Time and Eternity
by Lawrence W. Hilliard

"One must always be drunk, that says it all, there is no other point. In order not to feel the horrible burden of time that bruises your shoulders and bends you to the ground, you must get drunk incessantly." --Charles Baudelaire

More precious than any acquisition of man, yet far more mutable than mercury in the palm is the nature of time. Its swiftly passing tide has strewn the earth with forgotten empires and potentates. In its wake, tombstones present a constant witness to its victorious conquest of earthly existence. From an anthropocentric perspective time is always the unspoken enemy that lurks in the back room of the mind, always bringing to finality the meticulous plans of a lifetime. The fluid nature of time leaves nothing untouched, forcing our mortality to crave a transfixing at the point of our highest, momentary contentment. "Because I feel a haughty discontent for my gross blemish of mortality, I find no joy in any element that cannot wash my flesh away from me." (Edward Struble Johnson, Jr., "Anthology of Verse" from the Yale Literary magazine, 1836-1936, p. 133) The desire to extract from time in each successive event every conceivable fulfillment ends in complete futility. This anwei of spirit, soul and mind is the resultant consequences of time's illusory nature. It may promise but can never fulfill. For the meaning of time is not inherent within the continuum of time. "And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was futility and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun." (Eccles. 2:10-11)

The epithelium of modern secularism has erected a wall, a boundary of the present moment, that has encircled the individual in a prison of the "now", futilly attempting to inject into the present the reality of the transcendent. An attempt to eternalize time, has left the secularist without hope, living from microsecond to microsecond repressing time's ultimate dominance, death. Time devoid of a willed origin that has predetermined a linear development moving epoch by epoch toward a consummate telios, becomes an irrational blind force of brute energy, originating from nothing, heading toward nothing and sweeping all within it into the nullity of non-existence. Something to live for. "I and I alone, have absurdity and without reason brought order out of chaos; that I alone, crudely and stupidly, without cosmic meaning or rational ground, have made a world out of nothing: and with that awareness my world itself totters on the brink of the nothingness from which it came." (John Paul Sartre, quoted from "The Philosophy of Decadentism", p. 22, Norberto Bobbio, 1948)

In the last two decades a new denomination has arisen on the American scene. The "First Church of the Big Bang." The Aristotilian model of the universe, the "Steady State" theory, that has dominated Western science and philosophy, is not looked upon as steady anymore. The scientific community is increasingly deserting its ranks and embracing the "Big Bang" model of creation, which postulates a genesis of the universe. "Some scientists are unhappy with the idea that the world began in this way. Until recently, many of my colleagues preferred the Steady State theory, which holds that the universe had no beginning and is eternal. But the latest evidence almost makes it certain that the Big Bang really did occur millions years ago." (Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, p. 14) More and more evidence is being amassed to bolster the belief in a single occurrence, a genesis to all creation and time. The Hubble telescope has not only confirmed the Big Bang but also its attendant space-time theorem of general relativity put forth by Steven Hawking, Roger Penrose and George Ellis. "All the great cosmological discoveries of the Twentieth century fly in the face of materialistic notions about the infinite, random universe." (Hugh Ross, physicist) It is refreshingly amusing to hear the scientific community finally affirming that the seminal declaration of Genesis 1:1 and its attendant narrative is in harmony with the most recent discoveries of cosmology. "Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a Biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time in a flash of light and energy." (Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, p. 14)

Expanding on Albert Einstein's equations of general relativity, with its cosmological inferences that the universe had a beginning, the aforementioned physicists, Hawking, Penrose and Ellis made a discovery that impinges on the prevailing world view of matter, time and history. The three physicists established that matter was not only finite but that time and space also had a beginning. "When one goes back to the real time in which we live, however, there will still appear to be singularities [the instant when the universe originated from a point of no size]... in real time, the universe has a beginning and an end at singularity that form a boundary to space-time and at which the laws of science breaks down." (Steven Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p. 139) The space-time theorem of general relativity set forth by Hawking and others adjoining the dominant creation model, the Big Bang, establishes that time had a concurrent beginning with the origin of the universe. That in fact, the genesis of the universe was not a cosmic explosion within preexisting time in empty, black space. Time and matter had a simultaneous beginning.

