Let’s examine for a few moments the concepts of time and eternity—as taught by both modern science and the Bible. They are both integral parts of the broader truth of God’s very own eternal LIFE within his sons and daughters. I’ll attempt to teach these two concepts as somewhat separate from one another, but, of necessity, there is much overlapping of the two. When we examine the subject of time, we will also look at other time-related concepts that are finite, temporal, non-absolute, and relative.
Only Holy Spirit, the true Author of the Bible and Source of all true knowledge and wisdom, can teach us in depth about time and eternity. And I encourage you to ask Him for assistance and enlightenment as you continue to read this teaching. He can fill in the many gaps I’ve left out of this teaching because of my own limited understanding. I freely admit there is much I still don’t comprehend.
There is much yet to be learned as Holy Spirit gives us illumination and enlightenment. In a sense, there is much about time and eternity…that only time to come and—later beyond time—the eternal state can clarify for us. In considering time, we will also touch on such concepts as infinity, space, the universe, and that part of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity pertinent to this teaching.
“…And Time Shall Be No More”
A concept we must grasp immediately at the outset is that time is an integral part of the entirety of all created phenomena (Hebrews 1:2) consisting of past, present, and future—just as humans are created phenomena having youth, middle age, and old age. No, we cannot touch, smell, or hear time, but it is there, ever-present, always flowing out of the past through the present and marching into the future. Yes, time was created just like the rest of the entire creation; it had a beginning, it shall have an end. It is a created entity among countless other entities which are part of the entire created universe.
Time is as much a “class” or “phylum” of God’s creation as, for example, rocks, elephants, trees, and water are classes of creation. Before the creation of the universe, time did not exist; at the end of the eons of time it shall cease to be. It will be swallowed up into eternity just as all death (the first death and the second death, which is the lake of fire: Revelation 20:14), will be swallowed up into God and cease to exist.
Time—composed of milliseconds, seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries, millenniums, ages, and eons—was created in the beginning and will be dissolved and cease to exist at some point in the future when it fades away and blends into eternity. In a sense, it’s not that time will end and eternity begin. No, time will simply be removed from the equation; it won’t even be remembered. At the end of time, time will end, cease to be, and stop moving forward because it simply won’t exist anymore.
This phenomenon we call time was created by God for humans to use. Why? I’m greatly oversimplifying, but it was created to aid fallen, sinful humans to accommodate ourselves to this material, mortal, and temporal plane of existence and to aid us in living out our days and years in preparation for a new, totally spiritual, non-material, glorified existence beyond time in a state of existence called eternity.
In eternity, everything and everyone will simply step outside of time into the eternal state of being which overarches and transcends time. You see, in a manner of speaking we mortal humans are defined by time; it is a natural phenomenon imposed by God upon our mortal reality. Time’s forward motion defines our mortal existence; it’s simply part of who we are as humans.
We will all pass from a physical, material existence into a glorious spiritual existence where time will no longer be necessary to define who we are; time serves only to aid us—to give us time, so to speak—to prepare for that new spiritual state of being. And each of us has been allotted a certain amount of time to make such preparations. Let us use our time wisely and responsibly in preparation for eternity and for ministry and service to God and others! We are spiritual beings sent here to earth to have a temporary, finite, mortal human experience—not human beings sent here to have a spiritual experience!
A proper understanding of time as a created phenomenon having beginning and ending is an absolute prerequisite to a proper understanding of eternity. Because it is a created phenomenon, time can be studied to some extent just as any other part of the universe created by God can be studied. For example, we know by definition what time is: “A system for measuring duration.” Or, it can be defined as: “A continuum in which events succeed one another from past through the present to the future.”
We know how to measure time: with chronometers ranging from incredibly precise atomic clocks to Mickey Mouse watches. We know how time functions by its effects in passing: maturity, decay, corrosion, erosion, deterioration, and the like. Someone has humorously quipped that, “Time is the thing that keeps stuff from happening all at once!” Someone else said it’s “the stuff that happens between paychecks.” Finally, someone wisely has said of time: “It can only be spent, not saved.”
Professor Einstein’s Theory…and More
As previously mentioned, an entire body of learning discipline for the study of time has been established by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. For purposes of this teaching, we understand from Einstein’s theory that time and space are interdependent, inseparably related, and form a four-dimensional continuum (length, height, depth, and duration). That is to say, there is no space without time, no time without space. Space cannot be traversed without the passage of time; without the passage of time, there can be no traversing of space.
