Time and Eternity

God dwells in eternity. God is eternal. And that is an interesting truth to come to terms with. Eternity is something that we, as finite beings, find hard to grasp.

Eternity is not just unending time, but existence outside of time itself.

Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) and God calls Himself by the unique title “I Am” (Exodus 3:14), meaning the one who is always in the present.

The Time-Space Continuum

Our existence is trapped in the bounds of time and space. We occupy a certain space at a certain time, but at a later time we have moved to a different space. We can measure time by changes in space and we can measure changes in space by use of time.

We are trapped in one place at a time. And we are trapped in the present moment. We cannot go back in time and we cannot go forward in time, except as time progresses as its own fixed rate.

We cannot move to another place without using up some time.

All of this is what is referred to as the ‘time-space continuum’, which is our natural, temporal reality.

Outside of Time

God lives outside of measured time. We cannot go back to yesterday but God is already there! God is every place at the same time and every time at the same time. He is the eternal “now”! He is permanently in the ‘present tense’. That is why He could call Himself “I Am”. God is not, “I Was”, or “I will be”, but He is the “I Am” of every moment – present, past and future.

This accounts for God’s ‘foreknowledge’ (knowing things in advance), as described in such verses as Acts 2:23, 1Peter 1:2, and Romans 8:29.

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29

God did not assign people a destiny in hell simply by a random process, but He knew in advance those who would reject Him and those who would believe. So, according to His foreknowledge He then assigned people their destiny.

What is Time?

Before the world began there was no time. God created time at the creation of the universe.

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Genesis 1:3-5

“And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” Genesis 1:14

There will also come a time when ‘time’ will end. It will exist no longer.

“And swore by him that lives for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that are therein, and the earth, and the things that are therein, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that time should exist no longer” Revelation 10:6

Time is understood differently depending on where you are looking from. For us, as temporal, finite creations, time is a slavery which we are trapped in.

God, however, sees time quite differently. We are wise to look at time from God’s perspective, rather than our own. Our ideas will limit us, while God’s ideas will expand us and set us free.

Opportunity

Man sees time differently to God. To man time is the passing of hours, or measured time. To God time is a season of “opportunity”.

Man lives under the delusion that time is something like a possession or an asset in his hands. “Use your time wisely”, we say. We think, “My time is my own, so I’ll do what I want with it”. “It’s your time, Ralph, so make up your own mind what you will do with it.”

But time does not belong to us. Instead, time belongs to God. He Created It!

And what did God create? God created “seasons of opportunity”.

Seasons

‘Seasons’ is a significant subject in the Bible, beyond just the agricultural impact and fashion trends of changing seasons during the year.

Genesis 8:22 tells us that seasons will never cease while the earth remains.

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22

In the 1980′s I heard Millionaire Maker, James Rohn, advises top notch executives that “What will be is what has always been. Winter followed by spring, etc.” In the cold of Winter be assured Spring is coming!

Rohn was simply stating what the Bible documented thousands of years ago.

Another famous Bible passage about seasons was popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary in their song, “Turn, Turn, Turn”. The song quotes King Solomon’s insight from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, that there is a time (or season) for everything.

Various Seasons

The Bible speaks of past seasons, the last days, fullness of time and appointed time. There is a time of trouble, harvest, visitation, evil, love, latter rain, and much more.

Hosea 10:12 says “it is time to seek the Lord”.

It is vain to imagine ourselves independent of God’s seasons. We must see and respond to the time which God has set for us, and for the world.

Jesus rebuked the people of His day who could determine the natural season, but could not see the spiritual one (Luke 12:56). In the Old Testament the children of Issachar were acknowledged for their understanding of the times and seasons of the Lord.

“And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.” 1Chronicles 12:32

Know Your Season

We must recognise the season that God has set for us at this time.

We must then pay whatever price is required for us to get the fullest out of that season. This is called “redeeming the time”, which means to “exploit the season”.

“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time” Colossians 4:5

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16

Today’s Season

What season are we in today? We are in the ‘Age of Grace’. Now is the time of salvation.

The Bible calls this an “accepted time” and a “day of salvation”.

“behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2Corinthians 6:2

There will come a day when God will close this door of opportunity. This is the season for getting right with God. Remember that “it is appointed unto me once to die, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Death is End of Choice

Someone once defined death as the “cessation of all change”. You cannot change your mind once you are dead. Your season of opportunity has come to an end. Death is the closing of the door of opportunity for you.

Eternity is far more important that the minutes of our day. God has given us a lifespan of time as a door of opportunity for us to walk into eternity. If we don’t take the opportunity God has given us then it doesn’t matter what else we do with the time.

Your Time Has Come

Your time has come. Your opportunity is “now”! Walk into eternity while there is “time” – while there is opportunity.

Once you have done that, tune into God’s current Season for your life, and exploit the opportunity that is uniquely yours.

John Gotch Ridley Impacts Australia

This is the day that … John Gotch Ridley was born in Darling Point, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, in 1896.

Young John was given a book by his Bible Class teacher – The Life of Hedley Vicars. This New Year gift told of a Christian soldier and, in his own words, became “one of the moulding influences of my young manhood” (Milestones of Mercy, page 25).

Three years later, at the age of 18, he responded to a powerful message on the (premillennial) Second Coming of Christ, in the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle, under the ministry of Rev. William Lamb … and that same ‘glorious hope’ never left him. In written and spoken word, the return of our Lord was a constant theme.

Then there were days in the A.I.F. (Australian Army) – and overseas service. Still a teenager, he was to be found “in the cold and mud of French battlefields” during World War I. Severely wounded – a bullet passed through his neck and tongue (but God had plans for that tongue to proclaim His gospel) – he was awarded the Military Cross – for his acts of bravery & action in battle at Bellicourt 1918 for risking his own life by bringing ammunition & ration to the front line and also for rescuing the wounded.

Ridley returned to Australia to enter the Baptist ministry.

But a “shocking nervous breakdown” followed, and we see him travelling the outback in a horse-drawn wagon doing bush mission work.

After his marriage to Dorothy Chapman in Sydney on 18 August, 1926, he became an itinerant evangelist. The hand of the Lord was obviously upon this young evangelist. Souls were saved in outback homesteads, open-air meetings, churches … everywhere!

As strength returned – and with a loving helpmeet beside him – John G. began his evangelistic ministry. He became a well known Convention speaker, both in Australia and overseas, despite continual ill health.

As a “prolific & terrific writer” writer he wrote fourteen richly Christ-honouring books and numerous tracts, coloured with eloquent and stirring prose.

On a Sunday night of November 14th, 1942 he impacted another man who became famous Australian Christian ministry. Illiterate former criminal Arthur Stace heard Ridley trumpet a message about Eternity, based on Isaiah 57:15. Suddenly he interrupted his message and laying his prepared notes aside the highly disciplined soldier-like preacher raised his loud voice and cried: “Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. You’ve got to meet it, where will you spend Eternity?” Arthur Stace dedicated himself to serve God that night and walked outside to write the word ‘Eternity’ in beautiful Copperplate script with chalk on the pavement. For the rest of his life Mr Eternity continued to echo Ridley’s “Eternity” sermon on Sydney’s pavements.

Ridley co-founded the prophetic & premillennial voice of the Herald of Hope magazine. He assisted as a Chaplain in the Everyman’s Welfare work among the troops during World War II, and with others, founded the Australian Institute of Evangelism, later known as Ambassadors for Christ.

In one of his many poems he anticipated his ‘home call’:
I shall meet them in the Glory …
Those dear friends I’ve grown to love;
When we gather ’round the Saviour
In the happy home above.

David Brainerd of the back woods;
William Burns, that flaming heart,
Good McCheyne and Andrew Bonar,
Men who loved the better part …

Richard Baxter, wondrous writer
of the “Saints’ Eternal Rest”,
Holy Edwards of New England,
Of the purest and the best.

C.H. Spurgeon, prince of preachers,
Strong his influence to me;
Moody, Matheson and Moorhouse
- what a gathering there shall be.

Friends of mine in life’s long journey,
Though unworthy of their band,
Yet I hope to stand among them
When I reach the golden strand …

On 26 September, 1976, “the tired warrior fell asleep in Jesus”.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.