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.
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)
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: