Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

80. WHAT EVENT MIGHT FIX TIME ZERO FOR GOD?

All calendars are based on a zero of time.  If you imagine an infinite time line, just select a point and call it zero.  Where might God select a zero? 

Both science and the Bible teach that our universe began at a definite point in time.  Could that point serve as a time zero for God?  Science says, according to Victor Weisskopf, “It is important to keep in mind that the Primal Bang is not a local phenomenon.  The descriptions of it in the popular literature are often grossly misleading; it is wrong to imagine that the Primal Bang occurred at a given point in space, matter being expelled in all directions.  Actually the Primal Bang was the beginning of a decompression of an infinite universe.  This means that the whole universe, the infinite space, was filled with an infinite density of matter at time zero.  Immediately afterward the density became finite though still very high.  With the passage of time the density decreased further until it reached the present value.  On the average, this density was the same all over space; the universe expands equally at all points, and the density decreases equally in the whole universe.  One may ask how this is possible, where does all the matter go?  Space is infinite is the answer, and ten times infinite is again infinite.  Thus let us remember that the Primal Bang was not localized.  It happened simultaneously all over space….and not as an explosion from one point into a previously empty space.”  In other words, space, time and energy/matter all came into existence simultaneously.

The Bible says, the universe began by “ex nihilo" creation (bara) at a definite point in time (Gen 1:1, Heb 11:3).  That the Biblical writers conceived of creation as an act of God ex nihilo (from nothing that exists), is evident from the fact that nowhere among the many references to creation is there the slightest suggestion of the use of anything that existed prior to the creation event.  The word created is used three times in the Genesis account and is a translation of the word bara, which signifies origination or creation de novo.  This word occurs in Genesis 1:1, 1:21 and 1:27 in connection with heavens and earth, leviathans and man respectively.  According to Adam Clarke, “The rabbins, who are the legitimate judges in a case of verbal criticism of their own language, are unanimous in asserting that the word bara expresses commencement of the existence of a thing: or its egression from nonentity to entity.  It does not, in its primary meaning, denote the preserving or new forming things that had previously existed, as some imagine: but creation, in the proper sense of the term, though it has some other acceptations in other places.”  If then we examine the three instances where this word occurs, we shall find each of them an origination of a new entity.

The Bible does not specify the precise instant of creation but science estimates 13.7 billion years ago.  This estimate is consistent with Genesis provided, of course, that the creation days were indefinitely long periods of time (yom, plural yamim).  See Section 20 of Theology Corner under the title “Were the Creation Days 24 Hours in Length?”

Might God have picked the instant of creation for our universe as His zero of time?  It is possible; however, our universe is only one of His many creations.  Events were transpiring between the three persons of the Trinity long before our universe was formed.

According to Francis Schaeffer, “Although Genesis begins, ‘in the beginning,’ that does not mean that there was not anything before that.  In John 17:24, Jesus prays to God the Father saying, ‘Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.’  Jesus says that God the Father loved Him prior to the creation of all else.  And in John 17:5 Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him, Jesus Himself, ‘with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.’  There is, therefore, something that reaches back into eternity – back before the phrase ‘in the beginning.’  Christ existed, and He had glory with the Father, and He was loved by the Father before ‘in the beginning.’  In Ephesians 1:4 we read, ‘…he [God] hath chosen us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world…’  Thus, before ‘in the beginning’ something other than a static situation existed.  A choice was made, and that choice shows forth thought and will.  We were chosen in Him before the creation of the world.  The same thing is emphasized in 1 Peter 1:20, where the sacrificial death of Jesus is said to have been ‘fore-ordained before the foundation of the world.’  Likewise Titus 1:2 says that God promised eternal life ‘before the world began.’  This is very striking.  How can a promise be made before the world began?  To whom could it be made?  The Scripture here speaks of a promise made by the Father to the Son or to the Holy Spirit because, after all, at this particular point of sequence there was no one else to make the promise to.  Finally, the same point is made in 2 Timothy 1:9, where we read about God, ‘who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.’  We are faced, therefore, with a very interesting question: When did history begin?  If one is thinking with the modern concept of the space-time continuum, then it is quite obvious that time and history did not exist before ‘in the beginning.’  But if we are thinking of history in contrast to an eternal, philosophic other or in contrast to a static eternal, then history began before Genesis 1:1”

The creation of our universe did not initially have significant repercussions for heaven.  But two other events had immediate impact on both Heaven and earth.

 

  • The action of the Holy Spirit making God the Son fully human, as well as fully Divine, in the womb of Mary (Mat 1:18; Luke 1:35); this event marked the Incarnation of God the Son in time and space.

 

  • The physical death of God the Son on the cross (John 19:30); this event marked the Substitutionary Atonement of God the Son in time and space.

 

These events occurred once and will never occur again.  Perhaps one of these events serves as God’s zero of time.  They each had an enormous impact on the inhabitants of heaven and earth as well as on God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Interestingly, if either of these events is God’s time zero, then His calendar is similar to ours!