BY EMILY PALMER
Let’s assume for a minute that the afterlife is real, that we don’t cease to exist the moment we cross from life to death, and that there is a God who sustains us eternally. What then is time? Time suddenly becomes a meaningless measurement when there is an unlimited source of it. An hour spent doing something is essentially the same as ten years spent doing something because eternity is unbounded and unending.
To better understand time in a world yet unvisited, we define time in the familiar sense. Time is an arbitrary instrument used to quantize change. As we experience more of life as we know it, we mature in our thought processes. We grow physically and emotionally every day and we measure these changes by analyzing how time refines us. As a husband commits a lifetime to his wife, growing with her and because of her, the way we spend our time reflects our values and leads to our development. In essence, time is no more than a theory we use to make our changes concrete. Words such as before and after are embedded in our daily vocabulary to describe transformations we’ve experienced.
However, when we ascend to eternal realms, we will only have the words before heaven and now to describe our state of being, as we will arrive fully sanctified. We will wholly be the person God intended for us to be when he created us, and thus time will cease to refine us. Additionally, our sense of time will be entirely skewed from what we understand of it now—we will simply exist with God. When I think of eternity, I visualize a vector whose endpoint starts at death and points onwards forever. However, this image is an inadequate way to explain heaven, as it restricts eternity to be within the grasps of time. Heaven doesn’t move slowly towards infinity as more time passes, it is already there. Hence, we will no longer be constrained by seconds.
There is something wonderful about leaving the bounds of time and losing the ability to change. Our God is fixed in his grace, love, and providence because He exists outside of time. He created us with eternity in mind, and He won’t change his mind five hundred years into forever because He tells Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” In layman’s terms, God claims that there is no variance in his character today from his character yesterday. We get to be with God forever simply because He wants to be with us forever. However, in order to be with God evermore, we need to accept His invitation into eternity within the span of our lifetime.
I personally don’t know if eternity moves in a linear fashion, following the same rules of time (as we know it now), or if it moves in another way altogether unimaginable on earth. But if there is such a place as heaven, we should be using our time well on earth while it has the power to effect change. So whether or not you hold to the original assumptions of the afterlife with an eternal sustainer, the same questions remain—what are you using your time for, and more importantly, is it something that is worth living for?
 Exodus 3:14
Photo Courtesy of Winston Kim