The implications of such cosmological discoveries have enormous implications philosophically and theologically. Within the dimension of time cause and effect phenomena take place, yet without time there is no known causal to produce any effect. If time had a genesis concurrent with the origin of the universe then there must, by necessity, be an antecedent reality or dimension that existed before time and was its determinant matrix. This dimension would not be subject to time or space in any contingent manner, but would be the predetermining of such. "If time's beginning is concurrent with the beginning of the universe, as the space-time theorem says, then the cause of the universe must be some entity operating in a time dimension completely independent of and preexistent to the time dimension of the cosmos." (Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, p. 76)

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..." (Gen. 1:1)

In a succinct and understated declaration there is set forth the axiom of time and history. Time is a creation from a transcendent God. The eternal sovereign will of God was executed in a fiat manner bringing forth the universe and its attendant order and design. Creation is the product of a divine word. "For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." (Ps. 33: 9) In a monosyllabic "Be" the assertive will of God was put forth by a command that concretionized his eternal will. In the words of the Latin theologians, "Dictum Factum" (i.e., "said done") no delay having interposed. Creation is the effect of a creative word. "...for He commanded and they were created." (Ps. 148:5) "One word of His can do more in an instant than the united powers of heaven and earth can do to eternity." (David Clarkson, Puritan theologian) It was as easy and effortless for God to create the universe as for a man to breathe one breath. "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breathe of His mouth all their host." (Ps. 33:6) The revelatory fiat of God still resonates through creation, for by the one spoken command all creation has been sustained for billions of years. "He has also established them [all orders of creation] forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away." (Ps. 148:6) How transcendently mighty must this eternal God be who can speak in such a manner to create and preserve His creation.

There is a theological presupposition underlying the reality of God as Creator, the eternality of God. God is eternal by nature. "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen, Amen." (Ps. 41:13) "For thus says the high and exalted one who lives forever, whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place,..." (Isa. 57:15, see also Gen. 21:33 and Ps. 90:1-4) Eternity is the constant state of the perfectness of God. The permanent state of the constancy of the holy, sovereign will, power, love, the essence of God. Eternity is the dimension that corresponds to God's eternal nature. "Eternity is a perpetual duration... eternity is contrary to time, and is therefore a permanent and immutable state, a perfect possession of life without any variation... infinite, immutable duration." (Steven Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God) Because God is eternal he is infinitude of nature. He is without boundary, measureless and unlimitable. Nothing in creation or time can restrain, contain or limit Him. He is unlimitable by nature, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!" (I Kings 8:27, see also II Chron. 2:6 and 6:8) Not sequestered by time or the events therein, God can operate simultaneously in myriad dimensions.

Out of eternity God created time. It thus has a beginning and an end [consummate point] moved along in linear fashion. Through one of the prominent names for God in the Old Testament God declares that He is the Sovereign Lord of all time and history. "Thus says the Lord, King of Israel and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: 'I am the first [Aleph] and I am the last [Tau], and there is no God besides Me." (Isa. 44:6, 41:1-4, 48:12) "First and last" are the Hebrew words aleph and tau, the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. They were used in Rabbinic literature to describe that which is all comprehensive, total and complete. The Rabbis said that, "Adam transgressed the Law from aleph to tau." But "Abraham kept the Law from aleph to tau." Thus indicating total and complete, all comprehensive. This title indicates that God is simultaneously at the beginning and the end of history, yet present in each successive movement therein. God encloses and boundaries all time with His abiding presence and sovereign will. He initiates it, sums it up, and is present in all its movements. God is controlling every nanosecond, directing it along to its consummate goal. God is at time's genesis and omega point simultaneously and within every intervening second saturating it with His providential preservation, direction and redemptive grace. The declaration "First and Last" reveals the all-embracing control of history by God. As the initiator (First) of time and its contents (national and individual life, historical life), He stands before all things, outside the sequestering of time, with all history within His eternal purpose. As the Last (literal Hebrew "at the last things") God now stands at the last expiration of time, the final second, as history's consummate goal centering solely in Him. "...since God Himself will be there at the end. But having been there also at the beginning He thus encloses all history in a ring." (George A. F. Knight, Deutero-Isaiah, p. 51)

