Though it sounds complex, the topic of this lesson has important and practical implications for how you live day-to-day.
Let me explain—as this lesson shows, God’s view of time, seeing and knowing all that is past, present, and future is what enables us to understand prophecy and trust that what He promised in the past He will fulfill in the future just as He made promises in the past in the Old Testament that He fulfilled in the New Testament.
Though that is comforting, it also brings up the question of if God determined the major events of Biblical history, does He predetermine my every action? If that’s so, am a responsible for them, or just a puppet?
This lesson answers those questions–so listen or watch to find out the answers!
Below is the podcast, video, notes, and a link to the chart, and a short video explaining God’s view of time talked about in this lesson.
The Incredible Implications of God’s view of Time
Teacher, Yvon Prehn
The different views of Time & History
• Many religions believe in a cyclical view of time—Eastern religions, reincarnation, going round and round “samsara– the indefinitely repeated cycles of birth, misery, and death caused by karma”
• Matter is impersonal, there is no guide, no purposeful God, no outside authority that determines history
Christianity quite different
• It teaches a personal Creator started it all, not eternal impersonal matter, not karma.
• Genesis teaches creation “ex nihilo” (out of nothing) and with that our universe began.
• “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8
• In addition to a clear beginning, Revelation 21 (and many other places) teaches us that a time will come when there will be an end to our present universe and New Heaven and a New Earth.
Why these divergent views matter
• If all reality is an endless, ultimately meaningless cycle, earthly events have no purposeful meaning.
• All is determined by chance.
• One result of this way of thinking is a popular view today of Jesus.
• He is considered by most everyone as a good man, an inspiring preacher, who unfortunately, by chance lived when Rome was in charge of his world.
• In that world Jesus had no idea how radical his teachings were or that he was going to be crucified by the Romans.
• His death is seen as tragic and one that took him by surprise as much as it did his followers.
But if we do believe in a purposeful Creator, in charge of time and history
• It follows that Christians believe all the events in the life of Jesus were NOT the result of random chance but prophesied long before his birth.
• His death was not an accident, but an event foretold from the earliest days of human life and throughout the Old Testament.
• More details on this in a minute, but how can we know which view is true?
• Either that all that happened to Jesus was totally by chance or all that happened to Jesus was known and written about ahead of time—which defines what prophecy is.
• Not a hard question to answer……
Here is how we can do it
• One way would be to show God is outside time.
• If God is outside time and can see everything past, present and future, He could then correctly predict events that will happen in earthly history,
• In other words, give us prophecy about them.
• If those events happen in the order or when a particular prophecy says they should, that can be good evidence that God was involved.
• We’ll look at a specific example in a minute, but first….
• Two illustrations follow that will help this idea to make sense.
Imagine a parade
• You are watching it with a friend, but then your friend leaves you and a few minutes later you get a text where your friend announces that she was able to get into the announcer’s booth, above the crowd because she has a friend there.
• You don’t believe your friend was able to do that and you respond: “Prove it.”
• Because your friend can see what is coming in the parade and you can’t, she tells you what will happen in the future of the parade—a huge float with Star Trek characters will come by and since nothing like this has been in the parade so far, you respond “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
• In a few minutes, the float with Star Trek characters comes by and you realize your friend really is up in the announcer’s booth.
A view from above the level of the parade allowed your friend to make a “prophecy” about what would happen
• Imagine now that the parade is the total history of our universe and humanity.
• And instead of an announcer’s booth, God is outside of time, seeing, knowing the beginning from the end. And He wants us to believe that.
• We have a right to expect proof of that just as we would from our friend at the parade.
• That’s why He gives us prophecy to clearly tell us what is going to happen.
• Another illustration to show how….
God is outside time
• Instead of the announcer’s booth, this chart God is outside of time, and we are on a point in it.
• Because God is outside Time, He can tell us ahead of time what will happen in exact detail.
How does this work in the Bible?
• In the Bible God tells us what is coming hundreds, if not thousands of years before events they happen. These events are recorded by his prophets and the Biblical writers (which is why it is important to date when the Biblical documents are written, important to define the historical anchors to the content in the Bible which we will do).
• When events they happen exactly as predicted, we should recognize that the God outside of time knew what would happen and had a hand in bringing it about.
• For example, the most numerous predictions in the Bible are the many prophecies about Jesus. We may not know exactly when certain things were written but we certainly know that the Old Testament was written long before Jesus lived.
• From his family lineage, to the place of his birth, his life work, and the details of his death and resurrection, it was all written about, prophesied from literally the beginning of humanity.
One example is about his birth in Bethlehem
• “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.“ Micah 5:2
• This is only one of around 300 prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. For an interesting article on a prophecy along with its fulfillment about Jesus, go to: https://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/old-testament-prophecies.html
• Or you can do a Google search on “prophecies about Jesus” and you’ll find lots of them along with the passages of how they were fulfilled.
• You don’t even need to be exact (though there is evidence for that) on exactly when the Old Testament prophecies were given
• Even the most liberal of scholars agree they were before New Testament times.
