Do you remember when you were a child learning how to tell the time? First, your parents told you the strange news that somehow a clock had “hands.” Next, they showed you that one hand was longer than the other, and based on this odd fact, you could identify the time of day down to the very minute! Then came the wonderful day when you realized you didn’t have to bother with any of this complicated business at all. Digital clocks were far more practical!
As children, we don’t just learn to tell time by looking at a clock. From a very early age, we’re taught to recognize that time follows an unbreakable pattern: the day begins when the sun rises in the morning and ends when the sun sets in the evening. Our clocks may try to tell us that the new day starts at midnight, but we dismiss this as a technicality that has little importance except on New Year’s. As we go about our lives, from our perspective, the day begins when we arise in the morning. It ends when we “retire” for the evening, when we have finished our work and are ready to go to sleep at night.
All of us share this same perspective. But did you know that this perspective is not the way the Bible teaches us to tell time? No, not at all! The Bible teaches us to look at time very differently. And the difference is glorious!
A biblical view of time
How does the Bible teach us to count the days? It’s the exact opposite of what we assume in western culture. At the creation, God made the evening first and then the morning. That was the sequence that God called “day” (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). Does looking at time from this new perspective really make a difference? You bet!
Think of what it means for God to tell us that our day begins in the evening, but then moves into morning! When we orient ourselves from this perspective, we see the actual, unbreakable pattern of God’s creation: darkness is always followed by light! The sunset always gives way to sunrise, and daylight always comes to scatter the darkness! All of sudden, time becomes a friend of faith!
The biblical view of time teaches us to look at everything in our world through new eyes — even our daily pattern of “sleeping” and then “awakening”! Just think about it! God made our bodies such that we grow weary from work and must “retire” in the evening. Every night, we lie down to sleep. But then every morning, we arise to live a new day! In other words, every day, God is having us rehearse resurrection! God must love this lesson, because he reminds us of it daily.
Learning to tell time biblically truly gives us an entirely new outlook on life. The promise that light will always scatter darkness, which the law clearly teaches (Genesis 1:3-5), allows us to live with hope. The passage of time is not moving us closer to darkness and death. Rather, it is always moving us closer to light and life! The entire Bible upholds this optimistic perspective of time. The psalmist tells us that weeping might endure for an evening, but joy will come with the morning (Psalm 30:5). The prophets foretell that the Day of the Lord will begin with great and dark judgments (Joel 2:31), but that the glorious dawn of the age of grace will follow soon afterwards (Joel 3:18). In the climactic fulfilment of this prophecy, the deep darkness of the crucifixion gave way to the most joyous of all dawns on resurrection morning!
The Celestial City
The Gospel of John begins by describing a world that is covered in darkness, but then, we are told — the Light shined in darkness! The Light of the Incarnate Christ came into the world, illumining everyone (John 1:9). The Prophet Isaiah had already foretold that those who dwelled in darkness would see a great Light (Isa 9:1-2), and his prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus began his Galilean ministry (Matt 4:13-16). But the Apostle John takes the metaphor further. He gives us the promise that one day we will enjoy a new creation. One day, we will inherit a Celestial City where there will no longer be any darkness or night at all (Rev 21:25)! Instead, the redemptive Light of the Lamb will illumine the New Jerusalem, forever shining radiantly forth from the glittering jewels and golden gems of the City of Eternal Light (Revelation 21:23-25).
So you see, Moses teaches us to live in the hope that darkness will always end in the light of dawn (Genesis 1:3-5). But the Apostle John teaches us to lift up our eyes to an even greater hope — the hope that the darkness of this life will be forever scattered by the eternal light of a new creation! The daily hope we have that morning will come instructs us to dream with cosmic hope of the eternal morning that awaits us! Once again, we learn that time is a friend of grace!
The Apostle Paul also encourages us to find hope in the redemptive progress of time! “The night is far spent. The day is at hand,” he writes (Romans 13:11). Paul teaches us to take comfort in the knowledge that, every day, our redemption draws closer than before. This optimistic perspective is actually what underlies his claim that, though our outward form is perishing, inwardly we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). Yet Paul’s teaching on time goes even further. Contrary to our expectations in this world, he reminds us that the march of biblical time is always progressive. In this world, the fairness of youth fades with age, which brings with it unsightly spots and wrinkles that mar our beauty. But in the world to come, beauty will only increase with age! That is, in the world to come, time is not only redemptive but progressive. Heavenly time brings about the reversal of the aging process. Paul says that, even now, Jesus is purifying his people so that, on his wedding day, he will be presented with a bridal people “without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27).
Reflecting His light
God has made us imaging creatures (Genesis 1:26; Psalm 115:1-8). Just as the moon in all of its darkness is transformed into a brightly shining light in the face of its sun, so our destiny is to reflect the full rainbow spectrum of the radiant light of Jesus. The more we see him, the more our hearts will be made to glow with his beauty! Yet, while we are finite, his beauty is infinite. And this is the great secret to the brightest heaven of our imagination! For all eternity, we will be growing in our knowledge and understanding of Jesus. God created our hearts to delight in the Lord. Day by day, we are progressing toward a new world where we will be able to marvel at the Savior’s radiant beauty for all the ages to come.
So in days of darkness, take courage in the knowledge that our hope lies in the world to come, in a new creation without sin, or curse, or any “darkness”! Find confidence in the blessed assurance that, in the light of the eternal dawn to come, nothing will ever separate us from the love of Jesus!
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone into our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the City of our God, the Holy Place of the tabernacle of the Most High. God shall help her just at the break of dawn” (Psalm 46:4-5).
Dr. Warren A. Gage, Th.M., J.D., Ph.D. is president of The Alexandrian Forum, which provides life-changing Biblical teaching. © 2020 The Alexandrian Forum