Table of Contents
Part I: The Nature of Time
TIME: THE PHILOSOPHICAL ACCOUNT
an ever-rolling stream bears all its sons away." This is
the common-sense view. Time is a river that sweeps on whether
we are waking or sleeping, living or dead. It is a stream within
which events happen, as space is a box within which things
exist. This seems so obvious as to be self-evident. Time
is uniform in its current, precisely measurable by clocks set
by the sun, and everywhere the same throughout the universe in
its rate of passage. It starts to the right of our screen of
consciousness, passes dead centre in front of us as NOW, and
is wound up on the left, to be preserved for always. Thus we
divide time into past, present, future; each of which has a reality
that is unquestionable.
The passage of time is at
a fixed rate, and it becomes our standard of reference for the
speed with which events succeed one another. Even if events should
seem to happen more slowly sometimes and with bewildering speed
at others, nevertheless we "know" that such fluctuations
are apparent only, and that clocks everywhere in the universe
never vary except in so far as they may be (in our world) mechanically
imperfect. There is a real speed at which events happen, fixed
in the mind of God whose time-piece regulates everything else.
We would set our clocks by His if only we had the means, and
then we would be correct in our estimate of the time taken for
everything that has happened since the world began, and indeed
even for events occurring before the sun and moon were set in
the heavens to regulate time on earth. We assume that
time was kept even before
the creation came into being.This again is the common-sense view.(1)
It is perfectly true that we each have
private inner clocks that reflect our own personal sense of time,
and by and large our personal clocks agree quite accurately when
compared with those of everyone else who shares our framework
of reference. But what we now know is that this only happens
so long as we all share the same segment of space and move through
it at the same velocity. Anyone who happens to live in some
other galaxy moving through space at a different speed with a
different rate of acceleration in our supposedly expanding universe
would experience a different rate of the passage of time. And
this difference would not be the result of imagination: their
clocks would actually confirm the difference. This is where a
real problem arises. This is where the common-sense view breaks
As soon as we move
we change the flow rate of our time. But because we and our private
clocks move together, the change in rate is concealed from us.
The first recognition of this real change in time rate was a
philosophical one, but we can now verify it as a fact only
the change is so tiny that we require extraordinary devices to
detect it. But there is little doubt that it is real.
The particular movement we happen to
be involved in through space has the effect of modifying the
rate at which time flows by us. Thus this flow rate of hours
or minutes or seconds proves to be relative, relative to our
speed through space or more precisely, to our change of
speed through space, our acceleration or deceleration. In terms
of actual experience even our grossest movements (to the moon
and back by space craft, for instance) are so tiny when compared
with the distances involved in traversing the span of the universe,
that we cannot detect the change in the flow of time except by
using special instruments of quite fantastic sensitivity. So
we are unaware of any change. The changes are far far smaller
than the normal inaccuracies characteristic of man-made mechanical
But certain experiments which
have been performed in recent years have fully confirmed what
Einstein predicted, namely, that time is relative to the rate
of acceleration of the clock through space. It doesn't matter
how little the change is: from the philosopher's point of view
the classical and common-sense picture of time as an ever flowing
stream with invariant speed of current has been shattered.
1. Also see W. R. Thompson, Science and
Common Sense, Albany (U.S.A.), Magi Books, 1937, p.96.
'Common sense' view
of time shattered
experimental verification of this shattering began with the experiments
of Michelson-Morley (which we shall examine in the next chapter).
Yet the concept itself of the relativity of time goes back a
very long way, far beyond Einstein, to Augustine (354430
A.D.) in fact and before Augustine to Philo (c. 20 B.C.c.
42 A.D.) and his contemporaries.(2) According to the Jewish commentators in the time
of our Lord, God produced ten things on the first day of creation.
He produced the heavens and the earth, Tohu and Bohu, light and
darkness, wind and water, the duration of the day and the duration
of the night.(3) The
Jewish rabbis believed that the duration of the day and the duration
of the night were actual creations and not merely the result
of the creation of the heavens and the earth. They held specifically
that "time" was created simultaneously with the world.
