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Is There Time In Heaven?

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A few days ago I posted a question on Facebook asking people how much quality one-on-one time they could expect to get in Heaven with Jesus, considering the billions of people and angels that will be there. Several people responded with an answer I did not expect, which amounted to saying that in Heaven there is no time. Thus, we won't experience the passing of time like we do now on Earth. I'd like to make the case that, in fact, there is time in Heaven right now, there will be time when we get to Heaven, and we will always experience time, forever, in the new Heaven and Earth. First, allow me to define what I mean by the experience of time. Right now we experience a series of linear moments, moment by moment, heading in a single temporal progression from the present into the future. While we measure the passage of time in a variety of ways (seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc), and with a variety of tools (clocks, events, orbits, rotations), the passage of one moment to the next is a fixed experience of creation, and always will be.

All of creation experiences the passing of time. This includes angels and demons (Daniel 10:13, Revelation 20:30), as well as humanity and the rest of the universe. Though time passes at different rates depending upon gravity, every place in creation still experiences the passing of one moment to the next.

I'd like to show from scripture that time has passed prior to the fall, is passing now, and will pass in the eternal future. There are five categories I will address:

Time Before Humanity
Time Before The Fall
Time In Heaven During Humanity
Time In Heaven During Revelation
Time In The New Heaven & Earth
The experience of time is a created thing and therefore is a blessing from the Lord to his creation. Time is not to be feared, as in getting old, rather time is a form of revelation, as the future and its possibilities unfold into our present. Only those who have no relationship with Jesus, and thus no eternal life, have anything to fear from time.

God experiences time in two ways. It should be noted that God, being an eternal being, is timeless. To describe this we often say that God is transcendent of time, that he is outside of time. Some have theorized that God exists in something called the Eternal Now, experiencing all points in time simultaneously, forever. This is a theory, for which we have no definitive evidence. But it does suggest that God experiences time differently than we do, we just don't know what that is like because we have no frame a reference to explain it adequately.

Jesus Is God In Human Form, Does He Experience Time?

Jesus experiences time as we do. The incarnation of the Son of God is permanent. In addition to being fully God (Colossians 1:19), Jesus is also fully man (John 1:14, Philippians 2:6-8). This means that he experiences existence as a man, just as we do (Hebrews 4:15). He did not put away or lessen his humanity in any degree after his glorification. Jesus, even in his glorified state, experiences the passing of linear moments, moment by moment, as a man. Jesus awaits his second coming (Mark 13:32, Acts 3:21). Jesus awaits people who go to Heaven (Acts 7:56). Jesus observes the activity of the churches in real time (Revelation 2-3). These experiences in time do not change or negate his experience as deity, rather it shows that Jesus experiences time not just as us, but also with us. This is an important distinction because we are engaged in a relationship with Jesus. Relationships require common experiences and points of reference. Among many attributes, time is one which Jesus experiences with us.

Time Before Humanity

There is no doubt that creation experienced the passage of time from its inception to the advent of humanity. The creation acts of Genesis 1 were all performed within a framework of one event following another, first starting with, "In the beginning" (Genesis 1:1), and then subsequently marked through the notation, "There was evening and morning, the _______ day" (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31). The length of those days is not a subject for this discussion. The point is that creation experienced a succession of moments or events one after another. This may also imply that God experienced those events in a linear sense since he frames the creation events in scripture descriptively as a chronological succession of events one after the other. God did not simply create everything in a single instant, rather, he created in a sequence of events. This strongly implies a scale of linear time.

Interestingly, Genesis 1:14 reveals that God created the sun, moon, and stars for a purpose, "Let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years." The idea is not that these were physically created on day four of the creation cycle, rather, they were assigned a function from the perspective of someone standing on the Earth. God was declaring their purpose in preparation for the advent of man. This signifies that God intended for the moments of time to be measured and marked by something that man could observe—the sun, moon, and stars.

Time Before The Fall

Adam, being the first man, was created in time so that he and his descendants would experience it. Some Bible teachers say that prior to the fall into sin, Adam and Eve were like angels, or even like Jesus himself, having a kind of glory and even special powers prior to the fall. However, there is no scripture to prop up this view. We are only left with Adam and Eve as a creation that experienced the normal things of life during that time, except for sin. Time was one of those things. Adam experienced a sequence of events from creation, to receiving commands, to naming animals, to surgery, to the creation of Eve (Genesis 2). There is no indication that Adam's experience of time changed after the fall into sin. The scripture just remarks that a change in relationship took place, but not his perception of time. We can thus surmise that Adam's experience of time before the fall was identical to what we experience now.

Time In Heaven During Humanity

While the passing of time on Earth is obvious to people on Earth, there is some question about whether time passes in Heaven in a similar way as we experience on Earth. This is not an issue of the rate of passage in Heaven, but the experience of a sequential moment by moment experience. I think we can say in the affirmative that time does pass in Heaven in this way. There was a "day" that the angels presented themselves to the Lord (Job 1:6, 2:1). This may imply that days in Heaven are similar to Earth, though perhaps, not the same. The same language is used when it says that there was a "day" when Job's children were dining together (Job 1:13). The sentence structure is the same. This may imply a similar experience of time in Heaven as on Earth.

Other references to time in Heaven include God being referred to as the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9), a command from God went out for the angel Gabriel to give an answer to Daniel's prayer at the beginning of his prayer (Daniel 9:23), the angel Michael arises to defend Israel at a specific time (Daniel 12:1). The coming of Jesus is referred to as a specific day (Zechariah 14:1), which implies that Jesus leaves Heaven on a specific day.

Time In Heaven During Revelation

The book of Revelation gives us the most insight to many things in Heaven. One of them is time. Jesus description of himself is one based upon the passage of time. "I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever" (Revelation 1:17-18). Each phrase is a time-dependent description. In Revelation 4:1 John is in Heaven and told he will see "What must take place after this," which is a time-dependent description. The seals, trumpets, and bowls judgments in Heaven are all sequential, denoting an order of events in time. Revelation 8:1 talks about silence in Heaven for about half-an-hour. This may also suggest that the passage of time in Heaven is similar to that on Earth as the same time descriptor is used, though that may just be John's description from his human perspective.

Time In The New Heaven And New Earth

We must consider the portrayal of time in the New Heaven and Earth because this is where God's saints and angels will spend all of eternity together. How is time referenced in this future experience?

The description of the walls and gates of the New Jerusalem talk about their size measurement and distances. It takes time to traverse a distance (Revelation 21:15-17). There is a description of no night taking place and no sun, but these are not references to time, but to function and purpose. Time will still pass, but it won't be measured by the orbit around a star. The measurement of time and time itself are two different things. The lack of a measurement does not imply no time. How time will be measured, we do not know, but the scripture tells us that the trees in New Jerusalem will yield their fruit every month (Revelation 22:2).

Conclusion

Time has existed since the beginning of creation, will endure to the end of this creation, and will continue to exist in God's new creation where we will ultimately dwell. We will always experience a sequence of moments one after the other for all time, never-ending, for trillions time trillions times trillions of years without end. Because there will be no human death or sin our experience of that time will be joyful and not fearful. Best of all, Jesus will experience that time with us so that we share our experiences with him in a way that we both understand and forever appreciate. Time will forever be a part of our creation and we can be glad for it.