Creation and Time.
The prerogative of God over time is the first of the attributes of His absolute sovereignty and power revealed to us in the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." From the beginning each and every creature was spoken into existence by His Word in the day and in the sequence He appointed for it during the first six days of creation week (Genesis 1).
The Word of God was Jesus Christ, "with God" and "God." "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:1-3) to our own day. The Word as perfect Son acted in perfect unity with the Father, which means that He acted neither before nor after the exact time appointed the speaking by the Father. Christ acknowledged the Father's primacy in determining time when He told His apostles just before ascending to heaven that "it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). Here He merely repeated what He had told them earlier when they had asked Him about the signs of His coming again, and of the end of the world: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32).
The relationship between the Father and the Son in time truly and totally reflects their Father-Son relation within the absolutely transcendent, eternal, non-temporal trinitarian Godhead. The Father sets times, seasons, days and hours; the Son fulfills them as it were "simultaneously"; the Holy Spirit broods over, sanctifies and witnesses of their decree and work. With regard to their operation in time, Christ Himself confirms the Father's primacy as well as His perfect oneness with the Father: "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things so-ever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:lSa). "I proceeded forth and came from God: neither came I of myself, but he sent me" (John 8:42). "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). Thus our Lord Jesus Christ says both "land my Father are one" (John 10:30) as well as "My Father is greater than I" (John 1 4:28b(. Both statements are true of Him as the eternal Son of His eternal Father, "very God of very God" (Nicene Creed), and of Him as the Second Adam and perfect Son of Man, entering created time as "that holy thing" conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary the virgin (Luke 1:35). For He "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Col. 1:15).
It is and ought to be obvious that "the beginning" of creation spoken of in Genesis 1:1 is the beginning" in and of the eternal godhead Himself. Pantheistic continuity between Him and the creation in any and all forms is excluded. He created all things out of nothing. He is absolutely transcendent. While His creation exists in time, He does not; with Him "there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." For God
has no history. He is too completely and utterly real to have one. For, of course, to have a history means losing part of your reality (because it had already slipped away into the past) and not yet having another part (because it is still in the future). . God forbid we should think God was like that.1
As everything else, so time is the Father of light's "good and perfect gift from above" to us (James 1:17). Our knowledge is hence also of necessity creaturely: it must work in time by accumulating information moment by moment. God is not so restricted because He, the Creator, is qualitatively different as Creator from the creatures. All things, which we must reckon chronologically as tied to past, present, or future (by definition unknown to us), are equally known and present to Him: "Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:28). David exclaims in awe in Psalm 139: "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (v.16, NIV). C.S. Lewis puts it like this:
Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along: and there is room for very little in each. That is what Time is like. . We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from past to future just as we do But God, I believe, does not live in a time-series at all. His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours: with Him it is, so to speak, still 1920 and already 1960. For His life is Himself.
God is outside and above the Time-line . . . what we call "tomorrow" is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call today." All the days are "Now" for Him.2
Because God lives in His transcendent eternal Creator's Now, and because He determines all times entering our created time-lines, our time comes to us moment by moment from "in front of us" from His hands. What C.S. Lewis did not fully and plainly spell out is yet implicit in his words, "our life comes to us moment by moment. Time comes to us from the future, then meets us in the present as we call each new moment "now," and then is literally "past," passed on behind us as it were.
This is no novel teaching. St. Augustine already explained in his City of God that the movements which are the basis of time, do pass from future to past."3 The Christian scholar and philosopher Boethius (fifth century A.D.) spoke of God's eternal Now in which He does not so much "foresee" as "see "all things. The modern Christian author Nathan A. Wood explains this true direction of the time-line from future to past clearly and undeniably:
Never does yesterday turn back in its flight and become to-day, or to-day become to-morrow. Never does the past pass into the present, or the present into the future. No. It is the other way. To-morrow becomes to-day. To-day becomes yesterday. The future becomes the present. The present becomes the past . . The present is the narrow strait, is the living instant, it is the flashing reality, through which the vast oncoming future flows into the endless receding past.4
Of course, the past is not "endless," but rather has its absolute end in the first moment of creation in time. With God, it is not "past" but eternally present, as we have seen. Even Christian scholars in our post-Darwinist century may have slips of the tongue, conceding their "endless," that is really "beginning-less' past to evolutionists
A leading Christian scholar of our own generation, R.J. Rushdoony, repeatedly emphasizes this correct biblical view of time as history proceeding from future to past, or rather, from God's creative decree to creation, so that
history is determined by eternity, and 'the eternal does not exist for us as a principle but as a person, and that as an absolute person.' . The very meaning and glory of history is its derivative nature under God.5
Likewise, C.S. Lewis's teacher and master George MacDonald (1824-1905) often spoke of the "sacred Present." He knew that
The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God's care, as that a hundred years away. .in neither can we do anything, in both God is doing everything the moment which coincides with work to be done, is the moment lobe minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it.6
As we saw, our Creator determines, or sets or appoints, the times of our lives, The word "time" itself first occurs in the Bible in Genesis 18, where God announces to Abraham, "I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son" (v.10). When aged Sarah surreptitiously laughs in unbelief, He repeats, "At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son (v.14). Genesis 21:2 records the fulfillment: "For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him."
