Surprised by Hell: The Physics of the New Heaven and New Earth

This post is not for the faint of heart. We’re going to cover some modern physics, and it will not make sense to many readers. But — believe it or not — I actually have a pretty good grasp of this stuff, and I’m confident this is good science, as crazy as it’s going to seem.

Why does earth-time go in only one direction?

Sounds like a stupid question, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, physicists wrestle with this one. It’s a very hot issue among theorists today.

solarsystem.jpgNearly all the equations that describe physics run in both directions. The equation for a ball falling is the same for a ball propelled upwards. The math cannot tell you which way time runs!

If, for example, you took a film of the solar system, with all the planets, moons, and asteroids circling (ellipsing, really) around the sun and each other, you couldn’t tell whether the film were running backwards or forwards!

Of course, we all experience irreversible events. When you bite an apple, well, a film of that run backwards would plainly be wrong! But why?

The one law of physics that runs only one direction with time is the law of entropy — the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that closed systems become less organized over time.

For example, you put a cup of hot tea in an unplugged refrigerator. The tea cools and the surrounding air warms, until it’s all the same.

Now, if you plug the refrigerator in, it all gets colder and eventually freezes. It becomes more organized and entropy goes down. But entropy cannot decrease. So what happened?

The electricity that makes the refrigerator work was made by burning coal in a power plant, and the total entropy (disorganization) in the universe went up because the burning of the coal created lots of entropy, more than offsetting the freezing of the tea. All organization — all work — is bought at the price of greater entropy somewhere else.

Just so, in making memories, your brain creates organization. Some molecules are created that store the memory. Organization goes up. Entropy goes down. But the energy to do this came from your breakfast, which has become vastly less organized! The universe — on the whole — has become less organized and entropy has — on the whole — gone up.

Therefore, memory can only go in one direction because entropy can only go in one direction — because you have to expend energy to make memories.

The universe has a beginning and can only wind down. Entropy must always go up. Memories always point toward the beginning.

Second theological point: (wait for it)

backwardsclock.jpgGod doesn’t live in this universe. And in heaven, the Second Law of Thermodynamics doesn’t prevail. God makes the laws. He’s not subject to the laws.

This is easily demonstrated by the fact that heaven lasts forever. If entropy were a problem, then heaven simply could not last that long. In the created universe, at some point entropy increases to its limit, and when that happens, the universe will be dead. Life (and the making of memories) will all end. No work will be possible. It’s a mathematical certainty. But not in heaven.

Therefore, God can remember the future. He’s made of different stuff that obeys different rules — and we have to be careful not to impose our limits on God when we think about God things.

Of course, remembering the future is just an odd way of saying seeing the future or knowing the future or foreknowing, right? But this is kind of cool, I think.

Time is part of this universe

According to the Hawking-Penrose Theorem, derived from Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, time began when the universe was created. Indeed, time is a part of the universe and is simply undefined outside our finite (in both time and space) universe. In fact, time is one of the four dimensions that define the shape of this universe. It’s built into the very fabric of this universe.

The New Testament beat the scientists to this conclusion millennia earlier–

(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.

The word often translated “eternal” is aion, which often means “unbounded by time” and in many contexts properly refers to a spiritual existence separate from earthly time.

(Luke 18:29-30) “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

Thus, in the age to come – in the New Heaven and New Earth – we’ll have eternal life, that is, life unbounded by time.

In other words, there is no necessary correspondence between time as we experience it and time as God experiences it — if God is bound by any kind of time at all. As the Bible says, a thousand years is like a day to God. It doesn’t mean that he’s old! It means his time is radically unlike ours.

Hence, as heaven is outside the created universe, it’s not bound by and doesn’t even have to touch time as we know it.

This universe has more than one clock

According to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity — which has been confirmed in many ways — time is not a constant. The speed of light is. Therefore, time travels at different speeds, depending on the observer. For example, there are subatomic particles that have an existence — while sitting still — of less than a millisecond but which last for centuries when they travel at close to the speed of light. You see, time slows down the faster you go.

Therefore, for someone outside the universe looking in, such as God, it’s impossible for him to set his heavenly watch to match the time inside the universe, because time is traveling at many different speeds at many different places. In fact, for the electrons making my monitor light up, time is hardly moving at all. Therefore, whatever time it is in heaven, it’s not likely that time here.

What about the new heaven and new earth?

Heaven itself is clearly not a part of this universe and so clearly is outside of our time. But the new heaven and new earth (henceforth, “new earth”) is in some sense a continuation of this earth. So will the new earth be part of this universe and bound by our present kind of time? I think the answer is no. Here’s why.

First, we will have bodies of some sort in the new earth. And our bodies will be imperishable and will last forever. But in this universe, the laws of physics necessarily make our bodies perishable because they are subject to entropy. In fact, the universe itself will wear out when entropy becomes so high work can no longer be done. The sun and all the other stars will burn out. It will end.

Therefore, the new earth will be subject to different laws of physics. Our bodies will be, in some sense, physical, but they won’t be made of the very same electrons, protons, and neutrons we’re made of today.

Moreover, it just seems to make sense that when God leaves heaven to live on the new earth, he’ll bring his glory with him as well his form of existence. In other words, God will re-write the laws of this universe, making it into something radically different, so different it will even have a different sort of time. It seems necessarily so, as the time we experience is inextricably tied to entropy and the perishable, finite fabric of this existence.

Time in the new earth

And so, let’s try on a hypothesis for size. Imagine that time in the new earth is the same as time is now in heaven. Well, God is outside of earth time. Therefore, he can see the earth’s future as well as its past. He’s quite literally outside looking in, even though he is also in this universe. He’s just bigger than the universe. He’s outside our time and so not bound by our time.

