Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Roll Call

Many people who lived five decades or more ago remember the popular hymn “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” This title was requested more frequently than most during the “favorites” portion of hymn time. The verse 1 lyrics begin, “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more…” For those unfamiliar with biblical eschatology, this refers to the return of Christ at the end of this present age. It precedes the onset of the New Creation described in Revelation 21. I sang these lyrics hundreds of times as a young person. The term “time shall be no more” was characteristic of many sentimental expressions sung from behind a hymnal in that era. We do not disparage the pietistic expressions of those musical offerings. Perhaps our increased understanding of cosmology and its theological implications in the past half century imparts new meaning to this old expression.

Revelation’s description of the New Creation suggests that the dimensions of space and time we experience at present will be replaced with entirely new dimensions. Space and time will not be reckoned as we reckon them today.

Scripture also refers to a past interval in history when the dimension of time as we know it today did not exist. Four New Testament verses explicitly state this concept: I Cor. 2:7, Eph. 1:4, II Tim. 1:9, and Tit. 1:3. Cosmologists agree that our single time and three space dimensions were “created” a split second after the Big Bang. They even speculate on the presence of a number of other dimensions existing at the first moment of the universe’s existence. Ironically, secular cosmologists and theologians both agree on the “creation” of time at that point in the past.

We see, therefore, that our present dimensions of time and space are emplaced between two intervals of timelessness--one interval prior to the beginning of time (John 1:1-2), and the New Creation described in Revelation 21 after the end of time. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary indicates the Genesis 1:1 In the beginning refers to the creation of the heavens and the earth, while the John 1:1 In the beginning “…does not refer to a particular moment of time but assumes a timeless eternity.”

The Bible speaks almost exclusively about events in our time frame of existence and instructions for our lives within our time frame. God is the creator of our existence and sustenance within this time frame and the author of guidelines for our successful and joyful living. He also provides the opportunity to achieve redemption in this life and in the life to come--the ultimate in successful and joyful existence. This comes through the gift of God’s Son.

God created the conditions of our present time frame to fulfill His divine purposes. He enjoyed creating the heavens and the earth and eventually earth’s millions of different creatures. In particular, God took pleasure in creating man in His own image. He enjoys fellowship with the pinnacle of His creative work--man. Science has discovered the laws of operation of this universe and by extension, Planet Earth. Thousands of volumes of scientific literature have described how these laws have produced the resources currently supporting the existence of seven billion human beings and uncounted trillions of other living things. The functioning of our earth may be described as a divine success story. Even better things, however, are in store for redeemed mankind.