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This is a fascinating subject; and the physicist may indeed enquire, What is it ?
There are easier ways to understand time when once, as in all things, you know God.
There are different types of time, just as there are different functions made available in the mind of man.
First there is ENVISAGED TIME. This has events moving in such a way that you view, review and look at them, with the eye of the mind. What you are seeing is not happening in the world to which it relates; but they are either to be created, or possibly to be created, or considered for creation, and in any case, being looked at in the parameters set by the mind.
Prophetic time is a type of envisaged time, in which the prophet is given what is BOTH envisaged AND certainly to come: a unique type of time, known as fact to God, envisaged from God to prophet as fact, but fact not yet in being as actual, or presented in supernal review. By faith the prophet believes it will be or was actual, as the case may be. I Peter 1:10-12 relates to this unique type of time, and it is timely always to have this pre-awareness, generated from God by the Holy Spirit through the prophet, as Peter points out (II Peter 1:19).
Within prophetic time, there are two features of interest.
a) There is graphic time. In this case, as in Psalm 69 (cf. Ch. 6 above), you find the events unrolling as if being recorded by a reporter, with immediacy of the present, and if you will, a microphone to the lips of the main figure. It is also found in Psalm 22, Zechariah 11, Psalm 40.
b) There is the presentation of things to come, such is the certainty and knowledge behind the forecasting, in the past tense the prophetic perfect. It is readily understood. You are here and now, and the God who made you and counsels what is to be, having also made freedom and its susceptibility, when misused, to limits and degradations, is aware of every principle which He uses, every contingency which mere outworking of various inputs can readily bring, of His disposition to all, and seeing through, past and above all things, and knowing the prayers to be of His saints present and to come, has no difficulty in KNOWING just what is to come.
When it is He who delivers this depiction, prophecy, for instruction, reproof, enlivening, hope or with whatever desire or motive, then it may suit Him as author to present what clearly IS TO BE in the guise of its having already happened.
It is as if He is saying, there you have the realm of what is to be, and I want you to see it as you do past history, so that you can feel the impact, see it in a finished setting, and hence gain impact from its objective look.
Called the prophetic perfect, because of its future to past style, it can make appalling what is to be appalling, or admirable as the case may be. You see this often, and notably in Isaiah 24:16, where the poignancy and power is vast; in Jeremiah 51:42, where what is being presented as future is suddenly viewed as past, being past question; and in Isaiah 53:4-9 where what is clearly from context, yet at that time to be, is moved with a certain majestic deliberation, to the past. It is as if the weight of these events and episodes is so great, that the matter is already seen as complete; or as if the love which would carry such burdens to deliver man, is so great and set in such a blessedly certain seal, that He even permits its viewing already, as past.
In parallel, the horror to come may be so overwhelmingly presented as justified and called for, that you see it in the past, though still to come, almost like an equation: put this in and you get that out, so we can speak of such an episode as already done, held in place. Of course, the mercy of God often intervenes to stop the natural efflux of events, when He is called upon as you see so dramatically in Ezekiel 20, but events can bring themselves to such a point that He at last may say to Jeremiah, for example - DO NOT PRAY FOR THIS PEOPLE (Jeremiah 11:14).
Of course, as with all prophetic time, the point in time is that it is actually all in the future, and as envisaged. Again, in impact it may be presented in mode as if present (the prophetic present would be a good name for it), though it is yet to come, or even both as future and as present, and past in one combination of milieux of profound impact as one moves in spirit from objectivity in feeling it done, to the current, feeling it happen, and future, reminded it is yet to occur. This is well represented in Jeremiah 31:36-42.
Then there is PONDERED TIME. Just as the envisagement is largely a matter seeing, so pondered time is largely a matter of weighing, weighting, estimating, considering, passing in review what has happened, might happen, ought to happen, or won't happen as the case may be. As envisaged time was largely surveyal, so pondered time is largely consideration of what is passing, its significance, its meaning, its values and its plights and blessings.
Next come REAL TIME, and this is simple enough: what is actually happening; but it has two different dimensions. Firstly, there is the fact, what is actively disbursing itself from potency and potential into living reality. It does happen. It has two types. What is understood to be happening, in the case of the man with his God, in general outline fit to be received: this is the former model. It is of course marred when it is experienced with blinkers on, concerning God.
