Where does the time go? Days and weeks fly by—even years! You hope to accomplish more but time slips away.
When you’re younger, you feel like time will last forever. But the older you get, the better you understand: Wow, life is really short! I wish I had used my time better! Maybe this reality slapped you in the face when a loved one died.
“The righteous perisheth,” Isaiah 57:1 states bluntly. Scripture calls these physical bodies of ours “tabernacles”—temporary dwellings. God made them to serve a specific purpose for a limited time.
Spirit life, on the other hand, is eternal. Verse 15 of this same chapter calls God “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity.”
What a wonderful, and mind-stretching, revelation. “That means there was no time—if you can possibly comprehend that!” Gerald Flurry writes in The God Family Vision (emphasis added throughout). Eternity means timelessness. God exists completely outside time! This tells a lot about God and what life is like for Him.
But here is the most amazing thing: It also tells what life will be like for us very soon.
“Why must we try to grasp these concepts?” Mr. Flurry continues. “Well, if we are to be eternal God beings, then we will have to think about eternity! You need to have God’s perspective; God doesn’t think about time the way we do (2 Peter 3:8). God … is grooming us to think in terms of eternity! What inspiring depth we must strive to comprehend!”
How well do you grasp what it means to inhabit eternity? And what does that have to do with your life today—this moment?
Life Is Shorter Than You Think
God revealed quite a lot about this subject to Moses, who wrote Psalm 90.
”[eternal], thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations,” this psalm begins. Generations of mortal men have lived and died—and God has remained. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (verse 2). That Hebrew expression is talking about time disappearing over the horizon. God is God as far back as you can see—and as far into the future. This phrase conveys that our human minds cannot perceive God’s past or His future.
Moses then draws attention to the contrast with human flesh. In verse 3 he says we are made from dust (translated “destruction” in the King James) and that we return to dust.
Then, verse 4 contains one of the Bible’s most remarkable statements about what time means to God: “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
A thousand years! Dozens of human generations have lived and died since a.d. 1014. The British Empire didn’t even really exist 500 years ago. The United States began just over 230 years ago. Yet it all seems like ancient history. No one alive today experienced any of that.
To God, though, the past thousand years seem about like yesterday does to us.
Think about yesterday. It doesn’t seem very significant, does it? And after it’s gone, it feels even shorter than it actually was.
God “is apart from time,” Mr. Flurry writes in Isaiah’s End-Time Vision. By contrast, “Men are constantly hounded by time. We live a few years, then we die, usually doing a lot of groaning along the way. God wants to free us from the bondage of time.”
Oh, how time is bondage! We all have too little of it. Each day has only 24 hours, and we must sleep for some of them. Hours are fleeting, and you’re never quite satisfied with how much you can get done. Our life is short—and can be snuffed out in an instant. This is the nature of these physical tabernacles.
God imposed this limitation on us. He doesn’t intend us to live forever in these physical bodies, these “temporary dwellings.” As Herbert Armstrong said, ”It is not life”! (sermon, May 16, 1981). It feels like life—but only because this is all we have ever known. But it is only a taste. It’s not actually life as God knows life.
Even Family Is Temporary
Even our physical families are a temporary arrangement. Our children live under our roof for a short time, and then they’re off to start lives of their own. Our marriages are bound by a covenant that, even at the time we make it, only lasts “as long as you both shall live.”
Family provides us some of the greatest joy and satisfaction we can have. But in this life, every family is eventually disrupted by old age and death. At some point, even among strong families that remain together, the precious relationships between a husband and wife, a parent and child, a brother and sister, are severed—whether by premature death or old age.
“Seventy years are given us! And some may even live to eighty. But even the best of these years are often emptiness and pain; soon they disappear, and we are gone” (Psalm 90:10, The Living Bible). And there is no guarantee anyone will make it to age 70 or 80.
Life is like an hourglass, with the sand draining from the top half to the bottom half. But the top half is opaque. On the bottom half, you can see the sand that has already dropped, and you can watch the sand trickling through the middle part—but you don’t know how much sand is left in the top. There may be a lot, or you may be seeing the last, precious few grains fall.
Number Your Days
Given this reality, here is the crucial conclusion Moses draws: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). God, help us to make good use of each one of our precious days! We need to understand just how short life is, and how susceptible to being cut off, and how certain its end—to be properly motivated to wisely use our time.
The better our perspective on time, the more we will put it to use.
