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Questions & Answers About Heaven
  
With Randy Alcorn

Will We Experience Time in Heaven?

Scripture says, "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (2 Peter 3:8). Does this mean there will be no time in Heaven?

The natural understanding of a New Earth is that it would exist in space and time, with a future unfolding progressively, just as it does now. Yet people repeatedly say there will be "no time in Heaven." One theologian argues, "What a relief and what joy to know that in heaven there will be no more time."[7] Another writer says, "Heaven will be a place where time will stand still."[8]

Where do such ideas come from? A misleading translation in the King James Version of the Bible says that "there should be time no longer" (Revelation 10:6). This was the basis for theologians such as Abraham Kuyper to conclude there will be no time in Heaven. But other versions correctly translate this phrase "There will be no more delay!" (niv, rsv), which means not that time itself will cease but that there is no time left before God's judgment is executed.

Other people are confused because they remember the phrase "Time shall be no more" and think it's from the Bible. It's actually from a hymn. Ironically, the same hymn speaks of "When the morning breaks . . ." Both the words morning and when are references to time.

John Newton's hymn "Amazing Grace" describes a better grasp of time:

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we'd first begun.[9]

Scripture contains many other evidences of time in Heaven:

  • Heaven's inhabitants track with events happening in time, right down to rejoicing the moment a sinner on Earth repents (Luke 15:7).
  • Martyrs in Heaven are told to "wait a little longer" when they ask "how long" before Christ would judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge the martyrs' blood (Revelation 6:10-11). Those in Heaven couldn't ask "how long" or be told "wait a little longer" unless time passes in Heaven.
  • Paul spoke of Heaven in terms of "the coming ages" (Ephesians 2:7). He speaks not just of a future age but of ages (plural).
  • God's people in Heaven "serve him day and night in his temple" (Revelation 7:15).
  • The tree of life on the New Earth will be "yielding its fruit every month" (Revelation 22:2). There are days and months both in the intermediate and eternal Heaven.
  • God says, "the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me. . . . From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me" (Isaiah 66:22-23). New Moons and Sabbaths require moon, sun, and time.
  • God said, "Summer and winter, day and night will never cease" (Genesis 8:22). This wasn't the result of the Curse; it was God's original design.
  • We're told that "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour" (Revelation 8:1).
  • The book of Revelation shows the intermediate Heaven's inhabitants operating within time. The descriptions of worship include successive actions, such as falling down at God's throne and casting crowns before him (Revelation 4:10). There's a sequence of events; things occur one after another, not all at once.
  • The inhabitants of Heaven sing (Revelation 5:9-12). Music in Heaven requires time. Meter, tempo, and rests are all essential components of music, and each is time related. Certain notes are held longer than others. Songs have a beginning, middle, and end. That means they take place in time.

How can Scripture be any more clear about time in Heaven? (Right down to silence in Heaven for half an hour.) To say we'll exist outside of time is like saying we'll know everything. It confuses eternity with infinity. We'll live for eternity as finite beings. God can accommodate to us by putting himself into time, but we can't accommodate to him by becoming timeless. It's not in us to do so because we're not God. Writers frequently distinguish between the Greek words kronos and kairos, viewing the former as "human time" or "quantity of time" and the latter as "God's time" or "quality of time." It's suggested that in eternity we'll live no longer in kronos but in kairos. However, it's unclear what this means. Will we still live in chronological sequence, where one word, step, or event follows the previous and is followed by the next? The Bible's answer is yes.

Is Time Bad or Good?

One writer maintains, "The end of the world is the end of time. Time will cease to exist. Time is a mark of the fallen state of the world."[10] But this would be true only if Adam and Eve existed outside of time. But they didn't. The sun rose and set in their perfect world. The sixth day of creation was followed by a day of rest. Time was not a mark of the world's fallen state.

God knows and can access past and future as readily as present. We can remember the past and anticipate the future, but we can live only in the present. Time is our environment.

Another author says, "Over everything on earth hangs the dark shadow of time."[11] But the shadow is not time. The shadow is death, which is a loss of resources and opportunity. People imagine time is an enemy because the clock seems to move so slowly when we're having a root canal and so quickly when we're doing what we love. But time isn't the problem, the Curse is. Time isn't the enemy, death is (1 Corinthians 15:26). Time predated sin and the Curse. When the Curse is lifted, time will remain. Without the Curse, time will never work against us. We won't run out of it. Time will bring gain, not loss. The passing of time will no longer threaten us. It will bring new adventures without a sense of loss, of what must end.

