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Time challenges our faith. Indeed, it is difficult to prove faith outside of time. A primary discipline of the spiritual life is waiting on the Lord.[1] We pray and life remains unchanged. We wonder if our faith has failed or if God decided not to respond. We see injustice and beg for restoration only to witness further tragedies. These tensions attend our present life and carry into the next.

Revelation 6:9-10
9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? KJV

Take a moment and consider the implications of martyred saints shrieking in magnified voice into the very halls of heaven, “HOW LONG, O LORD!” The struggle is real, now and under the altar. Our expectations and impatience can blind us to God’s goodness and eternal love.

Isaiah 46:9-10
9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: KJV

These verses are God’s challenge to idol worshiping transgressors, those who would dare to lower Him to the status of the work of their own hands. “Remember,” He says, “I am God, there are no others.” His primary evidence for His unique stature as Divine is His sovereign guidance of time. “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things not yet done.” He, above any others, knows what has happened and what will happen. He challenges any other god’s ability to do so.

Isaiah 41:21-24
21 “Present your case,” says the Lord. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob.
22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come.
23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.
24 Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination. NKJV

The high bar of Godhood is accurate knowledge of the future. “Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods.” Foreknowledge is the badge of Divinity. A god who doesn’t know the future is no god at all. Since the Lord uses His knowledge of time and the future as proof that He alone is God, isn’t incumbent upon us to understand how He relates to time?

How do you think of God in time? Our answer to the question profoundly influences our theology and the practice of our faith. It is perhaps a sign of the times that negative examples of this are easier to come by than positive ones.

  • God’s sovereignty – Are we bitter towards God because He knows all things? Have you ever heard “Why didn’t He stop it? He knew it was going to happen, couldn’t He have intervened?”
  • Fatalism – God knows what is going to happen, so my choices don’t matter at all. It’s going to happen anyway, so what’s the use?
  • God, the Divine Watchmaker – He created everything and set it in motion and simply allows it to run on its own momentum with no direct intervention. In this view, God is totally transcendent because He is no longer involved in His creation at all.
  • If I am predestined in God’s foreknowledge, do I have freedom of will? Do my choices matter?

These are the types of questions and conclusions about God’s relationship to time that deeply impact our faith. Time is the realm in which our greatest tests of faith come. “How long, Oh Lord?” we cry with the souls under the altar.  How long before it stops? How long before it comes? How long before I change? How long? How long? How long?

And that is not all. The science of our generation has caused many to doubt a literal Bible. How do we hold faith in a universe created out of nothing some 6,000 years ago with galaxies that are 15 billion light years away? In the face of this challenge, many have sadly exchanged their Biblical faith for “science falsely so called” and a mythological interpretation of Scripture. “The story of the creation and Adam and Eve,” they say, “is just an allegory to teach us moral lessons and inform us that God created the universe, but not how He created it.” Since this challenge is so prevalent in our society and educational systems, we will take it up in the next post.

[1] Lam. 3:26.