In the words of William Blake, "Time is the mercy of eternity." It exists by God's appointing to make eternity accessible to man. Time is the created dimension into which the eternal God condescends to display His eternal nature to His handiwork (Gen. 2:7) with the ultimate intent to prepare those created in time for eternal communion with Him (Ps. 11:7, 73:25-26, 140:13, Jn. 17:26, II Cor. 5:8, Rev. 21:1-4). Solomon describes the theistic perspective of time, "He has made every thing beautiful in its time..." (Eccles. 3:11). He utilized the Hebrew word "yaphah," that is frequently used in the Old Testament to describe the contour of a beautiful woman (Gen. 12:14, 29:17). Solomon sees in history a symmetry, a harmony, a contour of interrelatedness and design. There is a beauty to time as designed and directed by God. The Psalmist describes God's designing the days that constitute one lifetime in the most specific manner. "Thine eyes have seen mine unformed substance; and in Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them." (Ps. 139:16) As God intricately designed the cells, sinew, tissue of our bodies has equally intricate as God fashioned our days. The word "Yeser" translated "ordained" or "fashioned" describes the work of the potter who forms clay into his predetermined design (Isa. 29:16, Jer. 18:2-6). Yeser describes God, the Divine Potter, forming man from the dust of the earth in the most specific, intricate manner (Gen. 2:7). God has fashioned, as a potter molds clay, the days of our lives. There is a custom arranging, a specific design, of the character of our days originating in eternity. Whatever circumstances, trials, events, pressures that would reveal His nature and lead us to Him have been fashioned by God. Those times when I'm pressured to the breaking point and prostrate with care, He has arranged. For out of such confluence He reveals to us His mercy and grace and we are led to rely upon Him. "The Creator does not push out the boat of the individual's life to take its chance on the stream of time. The days were "formed" by Him. Even to this degree does He care for us." (J. A. Motyer, "Psalms, New Bible Commentary" p. 539) He has architected our days so as to dislodge us from the pull of the transitory and impermanent unto the eternal. He has designed our days as to be the centrality of them. The days of His ordaining (as to their content and character) are to conform us unto His image. Fitting the believer for eternal communion with Him. Every moment of time, eternity becomes accessible to us.

The day of adversity and prosperity are arranged by God (Eccles. 7:14). God has decreed the lifespan of every human being (Job 14:5). The hour of death is appointed by God (Eccles. 7:17, Jn. 21:18-19, Rom. 14:7-8, Heb. 9:27). The vicissitudes of life, the critical turning points, which are divinely appointed to reveal God's eternal sovereignty, are solely in the epicenter of God's hands (Ps. 31:15).

"...and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:20)

In a pantechnicon promise, Jesus affirms that he would never leave the disciples alone. For His abiding presence would in each sequential second of their lives be with them in the totality of each moment of every day. The literal Greek text reads, "...the whole of every day." He who was introduced in the prologue of Matthew as Immanuel (i.e., "the Mighty God with us" Matt. 1:23) is still God with us unto the consummation of the age. The exalted Christ affirms in a declaration frighted with the implication of Deity, the He is the Alpha and the Omega (the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Aleph" and "Tau"). "I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." (Rev. 1:8, 21:6, 22:13). Jesus without reservation declares that He is the sovereign Lord over all time and history. It is an affirmation that promises His unchanging faithful presence to His people througout all the vicissitudes of life. What an anchorage this would be to the persecuted Church caught in the vortex of Roman oppression.

The myriad epochs moving successively in linear fashion will ultimately be brought to a finality, the Redeemed will behold God "face to face" and live in that countenance forever. "And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away' and He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.' And He said to me, 'It is done, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost." (Rev. 21:3-6)

"I have no wish for Thy Paradise, nor any desire for the bliss in the World to come. I want Thee and Thee alone." (Anonymous Jewish prayer)

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