We'll live with time, no longer under its pressure. When we see God face-to-face, time will pass, but we'll be lost in him. We'll be busy exploring his universe, working on projects, fellowshiping with him and each other, listening to and telling great stories. We'll delight in time because it's part of what God calls "very good." It's a dimension in which we'll enjoy God.

When we say good-bye in Heaven, we'll know people won't die before we see them next. Time will no longer be an hourglass in which the sands of time go from a limited past to a limited future. Our future will be unlimited. We'll no longer have to "number our days" (Psalm 90:12) or redeem the time, for time won't be a diminishing resource about to end.

Theologian Henry Berkhof predicts that time itself will be resurrected to what God created it to be:

Time is the mould of our created human existence. Sin led to the fact that we have no time, and that we spend a hurried existence between past and future. But the consummation as the glorification of existence will not mean that we are taken out of time and delivered from time, but that time as the form of our glorified existence will also be fulfilled and glorified. Consummation means to live again in the succession of past, present, and future, but in such a way that the past moves along with us as a blessing and the future radiates through the present so that we strive without restlessness and rest without idleness, and so that, though always progressing, we are always at our destination.[12]

Buddhism, which knows no resurrection, teaches that time will be extinguished. Christianity, solidly based on a resurrection of cosmic dimensions, teaches time will go on forever. For too long we've allowed an unbiblical assumption ("there will be no time in Heaven") to obscure overwhelming biblical revelation to the contrary. This has served Satan's purposes of dehumanizing Heaven and divorcing it from the existence we know. Since we cannot desire what we can't imagine, this misunderstanding has robbed us of desire for Heaven.



Is Time Bad or Good?

[1] David Winter, Hereafter: What Happens after Death? (Wheaton, Ill.: Harold Shaw, 1973), 67.

[2] Anthony Hoekema, "Heaven: Not Just an Eternal Day Off," Christianity Today (June 6, 2003).

[3] Salem Kirban, What Is Heaven Like? (Huntingdon Valley, Penn.: Second Coming, 1991), 13.

[4] Ulrich Simon, Heaven in the Christian Tradition (London: Wyman and Sons, 1958), 236.

[5] Peter Toon, Heaven and Hell: A Biblical and Theological Overview (Nashville: Nelson, 1986), 157.

[6] Isaac Newton, Sir Isaac Newton's Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy and His System of the World, trans. Andrew Motte (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966), 2:545.

[7] Rene Pache, The Future Life (Chicago: Moody, 1971), 357.

[8] Salem Kirban, What Is Heaven Like? (Huntingdon Valley, Pa.: Second Coming, 1991), 35.

[9] John Newton, "Amazing Grace," Ol-ney Hymns (Lon-don: W. Ol-i-ver, 1779).

[10] N. A. Berdyaev, Dream and Reality, quoted in Hendrikus Berkhof, Christ the Meaning of History, trans. Lambertus Buurman (Richmond, Va.: John Knox, 1966), 184.

[11] Winter, Hereafter, 68.

[12] Berkhof, Christ the Meaning of History, 188.

______________________________________________________

 

2 Peter 3:8

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

 

Revelation 10:6 (KJV)

And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer:

 

Luke 15:7

I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

 

Revelation 6:10-11

And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also.

 

Ephesians 2:7

So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

 

Revelation 7:15

For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them.

 

Revelation 22:2

In the middle of its street On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

 

Isaiah 66:22-23

"For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me," declares the LORD,

"So your offspring and your name will endure.  And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, All mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the LORD.

 

Genesis 8:22

"While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."

 

Revelation 8:1

When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

 

Revelation 4:10

The twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

 

Revelation 4:10

The twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

 

Revelation 5:9-12

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

 "You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

Angels Exalt the Lamb

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,

saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."

 

1 Corinthians 15:26

The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

 

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

 


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By Randy Alcorn
Eternal Perspective Ministries
39085 Pioneer Blvd.   Suite 206
Sandy, OR 97055
(503) 668-5200
www.epm.org
www.randyalcorn.blogspot.com

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