When we die, we pass from earth time to heaven time, and God transports us, I think, from earth time to the beginning of the new earth — Judgment Day. But to better understand this, we need to rethink the geometry of time. You see, this means that the Eschaton is just a heartbeat away. We aren’t so much transported years and years into the future as we are transported to an event outside of our time that’s right next door. (Think Narnia.) It’s just that, at the end of our time, the entire planet and everyone on it will be transported to this same event. Everything converges.

Now, if this hypothesis is true, some cool things happen. The thief on the cross dies and meets Jesus at the gates of Paradise, in the new earth — just a moment away from his death, even though Jesus spent millennia (in earth time) preparing the new earth to receive him.

Just so, at the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah left the glory of God in the new earth to visit with Jesus — just a moment away on the top of a mountain in Palestine.

And the rich man, who failed to love Lazarus, looked but a moment away to see his friends, still in First Century Judea, making the same foolish mistakes he made which led him to his on-going destruction in the Lake of Fire.

None of this is impossible. Some of this is certain. There’s no doubt that time is part of the created universe, with a beginning, and finite. There’s no doubt that any existence outside the created universe will be entirely separate from our time. It has to be that way.

It works. It’s weird. It’s hard to explain. But it works. And, you know, it greatly simplifies things, eliminating and solving many great riddles of the scriptures.

And, by the way, it resolves predestination and some related issues very nicely:

Predestination, Part 1

Predestination, Part 2

Predestination, Part 3

Predestination, Part 4

Leave a Reply

  1. I think you're right. The first time I remember being introduced to this explanation was in a "Does God Exist" seminar in the late 1970's, by John Clayton. It has been a useful framework for me to contemplate a lot of biblical concepts.

    Judgment becomes a transparent look at my life. From eternity, we can look back at every moment in our lives, just like we can reach out and touch any point on the wall in front of us. We can not only observe every action and thought we had in our lives, but also everyone else's lives. Whatever was done in secret will be shouted from the house top.

    It neatly handles questions about miracles, prophecy, hades, paradise, heaven and hell. Of course it also leaves much unanswered, since we have no frame of reference for understanding what life will be like in the new Jerusalem. Every picture we have of it is a metaphor, made to accomodate our very limited ability to grasp the concepts of another universe operating under different physical laws. So, will hell be a place of eternal torment? I'm not sure we even have the words to describe the possibilities. Will there be time in eternity? Will time be a single dimension, or multiple? Will it travel in one direction only, or can we navigate freely in every direction through eternity-time? Will the second death be a momentary torment (implying that we'll travel through time in one direction)? Will we be stuck in that moment forever?

    We are naturally fascinated by ideas about the nature of the afterlife. But there is only so much we can say about it without drifting into idle speculation. We have to be satisfied with the metaphors, and let them motivate us to live accordingly.

  2. Pingback: Surprised by Hell: The Consuming Fire « One In Jesus.info

  3. Here is a fascinating series of videos on visualizing dimensions, including visualization of more than three dimensions. This will stretch your mind and perhaps help to imagine what eternity *might* be like.
    http://www.dimensions-math.org/

    Be sure not to stop with the first video which appears by default (look on the right side of the screen for the series of videos).

  4. I'm not entirely sure that all entropic forces will cease in the New Heavens and Earth. Important things like friction are, at bottom, entropic processes. My best guess (and isn't that all any of us is putting forth here?) is that entropic forces will continue. However, God will be intimately and constantly involved in the running of this renovated Universe, and as such, the detrimental effects of entropy on a physical world will be counteracted by the presence and constant infusion of an unlimited amount of usable energy.

    Thus, in everyday things like the balancing of temperatures, the process of friction, etc., entropy can continue, but in the universe as a whole, the running down of our bodies, etc., its effects can be counteracted fully.

    Just a thought. :)

  5. Your command of physics is commendable.

    If our new bodies will move via friction, there will have to be some level of localized entropy. And if we are to remember things with our new brains, the same holds true. Indeed, it's hard to imagine an existence without entropy.

    But as you say, somehow or other, God has to be continually renewing the New Heavens and New Earth, or else entropy will end eternity all too soon.

    It makes my head hurt — but God will fix that, too.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  6. You are very smart. I enjoyed your article. I understood it. I am happy about a new heaven and a new earth. I worried about staying on this one. We have alot of bad memories here. There are alot of bodies and bones buried even if their spirits do get resurrected. The enemy has probably boobie trapped the whole place. It is not safe. It has been depleted of its nutrients ie; precious stones and minerals.It is pretty much cursed like Indian Burial ground because of the Nephelium. Heaven does not listen or at least what we can see of the sky and solor system. There are white clouds out and a light blue sky and its the dead of night. A star is even twinkling. Just to show that even the sky is chaos when the "babysitter" Mr. S. takes the reighns. God deserves better than a universe that wont obey or care. The sun and moon should refuse to shine on their own before Armageddon just for the simple principle that he is hurt. I hope this don't happen again when the enemy is let out to test the world. It will be devestating. God puts so much hard work in. We need to appreciate that.

  7. Maybe God will just suck up the universe into a singularity at the end of time (Time can’t exist in a singularity, because there is nothing of reference you could put into v2=v1+at for any value.) So heaven (this theoretical singulariity) could be where the entire universe could exist together in both outside time and space.

    I think I’ll just stick with the Narnia analogy. Odd that reading Last Battle as a kid has probably formed my perception of heaven more than anything.