The Timeless Kingdom

Another blast from the past. This one from November of 2008 ...

Ever wonder about this whole idea of time? The longer I live the more I realize how much of my life is preoccupied with this idea of time. I became impatient a few hours ago because my wife was running a bit slow and didn't seem to be "on time". I wonder what time looks like when God's kingdom comes? Ever think about this whole idea of "eternity"?
It says in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that:
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
I found it interesting how this verse blends elements of time and eternity. Ever think about how time is a part of creation? Ever wonder what existence will look like after we die? Ever think of living in a timeless world? Hard to get your head around isn't it? Could it be that Heaven is a place where time does not exist?

I think that one of the keys to time is understanding that our view of time is different than God's perspective. We get a glimpse of it when Peter writes:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2Peter3:8)
Peter is not giving us a heaven-earth time conversion table.. he is saying that God's view of time is different than ours. I think that time is an earthly concept.. God exists outside of time.. it is why the writer of Hebrews says:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
It speaks to the agelessness of heaven.. Jesus doesn't age.. He is the same.. He doesn't get smarter.. He is all wise.. interesting isn't it?

So.. you might ask.. who cares about time.. how can understanding this help me? I think that we can develop patience in our lives when we live understanding that His kingdom is a timeless one. Whether He chooses to act today or tomorrow is somewhat irrelevant when we live in a timeless kingdom. I think that a preoccupation with time and timing is evidence that we are living in the visible kingdom and not His invisible kingdom.

The Apostle Paul writes one of the most amazing verses about time:
So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
Again we see that God is mindful of time but not bound by it. In His sovereignty He sent Jesus at the perfect time. Interesting that Paul says "the fullness of the time".. as if God was peering into this time-bounded dimension where He saw the past and the future and determined the right time for Jesus to be born.. mind boggling isn't it?

When we live a kingdom oriented life we live a life filled with patience.. a life unoccupied and obsessed with time. We understand that God operates outside of time and brings things to pass in the fullness of time.


24 comments:

  1. Interesting thoughts, Bob.

    I've often tried to imagine existence without time. I simply cannot wrap my head around that. I do believe that G-d exists outside of time. In fact, G-d must because time "began" at the Big Bang. So, time has not always existed. What that means for our existence, I'm not sure.

    However, we are bound in time while on this plane and time is extremely important. While G-d exists outside of time and can peer in here to see what will be and know the exact moment to act, we only have one of each moment, each unique, each holy, each precious. If you believe that this is our only existence and after this we will be eternally judged, time takes on an even important meaning. What is done in a lifetime which in the scheme of things is no more than a nanosecond impacts our "eternal" destination.

    Peace,
    Brian

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  2. Fantastic sermon, Rev.

    The Jews believe that all of their souls were present on Mount Sinai when Moses made the covenant with God. A Jewish friend of mine taught me that, and he was a little emotional when he said it. It was very touching to see him embrace the mystery of his soul, present with G-d (as he would would write it), and all of the Jewish people, with Moses, joining in their eternal covenant with Him.

    We inherited that understanding of the fulness of time and the eternity and immediacy of God's knowledge and foreknowledge of us and our union with our fellow Christians in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth.

    It's a mystery but a comforting one to me, not a scary one. Jesus is as physically present to me now (I'd say both in the sacraments as well as in His Word) as He was to His Apostles, more real in some ways since He sent the Holy Spirit after His departure to bring into all truth.

    The whole thing makes ME high in the Spirit, as it were, glad to know it moves your soul, too!

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  3. I just realized that Brian's post and mine see God a little differently in time: he see Him "peering in at us" and I see Him as being physically present, here, now, and accessible.

    But Brian's description of our perception and use of the only time we have is spot on. We know Jesus opened the doors to salvation, but we have to walk through them by following Him, the Way, the Truth, the Light, the narrow gate.

    What do people who believe in "once saved always saved" do with the importance of how they spend their earthly time? I never knew anyone to ask that question of.

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  4. Therese,

    My comment did not give an adequate description of my concept of G-d. I'm more of a panentheist than someone who thinks G-d is outside of the universe. But, from the perspective of time, I do not believe G-d is bound by time.

    It's hard to explain as to how I see G-d as transcendent and immanent at the same time. But, mostly, I do see G-d the same way you do, ever present.

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  5. Seeing Him as transcendent AND imminent is the beautiful mystery, Bri. You've put it very well, pantheist though you may be. (Really? Many gods?)

    But you've certainly got a hold in your thought of the completeness of God's presence in His universe, within which He created us, made not because He needed us, but only out of love.

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  6. Not pantheist, panehtheist. Not many gods, but one G-d who is both immanent and transcendent. The Old Testament YHWH was seen pretty much as an old warrior god in the sky who we had to ask to come be present with us. While I hold to some transcendent properties of G-d, I see G-d more as the stuff of which we (and everything is made).

    Peace,
    Brian

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  7. Panentheist, I think you meant to type. Interesting: if G-d is the stuff of which we are made, in your opinion does that mean that we trust our own creations/thoughts to be true? If so, which person's thoughts/creations are the most true?

