Do you know what time it is? I do not mean the physical time but the time in this world’s history. Is time an important subject? Is time important to God? Yes, it is.
In view of recent world developments, and in light of the fact that we are beginning another year, time has been on my mind lately. It seems to me that time is always speeding up; things are happening faster and faster. I believe it is because God and the Holy Spirit are doing something special, and certainly Satan is doing his own speeding up process.
The subject of time is important, as is the use of time. When you think about it, time is the substance of life, and our whole eternity depends on what we do with our time right here, right now. I want to share a few facts concerning time. There are 86,400 seconds in one day. Our lifetimes are measured in heartbeats, approximately 70 heartbeats a minute for the normal person; 4,200 beats an hour; 100,000 beats per day, and 36 million beats a year. I am approximately 17,000 days old. Rather depressing, is it not? I have spent almost 5,700 days sleeping, about the same amount working, and 42,565 hours eating. Kind of makes your jaws hurt just thinking about it. Yet, what concerns me, of those 17,000 days that I have lived, is how much of that time have I spent with God—in His Word, on my knees, or doing something for Him. If we each analyzed ourselves, we would be startled by how little time, of all the time we have spent on this earth, we have given to God.
A study was done of Christians several years ago which showed that the average Christian spends less than five minutes a day with God. Unfortunately, that poll also showed that a lot of those Christians are the ones who stand in the sacred desk week after week. Five minutes a day in study or prayer! That is alarming!
What is Time?
Have you ever thought about what time is; have you tried to define it? We know it is valuable. Every one of us have been freely given 24 hours in each day—we did not have to pay a penny for it; it cost us nothing, yet if we wanted to, we could not buy one minute of it. Someone might say, “Oh, you can buy time at a parking meter for such and such an amount,” but you are not really buying time; you are renting that space for a certain period of time. If you could buy time, just think of the millionaires who would give everything they have for one more year of life.
Augustine, a theologian of the Catholic Church and supposedly one of the wisest of their faith, once said that he knew what time was, but if someone asked him what it was, he could not tell them. Plato, another esteemed to be a very wise man, said, “Time is a moving image of eternity.” That sounds pretty profound, but it really does not tell us anything. Einstein was a little more careful with his definition of time. He said, “Time is simply what a clock reads.” One of Webster’s dictionaries gives this definition: “Time is the whole series of days, years, and ages without any reference to any point or period.” Then having said nothing, he refers to Scripture where it says, “And time shall be no more.” (See Revelation 10:6.) It is interesting that man does not really know what time is, but God knows.
Einstein said that “Time is one of the greatest mysteries,” and that, perhaps, is why he was so careful with his definition of time. The Bible talks about the time of the end, and it also talks about the end of time. We live in the time of the end; soon we will see the end of time.
If time has an end, it had to have a beginning. Let us look at when that beginning occurred. Genesis 2:16, 17 says, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” And you know what happened—Adam and Eve ate, and that day they should have died. But did they? No, we know that Adam lived to be 930 years old (see Genesis 5:5), and he died the first death only; it was not the wages of sin death, the second death. But the verses we just read in Genesis 2 meant that on that very day, when Adam and Eve sinned, they should have died, and they should have died forever, but instead, something marvelous happened.
Period of Grace
Sin began and time began. Sin is a precursor of time as we know it. When Adam and Eve sinned, God loved them so much that instead of the death penalty being fulfilled, like they deserved, He gave them a grace period that we call time—a life time, if you please. Sin entered and time began, so when you think about it, time is the measurement of the history of good and evil on this earth, as we know it.
What did we call it before we had time? We called it eternity, did we not? We could draw a big circle on the wall which would be the opening of a tunnel going off into eternity past, and we could draw another circle on the opposite wall, representing a tunnel going off into eternity future, and where we live would be a line in between those two tunnels that we call time. Time, as we know it, is really a yardstick of the moral, mental, and physical decay that is taking place on this planet. Because of God’s great love and patience, time is also a grace period for all men, women, and children to develop characters for that future, eternal, immortal life. It is also a time to learn of the Saviour and to have His image restored in us.
When you are thinking about the definition of time, you really need to ask other questions: What is the definition of redemption? Why are we here? What is this time all about? The Spirit of Prophecy says, “The central theme of the Bible, the theme about which every other in the whole book clusters, is the redemption plan, the restoration in the human soul of the image of God. [That is what redemption is all about, that is the whole purpose. We will find that it is also the purpose of time on this planet.] From the first intimation of hope in the sentence pronounced in Eden [Genesis 3:15] to that last glorious promise of the Revelation, ‘They shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads’ (Revelation 22:4), the burden of every book and every passage of the Bible is the unfolding of this wondrous theme,—man’s uplifting,—the power of God, ‘which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 15:57.
