Now and Forever
2 Peter 3:8 …With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
When I was a kid (and sometimes still as a near-grown-up) I would literally make my head hurt trying to comprehend eternity. How could God not have a beginning? How could there not be an end? In a million, billion years, our souls will be no closer to their finale as there will be no finale. The thought of existing outside the confines of time is just too much for my temporal, feeble mind to handle. Eternity hurts my brain.
Peter says that God of course, is not limited by our temporal experience and does not have the same perspective that we do. This may be for some, an area of disinterest as it is just pointless pontification on that which we cannot grasp. For me though, it is important to embrace the mystery that God somehow lives beyond time and yet deals with us in time.
God created space and time. He is not limited by his creation and thus He can and does exist outside of time. We go through life, one moment at a time with a past, present and future. God’s perspective is not the same. In one sense, the terms past, present and future cannot apply to God as this would confine him. Yet somehow, He is able to deal with us in time. Himself, not bound by time, is able to reach down and interact with us in our time. He is able to answer prayers, respond to requests and somehow changes his plans in response to our behavior. God is able to exist with us in time and yet, He remains timeless.
Why is any of this important? As difficult as it is for me to comprehend, I think I would do well to embrace the mystery of God in and out of time as it has profound implications for many of our conflicts as Christians. I think if I could see time as God does (which is probably impossible), I would never argue about whether the Earth took seven days or seven billion years to create. I think I would never struggle with sovereignty versus free will. Most importantly however, when I embrace this mystery, I can better understand my own nature.
Somehow, God sees me as eternally saved and righteous yet He still interacts with me in this decaying temporal flesh. I often have people tell me that God sees me as righteous so I should not speak of being a creature of the flesh and I should not focus on my defects. God has made you perfect and righteous. If you would just accept this…
I think this is a tragedy of our faith, that we do not understand how God can both see us as righteous yet interact with us in our destructive, sinful flesh. In the bible, there are many verses that suggest that the work is done and that we have been made clean, yet there are many other verses that insist we still need to put to death the deeds of the flesh. In embracing God’s view of being in and out of time, this begins to make sense to me.
Both positions are true. I am, in my spirit life, made clean and righteous for all time and there is nothing that can rob me of that. I am however, currently living in this temporal, defective vessel that is prone to destruction and failure. God is not blind to this. He deals with me as only God can. He sees me as perfect and He sees my decay. This is a mystery, but it is the reality that Peter is trying to explain.
When I embrace this mystery, I can accept that I am perfect in my spirit life, yet I can still fail in my flesh life. God can both see me as perfect and somehow discipline me in my imperfection. I can fall and not lose my salvation. I can have faith in my eternal security, yet be saddened by my distance from God when I sin. I can know that I have God yet I need to pursue him. It is a paradox and mystery that I will never completely grasp, but I do well to embrace it nonetheless.