Philo Judaeus was a Hellenized Jew who imbibed much of the spirit
of Greek philosophy, and he argued strongly against an older
view held by his contemporary Jewish brethren that the world
had been created in time. He held that until creation, time did
not exist. Time had just as much reality in its own right as
the world did, though by no means independent of it. When Augustine
proclaimed that God created the world with time and not
in time, he may conceivably have arrived at the conclusion
by the exercise of his own profound insight, but it is more probable
that his wide reading had made him thoroughly acquainted with
the arguments that had gone on between Philo and some of the
older Jewish writers, since Philo's work, De Opificio Mundi ("Concerning
the Fabrication of the World"), was quite widely known the
time. Here are his actual words, as translated from the Greek
of his original by F. H. Colson and G. H.Whitaker:(4)
Then [Moses] says that "in the beginning God made the
heaven and the earth," taking "the beginning"
not, as some think, in a chronological sense, for time there
was not before there was a world. Time began either simultaneously
with the world or after it. For since time is a
measured space determined by the world's movement, and since
movement could not be prior to the object moving, but must of
necessity arise either after it or
2. Indeed, this doctrine dates back to Plato:
"Time and the heavens came into being at the same instant,
in order that, if they were ever to dissolve, they might be dissolved
together. Such was the mind and thought of God in the creation
of time." (Plato quoted by Sir James Jeans, Mysterious
Universe, Cambridge University Press, 1931, p.145).
3. Ginzberg, Louis, Legends of the Jews, Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, Jewish Publication Society, 1954, vol. 5, p . 6.
4. Philo Judaeus, "On the Account of the World's Creation
given by Moses" (De Opificio Mundi) in The Loeb Classical
Library, Philo, translated by F.H. Colson and G.H. Whitaker,
Cambridge (U.S.A.), Harvard University Press, 1971, vol. 1, p.21,
simultaneously with it, it follows of
necessity that time also is either coeval with or later born
than the world. . . And since the
word "beginning" is not here taken as the chronological
beginning, it would seem likely that [only] the numerical order
is indicated, so that "in the beginning He made" is
equivalent to "He made the heaven first." [My emphasis
was himself a Jew and undoubtedly acquainted with the literature
of his forebears, it is not perhaps so surprising that such a
thought as the coincidence of the creation of matter and the
creation of time should have been in his mind when he formulated
his special theory of relativity and made time part and parcel
of the physical world.
Linear time vs. endless eternity
Now Einstein wrestled with
the problem of time, with the nature of time as opposed to eternity,
of time as an abstract reality. The problem arises from the fact
that one cannot have a span of time. It won't stay still long
enough for us to measure it. Eternity is not time stretched to
infinity on either side. There is a very significant difference
between eternity and some immense stretch of time, for the simple
reason that no matter how long this span of time is, we can always
shorten it by chopping some off. Whereas eternity remains as
endless as ever no matter how much we "cut off it."
At least we imagine we could do this, though in actual fact we
don't know how one can reduce the length of something which has
no extended existence. Only NOW exists, and it exists as a point,
not a dimension. It has only location. The past is gone, and
the future is not yet. We are therefore left with nothing to
shorten; only with something which has no length. Ten days never
exist at one time, nor even ten seconds, nor even ten millionths
of a second! How then could we ever speak of reducing them? Time
becomes a position in eternity, nothing more.
Thus while we do seem to
reduce time by having spent some of it, we cannot ever seem to
shorten eternity no matter how much we have spent of it. In the
very nature of the case, eternity remains unaffected by what
has already passed. The categories of time and eternity are clearly
not the same. What is appropriately spoken of as shortening in
the one case becomes meaningless in the other. If we have a very
large number and we subtract something from it, what remains
is less than it was. If we have an infinite number and subtract
something from it, we
still have infinity remaining. When something is forever, as
much remains no matter how much has already been subtracted.
Thus while we may speak of time which is passed, there is no
such thing as eternity which has passed. Otherwise we would have
to ask the absurd question, Is God older today than He was yesterday?
of the earliest symbols for eternity was a circle. We walk around
the circle through so many degrees of arc but we do not actually
shorten the distance we yet have to journey to complete the circle.
As much remains of it to walk around as ever. The circumference
persists intact and unchanged. We can go on and on endlessly,
like the marching column of caterpillars whose head has been
induced to link up with the tail and so they journey on, each
following the leader in front, until at last they starve themselves
Eternity does not flow past us,
for if it did some would already have been used up. The concept
of an exhaustible resource can never be applied to the word eternity.