“He who grasps this thought has before him an infinite field for study. He has the key that will unlock to him the whole treasure house of God’s word. . . .
“This is the highest study in which it is possible for man to engage. As no other study can, it will quicken the mind and uplift the soul. . . .
“The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the word of God. This word imparts power; it begets life. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and re-creates the soul in the image of God.
“The life thus imparted is in like manner sustained. ‘By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4) shall man live.
“The mind, the soul, is built up by that upon which it feeds; and it rests with us to determine upon what it shall be fed. It is within the power of everyone to choose the topics that shall occupy the thoughts and shape the character. . . .
“With the word of God in his hands, every human being, wherever his lot in life may be cast, may have such companionship as he shall choose. In its pages he may hold converse with the noblest and best of the human race, and may listen to the voice of the Eternal as He speaks with men. As he studies and meditates upon the themes into which ‘the angels desire to look’ (1 Peter 1:12), he may have their companionship. He may follow the steps of the heavenly Teacher, and listen to His words as when He taught on mountain and plain and sea. He may dwell in this world in the atmosphere of heaven, imparting to earth’s sorrowing and tempted ones thoughts of hope and longings for holiness; himself coming closer and still closer into fellowship with the Unseen; like him of old who walked with God, drawing nearer and nearer the threshold of the eternal world, until the portals shall open, and he shall enter there. He will find himself no stranger. The voices that will greet him are the voices of the holy ones, who, unseen, were on earth his companions—voices that here he learned to distinguish and to love. He who through the word of God has lived in fellowship with heaven, will find himself at home in heaven’s companionship.” Education, 125–127.
That passage reveals to us very plainly the plan of salvation—what the whole thing is about, what the Bible is about, its purpose, and what time is actually for. It is for the purpose of restoring the image of God in man. The time in which we live is a probationary time, an interim time between two eternities, a time to form characters for that future, immortal life. That is why time remains.
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” Ephesians 5:1, 2. Ephesians 4:30 states, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” It cost a lot for God to give us this grace period called time in which we live.
Have you ever wondered what could have happened the moment Adam and Eve sinned? That very moment they basically chose a new god for themselves; they chose a new leader. God could have said, “Okay, you have your new god. I will just take My things and go home, and we will see how long your new god can sustain you.” How long could that god have sustained them? Not even for a second!
What things could God have taken home, if He had had that attitude? The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the very earth on which we stand, the sunshine, everything that sustains life God could have taken, because Adam and Eve, our first parents, had forfeited the right to any of those things.
Actually, what would have happened would have been eternal separation from God. Of course, God did not allow that. He gave His Son to stand in the place of fallen man, and His Son experienced the separation for us. He paid the penalty—that second death that was naturally ours because of sin. Everything that man had forfeited was bought back at a very high price. That is why we are told in the Spirit of Prophecy that everything that sustains life is a gift of God, stamped with the cross of Calvary. (See Education, 197, 198; Christ’s Object Lessons, 362.) It all cost a high price to be given back to us. Every breath, every cup of water—and even our time.
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now [are ye] light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit [is] in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove [them]. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore He saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil, Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord [is].” Ephesians 5:3–17.
Notice in verse 16 it says that we are to redeem the time. In other words, we are to rescue as much time back from evil as we possibly can. We need to pray for wisdom to do that. Sabbath-keeping is a real good place to start with that process, is it not? Redeeming time is what each one of us does when we attend Sabbath services. Every one could make a choice to be somewhere else. We could be out shopping, or we could be on our way to some sporting event—many of which take place on the Sabbath day. Or we could be in front of a television, letting Satan tell us his visions. We could be doing anything, be anywhere, doing whatever we felt like, but God has called us to a special place on His special day so we can rescue back some of that time from evil. That is what the Sabbath is all about. It is one of the times, the most special of times, to which God has called us. But we are to redeem our time throughout the week also. Every day we need to rescue time from evil.
People who want to be restored to God, who want to redeem time, are careful about that in which they get involved. So many things are out there to eat up our time. The commandment says to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8. If we do not remember the Sabbath all through the week, we will not be ready to keep it holy when it arrives. We will still be busy—busy trying to get all of those last minute things done right before sundown. Then we end up going over the time, do we not? We need to remember the Sabbath throughout the week to keep it holy.
There is a war going on between Christ and His angels and Satan and his angels. That battle is over our minds and over our allegiance; it is over our time. If we could just pull back the curtain on the great controversy, we would be amazed at the activity that is going on of which we are not aware, unless we let God reveal it to us.
Squandered or Wisely Used
Many people commit suicide when they reach middle age, because they become so disillusioned with their life. They look back and think about how unwisely they used their time leading up to that point—what the psychologists call a mid-life crisis, and they become very depressed and discouraged because of what they did not do with their time. They think about what they could have been, how they could have used their time to become what they wanted to be, and they become very discouraged.
