home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > November 4th > TIME: YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

MANKIND’S LONGING TO CONTROL TIME

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart,
yet so that he cannot find out what
God has done from the beginning to the end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

HG Wells’ classic book, THE TIME MACHINE, was written in 1895 and then turned into a classic movie in 1960 starring the Australian actor, Rod Taylor.

Mankind has longed to be able to control time. Books have been written about it. Movies have been made about it. Super-heroes have been created with power to do it. Several TV series have been produced exploring it. And most of us at one time or another have wished that we could go back in time and undo something we did, said, or do or say something we should have done or said. We can measure it, but we can not control it. Time relentlessly marches on – and along with it, we grow, we age, and we die. If, however, you believe some cosmetic companies, we can “slow the ageing the process” (if we would just use their brand of face-cream). Yet, we cannot stop time, reverse time, speed up time, or slow it down. Philosophers postulate about it. Theologians marvel at it. Historians revel in it. Impatient young children complain about it taking so long. The elderly complain that it went so quick. We are all subjected to it, but why? Why would the Creator have created it, and then subjected each of us to it? Is it a result of the Fall? Is it a curse? Since God created it, is He Himself now subject to it? If you have ever wondered about time and how cruel it can at times appear to be, then read on friend.

The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Psalm 90:10

 

WHY WE CAN NOT CONTROL TIME

Before clocks were invented, people did not view time like we do today. At sun rise it was time to rise. When the sun was as high as it was going to get, it was midday. When the sun began to set, it was time to stop working. When the sun set, it was dinner time. And shortly after it was dark it time for bed. Even in ancient times sun-dials were used as a way to see where the sun was in the sky without having to stare directly at it (one is mentioned in Isaiah 38:8). 

The original indoor clocks were pendulum and springs. They were not particularly reliable or accurate. Then, in the sixteenth century, smaller versions were invented without the need for a pendulum and could fit comfortably in a gentleman’s pocket. This then paved the way for the invention of the wrist watch around the time that the industrial age was in full swing (around 1868). In 1960 the first quartz watch was invented doing away with the need for winding and springs. These quartz watches are still the most accurate time-pieces available to ordinary people. From then, wrist watches (and electronic quartz clocks) became increasingly more sophisticated and able to measure time in smaller and smaller increments. In 2019, the Swiss watch maker, Patek Philippe, created a two-sided gentleman’s wrist watch that sold for $US31,000,000! It is fair to say that the buyer was a little obsessive about the quality and precision of his time-keeping.

The two-sided hand-made 'one off original' wrist watch created by Patek Philippe, and sold at a charity auction for $31M.

The two-sided hand-made ‘one off original’ wrist watch created by Patek Philippe, sold at a charity auction for $US31M.

Despite our increasingly precise ability to measure time, we are still unable to control it. In a culture that demands god-like control over every aspect our lives, our complete inability to control time is one of mankind’s greatest enigmas and frustrations. Our ability to measure it in such finely small increments and to always be aware of it by looking at our wrists – or the devices in our pockets – only adds to frustration that it is slipping by without paying any intention to our desire to let us control it!

Time is a sequence of unchanging events. This means that time is ordained and therefore what has happened has actually and really and finally happened. This is why the notion of being able to travel back in time is fanciful.

WHY WE ALL FIND TIME FRUSTRATING

I just wish I had more time!” “I just wish we had more time together.” Our inability to control or even tame time reminds us that we are not all-powerful. In that sense, time almost mocks us all and certainly causes us to realise that any frustration we feel about its consistent and unchanging nature is a reminder that we are subjects to it — or more precisely — to the One who created it for us to inhabit for a very very good reason. The unchangeable nature of time deprives us from going back in time to the moment of our greatest (and perhaps most secret) sins or mistakes and preventing them, thus denying us the power of removing our unbearable burden of guilt and shame. 

Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah
Psalm 89:47-48

 

GOD’S RELATIONSHIP TO TIME

We sometimes refer to God as being outside time. Philosophical theologians refer to two theories about God’s relationship to time: the ‘A’ Theory of Time and the ‘B’ Theory of Time. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis described God’s relationship with time like the reader to a book. He referred to God as being outside of the book who is able to turn to any page of that book at any time. This, in Lewis’s mind, is how one might explain God’s intimate knowledge of the future and His ability to reveal it to those who are yet to witness or experience it. This is known as the B-Theory of Time. But most theologians take issue with Lewis and argue that it is not because the future has already happened that God knows what it holds, it is rather because the future has not yet happened and yet God can still declare it through His prophets – that we know that God is omniscient (He knows all things –  even those things that will be). This is known as the A-Theory of Time.

¶ “Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
Isaiah 46:8-10

When God created our material world and its dimension of time, He entered into it. From the moment of creation, which is described in the opening chapter of Genesis, as taking God six “days” (with each day having an evening and morning) and then resting from creating on the “seventh day” (which God is still in since it is not ascribed an evening and morning, Gen. 2:4). And to put beyond any doubt that God has entered into our dimension of time, consider the first Christmas when the Creator Himself, the eternal Son of God, became a zygote who, over time, grew into the Son of Man prophesied in Daniel 7:13-14. Christ, subjected Himself to time and conquered its fatal sting.

 

GOD’S GIFT OF TIME TO EACH OF US

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

¶ So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

 

WHEN TIME AS WE KNOW IT WILL ONE DAY END

But this gift of time will one day come to end – not just for each of us individually – but once and for all.

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son
and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:40

The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge;
the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
John 12:48

God dwells in a dimension that I refer to as eternity. The Triune God is the only being who inhabits this dimension. But when He created the Heavenly realm, and populated it with magnificent heavenly creatures. These beings then dwelt in His presence in yet another dimension (we might refer to super- or supra-time). In this supra-time dimension these heavenly beings do not age or grow. The Triune God created this dimension for His heavenly family in a way that some of these heavenly creatures could enter into our dimension of time.

And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God,
and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.
Luke 1:19

After the “last day”, we will all be resurrected. The righteous, those who have surrendered their lives to God’s gracious offer of forgiveness and adoption, will be resurrected into eternal-life and enjoy their existence forever with the Triune God in a new dimension that God had planned from the beginning of the world. For in that coming new eternal dimension we will truly worship, truly rest, and truly love everyone of fellow redeemed. In the meantime, the gift of time that He has given to each of us in this dimension is designed by our Heavenly Father to teach and prepare us for it. See you this Sunday.

¶ Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ¶ And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:1-5

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    Could it be possible to blend both A and B theories of time Andrew?
    God is unchangeable. Being God He knows all. Before the foundation of the world God in Trinity declared how all things should go. So the Triune God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all partook of the Creation, where the sun was set in place and the moon and stars as well, which gave or reflected light. At the time of this dramatic display of love, making the earth ready with a beautiful garden and animals, birds and sea creatures, so that God’s glory could be seen not only by this act, but also by the creation of the first man, His image bearer, the crown of His delight, within that framework then, there was and still is ‘time’.
    As you pointed out each person has 24 hours every single day of their lives. Every time we wake up to a brand new day we have all of that day to fill…
    Two things come to mind and both hugely impactful to me.
    You wrote that the Triune God is the only Person who inhabits this dimension of eternity. This became clear to me when you held a sermon on the Ascension of Jesus earlier in the year. He rose from this earth in His glorified body and vacated this time-bound life we lead, to be once again outside of time. Instead of Jesus ‘being up there’ and we are down here on earth, I remember thinking at the time that the Jesus I knew was SO much bigger than I imagined Him to be! That He indeed is omnipresent, being also as close as a brother and lives within us.
    And the second thing is, to be at the bedside of a Christian who slowly lets go of all earthly things, where time fades away and they yearn to be with Jesus their Saviour who went before them.
    I appreciate the pastoral comment that…Quote: “In the meantime, the gift of time that He has given to each of us in this dimension is designed by our Heavenly Father to teach and prepare us for it.”

    Reply

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AMAZING ACCESS

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 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
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 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
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