    Or do you identify and seek an Absolute Truth from another source? And if so, from where?

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  8. Yeah. Meant to type panentheist. For some reason, my fingers want to make that second n into an h.

    I honestly don't know what I believe about G-d as a separate entity. I do know that I don't believe G-d is just a larger, more powerful version of us. G-d is not a man (or a woman). I don't think of G-d as corporeal.

    I think there an Absolute Truth. But, from a human perspective, we connect with the Spirit from within. Our spirit connecting to that Absolute Truth, First Mover, whatever you want to call it. So, while you may say it comes from without, we have to go within to connect to it.

    If you believe we have to go "out" to connect to it how do we know when another has connected to it and we call that Truth? It's not like something we can point to and all see and examine. Christianity has about 30,000 denominations most of which claim to have connected to Ultimate Truth all the time each with doctrines that are completely incompatible. For example, Calvinists and Arminians. One may be right, but they both can't be.

    What I'm saying is that no matter whether the Source is outside of us or within us, we each experience and interpret it different ways. I certainly do not see the Bible as Absolute Truth, as some do. It was written by men who saw through a glass darkly, just as we do.

    Peace,
    Brian

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  9. I have been following this very interesting comment conversation and looked up panentheism here and found:

    "In panentheism, God is not exactly viewed as the creator or demiurge but the eternal animating force behind the universe, with the universe as nothing more than the manifest part of God. The cosmos exists within God, who in turn "pervades" or is "in" the cosmos. While pantheism asserts that God and the universe are coextensive, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe and that the universe is contained within God. Panentheism holds that God is the "supreme affect and effect" of the universe."

    Interesting ideas that "God is not exactly viewed as the creator" and "the universe is contained within God". It seems that this would lead to a view where the actions of mankind (good and evil) are merely extensions of the character of God. That seems problematic to me.

    It seems that the phrase "God is Holy" presents a picture of God as One that is separate from what He created and not one in which He is interlaced with His creation.

    Am I misunderstanding?

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  10. Bob,

    Well, I don't necessarily adhere to any classical definition of anything. As I said somewhere on my blog, I use labels as descriptors. I do not allow them to define me. Panentheism is the word that comes closest to describing my view of the cosmos and of G-d.

    Panentheism is different from pantheism in that panentheism does not believe that G-d is merely the sum of the parts of the created order, while we are all made up of G-d and/or we are a part of G-d, G-d is greater than the universe. G-d is us, we are not G-d.

    If your view of G-d is that of a Creator separate (transcendent) from His creation, who created us ex nihilo, my view is different. As my friend Annie puts it, G-d created us from godself, not from nothing.

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  11. Man, I have to lay down, this is a truly thoughtful discussion, dense with details and thought!

    I can only add that I also do not see the Bible as the sole source of Truth. As a Catholic, I identify with St. Paul when he writes to Timothy (1 Tim 3:14...)

    "I am writing these instructions to you so that … you may know how one ought to behave in the Household of God, which is the Living God's Church, the Pillar and Bulwark of Truth."

    I believe that we are part of Christ's Body, the Church, and within that we find Him and all His Truth. He promises that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against His Church, so we're safe there.

    So we enter into His Body to find Him, as well as find Him within our own hearts (He promises to write His law upon our hearts in the Psalms somewhere). And I know (Romans) that "all creation is groaning together with us, who already have the first fruits of the Spirit, as we await our adoption and the redemption of our bodies." I am even entranced by the Psalm that says the "young lions roar and pray their food from God."

    So I agree with you that all of nature is immersed in God. But I tenderly hope that you know that God's Mind encompasses you and knows you, has a plan for you for "good, not evil" and actually loves you. I found that out and I may have ducked the issue for awhile, but I haven't been the same since I gave up trying to run from Him.

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  12. Therese,

    When you view G-d the way I do, there is no where to run. It would be like a fish trying to run from the ocean.

    I know it bugs some Christians to say we are manifestations of G-d. But, if G-d is spirit and G-d has promised us the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit can dwell in us well then...

    This also goes to that source of truth thing. If G-d speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, which again, is indwellling us, how is that not Truth springing forth out of us?

    Peace,
    Brian

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  13. I didn't know it bugged any Christians to say that we were manifestations of God. Such "divinization" (not turning into God, but reflecting and emanating Him) has long been understood by the Church.

    As a straightforward example, St. Thomas Aquinas (and St. John of the Cross, too, I think, one of my faves) both use the image of a piece of iron in the fire. The iron heats up, and takes on the characteristics, assumes the identity of the fire, glowing, hot, red, without ever becoming fire itself, becoming "sharers in its nature" (think 2 Peter).

    That's why the Incarnation of Jesus is such a thrilling mental journey. He entered fully into our humanity so that we can enter fully into His Divinity! There is no exhausting the thinking about this mystery.

