Lord of Time (God is Sovereign -Part 2)


Our  understanding of what it means to say that God is “Lord of time” has probably been severely damaged by a Saturday evening TV show, Dr Who.  The Doctor is a Time Lord, an alien with two special traits. He is able to time travel in his special space ship, The Tardis and he is able to regenerate meaning that when he is near death, he can renew his life and live for many hundreds of years.  These are incredible powers but in the end, The Doctor is still limited and constrained. He grows old, eventually he will use up his last regeneration and die. There are fixed point events that he cannot change.  In the end, The Doctor is not the Lord of Time and Space, he is just an ordinary alien.When we say that God is eternal, we are not just saying that he has been around for ever and ever. Some people do describe God as everlasting, but temporal. This would mean that he had existed for an infinite period of time, but that he also experiences progression of minutes, hours, days, weeks, years and so on.[1]

Now whilst they would also insist that God is not subject to the ravages of time and does not age, I would suggest that when we think in those terms, then we do end up imaging a God who ages, the old man in the sky with the long white beard. In a day and age where the aging process is feared, eternal youth is an idol and novelty trumps experience every time, then The Ancient of Days is seen as dated, frail and weary. This is not how we are meant to think of the eternal God.

Back to Dr Who. In the episode, “The Woman Who Lived” a vivid picture is painted of how this type of longevity becomes seen as a curse.  The Doctor saves a young girl’s life but in the process turns her into a hybrid human-alien who will live for ever.  Hundreds of years later, he meets her again. She is not grateful at all.  Life has dragged on. She has seen loved ones die. Her finite mind means that she forgets her past.  She is bored, always looking for a new adventure.  Life has grown stale.

We need to get a different grasp on what it means to say that God is eternal or we will end up with a similar stale view of time and eternity. If we have the wrong idea of what it means to say that God is eternal, it may even corrupt our understanding of what it means to have eternal life.

When we say that God is eternal, we are saying He is the one who created time. In Genesis 1, God separates darkness from light and calls one night and the other day. At this point, God creates time. We then see the progression of day followed by night through the first seven days. God creates the sun and the moon. The earth rotates around the sun and the moon around the earth so that we are able to measure months, seasons and years.  It was only when God created that time started. This is why Jesus was able to declare Himself “Lord of the Sabbath.” As the one who created all the days of the week, it was for him to decide what should be done on one of those days!

God is over and above time so that he is not subject to time. Peter puts it this way:

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” [2]

Theologians sometimes say that he has all of his existence at once.[3] This means that he is not waiting for an experience to happen to discover something new. God is eternal and so he knows everything. He is omniscient.  God’s ability to know everything because he is outside of time has sometimes been compared to an observer sat up in the mountains with an elevated view of a long road. The observer can see the beginning and the end of the route. He can see the traffic jams, the road works and the accident blackspots.

Now, this can be useful in helping us to grasp how God’s eternal existence results in his omniscience. He knows everything, past, present, future, because he sees everything. There is nothing hidden from Him. However, it could also leave us picturing God as distant and remote. What is the use of seeing all the traffic problems if you cannot do anything about it, if you are too far away to act, too far away even to shout out a warning before it’s too late? Timelessness becomes lifelessness.

Again, we are not meant to see God like this. It is not that God is outside of time and unable to get involved. We do better to say that God transcends time. He is greater than time, but he is also present in every part of time.  Think of how God relates to space (next part coming soon).

[1]Frame chooses the Socians as an example of one group in history that took this approach. John M Frame, The Doctrine of God, 546.

[2] 2 Peter 3:8

[3] John M Frame, The Doctrine of God, 552.