Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bookends of Time

We are firmly embedded between the “bookends of time.” The “books” between the bookends contain a record of events in our temporal sphere--earth history from the creation event until the present as well as events yet to come before the end of this present age. The arrival of the New Creation described in scripture brings an end to our current time frame and ushers in a timeless eternity. We might also describe the events of the pre-Genesis creation account as timeless.

From a scientific perspective the beginning and ending of our present dimension of time is not a far-fetched concept. Secular scientists agree that our present time dimension originated at the initial creation event of this cosmos. Many scientists are distressed at the idea that time had an actual beginning. This acknowledgement carries with it a tacit admission that there was also a Beginner. The concept of a Beginner runs counter to the secular reasoning that everything in our universe may be explained naturalistically. The troubling reality of a Beginner lurks inescapably as secularists contemplate the reality of the beginning of time, space, matter, and energy. Likewise, any discussion about the end of time may provoke a feeling of unease.

Many cosmologists have referred to the separation of three space dimensions and one time dimension from ten or more dimensions an instant after the Big Bang creation event. We could call this the “beginning of time.” The remaining dimensions still exist but remain tightly curled up, inaccessible to us. They are not a part of our human experience of dimensionality.

What about the “end of time?” Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation tells us our time dimension ends at the onset of the New Creation. The experience of God’s redeemed people in the New Creation will be unimaginably different from the here and now. Speculation on the quality of our existence in the New Creation is woefully inadequate. We know there will be no sorrow, death, crying, pain, or evil. The pleasures of this timeless eternity will be far beyond our present ability to comprehend.

Since the 1960s when Big Bang cosmology replaced steady-state theory, scientists nearly all agree that time had a beginning. But they may have more problem with the concept of the end of time as we know it. Scripture such as Isaiah 34:4 speaks of the heavens being “rolled up like a scroll.” Most theologians agree that Isaiah is apocalyptic, referring centuries in advance to the end times described again in the book of Revelation. The imagery of Isaiah and Revelation 6:14 is reminiscent of secular cosmologists’ descriptions of the uncurling of space and time dimensions at the beginning of time. At the end of time the “curling” of dimensions is reversed: in Isaiah and Revelation the spatial dimensions of the sky are “rolled up.” Time comes to an end.

The verses of Isaiah and Revelation are not offered as proof texts. They are, nevertheless, suggestive: “And the sky was rolled up like a scroll and taken away. And all of the mountains and all of the islands disappeared.” (Revelation NLT), God created our time dimension. Time had a beginning; time will have an end. Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13)