Only if eternity was like a circle would it then escape this
inevitable limitation: but circular movement imposes a no less
undesirable limitation, namely, repetition. Some ancient
philosophers viewed heaven as cyclical, but even then they saw
it as ultimately having an end, as though the circling movement
gradually slowed down and finally stopped.
It is not surprising that
cultures which emphasize material things and reify (make a thing
of) time, tend to view history as linear, as a long line of successive
events with a firm beginning and a well defined ending. As we
have already seen, cultures which attach more importance to the
spiritual aspects of life have tended towards a view of history
which has no beginnings or endings in the linear sense. Things
just go on forever. Such is the Hindu view,mand so are all reincarnational
Dilemma of beginnings and endings
But cosmologists of the Western
world today are on the horns of a dilemma. Although it is very
generally agreed that the universe is running down, scientists
find it difficult to accept the idea that it will really come
to an end. What can come to an end must have had a beginning;
and this raises the question of who began it. So they speak about
a heat death of the universe which is not a physical "end
of the world" but only an end of it in its present configuration,
as though its corpse would return to dust but the dust would
remain. Yet one still has to ask, Who made the dust? A true beginning
is as inconceivable in terms of physical laws as a true ending
Susan Stebbing reported Eddington, one of the most notable of
Britain's astronomer-physicists, as having said:(5)
Philosophically the notion of
an abrupt beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant
to me, as I think it must be to most; and even those who would
welcome a proof of the intervention of a Creator would probably
consider that a single winding-up at some remote epoch is not
really the kind of relation between God and his world that brings
satisfaction to the mind. But I can see no escape from our dilemma.
a problem, isn't it? Some years ago when the concept of an expanding
universe first became a topic of popular discussion, the same
Sir Arthur Eddington wrote:(6)
The difficulty of an infinite
past is appalling. It is inconceivable that we are the heirs
of an infinite time of preparation; it is no less inconceivable
that there was once a moment with no moment preceding it.
This dilemma of the beginning
of time would worry us more were it not eclipsed by another overwhelming
difficulty lying between us and the infinite past. We have been
studying the running-down of the universe; if our views are right,
somewhere between the beginning of time and the present day we
must place the winding-up of the universe.
into the past we find a world with more and more organization.
If there is no barrier to stop us earlier, we reach a moment
when the energy of the world was wholly organized with none of
the random element in it. The organization we are concerned with
is exactly definable, and there is a point at which it becomes
There is no doubt that
the scheme of physics as it has stood for the last three-quarters
of a century postulates a date at which either the entities of
the universe were created in a state of high organization or
pre-existing entities were endowed with that organization which
they have been squandering ever since. Moreover, this organization
is admittedly the antithesis of chance. It is something which
could not occur fortuitously.
5. Stebbing, L. Susan, Philosophy and the
Physicists, London, Constable, 1959, p.258.
6. Eddington, Sir Arthur, The Nature of the Physical World,
Cambridge University Press, 1930, p.83 f., 85
long been used as an argument against a too aggressive materialism.
It has been quoted as scientific proof of the intervention of
the Creator at a time not infinitely remote from today. . . .
It is one of those conclusions
from which we can see no logical escape only it suffers
from the drawback that it is incredible.
it is: the incredible has to be the only account that is left
to us. No other explanation of reality seems possible.
Sir Theodore Fox, in the Harverian
Oration for 1965 before the Royal College of Physicians in London
under the title, "Purposes of Medicine," had this to
To contemplate the
Universe is to stand even more abashed. For somehow at some time,
all that we see and touch and hear must have emerged from NOTHING.
To us this transformation of nothing into something is contrary
to reason; and the creation of the Universe is a mystery that
Man may never be able to understand. Yet the Universe seems to
exist: and we must beware of making excessive claims for any
system of thought [i.e., scientific materialism] that finds its
ago Lord Kelvin in a popular lecture entitled, "The Wave
Theory of Light," reflected upon what would be one's reactions
if the universe is limited in its size. He asked his audience:
"What would you think of a Universe in which were to go
millions and millions of miles, the idea of coming to an end
is incomprehensible."(8) What Lord Kelvin said of coming to an end of space,
now has to be asked of coming to an end of time.
We have every reason in the
light of present knowledge to suppose that time and space are
integral parts of a single reality, so that the creation of things
occupying space means the simultaneous creation of time when
things began to happen. Neither time nor space existed before
creation. Augustine asked a pertinent question relating to this.