[Note: So much more is being learned about the “qualities” of time and space in recent years since Einstein posed his theories, that what I have just written in the paragraph above may have to be reconsidered in the light of new astrophysical research. For example, there is a theory presently being studied called “the Einstein-Rosen Podolsky Separability Phenomenon.” It posits the view that under certain conditions, pairs of material particles, however far apart in space and time, are somehow so sensitive to each other that an action performed on one of the particles anywhere will instantaneously be reflected in its twin, anywhere else. Instantaneously. That’s “faster” than the velocity of light, previously considered the fastest thing in the universe of space and time. As an example, this could (if proved true) amount to instant sending and receiving stations anywhere in the universe without any passage of time.]
However, sticking to what we presently know for certain about time and space—to furnish only one quick example—that is why in his post-resurrection, spiritual body, Jesus was immediately able to transcend and traverse the space-time continuum with “speed” surpassing time. Also, by Jesus’ power, space and time cohere, adhere, and consist (Colossians 1: 17). Without his binding power, space and time would become non-existent. He is not limited nor restricted in any manner by time and space. He transcends space and time by virtue of the fact that He is God. Jesus is over and above all space and time because He is The Creator and Sustainer of all! He is transcendent over all his vast visible and invisible creation, including the created phenomena of space and time.
We also understand from the Bible that both time and space (as we presently know them) will be swallowed up into eternity, subsumed, and changed into a higher and different state of being altogether. All that is physical and material will be swallowed up into that which is wholly spiritual, because God—toward whom we are all bound on our life-journeys—is non-corporeal (unbodied)—pure Spirit (John 4:24). He is Wholly Other from we material, physical, corporeal human beings who are presently limited by time and space.
Yet, because He is God He can “downsize” Himself to live within humans and be fully present within each of us; the Greek word Immanuel in the Bible means God is fully present. He was fully present in Jesus of Nazareth in the past and is now fully present in Jesus’ Church and in each person who makes up and is part of his Church. Yes, it is true that God is present in all of his creation, but not in a pantheistic sense; He is present in the greater sense of his being fully present in those people everywhere and everywhen who comprise the Church of Jesus.
In this regard, too, we must briefly consider whether or not time and space are finite or infinite. If they are infinite, are they necessarily eternal? By definition, space is “the expanse in which all material things are contained.” Infinity is to say “that something lacks known or measurable limits and bounds”—not that something has no limits or boundaries. With my present understanding, I believe that space and time do have limits and boundaries (since they are part of creation), but they simply cannot be measured by presently known scientific and astronomical instruments. However, I am open to changing my mind as additional information becomes known. I believe space, time, and the material universe are created entities and are infinite, but only in the sense they cannot be measured by finite humans. They are not infinite in the sense that eternity is infinite or of being eternal as only God is.
The Eternal State of Being
Now let’s consider the concept of eternity. Please understand that the strictest definition of eternity is “a state of being ‘in’ God.” We shall see that it is much more than that, but it is a state of being, first and foremost. In other words, eternity is not a created phenomenon as time is. In all candor, I believe the Bible teaches very little by way of defining or describing eternity. Why? Because the Bible is essentially a book of time and for time, not for eternity. It was written for us who are still time-beings, not yet totally eternal beings. It was written to time- and space-limited humans, for humans, and does not contain exhaustive information about the state of being called eternity—simply because—until we reach eternity—our limited, finite minds could not even begin to grasp even the most elemental truths about infinity and eternity.
However, the Bible is clear that it is an “eternal book” and will be carried over into the eternal state when we shall continue to explore its “mysteries” in that state beyond time. The Word of God—the Bible—will stand throughout eternity as God’s complete written revelation to humankind, always and ever to be “mined” for its vast, exhaustless treasures of knowledge and wisdom!
Where is that state of being we call eternity to be found? If we were to consider it an actual “place,” (it is not, but if it were) we will find eternity “beginning” beyond the far shores of time! It is an infinite sphere where God is at the absolute center and there is no circumference. We are presently creatures of time—journeying through time and space.
Only when we arrive at and fully enter that state of being called eternity… only when He who is Eternal becomes All in All in us… only when time ends and is swallowed up into eternity… only when eternity becomes an absolute reality to us… only when we are spiritually metamorphosized into our eternal milieu… only then will we who were formerly temporal and physical beings begin to comprehend eternity and matters of an eternal nature. Everything written in time about eternity (including this teaching) is at best merely enlightened speculation based upon limited information.