Exciting stuff! And there is lots more of it!
• BUT of course, we won’t see these things—
• If we don’t read our Bibles in Chronological, historical order—
• AND if you don’t anchor Bible events in true history and geography
• This is one of the things that makes the Old Testament so fascinating to study and to share because you can read a prophetic passage and then read when it was fulfilled.
• And you can see how the Bible is ONE unified story spanning the entire history of humanity.
Importance of “Progressive Revelation”
• Because God is outside of time, He does the planning, directing, revealing of the whole story.
• He tells us, through the Biblical writers at appropriate times, not all at once about key doctrines because again, He works through history.
• From the start, the seed of all key doctrines of the Bible, sin, redemption, grace are introduced in Genesis and Job—and then carried through the writings of the different authors in the Bible for over 1500 years while the entire Bible was written. This is called “Progressive Revelation.”
One example: an innocent sacrifice needed to
atone for sin
• Early in Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned, God covered them with animal skins, when Able made his offering pleasing to God, it was an animal sacrifice;
• Job offered animal sacrifices, so did Abraham, all prior to Levitical laws; sacrifices were clarified after the Exodus, and
• Ultimately with Jesus, when John saw him and said, “behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the World”—all the previous teaching about sacrifices were fulfilled were fulfilled with Jesus’s death on the cross.
• The later books of the Bible expand and clarify—but never change the teaching of a needed sacrifice for sin.
Jesus’ view of the fulfillment of prophecy and progressive revelation
• Jesus constantly affirmed this belief in the reliability of Old Testament scriptures and the progressive revelation of God when he answered critics and taught—
• He said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39
• And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
• Not only Jesus, but other New Testament authors refer to and confirm progressive revelation as the OT is quoted over 200 times in NT, always as a further revelation, not a contradiction or declaration that previous teachings were wrong or false.
• Paul does this extensively; Hebrews (author not certain) but the book is a primary example of this.
Conclusion because of Progressive Revelation
• From it, one can conclude that our Bible has ONE author, God, who worked through human authors, but it was God who kept in mind the whole plot of the salvation story –because He wrote it.
• Outside of time God carefully planned and though it took many centuries to tell it all, the basic plot lines, the key themes do not change, but expand.
• This consistency of Progressive Revelation is a unique Characteristic of the Bible.
• Other religions totally change doctrines, ignore blatant contradictions, define “progressive revelation” as the option to change their mind about important topics or upfront admit that they change it however and whenever they want
• But this brings up a troubling question:
Does Progressive Revelation mean everything we do is fatalistically determined?
• We can’t help but ask the question: what about Me?
• God’s sovereign will over time and history vs human choice is the core question here and this illustration helped me understand it—
• Human history (the big picture) is like an ocean liner—the direction is certain; the route is set.
• The Captain is in charge.
• It’s his ship, HIS word is law. And the passengers have a copy of his law, his guidelines, his manual (the Bible obviously) for them to get the most out of the journey.
• But within the ship the passengers given quite a bit of freedom.
• Individual actions do not affect the final destination—that is determined by the captain—however…..
Individual decisions greatly affect the traveler’s time on the ship
• There is a crew with assigned tasks and if they don’t do them, things don’t go well.
• Also, each passenger responsible for his or her actions, his or her attitude and based on them, and what they get or don’t get out of the trip.
• There is individual freedom whether they are a helpful passenger on the journey,, or a peace-maker and joy-producer, or a dead weight, a bore, a constantly complainer, or someone thrown in the brig.
• They can’t change the destination of the ship, but their actions greatly affect their experience of the journey.
• Remember for our analogy, all passengers have access to a copy of the instruction manual for how to live the best way possible to get along with others, for their joy and peace on the journey. No one forces them to read it—but they are responsible if they don’t.
• The passengers do well to keep in mind that this is not a meandering pleasure cruise that never ends, but one with a definite destination and harbor that will be reached because of a……
Important conclusions because the Christian faith presents time as linear
• There is no reincarnation, no “do overs”
• Though God is clearly in control of the ship of human history, and He wrote the guidebook (our Bible) for how to live it best as He has shown us through:
• Prophecy, History, Progressive Revelation—He won’t force us to read it, but we do well to remember that
• At the end of the journey each passenger will need to give an account to the Captain, first of all over which ultimate destination each has chosen—of darkness or light.
• And for those who have chosen to trust the Captain on their journey for their time on the ship and how they used the resources they were given no matter where we found ourselves, in First Class or working in the galley.
• I have come to think of this life as our first assignment for the Captain. We are all assigned a place, a work to do and Scripture is very clear what we do in this life matters for what assignments we will be given in the ages to come.
C.S. Lewis puts the reality of our meeting with the Captain much better—switching to the metaphor of a play, but it is the same idea
Precisely because we cannot predict the moment, we must be ready at all moments. . . the curtain may be rung down at any moment. . . .We do not know the play. . . the Author knows [and]. . . We are led to expect the Author will have something to say to each of us on the part that each of us has played. The playing it well is what matters infinitely.
C.S. Lewis, the World’s Last Night
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