He argued thus: If we should wonder how God occupied Himself
before He created the universe, we have to realize how meaningless
such a question really is. The question springs out of our
7. Fox, Theodore, "Purposes of Medicine,"
Lancet, 23 Oct. 1965, p.804.
8. Kelvin, W. T., "The Wave Theory of Light", Lecture
delivered under the auspices of the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia,
U.S.A., Sept. 29, 1884, in Popular Lectures and Addresses,
London, Macmillan, vol. 1, 1981, p.322.
consciousness of the
passage of time. Before the universe there was no time and therefore
it is inappropriate to ask what God was doing then, "for
there was no 'then' when there was no time."(9)
Time and eternity: two different realities
Thus we find ourselves face-to-face with some
profound philosophical problems. If we see time as a kind of linear property
of events stretching out on either side of us, part of it already spent
and the rest of it yet to pass by, we cannot conceive of such a tape as
endless. But neither can we think of it as having two ends without at
once wondering what was before it and what will be after it! Either way,
our powers of conception fail us. Yet time is not eternity; for eternity
is not merely an endless chain of fragments of time, since these fragments
of time already past must then necessarily have shortened eternity, and
eternity is thereby being exhausted little by little. Eternity would simply
run out of time!
If it should be asked whether time is "within"
eternity, I think the answer must still be, No. For this would make time
merely a fragment of eternity which then becomes simply an extension of
time at either end of the line. Time and eternity are not such that there
can be this kind of overlap because the two realities are not in the same
category of experience. The only "overlap" is that point of
crossover at which the line representing time (which is horizontal) crosses
the line representing eternity (which is vertical). Since neither line
has any width, the place of intersection is not an area but merely a point,
a point that can only be described as NOW. We can diagram this as shown
in Fig. 1.
Since this figure when completed may
look a little frightening, let us "build" it in two stages.
In Fig. 1a we have a horizontal line which represents the passage of TIME.
9. Augustine, Confessions, XI.xiii.15.
movement of TIME passes from right to left with respect to each of us
personally. We stand at the point marked "NOW." The beginning
of TIME has already gone by and moved off to our left. What yet remains
to run by is to the right; and since it is limited, it will continue only
until, one day, it comes to an end. Thus the short vertical line marking
its terminus has yet to move past us. When it finally does, TIME
will be no more (Revelation 10:6).(10)
We then add a vertical
line through the NOW-point to indicate that wherever our NOW happens to
be, at that point ETERNITY impinges upon our consciousness. This is shown
in Fig. 1b.
10. "And [the angel] sware by him that
lives forever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that
therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are,
and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should
be time no longer." Revelation 10:6.
pattern of two lines thus crossing, one representing the horizontal passage
of TIME and the other the vertical NOW-ness of ETERNITY, allows us to
carry the figure one step further in the service of setting forth the
truth. The horizontal line moving through history continues to flow by
us until, according to Scripture, it will one day come to an end. Time
will then have entirely passed by, and the vertical line of ETERNITY will
no longer intercept it. There will be no more time because this heaven
and earth will pass away (Mattew 24:35).(11)
At the beginning the beginning of time, that is to say the
line started its journey by intersecting the vertical ETERNITY line.
Thus we have this kind of analogy.
Fig. 2 shows TIME a moment after "the creation" when only a
short segment of it has elapsed.
11. "[Jesus said] Heaven and earth
shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matthew 24:35.
this present universe comes to an end, the line of TIME will have completely
moved across the vertical line and passed by it. Fig. 3 represents analogously
that moment when TIME has only just run out.
Thus this vertical line of ETERNITY which stretches
upward and downwards will be the only line remaining. It has
no width, but its depth and height reach to infinity. The horizontal
line representing the passage of TIME will have ceased to exist.
Intensity of experience will replace extensity.
And so it appears that
the only relation we can establish between time and eternity
is at the point of intersection; and when time has passed by
and is no more, we shall not be able to represent it in any way
except, perhaps, in our memory or by observing its effect
upon the Lord's body in the marks of the nails and the wound
in his side. Everything else relating to time as we now experience
it will have passed away.