Instead of discouragement, we need to look forward. We need to make the most of the time we have left. We need to do what God said, and seek to redeem whatever time is left us and not let it go to waste. The short amount of time that we have left we will be forming characters for time and eternity, if we use it wisely. How precious we should consider time to be when we really think about it.
The Spirit of Prophecy says, “Of no talent [such as time, gifts, money, homes,—the many things with which we are blessed] He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time. The value of time is beyond computation. Christ regarded every moment as precious, and it is thus that we should regard it. . . . We have but a few days of probation in which to prepare for eternity. We have no time to waste, no time to devote to selfish pleasure, no time for the indulgence of sin. It is now that we are to form characters for the future, immortal life. It is now that we are to prepare for the searching judgment. . . .
“We are admonished to redeem the time. But time squandered can never be recovered. We cannot call back even one moment. The only way in which we can redeem our time is by making the most of that which remains, by being co-workers with God in His great plan of redemption.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 342. [Emphasis Supplied.]
Are you spending your time being restored? Is that the main purpose of your time? Are you helping others to be restored into God’s image? There is someone who is trying to steal our time, as you well know.
A little boy had a Grandma who was known for being able to say something good about everybody. One day the little boy said, “Grandma, I bet I know someone that you can’t say something good about.”
“Who?” Grandma asked.
“The devil,” the little boy replied.
“Oh, yes I can,” Grandma said. “He’s not lazy.”
No, the devil is not lazy. Just look at Revelation 12:12: “Therefore rejoice, [ye] heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” He knows that his time is very short, so he is very busy. But the question is, do we know how short our time is? He knows how short his time is, and he is making good use of it; but do we know, and are we making good use of our time? If we could just pull back that curtain on the great controversy, we would see just how busy he really is, and how busy his angels are in working for the destruction of souls—yours and mine.
Ellen White counseled: “Take a book with you to read when traveling on the cars [trains—the popular mode of transportation in her day; the principle still applies] or waiting in the depot. Employ every spare moment in doing something. In this way an effectual door will be closed against a thousand temptations. Had King David been engaged in some useful employment he would not have been guilty of the murder of Uriah. Satan is ever ready to employ him who does not employ himself.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 412. How are you using your time?
Time is apparently extended for now. Anyway it seems to us that time just goes on and on and on. Because of the apparent extension, many are tempted to become indifferent. Romans 13:11–14 says, “And that, knowing the time, that now [it is] high time to awake out of sleep: for now [is] our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfill] the lusts [thereof].”
If every one of us lived the way these four verses said, imagine how things would be. People would look at us and they would take notice that we had been with Jesus. The work would go very quickly, and many people would be convinced of what we were saying. There is going to be a group of people who will live like that. Soon they will go home to Heaven for eternity.
Christ’s Soon Return
Most of us have been hearing for some time that Christ is coming soon. That message began to be emphasized very strongly back in the 1800s by William Miller. But it was not a new truth. It was a truth that had been lost during the Dark Ages, and it needed to be relearned, just as the Sabbath had been lost and needed to be relearned. Here we are in 2003, and we are still saying that Jesus is coming soon.
Let us put things into perspective. From the time that Adam and Eve sinned, standing on the brink of eternity past, about 1,656 years later was the Flood. About 2,400 years after that was the time of Christ. About 1,800 years after that was 1776, the independence of this nation. Then 1798 the time of the end began, the time that the papacy received the deadly wound (see Daniel 12:7). Then 1844 marked the great disappointment, when everybody thought that Christ was going to come back. Now here we are today, 2003, soon to witness the Second Coming, followed by the millennium, right next to eternity future. Here is basically 6,000 years spread out, and when you put it into proportion, 1844 was not very long ago. When you look at it from God’s perspective, it has not been a very long time.
Time Ticks Down
A kitchen timer ticks away the minutes and dings when its set time stops. It does not tell us what time it is; it only tells us how much time is left. Each one of us has a clock like that in heaven. We cannot see it, but we can know by faith that it is ticking away. For some there may be plenty of time left, but for others there may be very little time.
The clock of time is wound just once for each of us. We have to live today and every day like it is the last day. In this little space of time the most important issues of eternity will be resolved in the minds of God’s whole universe. Because of what took place on this little planet, in this little stretch here called time, the great controversy will be settled, and sin will never rise again a second time.
I do not know what time it is, but I know one thing for sure—it is later than it has ever been before in the history of the world. “So teach [us] to number our days, that we may apply [our] hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:12. I would encourage you to ask God for wisdom to use whatever time you have left to His honor and glory.
Steve Currey is currently a Bible worker for Steps to Life Ministry.