The latter is what is actually happening as known in fulness and with undisturbed accuracy, by God. Here the canvas is greater, the wisdom in overview and categorisation is total, the extent of perception of all actions and interactions, calls and responses is seen, if one may so describe, like a tartan: here many things different in mode, are all able to be seen in their overall complexion, complexity and comprehensibility. It has one additional feature to be noted, even here. That is, that God Himself, who envisaged, also enabled it to happen (Ephesians 1:11).
Within these intriguing types of time, drawn from the reality of God and the relationship of man to Him, there is another which is more a technical side-feature. It might be called the TEXTURE OF TIME. In this case, there are relationships between space and gravity and time, various dimensions, imperfectly grasped by man, but with increasing perception of the manifold mastery involved in these sustained types of relationship. This could be compared to the texture of a garment: those shifts which relate to the wearing of it.
God has shown He has time, and a great deal of it, for those who are ready and willing to take the time to take Him in His Gospel offer. On the other hand, there is a limit to the interactive responsiveness (Isaiah 57:15-16), and unwise is the person who superficially slides past the time to repent and to seek the Lord (Isaiah 55).
God existed without our type of time (as we know because He states that He made it - Romans 8:36, and also, since this involves WAITING, and He is bound to nothing inhibitive or restrictive; and any being who is in essence subjected to creative specifications, accordingly is not God. Time then: When He made it, we got it. In it, we have access to these different types of time, and no doubt, other types could be envisaged, as one ponders ALL that we do, and so can do.
There was a set time (Psalm 69, 102, Daniel 9:24-27 cf. The Christian Prescription Ch. 2) for Christ to come, and there is the restoration time, when He returns, and that for judgment, when the ways finally part once and for all, in terms of the salvation of Jesus Christ, and are made manifest.
There is a way of truth, and a way of error; and for my part, the way of error is a way of terror, for to be torn from the truth would make life a superficial tragi-comedy with no source or meaning, or even possibility of being here at all: a mere self-contradiction in terms. Yet there is no possibility of that, since His word is sure, and the truth is for those who love it, and it is Jesus Christ Himself (John 14:6), creator, explanation, worker of purpose and judge of all, as appointed. God is intensively willing to bring any to the knowledge of the truth, and that all men be saved (I Timothy 2:4); not the reverse. That is His part. Man has his response, and God who knows all, does not willingly afflict any.
Indeed, according to His fear, so is His wrath (Psalm 90:11-12). That is, just as the Lord is great and majestic and awesome and delightful to know - His 'fear' here refers to a reverential desire for and living within Him - so to be without Him is like visiting the garbage pit. It is a place for confounding, and no time could heal it. It is good to have it clear, as in this Psalm, that we are so to apply our days, that we obtain a heart of wisdom (as in Romans 5:1-11). How good to learn with perseverance and patience the quality of time with the Lord
It is always timely to see what each type of time to which we are heirs, has for us. It is "about time" with many, that they sought the Lord; for if not, it is not necessary mere to use envisaged time to ponder the case; it is the real time which is of concern, when with out the gear to proof against judgment, a person would stand naked of protection, against judgment (Revelation 20-22). It is one thing to fail; it is quite another to be wedded to failure by desire and preference. God has time for failings, to correct them; but in the end, there is no good time left for reckless rebellion that chomps on illusion, intoxicated as if it were pure spirits, whiskey.
There is another spirit which conducts man, who has returned to his Creator and come to his Saviour, through all time; and there is only one ground for this, the foundation for errant man which Jesus Christ has laid (I Corinthians 3:10-11); and there is no other (Acts 4:11-12). That lasts beyond any sort of time, and all kinds: for God who IS kind, is never at a loss, and having sent His only begotten Son to die for the lost, has gained much for any who receives him, and takes such for all time and all kinds of time, forever to Himself (John 5:24, Ephesians 1:11).
It is wonderful to live in such a time as this, when ALL is available, paid for and perfected. The world is otherwise; but this is not of this world, though emphatically FOR it, and those in it. It goes. It is good to STAY with the Creator. If your house full of pictures goes, it is good to abide with the Artist.