A Question about Time
May 24, 2023, 9:34 AM

Question: What is the biblical significance of time?

Answer: This is a great question, and there are many things that can be said biblically about time. The first thing we can say is that God is "timeless," or "outside of time." One of God's attributes is His eternality. When we say, "God is eternal," we mean that God is not bound by time. The Bible begins with the words, "In the beginning, God..." which means before there was a universe, before there was time, before there was anything, God existed. 

Psalm 90 is a great psalm that talks about God, man, and time. In Psalm 90:2, we read: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." That phrase "from everlasting to everlasting" is a Hebrew way of saying "from eternity to eternity," or "from timelessness past to timelessness future." In other words, God is eternal.

So, God is eternal, He is outside of time. Having said that, it is clear that everything that exists, exists in time. When God created everything out of nothing "in the beginning," He created time as well. Time began at the moment of creation. From a purely philosophical point of view, time is simply a way to measure change. If you look at a picture of yourself ten years ago compared to today, how do you measure the change? Well, I gave away the answer in the question: Ten years have passed. You may be taller, heavier, thinner, less hair, graying hair, more wrinkles, etc. The same thing holds true for natural phenomena. Mountains, beaches, seashores, landscapes, etc. all look more worn or weathered thanks to the passage of time.

So, man (humanity) is a temporal being, we are bound by time. There was a time when we were not, then we were born, we live, we eventually die, and there is a time when we will not be. This is true ever since the fall recorded in Genesis 3. Adam sinned and death came into the world as a result of sin. As such, man has a finite amount of time in this world. God knows the number of our days, but we live in the unknown of when our lives will ultimately come to an end. Going back to Psalm 90, Moses (the author of the psalm) writes in v. 12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." I think that verse, in a nutshell, gives us the significance of time. In v. 10, we see that man has 70-80 years of life (the typical lifespan all things being equal), so given the grand scheme of things, that is a drop in the bucket compared to the eons that have passed since the beginning. Thus, we need to "number our days," we need to take stock of our lives while we have time in order to "gain a heart of wisdom." Wisdom is to be prized above all, and wisdom biblically speaking is grounded in a fear of the Lord. 

Think of the typical way people live their lives today. When you're young, the goal is to have fun and experience new things. Maybe one is driven to learn, to succeed, and to get ahead in the world. When you get a little older, you may think of settling down, getting married, raising a family. When you get older, you may look back and think of some of the opportunities you wasted. Maybe you pursued pleasure too much and now you're paying a physical toll for it. Perhaps you dedicated yourself to your career and now you're looking back on a devastated family, divorced spouse, estranged kids. In short, people don't typically "number our days" when we're young, and we get a heart of wisdom when it's too late. The point being, we only have a limited amount of time in this life. We need to seek wisdom, seek the fear of the Lord, while we have time. It is said that the fool says in his heart, "there is no God." The wise man seeks after God while he can. 

It is interesting that in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon (the Preacher) looks back on his life and contemplates the wisdom of his pursuits. He talks about how he pursued wisdom, pleasure, riches, power, fame, all these things. He saw the vanity of these pursuits "under the sun," that is without a heavenly perspective. That's why he ends the book with these words, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NKJV). When it all comes down to it, this is the whole matter. The sooner we come to this conclusion, the wiser we will be. 

~ Pastor Carl

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