The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) teaches us the principle of good stewardship with the gifts God gives us. One of those gifts is our physical life. God has unlimited life, and unlimited time! He has given us just a tiny amount of each: a taste of life—a sliver of time.
In this parable, the servant who made good use of his gifts received this commendation: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (verse 21).
If we are good stewards with our physical life, this is what God will say to us: You have been faithful with a tiny amount of time—now I’m going to give you unlimited time! You’ve been faithful with a taste of life—now I’ll give you eternal life!
What are you doing with your time? Are you numbering your days? Are you using them to get ready for the Kingdom of God? Are you showing God that you can handle eternity?
Why Physical Matter
God inhabits eternity, but He shackled His creation in time. This is true only of this physical world, and in some respects it is unique to life on this planet. Seconds, minutes and hours are simply convenient ways of dividing up the day and night, which are a result of Earth making a single rotation. The 29½-day lunar cycle forms the basis of our months. Earth’s revolution around the sun makes for a year of 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds.
Time is just the dividing up of the distances covered by these astral bodies God created. If these bodies didn’t exist, neither would time! Think about it.
In addition, God subjected physical matter to the law of entropy. Things fall apart. Your garden gets choked with weeds if you neglect it. Your house falls into disrepair unless you maintain it. Your body is like an alarm clock winding down toward death.
Spirit, by contrast, isn’t subject to decay or the other laws of physics. It doesn’t feel the pull of gravity or inertia. It doesn’t wear down or burn out.
God went to a lot of trouble to create this physical stuff that wears out. Why? For one, as Mr. Armstrong often explained, the rebelling angels are immortal, doomed to live forever in unhappiness. If human beings choose to rebel, however, God can put us out of our misery by allowing us to die—utterly perish. In addition, the impermanent, changeable nature of matter enables us to repent and change from sin. You can read more about this truth in Mr. Armstrong’s booklet What Science Can’t Discover About the Human Mind.
But there is another reason God made matter as He did: The trials and frustrations typically associated with being composed of corruptible flesh help us develop righteous character. The burdens of physical stewardship are like the weights a weightlifter uses. The use of heavy weight accelerates development of physical muscle, just as the trials of life—handled correctly—build godly character.
God is offering us ”an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (verses 6-7, Revised Standard Version). In these temporary tabernacles, we experience heaviness and face trials—but God is using them as tools to prepare us to receive that incorruptible inheritance.
Whatever your physical circumstances, strive always to keep your eyes on eternity. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16 through the first several verses of chapter 5. In the context of eternity, even the greatest affliction in this life is really light—and it’s but for a moment. Everything physical—everything we can see—is temporary. Only spirit is eternal. Our physical body serves a purpose, and we need to make the best use of it while we have it. But it is only a “tent.” Camping in a tent may be nice for a short while, but we are going home to a beautiful house—a house built by God, an eternal house! We can look forward to the time, Paul says, when “mortality might be swallowed up of life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). That is speaking of real life—inherent, immortal, self-contained, resplendent, radiant God life!
“Our destiny is to become members of His Family, so God wants our minds oriented toward eternity,” Mr. Flurry writes in The Epistles of Peter: A Living Hope. “But eternity is a towering concept, so Peter tries to break it down for us,” in 2 Peter 3:8.
“[B]eloved, be not ignorant of this one thing,” the verse begins. Don’t be ignorant of this! Try to wrap your mind around this—“that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
This is probably the most helpful statement in the Bible to help us grasp this concept. Peter compares two very different periods of time and says that, in God’s eyes, one is the same as the other. One thousand years can go by as quickly as a single day—but you can also inhabit a single day for the equivalent of a thousand years!
In one sense, we understand the connection between a day and a thousand years, since God’s 7,000-year plan is typified by the seven-day week, and there are other prophetic instances where a day is a type of a thousand years.
But when talking about God’s comprehension of time, these figures are completely arbitrary. Peter might as well have said that one second with God is as a trillion years—and a trillion years is as one second.
God lives completely outside of time. For us, time happens in a straight line. We can only be in one place and one moment at a time. But for God, time is multi-dimensional!
Consider the fact that God can hear all our prayers at one moment. How is that possible? Well, He can dwell in any particular moment for as long as He chooses to! He can freeze one moment and exist within it for a trillion years—or He can move from one moment to another in an instant at will. He is simply not restricted by time!
