it’s only 9:00 pm in Los Angeles with the New Year still three hours away. At that same moment in Tokyo it’s already 1:00 pm the next day! The timezones and assignment of hours are inventions of us humans.
Long ago days were divided into 24 segments which we call “hours”. Those are divided into 60 minutes which are then divided further into 60 seconds each. Midnight here is the moment when the sun is shining directly overhead on the part of the Earth most opposite to us making it Noon there.
There have been entirely different conventions for how we identify the passing of time. In ancient times the day ended at sunset rather than at midnight. There have been attempts to use a base ten decimal system for dividing the day into 10 hours (which would each be equal to 2.4 of our present hours). Each hour would be divided into 100 minutes (each equal to 1.44 of our minutes). The base ten minutes would be divided into 100 seconds (each would be 0.864 of our seconds). With our well established system of how we measure hours and minutes, it’s understandable why this system has not caught on.
When small particles, or maybe someday space vehicles, speed up to near the speed of light their clocks seem to run at a different rate than the clocks of us observing them. This has been confirmed many times by our observation of sub-atomic particles. The fabric of time is not as absolute as what we see in our day-to-day lives.
Time has a very different meaning in the mind of God.
We are creatures of time. When we talk about time we are usually referring to an interval between events. Our own physical age is how many years have passed by since we were born. We can measure how many seconds it takes for a rock to hit the ground after we let go of it. Each of these intervals is measured by some standard we all agree to use such as years, months, hours, and seconds. The basic idea is that some things happen before other things which happen after them. The interval of seconds, months, or years between them tell us how far apart these events are in time.
Our view of time describes a change in things as we observe them or think about them. Before a rock is dropped it’s in your hand. After the fall is over it’s on the ground. When you were a newborn baby you needed somebody to take care of you. When you grow up you become able to take care of yourself and read this article. Eventually when you get old you may need someone to take care of you again. Between those events you develop many memories of things that happened to you. You learn about things that have happened to others. You even learn about events on the timeline that goes back through human history.
In the mind of God there is no progress like that. He knows every event all the time. He never has to learn what’s going to happen because he has eternally known it just as perfectly before it took place as he knows it afterward. He is above the limitations we finite creatures deal with. There is no change in God so there are no “events” within his own being between which an interval can be measured. James 1:17 tells that God is, “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” In Malachi 3:6 God said, “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”
We are also told that God is very much aware of the passing of time and the changes that take place here in his creation. He knows what comes before and after other things. In Jeremiah 1:5 God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
All of creation had a beginning when time as we know it began. Before that, God had always existed. We may have everlasting life, it has no end, but God is eternal. He had no beginning and has no end. Psalm 90:2,”Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
God created both a spirit world and a physical universe. At that first moment of creation “change” started taking place. There was a rebellion among the spirit beings where Satan and a number of other spirit creatures turned against God and were cast out of fellowship with God and consigned to another spirit realm. From their beginning in our physical world plants changed as they grew and were eaten and digested by animals and our first human parents. The Earth turned changing day into night then back again. Change and time became part of how Adam and Eve perceived everything. Then there was that horrible event when Adam sinned and his spiritual and physical world changed dramatically. The next greatest change took place with the birth, life, and death of Jesus. He acted as the second Adam by representing all those he came to redeem. He removed their condemnation by paying the debt they owed as fallen humans.
The birth of Jesus was the entering of the Second Person of the Trinity into his physical creation. He came to effect a change in the spiritual condition of God’s people. While he was here, God himself personally experienced living in the dimension of changes and the passing of time. But we have to remember that in his Divine Nature he always knows all things infinitely, so he always knew what that journey into the world of changes would be like. He always had a personal understanding of life within this changing physical dimension.
The timelessness of God needs to be cautiously approached. By his act of creation he made worlds where change is part of its very fabric. Though God never changes in his knowledge, being, power, and glory he always knows fully and personally what the passage of time and the sequence of events is all about. He is the one who made it that way. He is never waiting to find out what will happen, but he knows how events depend upon one another in our world. He is the one who made it that way.
Our finite minds are locked into the timeline of human history which makes us unable to fully understand the mind of the eternal and changeless God. Our Creator knew we would have that limitation so he has revealed what we can comprehend of it in ways he designed for us to hear and learn. He also preserved that information for us in his written word. The Holy Spirit works in those Christ redeemed to guide them to understand all God enables them to know about his amazing work of creation, his glorious and infinite nature, and his entry into our dimension of space and time to bring about our redemption and spiritual growth. Such thoughts should humble us and drive us to even greater worship of the one who is the whole reason for everything. We say with the Psalmist in Psalm 139:6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.”
Note: Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.