Wrangling time travel might be enough to tackle, but this series of books isn’t just about traveling through time, but about how God uses time.
Many people believe God is orchestrating the universe in real-time. He has a big mind, big plans and can control any real-time outcome, so he can shape the future into anything he chooses. This is the philosophy of those who think God lives with us, in real time, but not in the past or future.
Or rather, time is a like a river and we’re on a boat in fog. The fog behind us is a little thinner, but the fog before us is a thick bank. God is tall so can see over the fog.
H.G. Wells described this as the “frantic director”. Where a stage play is underway, and something happens to knock over a prop, something catches fire, other mayhem ensues and pretty soon the whole play is out of control. The frantic director knows what’s supposed to happen so he’s trying to bring things back to center in the face of escalating chaos.
No folks, we don’t serve a God that small.
I’ll give it to you straight, and discuss it below. God created time, and lives outside of time. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He was, and is, and is to come. He never changes, and has no shadow of turning. Even his name “I AM” is the same in every nanosecond of time. As time is how we measure change, how can he exist in time with us, but never change? No, he exists outside of time, and in time – simultaneously. It goes like this:
God is at the beginning of time, the end of time, and every nanosecond in between – simultaneously. God does not orchestrate the future. He’s already there. He can build that future any way he chooses. We simply haven’t experienced it yet. That future, and God, are waiting for us. But God is here with us now.
So the analogy of the fog bank and river still work, for us and for God sitting on the boat with us, as long as we accept he’s not just on the boat. He’s downriver at every rock, crag, turn and juncture, already planning our future and keeping us from danger.
It’s hard for us to conceptualize God outside of time. Or even that God is waiting for us in the future even as he’s with us now. But this is how it works, and God is never out of control, and God is never surprised. Unless he wants to be. For his own delight and glory. More on this in the essays on foreknowledge and predestination.
The correct way to think of God’s interaction with time, starts at the beginning of Creation. Titus 1:2 says God promised, before the “world” began. That word “world” is the Greek for “time period” or “time itself”. Before time began. Before the clock started ticking on this time-frame we live in, the one God created, etc. So there was a time, or a period, before this one we experience now. Will there be another time frame after this one? The Scripture alludes to it when Jesus claims an end to it in Matt 28. The closure of one time period and (presumably) the opening of another.
And if God created time, he is sovereign over it. In the “frantic director” example, God is subject to time, it is sovereign over him.
One secularist said – “I think time created God. That over time, mankind needed a way to explain the unexplainable, and dropped all that into a bucket called God.”
A comedian (Michael Jr.) once said “Unbelievers attribute things to a god they call “Something.” I’ll give you an example – they’ll be surprised by a bad choice and say “Something told me not to do that.””
But is it really true that God was invented by mankind to explain the unexplainable? I ask this because the Bible comes off as simple active narrative. Other so-called “holy” books have soaring words and mighty metaphors to describe their patriarchs, who never do anything wrong. In the Bible, the patriarchs come off as the worst of the lot. Moses, David and Paul are all three murderers. Each of the patriarchs comes off as human and vulnerable.
And of the contributors of the Scripture over what is a four-thousand-year period by over forty men and women of every walk of life – bedouins, shepherds, statesmen, physicians, lawyers, tax collectors, fishermen, kings, priests, rich men, poor men, etc. All of them agree in hundreds of controversial topics. If you were to ask ten people from the same region, same upbringing, even the same church, you would get ten different answers for each of the controversies the Bible agrees upon across all these people and centuries.
Point being, if mankind could have written the Bible, mankind wouldn’t have. Everything in it goes against the grain of human nature, yet perfectly aligns with reality. Jesus said we have to become a servant to become a leader. We see all over the world where servant-leaders thrive and dictators do not. The Bible knows more of human nature than all the reams of psycho-analysis developed in the most recent centuries. One person said you could pick any three books on a topic in a self-help section, and later learn the Bible already answers the problem in a single verse in Proverbs. Why not just read Proverbs?
We can see how God used time to express his Words over many millennia of time. And how did he address the masses when describing himself? Did he say look at me, I’m God. Or did he say, look at where you were, and where you are now? I’m the one helping you through this. I did all these things in your behalf. My track record stands as one who is helping you succeed, not doing damage to you. How many times does God call his people to “remember” – then he would describe the things he had done for them in very context of saying “this is who I am”.
Or rather, it’s what I do, that defines Me.
When people say things like “man created God” what they are doing is denying God’s testimony that the history of the world is what defines him. Take away the history of the world, and we remove the key way God defines himself. Take away God, and we remove the definition of mankind. If mankind is to have a purpose for existence, only God can define it. He’s the Creator. If mankind comes along and rewrites history without God, he has stolen mankind’s true identity, and left nothing but despair in its wake. Without God, there is no hope for the future. We all die, go to the graves, and our words and deed are forgotten.
God spoke to the prophets, told them he would personally come to earth and redeem all mankind. Said he would return a second time to clean up the mess mankind had created. Promised a number of other things along the way. How can he make such promises iron-clad? If this is in human terms, we make a promise to someone and work toward its fulfillment. It’s all we know how to do. In God’s universe, he has a lot more at his disposal, namely time, to affect what he wants to accomplish.
God said he would show himself to Moses as he passed over the cleft. Exodus (33-22-23) He would pass by in full glory and cover Moses with his hand, and then show Moses his “back parts”. This has been translated in various ways, but the Hebrew word is the same for when a person is thrown backward off a horse, or when an army retreats over the same path it arrived. This second example is telling.