The eternal as "now-ness"
It is necessary to
say a further word about the sense of now-ness. We carry this
with us as long as we have consciousness. It always has to do
with conscious being, not with having been in the past or with
hoping to be in the future. It amounts to this almost, that eternity
is a kind of now-consciousness, an awareness of something which
has no passing, but travels with us. So long as we experience
time, it is like a single point that moves with us along the
horizontal line of our time-frame. When that time-frame comes
to an end and the horizontal line no longer intersects the vertical
line to mark the point we experience as now, now-ness will cease
to be a single point. We shall then experience it along the whole
vertical line of eternity in a way that has nothing to do with
time but has everything to do with depth and intensity.
This is where God is always
'present.' We shall in this experience presumably share something
of his eternality. Our new kind of consciousness will of course
be contingent upon his sustaining us, since it will always be
true that "in Him we live and move and have our being"
(Acts 17:28). It is He alone who is the great "I am,"
the One who lives in the present, He who "inhabits eternity"
The statement is an important one. We dwell in space and therefore
in time, and both impose limitations upon us. God inhabits eternity,
which involves neither time nor space as we experience them in
the present world.
The essential quality of
eternal life is depth (not length). The idea of permanence and
enduringness is essential to it but it is not the prime quality
which the New Testament emphasizes. What the Lord Himself emphasized
was depth in the present rather than extension into the future:
quality not quantity.
12. "For thus says the high and lofty
One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the
high and holy place." Isaiah 57:15a
The Old Testament saint
was promised "long life" (Exodus 20:12);(13) the New Testament saint
is promised "life more abundant" (John 10:10).(14)
To think of length as the essence
of eternal life is to suppose that the reality of it is to be
measured by how long it lasts. But a little thought soon demonstrates
that we are pursuing the wrong road to understanding when we
follow this path. Physicists have recently discovered a particle
that has independent existence of about one-fifteen billionths
of a second!(15)
Is this long enough to say that this particle, called an antiomega-minus
baryon particle, is a reality? How long must a thing last to
have real existence? Surely the reality of existence in eternity
is not measured by "how long"?
The question is inappropriate because
if the same question were asked of some creature that lived for
only a fraction of a second (and there is no reason why such
a creature may not exist somewhere), that creature would presumably
view the even shorter-lived particle in the same light as we
view something which has lived for a few hours or a tiny fraction
of our life span. It is all a matter of viewpoint. It
is tantamount to saying that reality depends upon timed existence;
that is to say, existence over some minimum period. But
then we have to ask, Did God not exist until He had created time
in which to exist?
And what of angels? Angels do not
have material bodies, although it seems they can sometimes assume
them when fulfilling divinely appointed tasks such as the rescue
of Lot and his wife from Sodom "taking them by the
hand" to hurry them out of the city (Genesis 19:16).(16) But if they do not have
material bodies as normal to their existence, they do not normally
occupy space either and therefore do not live in time
as we do.
Moreover, they existed before
the creation of the universe, since they were already present
at its inception and rejoiced to see it (Job 38:4-7).(17) Did they therefore exist
before time and thus outside of it? They were,
13. "Honour your father and your mother
that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your
God gives you." Exodus 20:16.
14. "I am come that they might have life, and that they
might have it more abundantly." John 10:10b.
15. On the discovery of these particles and on the problem of
describing them, see Cyril Henshelwood, "Science and Scientists",
Nature, Supplement, Sept. 4, 1965, p.1060; and also Allen
Emerson, "A Disorienting View of God's Creation", Christianity
Today, vol. 29, no. 2, Feb. 1, 1985, p.24.
16. "And while he [Lot] lingered, the men laid hold upon
his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of
his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him, and they
brought him forth, and set him without the city." Genesis
17. "Where were you when I [God] laid the foundations of
the earth? Declare, if you have understanding. Who has laid the
measures thereof, if you know? Or who has stretched the line
upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who
laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Job 38, 4-7.
however, created beings
and therefore not "inhabitants of eternity" as God
is.(18) What then
was the nature of the framework of their existence if there was
no time until the creation of the physical universe which came
"later"? Can we speak of a before and an after
in eternity while as yet there was no physical world in existence
to constitute time in which to set events 'before' and 'after'?
Is there a sense in which eternity does witness sequences of
events that supply the ground for the terms before and after
even though there is no actual passage of time involved? Is this
the sense in which the Son of God said, "Before Abraham
was, I am" (John 8:58)(19), re-asserting the NOW of his eternity by the words
"I am," in spite of his use of the word "before"?