I wrote that the Bible is relatively silent about the state of being called eternity. That is not to say that human teachings and theology haven’t taught us a few concepts about eternity, but, sadly, some of it over the past 2,000 years or so has come from human minds not necessarily sensitive to the mind of the Eternal Spirit. Praise God for the true teaching ministry of the Eternal Spirit! We read in the Bible that God is Eternal, or, more literally, the Father of Eternity (Deuteronomy 33: 27, Isaiah 9: 6). He is called so in the sense that he is the originator and sustainer of eternity.
In short, eternity is part of God. He is eternity. Eternity is wholly “within” God. In continuing to consider the eternal state, we must completely jettison any thinking that time has anything to do with eternity or is part of eternity. Time and eternity are two separate entities. They are mutually exclusive of one another in an absolute sense.
Eternity is a state of absolute timelessness, NOT a state of unending time. Eternity is a state of being, resident in the very nature and person of God in which such concepts as past, present, future, before, after, minutes, hours, and years do not exist. There are no endless ages of time in eternity. There is no “forever” in eternity. Eternity is a state of absolute simultaneousness, not a state that goes on and on and on “forever” with the passage of “unending” time. The created ages of time will end; they are alien concepts in eternity.
Time and eternity have no relationship with one another just as up or down, for example, have no relationship with light or dark. The terms are mutually exclusive. Time is not part of eternity just as up is not part of light. Eternity is NOT composed of endless segments of time or of unending ages that go on and on and on forever and forever and ever without end. In eternity, it is always now… Just as something extra to think about, have you ever considered how “forever” as we commonly think of it as time without end…could have an “ever” tacked on to the end of forever? How could there be a “forever” with an “ever” following it? I’m just asking.
It may seem like I’m overemphasizing this point, but it is absolutely essential that you understand such differences between eternity and time before you can begin to comprehend what the Bible teaches, for example, about eternal LIFE or eternal punishment. Time is not part of eternity. Eternity is not composed of unending segments of time. Eternity is not time standing still. It simply is not time in any sense that we understand time. Eternity doesn’t go on and on, ad infinitum.
Before reading this teaching any further, you might want to read a companion teaching on this web site entitled Eternal LIFE. Eternity doesn’t go anywhere or anywhen, nor does it do anything. Eternity simply is. It is as foolish to say that eternity goes on and on and on as to say, for example, that Texas goes on and on and on. Texas simply is a state in which people exist. So it is with eternity. Time is created. It is extra-eternal in the sense we say something is extra-biblical. Time is a measurable, fixed, limited, created phenomena.
Eternity, in contrast, is part of the very measureless, non-fixed, limitless, boundless nature and person of God. Eternity transcends beyond our comprehension anything having to do with time. Eternity simply is, just as God simply is. The expression, “It is that it is,” has unique reference to eternity just as “I am that I am” has unique reference to God. Just as Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am,” (John 8: 58) it can be said of eternity, “Before time was, I am.”
God Is Too Busy To Answer My Prayers
As just one example among many, if you get a wholesome grasp of these thoughts about eternity, you will be able to readily understand a matter which people have struggled with ever since God first revealed himself to humanity. That matter goes something like this: “God must be so busy with running the vast, complicated universe and answering more ‘important’ prayers than mine from billions of other people, that He can’t possibly find time for little old unimportant me and my prayers.” C’mon now, admit that you’ve had thoughts like that from time to time.
The answer to that is that God exists in a state of absolute simultaneousness, and He is able at any given time to give his full attention at all times to everyone and everything—including you! Yes, at any given time, He can devote his full attention to you, while at the same time, devoting his full attention to everything else…and everyone else…everywhere else…and everywhen else. There’s a one-page companion teaching on this web site titled Daddy’s Favorite Child you might find interesting to read at this point.
For my next point, let’s consider only briefly the definitions of such biblical words and terms as “forever,” “forever and ever,” “eternal,” everlasting,” and related expressions. In over 500 places in many modern translations of the Bible where we find such terms in the English language as the four just mentioned, they have with very few exceptions been incorrectly translated from the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages in which the Bible was written.