What if God showed Moses God’s history prior to the present Creation? Where God had been, what he had done, etc – “who God is” in the way he’s acted over other time periods outside of ours? This is a compelling question, but it is alluded to with this one Hebrew word – showing where God came – and what he did – from prior to this present “time period”.
What if time is like a book? God has written into the pages of the book all the things he’s already promised. The Rapture, the Great White Throne, etc are still in the book on the page he wrote them on, but real-time hasn’t caught up with it yet. The people trapped in real-time have not experienced it yet. But it’s there, all the same. The pages of the book turn one second at a time, and all that God said would transpire on that page, comes to pass. Do other things transpire that weren’t on the page (yet). Perhaps, and this is where free will enters.
Doesn’t God judge us from books (Rev 20:12)? Books play an important role in gathering information in a sequential manner. They serve the role of sequential recording. We merely have to ask ourselves, if God is already in the future, everything we are about to encounter is already in his past.
See my essay On Foreknowledge, because free will, predestination etc are developed there.
When we think about it, free will is not the freedom to choose God. We don’t have that freedom and the Bible says so. It even says we’re not seeking God (Romans 3:11). We can’t choose what we don’t seek.
And while God says he’s a rewarder of those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6) this is speaking of those who already have faith in God, and who are seeking to root out the mysteries of God. For those without faith in God, they aren’t seeking him, so will not choose him.
Apart from that, think about choices. If I choose to step outside onto a 747 jet to Asia, but there’s no jet outside waiting for me, the choice isn’t open. Same for if I apply to a company I’ve chosen to work for, but there are no openings. I am subject to the choices available to me, so that choice isn’t really free, it’s just opportunistic.
One thing we always have the choice to do – is evil. No constraints on evil choices at all. Even Jesus said if we lust after a woman in our heart, we’ve already committed adultery with her (Matt 5:28), so even if the opportunity to physically commit adultery never arises, we are guilty all the same. If we consent to murder (Hosea 6:9, Acts 22:20), we are guilty of it. Jesus changed our perspective to his perspective, in that we are all evil by nature, but can choose good (Matt 7:11) for others.
God uses time to express his greatest qualities. In this regard, time is God’s greatest invention because it gives him the greatest glory. With time, God can express longsuffering, patience, faith, loyalty, provision, love, grace and mercy. Without time, mercy doesn’t exist. Justice is instantaneous. We as humans have no time to repent, grow faith, increase loyalty, work to the salvation of others, pray, etc. It takes time to grow spiritually, exercise faith, learn God’s ways. And when we do, God is glorified. There is no glory in a robot honoring its maker. There is glory in a free creation where mankind chooses to be loyal to God.
Time enables all this.
God invented time as a way to exercise his own self-control, because time constrains God from instantly annihilating his own creation. Think about how God likens himself to light, and when light enters a room, it chases away darkness. Darkness isn’t given a choice. God’s holiness compels him to judge sin, experienced as “wrath”. This is what Jesus has saved us from – not sin, not the devil or hell, but God’s wrath (John 3:36, 1 Thess 5:9).
And if God’s holiness compels him to judge sin, why hasn’t the entire creation burned to a cinder by now? God gives insight to his patience in the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt 13:24-30). He will allow good and evil to coexist because to remove evil will damage the good. This would be similar to a SWAT team entering a building full of hostages and avoiding a shot because they might hit the innocent.
But see what God is doing with the wheat and tares – the problem will be resolved in time, not with immediate action.
This is what confuses people who don’t think evil is real. They don’t attribute the evil acts of the world to evil people. They call it wrong, senseless, heinous, barbaric, sick, twisted, etc. But they won’t call it evil. They turn around and say Doesn’t God see all this? And why doesn’t he stop it? The parable of the wheat and tares is the example, but the better question is – You see it too? What are you doing to stop it? You’re blaming God for not stopping it, or claiming God is evil because he doesn’t stop it, but I don’t see you lifting a finger, so what makes you any better?
I can be certain that if God exists at the beginning of time, the end of time, and every second in between, that his omnipresence has a larger dimension – he is every-where, and he is every-when. He exists with me in real time, and he exist five minutes from now – a year from now – at my deathbed – simultaneously. He knows what is about to happen to me, because he’s already there.
My mother told me more than once as a young man, that if God intends me to marry, in heaven, my children already have names. Faith like this is what helps us deal with the here-and-now, knowing God is in control now, tomorrow, forever. And when the world turns upside down for us, it didn’t take God by surprise.
This is not to say the evil things befalling people are what God wants. The wheat and the tares tell us God doesn’t want the evil to harm us, but removing it will cause greater harm.
What of the man who believes he married poorly to a woman who doesn’t love him, seeks other lovers and shames him? Doesn’t God see this? The man has choices to free himself of this, but should not expect God’s finger to split the heavens and dispatch the evil doers.
What of the woman who married poorly to a man who doesn’t love her, but cares for her needs and doesn’t shame her or seek other lovers? She might be miserable, and she might not like her situation, but ditching her husband could lead to what? Nobody caring for her needs? Her end could be worse. What if God took him away from her and left her with nothing?
This is how the wheat-and-tares play out. Some evil allowed to remain because removing it does more harm.
Many people accept God’s presence in their future, in everyone’s future, and know when things go bad, God still has things under control and there will be an expected end, an end with hope, laughter, and joy that may seem elusive now, but it’s coming.
God keeps his promises. He already has.