Is there some kind of proto-time or pseudo-time in which the
angels lived while awaiting the creation of the universe? Or
are we to restate Augustine's insight by saying that time began
with the creation, and read this to mean "with the creation
of the spirit world" this, then, being the first stage
in the creation of the physical world?
To state this as simply as possible:
Did time strictly begin with an act of creation per
se that is, the creation of the spirit world, this
being only one kind of time? Was a second kind of time then initiated
with the creation of the physical world? When this physical world
comes to an end, will this second kind of time also terminate?
But as to the first kind of time, appropriate to a created order
that is spiritual, will it continue as long as created beings
continue to give it meaning? It may indeed be beyond our comprehension
but it still bears thinking about. . . .
If we limit the existence
of time to the creation of the physical world we find ourselves
called upon to explain how the creation of the angels, the bringing
of something into being that was not there before, could
occur when there was no time to accommodate this before.
We therefore seem to be forced to conclude that the beginning
of time was marked by creative activity per se, not merely with
the creation of the material world as Augustine saw it. This
makes the angels an essential part of the created universe in
a way that we do not customarily think of them, but it does seem
to be in accordance with Colossians 1:16 ff.(20) Here the creation of principalities and powers is
linked with the creation of the material universe that constitutes
the heavens and the earth, as though in a sense they all belong
together. The creation of the spirit
18. "For thus says the high and lofty
One that inhabits eternity, whose name is holy; I dwell in the
high and lofty place." Isaiah 57:15a.
19. "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
'Before Abraham was, I am.'" John 8:58.
20. "For by him [Jesus] were all things created, that are
in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether
they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:
all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before
all things, and by him all things consist." Colossians 1:16
world and the creation
of the physical world are thus lumped together without distinction.
Two kinds of time?
Let me try to clarify what is
involved here. Anything that is created must obviously have a
beginning. We therefore have two kinds of beginnings. We have
a beginning for the spirit world of angels: and we have a beginning
for the physical world, the visible universe as we know it. Both
came into being de novo. But the creation of the spirit
world preceded by some unknown length of "time" the
creation of the physical world. What kind of "time"
was in this interval between these two "beginnings"?
The present understanding of the nature of time is that it is
coincident with the creation of space, and since only physical
things occupy space we have to assume that one kind of space
and one kind of time are coincident. Yet prior to the existence
of this kind of space there was a created order of spirit beings
who had not always existed since they clearly had a beginning.
This interval must therefore also involve a kind of "time"-frame.
Do we not, then, have two
kinds of time? The most familiar kind of time is that
which the physicists associate with space occupied by a physical
world. The other kind of "time" preceded the existence
of space in the physical sense, but clearly represents something
analogous to our spatial time. Was it time without space?
One might then perhaps hypothesize
that this is the kind of "time" that will exist when
the physical order has disappeared and when the new order will
be composed of a heaven and an earth which do not grow old, and
of creatures who are essentially spirit in nature and who also
do not grow old. Thus if there is anything that will correspond
to our present sense of the passage of time, it will involve
some kind of "time"-frame such as the angels must have
experienced after their creation, while they awaited the creation
of the physical world. It will be a time that is agreeable
to a form of existence that is completely real but is not spatial
in the present sense.
If it is difficult to conceive
of the transformation of a physical reality into a non-physical
reality, a physical universe into a non-physical universe which
is nevertheless just as real, one only has to remember that the
Lord's body having been laid in the tomb was, in the resurrection,
transformed into a not-altogether
physical body that was
just as real. This transformation in no way destroyed the recognizable
identity of the Lord's body nor its patent tangibleness to those
still living in this present world.
Two kinds of creation?
One of our problems may be
that we have without warrant separated between the spiritual
creation and the physical creation of things. But the creation
of the physical world may not in fact have been fundamentally
different. Both worlds are almost certainly concentrations of
energy in different form. Sir James Jeans suggested that what
we call light is really matter moving at its fastest possible
speed, and that to move matter at this speed requires infinite
power. As he pictured it, the moment this infinite energy is
reduced and the speed of matter slows down, it ceases to be light
and becomes "matter." He termed matter "bottled
light" and he termed light "unbottled matter."
Instead of bottled, he might have used the word congealed.
For this is his basic meaning. Physicists are coming increasingly
to the view that all the solid things about us are really "concentrates"
of energy and that matter itself is basically spiritual in nature.