One of the most striking Bible passages on this matter is Acts 17:24-31: God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he gives to all life, and breath, and all things;
And has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the godhead is like gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men everywhere to repent: because he has appointed a day, in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men in that he has raised him from the dead.
According to this marvelous testimony of the apostle Paul to the Greeks of Athens and indeed "to all men everywhere," all the time-lines of each and every human being from conception to death, of all nations, and indeed of all creatures, are initiated, held, extended and interwoven by the Creator according to His temporal and eternal purpose. See also Romans 8:19-23 on the redemption of all creation "into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (v.21), and Revelation 4:11 b: "Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." The sovereignty of our God as Creator of all things, specially of time, out of nothing guarantees that there is no such things as an "accident" in time catching Him by surprise. Not a sparrow falls from the roof without the knowledge of our God, and He has numbered the very hairs of our heads (Matthew 10:29-30).
Not only the complete time-line but also its regularly recurring divisions were expressly initiated by God during creation week, on the fourth day: "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years" (Genesis 1:14). The pagan peoples of antiquity dimly understood this divine purpose. This is evident from their sometimes highly advanced astronomical calculations by which they regulated their agriculture, guided their travels, and set their religious feast days. Being partakers of Adam's sin and fall, they descended to idolatrous worship of the heavenly lights, especially the sun. However, the very names they gave the constellations have been strikingly interpreted as signs showing that the whole Gospel of Christ may be read in the stars.7
On the other hand, God's people clearly saw "times and seasons" as part of their Creator's command to exercise dominion over His handiwork under the heavens: "To everything tenure is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven" (Eccles. 3:1-8, 17b). A man made wise by the Creator's law "discerneth both time and judgment," yet no man can foresee or determine his future (Eccles. 8:5-7). In the days of vigorous youth, of feeble old age, and of contemplating death, God and His eternal decree alone have and give meaning to man's life (Eccles. 12). Part of the believer's stewardship under the Creator is to "redeem the time, "especially as a witness to unbelievers (Ephes. 5:16, Co!. 4:5). Finally, the universally accepted time period of the week with its six days of labor and one of rest, has its origin in God's mode of creation (Genesis 2:1-3). Unbelievers may offer their tentative explanations in humanistic anthropologies and philosophies for the origin and meaning of time, seasons and even subjective duration, but only biblical creation by the personal and absolutely transcendent, sovereign Creator can consistently account for ti me. God in His mercy may even now as it were "wink at" our unbelief for a while. Nevertheless the life of each of us is His appointed day, His "now" for us, in which we must obey His command to repent and believe in Him through His Son Jesus Christ so we maybe approved in that appointed final day, Christ's judgment (Acts 17:31). Sadly, multitudes disregard his gracious visitation in time. When Jesus approached Jerusalem near the end of His ministry of earth, He wept over it, saying.
If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now are they hidden from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation (Luke 19:41-44).
It is certainly true from the biblical creation perspective that God eternally sees, or, from our creaturely reckoning of time, foresees and determines all His visitations in time; "eternal reality is not waiting for a future in which to be real" as "the doctrine of Predestination ... shows (truly enough)."8 But while God determines time, he does not bend or twist the wills of men to obey or deny Him in time. God's eternal "Now" and our time-series of successive "now's" correlate, not abstractly. but in a living way determined by our God, the God of the living; for "all live unto Him" (Luke 20:38b). This is what must have been in the mind and heart of C-S. Lewis when he wrote: "Ye cannot know eternal reality by a definition. Time itself, and all acts and events that fill Time, are the definition, and it must be lived."9 In particular our righteous God is not the author of sin, as the Westminster Confession of Faith sets forth clearly and beautifully:
God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.10
In conclusion, the future is "already now" present to God in His transcendent, absolute Present or "Now." For us, being His creatures, it is like all God's mercies are "new every morning" (Lam. 3:23). How near we are thus truly and temporally to our Lord, the Giver of time, in each moment as it comes fresh from the fountain of His eternal "Now" to us in our "now" in time! Our time has a firm, certain and living foundation in our God in Three Persons, our Creator, It comes to us "head-on" from Himself, so each moment is literally an "ad-venture," a "coming-to" or "at" us. (Some languages still reflect the true meaning of "future" as "coming-to," for example the French "avenir" or the German "Zukunft.") Children and childlike hearts know that each new day "is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). How much more urgent His call sounds in this biblical light upon time: "Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith), To-day if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts" (Hebrews 3:7-8,15: Psalm 95:7b-8). "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2). All this is so due to God Himself and to His creation.
1 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Paperback Edition, Nineteenth Printing 1975), p.148.
3 Ibid., pp. 146,147, 148.
3 Quoted in Rousas John Rushdoony, The One and the Many (Fairfax, VA: Thoburn Press, 1978), p.145.
5 Rousas John Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1979), pp.16, 17.
6 C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, An Anthology (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc. Dolphin Books, 1962), pp. 58,59.
7 Cf. Joseph A. Seiss, The Gospel in the Stars (Grand Rapids, Ml: Kregel Publications, 1972,1982).
8 C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Macmillan, Sixteenth Printing 1970), p 129.
10 Chapter III,1, quoted in Rushdoony, The Biblical Philosophy of History, p. 17.