“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:13-15).
One thing this passage shows us is that we human beings are time bound creatures. We live our lives by the clock and the calendar. We measure our age in years, our years in months, our months in weeks, our weeks in days and our days in hours, minutes and seconds. Scientists take that measure down to nanosecond – one billionth (1/1,000,000,000) of a second! We frequently ask, “What time is it?” We must be at certain places at a certain time. We wear watches to keep up with what time it is and to “be on time” for appointments and to meet schedules. Who doesn’t hate the alarm clock when it tells us it is time to get up in the morning? We often ask ourselves, “How much time do I have left?” Christians sing, “Time is filled with swift transition, naught of earth unmoved shall stand.” We plead with him to…
“Lead me, lead me, Savior, lead me lest I stray;
Gently down the stream of time,
Lead me, Savior, all the way.”
People have long been interested in time. The Aztec people developed a remarkably accurate calendar which, by the way, ends with this year of 2012 on December 23, prompting speculators to conclude that that date will be the end of time. Time figures prominently in many religions, particularly those that are interested in prophecy, signs and omens that supposedly hold some portent for the future. Dispensational “Christian” religious groups are constantly looking for “signs of the time” leading up to the “rapture” and the coming of the supposed thousand year reign of Christ.
There are essentially two views of time, religiously speaking. To some, time is circular, endlessly repeating itself, going nowhere. People who believe in reincarnation hold to this view. In their system of thought, one can go through multiple reincarnations – rebirths as different creatures depending on the vagaries of karma. Eventually with enough deaths and rebirths one’s karma will eventually cleanse one to the point he can achieve a state of absence of suffering or Nirvana – which is basically, nowhere and nothing.
The other view sees time as having a definite beginning and a certain end with a purpose to be accomplished while we have the time given us. Past, present and future time is linear moving in a definite direction to a predetermined purpose. History is leading somewhere. Christians see time as having a definite goal and ourselves as travelers down the road of time moving toward that ultimate purpose.
All things had a definite, common beginning. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1). As the story of that creation unfolds in Genesis 1 we are told of God imposing increasing levels of order upon the chaos of the original state of being. Beginning with the creation of light and separation of night from day on the first day all the way down to the creation of animal life on the sixth day, creation culminated in the obvious purpose with man as the crowning act. The creation itself was measured in the six days God used to bring it all about.
Creation was the beginning of time – before had been eternity which is not measurable. All things God created are moving toward a definite goal of his choosing. You and I are located along that continuum somewhere between time’s origin and its end. And since time is moving toward an ultimate purpose it is up to us to discern that purpose and travel along the stream of time in harmony with his purpose being our purpose.
We can look back in Biblical history and see the unfolding of God’s plan for the ages. Little by little in the lives and actions of men and in the actions of nations, God revealed himself moving toward his purpose of bring the Savior into the world. The prophets all foretold of his purpose of redemption through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. When God in his infinite wisdom decided that the time had come he acted.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son…” (Galatians 4:4).
We can read of the actual accomplishment of that purpose as Jesus comes, lives, is tempted, suffers and dies for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind. He lived but a short while on the earth, but in his time he accomplished the Father’s purpose.
We can further read of the unfolding of that plan that had been a mystery through the ages. It, too, was being done according to God’s time table. That mystery was being made known in Christ “as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” What Paul was talking about here was that the time had come for God to begin bringing to completion his plan for the ages – bringing together “all things” under the Lordship of Jesus – bringing them together to him where he had intended mankind to be from the creation. That plan was being experienced in Ephesus with the uniting of the Jews and Gentiles in the one body, the church, the called out people of God. That plan is for the present time – this last age or time of world history – Biblically speaking.
As individuals we have a responsibility to use whatever time we have on this earth wisely. Paul advised Christians to “[make] the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16). We all have the same amount of time each day. We all have certain responsibilities that take up so much of our time. But beyond that most of us waste tremendous amounts of time on self-centered, trivial activities. Doesn’t God’s work deserve a generous share of our time and our ability?
In these last days God is patient toward mankind – giving time and opportunity for us to come to him and receive his blessing. But if we delay responding to his patient waiting, denying his call to us by the gospel of Jesus Christ, taking advantage of his goodness to serve our own interests, we may very well wait until it is too late.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).
Time will run out for us one of these days. Our days are numbered here on the earth. We need, therefore, like the psalmist ask God to… “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12).
We all have an appointment with death which we will not miss. Solomon affirms the same truth. He says there is “a time to be born, and a time to die.” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). As the Hebrew writer says, “…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27). According to this inspired writer, we will not be “recycled” as the reincarnationists believe. Death is a one-time event. The next thing following our death will be the judgment when it will be too late to obey. So we had better make the most of the time we have in the present. We will never have a better time to obey and serve God than we have right now.