    You certainly have the capacity to delve into and through mystery, which helps you seek and learn about God all the more. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

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  14. Therese,

    I know many Christians who would be very bugged to hear that we are manifestations of the divine, let alone manifestations of G-d.

    I was shocked actually to learn about Catholic mysticism. I love reading Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating. It's Keating that first introduced me to Centering Prayer.

    Peace,
    Brian

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  15. Thomas Merton "New Seeds of Contemplation." The best at what it does (it is not a Catechism or a theology course).

    Bless his 1960's heart, he was getting a little Zenny towards the end of his abbreviated life, but that particular book is absolutely orthodox and beautiful, a love affair with all that is God, deep within our being, where reason becomes knowing and faith becomes knowing and hope becomes knowing, heck, everything becomes knowing.

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  16. I like Zenny. ;-)

    Honestly, Merton is a little over my head. I could more easily connect with Keating.

    Namaste,
    Brian

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  17. Thanks for the dialog Brian and TZ.. I have been a bit drained emotionally and not up to the conversation.

    I think that I am understanding where you are coming Brian but thought I might offer a question to get a bit more clarity.

    If creation is a part of God and He is really not separate from it/us.. then what makes Jesus' sacrificial death so special? Why is of more value than the death of any other human?

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  18. Ah, Bob, the $64,000 question. I've spent a lot of time wrestling with this one and I've blogged about it a couple of times. There are several atonement theories. And more than one has merit. It's easier for me to tell you what I don't believe than what I do.

    I do not believe that Yeshua's death was "transactional". I do not believe that before He died G-d could not forgive our sins and after He died, G-d could. I do not believe His death "paid" for our sins in the sense that G-d, by G-dself could not accoomplish that without shedding the blood of an innocent.

    I believe that Yeshua's death was more illustrative than transactional. It illustrated the folly of the world system (the Roman government and the religious system (the Jewish Temple system). They tried to crush Yeshua. They used power and coercion to try to stamp out the voice of love and reason. It also illustrated the love of G-d for man, even while we were yet estranged from Him. G-d allowed Himself to be crushed to show man how much He loves us. We crucified Him and He did not lift a finger. We were the ones who demanded a sacrifice. We created the sacrificial system (which the prophets said over and over again that G-d did not want). G-d provided Himself as the ultimate sacrifice to show us that He loved us all along. What greater love could He show?

    If G-d needed a sacrifice, why didn't Yeshua simply commit suicide? Why didn't He go to a priest and get properly sacrificed on an altar? Why did G-d allow man to try Yeshua, brutally beat Him and kill Him in a criminal's death rather than just make it plain that He was a sacrifice to G-d by doing the way all the other temple sacrifices were done?

    Yeshua's death was special. But, not special in the sense that it suddenly paid a debt that G-d could not otherwise forgive. It was special in the sense that it was an illustration of perfect love, of ultimate self-sacrifice and the lengths G-d would go to to woo man back to Herself.

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  19. How so? Hmmm... It's hard to put into words, Bob. It seems to have different meanings for different people. For me, Yeshua was G-d's representatige on Earth. I wasn't there. But, obviously Paul and the apostles thought there was something unique about His connection with G-d.

    The fact that He was raised up by G-d, as further evidence of that unique relationship, as a First Fruit makes His death and resurrection special too. The fact that He laid down His life, not for no reason, but for His friends was special.

    The transactional view of His death just doesn't work for me. It places too many limitations on G-d. It makes Him bound by His own "justice" system. It means He asks us to forgive while He cannot. It's not forgiveness to retire a debt once it's been paid. It's simply retiring a debt. It also makes G-d schizophrenic, from my perspective. The Father G-d, the loving G-d, the Creator G-d wants to save us while the Judge G-d demands payment.

    Non-violent forms of atonement theory work better for me, Bob. They just make more sense while making Yeshua's (self) sacrifice no less important.

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  20. Thanks for the response Brian.

    For me the incarnation of God in Christ makes the gospels work for me.. it makes Philippians 2 work.. makes Christ's ministry work.. and absolutely makes all of the difference when we speak of the cross.

    Without the incarnation Christ is a human being that we can feel sorry for.. but I am not so sure that such a man would be worth dying for.

    I may be misunderstanding you on this though. I could write more but I don't want to presume that your view of Christ is a non-incarnational view.

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  21. Bob,

    I don't have it all worked out. But, yes, Yeshua is an incarnation of G-d. But...

    So are you.

    Yeshua said we would do greater things than He did. Yeshua said He would send His Spirit to indwell us. I believe He was showing us the way, the way for all of us to follow, Bob. So, while, in a very real sense, I do believe Yeshua was an incarnation of the All-Mighty, I do not equate the Son with the Father. I think He made it clear that while He and the Father are One, they are not the same.

    Peace,
    Brian

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  22. Thanks for the clarification Brian. I think that Jesus is the God incarnate and is unique in all of history.

    I think that we will have to simply agree to disagree on this one.

    Shalom, Bob

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  23. I can live with that, Bob.

    Namaste,
    Brian

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