This is difficult for our human minds to comprehend. But perhaps one way we can begin to understand it is to realize just how bound by time we are—and then imagine simply removing that limitation.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Marrying Jesus Christ
Revelation 19:7 depicts “the marriage of the Lamb,” Jesus Christ. Who will be His wife? Scripture reveals it is the Church—in fact, all those converted with God’s Holy Spirit before Christ’s return (e.g. Ephesians 5). Count up all the people throughout history that would include, and you probably have upwards of a couple hundred thousand people. All part of the one Bride of Christ (just as the one God is composed of many members).
Have you ever thought about how it will be possible for every single one of those thousands of God beings to have a close, wonderful, intimate marriage relationship with just the one Christ? In human terms, this would only leave each of us a couple of minutes of “alone time” with our Husband every year!
But God inhabits eternity. Even literally replacing each day with a thousand years would multiply the amount of time each of us has with Christ by 365,000—every year. That would give us over 500 days of one-on-one time with Christ for each 365-day year! It doesn’t really compute, does it?
The reality is, if you ever asked for some “alone time” with your Husband, He would never say, Well, let me see where I can pencil you into my day planner. Rather He would say, Absolutely, my lovely wife! Let’s go away for a year—or a thousand years—or a TRILLION! Just you and me!
Of course, this is human-plane terminology. But it might help us understand the reality that we will have time without limits.
Think about how much time you spend with your spouse, or your closest friend, today. Whatever it is, you are still practically strangers compared to the personal relationship that will exist between Jesus Christ and every one who comprises His Bride!
Now, consider how this applies to our lives in a very practical sense. God wants to know how we will do in that marriage situation with Christ. And so He gives many of us a limited type of that experience on the human level—of marrying just one person.
Now He can begin to learn a lot about you! Can you make the marriage relationship work with one person? Can you devote yourself to that person? Can you love him or her? Can you work through problems? Can you make God’s government work? Can you keep your priorities straight to make sure you give your spouse enough time? How important is that marriage to you?
If you do it right, that marriage is preparing you for ETERNAL marriage! Marriage to the Being who calls Himself “the ETERNAL”!
You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things, God will say. You have been faithful in a physical marriage—now I’m going to put you in the marriage of all marriages—the REAL MARRIAGE that all those physical marriages were pointing to! You are going to marry Jesus Christ!
No Time Limits
Think, too, about all the other members of the God Family we will able to spend “time” with. Ask Abraham to sit down and tell you what God had revealed to him about astronomy. Ask Moses what it was like fasting for 40 days and being with God atop Mount Sinai. Ask David how he managed to write all those songs while consumed with his duties as king of Israel—and maybe, while he’s at it, to sing them all!
The answer in every case will be: Absolutely—let’s do it right now! I have all the “time” in the world!
All these spiritual giants will be spirit beings, and—if we qualify—so will we! We will never lack for “time” to spend with any of them.
And it won’t be a matter of just patiently waiting in line until all the other God beings can talk with them. We will ALL inhabit eternity. Time simply won’t be an issue! Eternity doesn’t just mean an endless number of hours and days and months and years. It means timelessness!
Think practically about having that constraint on your life completely removed. Think of anything made more difficult or impractical because of time limits. Perhaps you wish you had more time to spend with your wife, or your children, or a great friend. Maybe there’s a trip you’ve always wanted to take. Maybe you’d like time to learn a language or a musical instrument. Or you want to take up art or take a class. Perhaps there are several books you’d love to read—if only you had the time. Or there is a Bible study you wish you could undertake—you’d love to become an expert in Old Testament law, or prophecy, or the Gospels.
Imagine all of those limitations disappearing. When you inhabit eternity, none of them will hinder you again! If you want to learn something, create something, spend time with someone—if you want to spend a year or a trillion years inhabiting a single moment in order to get that done, you are absolutely free to do that!
We have eternity before us.
But we are not there yet. “[T]each us to number our days,” Moses wrote. Redeem the time, Paul admonished (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). Work hard while you still have daylight, Christ said (John 9:4).
Why is it so important that we apply ourselves so diligently and urgently to preparing for God’s Kingdom? Is it because we need to make sure we learn a certain amount, or have a specific collection of spiritual facts in our minds, before God can exalt us as spirit beings?
When Solomon asked God for wisdom, God filled him with it overnight! (1 Kings 4:29-31). Did you realize that God can do the same for you?
Sometimes we can get frustrated with how little we remember. We feel we should know more than we do by now. But realize this: What God is really concerned about—far more than whether we know any particular bit of knowledge—is what we are doing with what we have!
God wants to see us working hard! He wants to see us laboring to apply the correction we receive, and to put the things we learn into action. He wants us hungering for righteousness and thirsting for right knowledge.
Think about it: A sinner who repents, leaves the world behind, is baptized and truly converted by God’s Spirit and dies a month later is still going to inherit eternity! The fact is, whatever a human being achieves in this life doesn’t amount to anything compared to what he will achieve as an eternal spirit being!
What matters is what we did with whatever we were given. If you had a month, what did you do with it? If you had 100 years, what did you do with it?
God is about to give us an unlimited amount of time to learn every little detail about everything there is to know, both physical and spiritual. At this point, as far as God is concerned, His Spirit-begotten sons are still in the womb spiritually, waiting to be born! When we become spirit beings, we are all going to be newborns—with an eternity of maturing still before us!
Maybe you have a learning disability, or you need 10 hours of sleep a night—or you have to work three jobs just to make ends meet—or your memory is underdeveloped and you feel like you lose what you study the moment you close the book.
You have limitations in your life.
Well, the reality is, God MEANT for you to have limitations! He put those limitations on His entire material creation—in order to develop our character! That is how He gets us ready for being in His Family for eternity!
The fact that God puts limits on our lives simply demands that we prioritize. We must learn to seek first the Kingdom of God. We must learn to be faithful in the little things. We have to learn to push aside certain things in order to stay focused on what matters. God forces us to make choices, whereby we show Him what is really important to us. We have to conquer obstacles and grapple with restrictions in order to prove we really want a relationship with Him.
We have to manage our time—because we are in bondage to it—and don’t have much of it!
The fact that we’re physical and limited doesn’t give us excuse for not accomplishing much. Rather, it demands that we do everything we can to accomplish as much as we’re able with the extremely limited resources we have!
We can’t afford to waste a day! “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). How much can we accomplish in a day God has given us—a day with which to draw closer to God—a day to prepare for our eternal marriage?
Long for Eternity
Think of your physical family. It is a temporary arrangement that God intends to prepare you for your eternal Family. The marriage that truly counts is our marriage to Jesus Christ.
That is all the more reason why we need to make the most of the limited time we have in our physical marriages and families today!
Marriage and family are about the best education we can receive! Through these precious relationships, we learn how to love!
Think of your marriage. You have committed to your spouse as long as we both shall live. Make the most of it. Who is to say it won’t be cut short at any time? Use whatever time you have to prove to God that you love marriage— and you want to be married forever, part of the exalted Bride of Jesus Christ!
Think of your parents. They won’t live forever. The fact is, you don’t have any time to waste.
If you have young children, they are racing toward adulthood. It is easy to get frustrated with them and focus on their mistakes. But you can’t afford to let the short, precious time you have together slip away. Those whose children have grown will tell you that it doesn’t last long! Savor every day, every family dinner and activity, every cuddle, every talk. You won’t have many more of them! And every time could be the last.
But this is nothing to be sad about. This life is only a taste! It’s a training ground. The joys of our family lives today are only a hint of the family joys that await!
People who have a strong family want it to be permanent. In some ways, that is very inspiring! We crave permanence! As our bodies age and fail—as our friends pass away—as our families are split up by the tragedies associated with being human beings—our hearts reach out for the eternal.
We all long to inhabit eternity!
Well—that is exactly the future that awaits. As Psalm 36:8 says, soon we will be able to feast on the abundance of God’s house, or His Family! The time is soon coming when the tragedy of death will never again disrupt the joy of a family! Not only will disease and other problems be eliminated, but most members of nearly every family in human history that have been ripped apart by death will be reunited with one another, thanks to supernatural resurrection! And once they are rejoined, this time they will be inseparable—forever!
God’s Family is one of abundance, happiness, satisfaction, pleasures and delights—forever! “Thou wilt shew me the path of life,” David wrote in Psalm 16: “in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (verse 11).
Are you using your physical life to prepare to inhabit eternity as part of God’s Family? This sliver of time, this little taste of life, is a gift! It’s short—don’t waste it. Make the best possible use of every moment! Number your days—starting today. Soak up every moment with every member of your physical and spiritual family. Be diligent—be faithful—help each other make the most of your time together!
If we do that, then someday Christ will say to us: Well done you good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful with a few things—I will make you ruler over many things. I’m going to give you unlimited time! I’m going to give you eternal life! Enter into the joy of … the Eternal.