Searching for The Third Way: Predestination, Part 2

three-thumb.jpgSpace-time and God

The answer to the question posed in the last post is found in a deeper understanding of the nature of God and his creation. God’s choice of a word to describe his existence is “eternal,” or aionios in the Greek. This does not mean everlasting, which is a different word, but rather duration that is undefined.[4] This is for good reason. To explain this better, I will have to go into an area that is foreign to most Bible books — cosmology, the scientific study of the nature of the universe.

By now everyone has heard that the universe has four dimensions, up and down, left and right, front and back, and … time. We do not perceive time as one of the four dimensions because God made us with three-dimensional senses. But it is well-established that time is a dimension of our universe.

Einstein was the first scientist to say so, as a part of his General Theory of Relativity.[5] This theory is a series of complex equations describing how gravity, matter, energy, motion, and many other things relate. The most famous equation is, of course, E = mc². But there are other equations as well, and these have been repeatedly verified by experiment and experience. The atomic and hydrogen bombs and nuclear reactors are examples of applications of this theory that we never would have thought possible until Einstein better explained how the universe works.

Space-time, that is, the four dimensions, is the very fabric of the created universe. Mathematically and realistically, these terms have no meaning at all outside the universe or before the beginning of the universe. It was not until matter existed that space-time existed. Indeed, the famous Hawking-Penrose Theorem, derived from General Relativity, proves that time, as we experience it, had no existence before or outside the universe. There was no “time” as we know it before the beginning of time (a contradiction in terms, of course). When our time began, the clock was not only set at zero, but the clock itself was created. There had never been any time (that is, time corresponding to the time we experience) before the beginning.

In other words, outside our worldly existence, our time has no meaning. God may experience time in heaven. I don’t know. But I know as a proven scientific fact that whatever God experiences as time is totally independent of our time. I don’t mean that his time can go faster or slower than our time. I mean that it moves in a different direction.

(Maybe it helps to realize that time in this universe moves at different speeds (not just perceived speed) depending on fast the observer is moving or how great gravity is where the observer is. If God’s time corresponds to ours, then which of our times?)

The Bible speaks in these very terms —

(1 Cor. 2:7) No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

(2 Tim 1:9b) This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time … .

(Titus 1:2b) … eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time … .

The paradox is manifest in Paul’s words. How can God act before time? Clearly, he means that God exists outside time as we experience it in this existence.[6]

We all know that God is omnipresent, which means that he is everywhere at once. Well, he is also “every time” at once. He is omni-temporal. Time is a dimension just like up and down. If God is all the way up and all the way down simultaneously, then he is also all the way past and all the way future simultaneously. Our time means nothing to him, no more than the vast expanse of our universe creates a barrier to him.

God is a five (or higher)-dimensional being.[7] He looks at the goings on all over the universe as he sees it — whenever and wherever he wishes. He can intervene in our world and our lives just as easily as I can put my finger anywhere on the surface of my son’s globe. But God’s “globe” is in four dimensions, including time.

If I were a giant holding the real world in my hand, I could easily find France and reach in and pull the Eiffel Tower up from its foundations. I could instantaneously put the tower down in Australia. As a giant, I would not be bound by the limitations that the citizens of the world must contend with and live by.

Just so, God could take Elijah into heaven on one heavenly day, and then part the Red Sea the same heavenly day. To us, those events would be hundreds of years apart. Moreover, we mortals cannot travel backwards in time. To God, these events occur simultaneously. He sees the whole universe at once, including what to us is “past” and “future.” These terms are meaningless to anyone existing outside the universe, as God is (of course, he is also inside the universe).

Therefore, when God made Adam and Eve, he knew exactly what the outcome would be. He didn’t cause the outcome, but he saw it. The outcome occurred in the eyes of God as soon as God performed the miracle of creating man and woman.

Forgiveness

Therefore, when Jesus died on the cross, this event occurred at a particular time and place as we humans perceive things. But the forgiveness of sins that occurred when Jesus died is a heavenly event. Sins aren’t forgiven on earth. They are forgiven by God where God exists.

When did that happen here? Well, it didn’t happen here. What time on earth corresponds to the time God forgives sins in response to Jesus’ death? No time in particular. All times and no times and any time God chooses.

When did God forgive my sins? Before he created the earth? When he first knew that one result of Jesus’ death would be my salvation? When I was baptized? When Jesus died? When I first sinned? When I die? There is no answer; they are all answers.

The New Testament writers can truly describe all my future sins as already forgiven, or not yet forgiven, or continuously forgiven. It can even truly describe my as already sitting on a heavenly throne! It’s really all the same to God. Therefore, God could accept Enoch and Elijah straight into heaven in reliance of the blood of Jesus, because to God, Jesus’ death and resurrection was already real.

Therefore, when I die, from the standpoint of earth-time, I sleep until the Judgment, but from the standpoint of God’s time, if he so wishes, I can pass straight to Judgment Day (read this and this from previous posts), as the trip occurs entirely outside time. There’s not need to imagine ethereal holding tanks of saved souls not yet in heaven suspended in centuries of unconsciousness.

When my grandmother died and went to heaven, she may well have passed outside of time and met her grandchildren not yet born at the heavenly gates as she was welcomed in. Why not? Heavenly time does not correspond to earthly time.



[4] W. E. Vine, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.[5] Albert Einstein, Relativity (Crown Publishers, Inc. 1961). A “theory” in this sense is a thoroughly proven system of laws that very adequately explains an area of study. It is not a guess or a hypothesis. It is a fact, but a fact that may become better understood as more discoveries are made. Thus, time being a dimension is as much a fact as is gravity, even though scientists speak of Newton’s Theory of Gravity.

[6] Nahmanides, commentary on Gen. 5:4, cited by Gerald Schroeder, The Science of God (New York: Simon & Schuster 1997), 160; Augustine of Hippo, Confessions book 11; Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1a. 10, 1.

[7] Arguably, many more dimensions than that under some theories of modern physics. String theory postulates the existence of as many as 26 dimensions, only four of which are perceptible to humans. God would be outside all 26.

Don’t bother trying to imagine this. We can’t. We might be able to do the math to describe this, but we cannot think in these terms except by rather poor analogy, because our brains are just not wired to think in four or more dimensions.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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