Its solidity is to a large extent an illusion. The creation of
angels was therefore the first step in the creation of a special
form of matter, and accordingly the first step in the creation
of a special form of space and a special kind of time.
The disappearance of energy in the congealed form which we experience
as matter, will mark the disappearance of what we now experience
as spatial time i.e., a time frame that demands
a spatial frame also.
That the material order
is by no means as substantial as it seems has been recognized
for many years. In 1931 Sir James Jeans put the matter thus:(21)
The tendency of modern
physics is to resolve the whole material universe into waves
and nothing but waves, which we call radiation or light. If the
annihilation of matter occurs, the process is merely that of
unbottling imprisoned wave-energy and setting it free to travel
through space. These concepts reduce the whole universe to a
world of light, potential or existent.
Tute in 1946 said: "The modern scientist recognizes that
physical reality is produced by
21. Jeans, Sir James, The Mysterious Universe,
Cambridge University Press, 1931, p.77.
which must be so designated because they can never be observed."(22) And now, much more recently,
Carl F. von Weiszacker, at a conference in 1969 in Switzerland,
was quoted as having said:(23)
The concept of the particle
is in itself just a description of a connection which exists
between phenomena, and if I may jump from a very cautious and
skilled language into strict metaphysical expression, I see no
reason why what we call matter should not be 'spirit.' If I put
it in terms of traditional metaphysics, matter is spirit.
. . .
as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews said long ago, "Through
faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of
God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which
do appear" (Hebrews 11:3). Paul, in writing to the Corinthians,
said, "We look not at the things which are seen, but at
the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen
are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal"
(2 Corinthians 4:18). And in Hebrews 10:34, the writer assures
us that we have "in heaven a better and an enduring substance."
In the English of the King James Version "substance"
means reality, the kind of reality of which the chief
quality is its permanence and unchangeable character. It is the
material aspect of the present world that is wrapped up in its
temporality. What is physical is temporal: that is why space
(which physical things must occupy) and time are so intimately
bound together and so impermanent. Time itself is fleeting. .
We know from Scripture
that this present physical order is to come to an end. Thus in
Isaiah 65:17 the Lord said, "Behold, I create a new heavens
and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered nor come
into mind." In prospect is a new universe and this new universe
will be permanent. Isaiah 66:22 reveals: "The new heavens
and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,
says the Lord; so shall your seed and your name remain."
Hebrews 1:10-12 seems to provide in more precise language the
details of what is to happen to this present universe. "You,
Lord, in the beginning have laid the foundations of the earth
22. Tute, Sir Richard, in "Comments and
Criticisms," Scientific Monthly, vol. 63, no. 4,
Oct., 1946, p.322.
23. Weiszacker, Carl F. von: quoted by W. H. Thorpe in his concluding
remarks in Beyond Reductionism, edited by A. Koestler
& J. R. Smythies, London, Hutchinson, 1969, p. 434.
and the heavens are
the works of Your hands: they shall perish; but You remain; and
they shall wax old as does a garment and as a vesture shal You
fold them up, and they shall be changed."
That changed order is the
subject matter of Revelation 21:1, "And I saw a new heaven
and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were
passed away." The prospect is not a mere destruction of
what now exists with nothing taking its place, but the creation
of a new heavens and a new earth with at least one fundamental
difference in it. It will never grow old. This qualifying statement
is very important because it implies some kind of timelessness.
The passage of time inevitably means growing old in our experience.
It may be that in this new order some other kind of "time"
remains which is compatible with the fact of creation. As we
shall have new bodies and live in a new universe, so we may experience
some entirely new order of "time," but it will not
be something which is irreversibly expended as it is in this
world in which we grow old and die. There will be no entropy,
no "running down" of energy and no "running out"
of time, no tiredness and no death.
Eternity, then, is not a
mere extension of time. Nor is it to be confused with it. Time
and eternity are clearly in different categories of experience.
They involve two different universes which are currently co-existent.
That the child of God should have a sense of "eternity"
is only in keeping with the fact that in his new life he is "not
of this world." In our present life, time and eternity are
somehow interdependent, though it is difficult to see what form
this interdependence takes. But it is reasonably clear that we
can no longer merely add stretches of time together in order
to build a concept of eternity. Experience on the other side
of the grave will not be "an experience of inexhaustible
time" but rather an experience of timeless-ness.
Such is the philosophical
account illuminated by revelation.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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