[NOTE: There are many excellent, scholarly books written about this matter of the differences between time and eternity, the definitions of “forever,” and the like, but for or an excellent, easily read summary teaching about this matter, I highly recommend two books by a friend of mine, Gerry Beauchemin, entitled Hope Beyond Hell and Hope For All. They can be ordered from firstname.lastname@example.org or from amazon.com in e-book or paperback format. Both of Gerry’s books are the best summary statements of this teaching I have read.]
“Forever” can most often be translated as “age-lasting” or “continuing for the ages of time.” “Forever and ever” and “everlasting” should be translated as “for the age(s) of the ages” or “enduring for the ages of time.” None such biblical words or expressions are about segments of time that go on and on and on without end. I am simply saying that these words are all temporal words expressed in temporal languages—fallen languages of a fallen race of beings, languages that are inadequate to wholly express and define that which is eternal.
They are not words having to do with eternity; they are only about time. In the original languages, the biblical emphasis on such words seems to be upon the quality, purpose, and “character” of such words rather than upon an unending duration. In other words, eternal LIFE or eternal fire means the nature, quality, or purpose of the LIFE or fire rather than their length or duration.
Eternal LIFE is the…
…self-existent, uncreated, incorruptible, indestructible, undiminishable, imperishable, inexhaustible, measureless, limitless, boundless, wonder-full, abundant LIFE God permanently implants in the spirits of people when they become followers of Jesus.
It is a LIFE, the seed of which we now possess and which will come to full fruition in eternity after the farthest ages of time have ceased to exist. Eternal fire, or fire which burns forever and ever—for ages and ages of time—((Revelation 20:10 ff) is judgmental fire which not only has the quality of punishment, but also of purging, disciplining, correcting, chastising, and cleansing. It is fire which restores, reclaims, and rehabilitates, as well. It is not merely for punishment alone!
True, the Bible says such fires are unquenchable, meaning they cannot be put out nor extinguished by external forces, but such fires will simply burn out at the end of the ages of time (or some “time” in the eternal state) when they have run out of all their “fuel” and served their intended judgmental purposes.
The emphasis in the Bible is upon fire’s purposes, NOT its duration. I’ve given only a few examples of such words and expressions. An exhaustive—and startlingly convincing—personal study can be made of every such word in the Bible with the use of a good Bible concordance. Also, you may want to take a few moments and read another teaching on this web site titled Fire!
In summary, it can readily be seen that both time and eternity are concepts beyond total comprehension by fallen and limited human beings. Even under the pure teaching ministry of Holy Spirit, our “darkened” minds and understanding are too limited to fully grasp their meanings. Nevertheless, even a dim understanding of such concepts will help change our imaginings and preconceived notions of space, time, the universe, God’s nature and personality, God’s “size,” God’s inherent eternality, and our own “future” eternality.
The Eternal Nature of People!
God is cultivating within his people an eternal character and nature, no longer rigidly bound to and regulated by time, by clocks, by seasons, by cycles. The thoughts and imaginations of God’s people are becoming boundless and eternal, no longer limited, controlled, and motivated entirely by memories of the past, by present events, or by dim hopes for an endless, nebulous future in the “sweet bye and bye.” God’s people are becoming age-less and time-less, are being “caught up” to God and his throne, are becoming truly and genuinely eternal beings in many ways.
The fledgling eternal spirits of God’s people are growing up into the limitless expanses of God’s own eternal, spiritual nature. His people are becoming new eternal creations, no longer limited by the restrictions of the space-time continuum and by our physicality and materiality.
We have come to understand the reality—as I stated earlier—that we are not temporal human beings having a brief spiritual experience; no, we are eternal spiritual beings having a tempororary human experience! We are seeing with our inner “eyes of faith” the reality of a state of being called eternity—resident in the very nature and person of God—and our hearts strain and leap upward toward that “place” in God that awaits us beyond the end of the eons of time.
I hope this brief teaching about the concepts of time and eternity help you more fully appreciate the wonder-full, rich, abundant, eternal LIFE God has implanted within you through the eternal sacrifice and total and complete salvation God has given you through God the Son, Jesus! He implanted that LIFE in you at the time you chose to become a follower of Jesus, and it will continue to “grow” within you throughout all the eons of time—and then beyond time into the eternal state! Thank God for such eternal LIFE and salvation both now and beyond the far shores of time!
Life Enrichment Services, Inc
Revised and Updated November 2020