Monday, September 15, 2014

Not a Matter of Time

We are creatures – and captives – of time. Despite being admonished to “live in the moment,” we have the irresistible habit of gazing back at the past or looking toward the future. We think of things we’ve done or that have happened in terms of “an hour ago,” “yesterday,” “last week,” or years, even centuries ago. Or we make plans for tomorrow, next week, next year, and so on.

“Tempus fugit,” the Latin tells us – time flies. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to live in the present, because “now” is so fleeting, so…momentary. Here and gone, in the blink of an eye. So it gets little respect.

So we nurture an irrepressible fascination with time. Some people, particularly “older generation” types, feel naked without watches fastened around their wrists. Younger people are more prone to use their smartphones as timepieces. After all, they’re more accurate, right? Either way, we’re stuck in time, governed by clocks and calendars. Whether it’s getting prepared for an upcoming meeting, anticipating what we’ll do Friday night to celebrate the end of another workweek, or planning how we’ll spend an upcoming vacation, time can be our friend – and sometimes our enemy.

So I found it interesting to see this time fixation manifested in a brief Facebook exchange. A friend posted a quote from the end of the last New Testament book, Revelation, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).

Reading this post, someone asked, “Define 'soon.' This was written umpteen thousand years ago!” Frankly, that’s a great question – exactly what did Jesus mean by “soon”? Several verses in Revelation quote Him saying, “I am coming soon” or “the time is near.” This was written nearly 2,000 years ago, so what’s the hold-up?

Numerous other passages make similar declarations. For instance, 1 Thessalonians 5:2 says, “…the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” And 2 Peter 3:10 concurs, declaring almost verbatim, “…the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” But here we are in 2014, many centuries later, so obviously these statements are baloney, right? Slow-moving “thief” maybe?

Years ago a friend advised me the best method for interpreting the Scriptures is by using other Scriptures. I’ve found this excellent counsel. So what does the Bible say about God’s time orientation?

One critical verse is 2 Peter 3:8 which declares, But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.” The next verse adds, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

To me this states us that, unlike us, God doesn't operate according to timepieces or 12-month calendars. At the same time (no pun intended), this doesn’t mean one 24-hour day to Him is exactly 1,000 years. It’s a metaphorical statement, declaring God operates outside of time and can take as much “time” as desired to accomplish His purposes.

This understanding could apply to the six days of creation – a half-dozen literal, 24-hour days? – as well as Jesus’ imminent return. Not being required to punch a time clock or meet someone else’s deadline, God has the prerogative to take as long as He chooses to get any job done. In the 1980s, the Ford Motor Company operated by the slogan, “Quality is Job 1.” With God, through time and eternity, that has always been His motto. In other words, He simply takes as long as it takes to do it right.

God alone truly has all the time in the world. In fact, He has all the time in the universe! And more than that. Much more.


Dave Roney said...

Thanx Bob: When Christ came, He came preaching the Kingdom of Heaven as being "at hand," or here, now. He brought the Kingdom to earth, and in so doing brought eternity into time, the two coexisting side by side here, now. Those who are His followers live in both time and eternity in some mysterious way. Although we cannot for now escape time, He nonetheless gave to us "eternal" life which we live in the present time...

Bob Tamasy said...

Dave, as it says in the Old Testament, God has put eternity in our hearts, along with a deep inner longing for Him. What French philosopher and scientist Blaise Pascal called "The God-shaped hole that only God can fill."

Bob Tamasy said...

And yes, the Scriptures say of followers of Christ that we HAVE eternal life, not that we will someday have eternal life. I think that's part of what being "born again" means - we have new life in Christ, and it starts the moment we receive Him into our lives.