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God, the Creator of Time

“A fickle-minded man, whose thoughts were all astray because of his conception of time past, might wonder why you, who are God almighty, Creator of all, Sustainer of all, and Maker of heaven and earth, should have been idle and allowed countless ages to elapse before you finally undertook the vast work of creation. My advice to such people is to shake off their dreams and think carefully, because their wonder is based on a misconception.
How could those countless ages have elapsed when you, the Creator, in whom all ages have their origin, had not yet created them? What time could there have been that was not created by you? How could time elapse if it never was?
You are the Maker of all time. If, then, there was any time before you made heaven and earth, how can anyone say that you were idle? You must have made that time, for time could not elapse before you made it.
But if there was no time before heaven and earth were created, how can anyone ask what you were doing ‘then’? If there was no time, there was no ‘then.’”

Who is God as the Creator of time? This involves a discussion of the idea of “eternity” and the idea of “time.”

God, the Eternal One:
God is the Eternal One. Eternity is an attribute of God. Eternity itself is part of the Godhead. Eternity does not exist outside of God, as if God is one who dwells in eternity. Rather, God himself is his own Eternity. God is a triune God, who enjoys fulness of life and fulness of joy and fulness of activity within himself, and this is God’s eternal life. This is eternity. There is nothing eternal, besides God. God is the Eternal One.
What is eternity? Don’t fall into the mistake of thinking of eternity in terms of time, as if eternity is simply an endless amount of time that stretches both into the endless past and into the endless future. We may be tempted to do that. However, we may not do that. Time and eternity are ideas that are qualitatively different. Exactly as the Creator is infinitely transcendent above his creatures, so eternity is infinitely transcendent over the idea of time. After all, time itself is a creation of the Eternal One.
What is eternity? God’s eternity can be understood as an “eternal present.” Don’t picture God’s eternity as if it were a long, stretched out moment of time, where nothing happens. Rather, picture God’s eternity as if God is constantly living “in the moment.” For example, we have those moments in our lives where time just seems to “fly by” and we lose all sense of time because we are so caught up in the moment. These are often the thrilling moments of life, where we are fully enjoying ourselves, and we are full of activity. That’s how we should picture God’s eternity: God constantly enjoying fulness of life and activity and joy, as the three persons of the Trinity enjoy each other’s fellowship in the Godhead. God’s own fulness of life with himself is his eternity.
More could be said.

Time, God’s Creation:
Time is a creation of God. Just as plants and animals are creatures of God’s handiwork that God can hold in his hand, so also all of time and history is a creature of God’s handiwork that God holds in his hand. Time is a creature that God holds out in front of himself, and he is able to see all of it in one instantaneous (yet eternal) glance. And he is able to see it all and have a perfect grasp of every single moment that is contained in the whole. Yet, even as God stands above and controls and directs every moment of time to carry out his eternal pleasure, God is also present and immanent in every moment of time; God is with us in each moment of time. And God condescends to us creatures of time and fellowships with us in time. He does this constantly, and he did this in a most wonderful way through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who subjected himself to all the realities of time, in order to give us everlasting life. This is God’s amazing covenant of grace (Isa. 57:15).
There was a beginning to time. Our Bibles begin by saying, “In the beginning…” When did time begin? Time began when God began to speak creation into existence around 6,000 years ago. And what was there before God’s work of creation? As Augustine says, that is a foolish question because the word “before” implies the very idea of time. And “before” God’s work of creation there was no time, but there was only the Eternal God. To put it more strikingly, we can put it this way: God cannot even be said to “precede” his creation in time, because that implies that there was a time before creation, which is simply not the case. We simply cannot comprehend God’s eternality; such knowledge is too wonderful for us.
What is time? First, we can speak of extrinsic time. By extrinsic time we mean the different ways in which we measure time and change. For example, in Genesis 1:14 we read that God created the sun, moon, and stars, so that by them we can keep track of time. A day is one rotation of the earth on its axis. A year is how long it takes for the earth to orbit the sun. This is extrinsic time. God created extrinsic time. God created the days, the months, and the years, as we know them, and he created them for us. He made us creatures of time, exactly so that we might enjoy the Sabbath day, and number all our days and learn to apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Second, we can speak of intrinsic time. Intrinsic time refers to the fact that all creatures have a past, a present, and a future. It doesn’t matter how you measure time (whether by the sun, moon, or earth’s rotation); all creatures can be divided into different parts of their existence, namely, their existence in the past, their existence in the present, and their existence in the future. From this point of view, time is simply the succession of moments. God created intrinsic time at the very moment he began the work of creation.
But what is time? We can put it this way: Time is the unfolding of the eternal counsel of God. God’s counsel is God’s eternal good pleasure, according to which he willed and conceived all things that are ever realized or occur in time. And it is God’s counsel that determines, controls, and guides time along its appointed course, to its appointed goal. So when did God create time? God created time when God began to carry out his eternal decrees to bring glory and honor to his name through the path of sin and grace, and through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. And God is creating time in every single moment of our own existence, as God continues to bring his eternal decrees to pass. In the very upholding and maintaining of his creation, God is creating time. In a very sublime sense, all our times are in God’s hand (Ps. 31:15).

The Significance:
The significance? God is the Lord of time: trust God in all your times (he’s in control of every event, and he is with you in every moment). God is the giver of every moment of time: serve God with each moment God gives you. God is the one who created time to the praise and delight of his name; use every moment of time to praise his eternal worth.