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Time in the Bible: 4 Big Epics

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Time in the Bible: 4 Big Epic
40. Time in the Bible: 4 Big Epics in 2 kinds of time: chronos (χρόνος) for sequential time: kairos for a proper or opportune time for action.

Time in the Bible: 4 Big Epics in 2 kinds of time:

Time stands visibly at the beginning of the Bible and at its end.

The words “in the beginning” and “I come quickly” are examples of God’s view of time. Man’s view of time is different. We want to put a number on “the beginning” and “quickly.”

Bishop Ussher put a number on Creation, 4004 BC, and Harold Camping announced on Family Radio that Jesus* would come on September 6, 1994.

2 Kinds of time in the Bible

The Greeks have two words for time, chronos (χρόνος) for sequential time and kairos for a proper or opportune time for action. We live our day-to-day lives in chronological time while Kairos is about an appointed time, occasion, or season: Jesus came into the world on Kairos time – precisely the right time.

Of course, we can after the fact figure out the chronological time of Jesus’ birth, but it is never too precise, and we date Jesus’ birth circa, i.e., around 6-4 BC. God’s Kairos schedule was simply:

But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son. – Galatians 4:3

God recognizes fullness and looks for it unhampered by dates.

Time in the first Big Epic is from Eternity past to the beginning.

Eternity past has no starting date and the “beginning” no chronological date, although Ussher dates it 4004 BC and “big bang” theorists use 13.8 billion years ago as the “age of the universe“.

Those theorists speculate on what went on during this vast time span, but the Bible gives us some specifics on what God did in Eternity past.

  • God created the angels (Job 38:4-7)

  • The Son was in the bosom of the Father enjoying glory (John 17:5)

  • He wrote out our days (Psalm 139:26)

  • He planned history, beginning to end (Isaiah 46:9)

  • He chose us to be in Christ (Ephesians 1:4)

  • He prepared good ways for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:10)

  • He promised Eternal life (Titus 1:2)

Although God is outside time, He planned every aspect of it, not in years but in huge blocks of dispensations, callings, covenants and purposes. He created everything, including time itself, before time began.

Time in the 2nd Big Epic is from the beginning to the Great Flood

Using Ussher’s date this period is from 4004 BC to 2348 BC, 1656 years

Here God gets chronological time rolling by creating the day.

Before we ask the question “how long was it?” we see that the day begins with the evening.

This is the way Jews still observe the day, evening and then morning.

Ussher calculated that the world began at 6 pm on Sunday, 4004 BC. This means the first week ran through Friday, the 6th day at which point the Lord rested on the Sabbath. What a wonderful and enduring time measurement a week is.

The 7-day week is ordained by God and woven into our existence.

Those who have tried to change it, like the French and Russians during their revolutions, encountered insurmountable problems and had to return to the 7-day week God created.

God also created seasons and years for us since He lives outside time and sees it as a whole and not sequentially as we do.

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: Genesis 1:14

The first time we see years mentioned is when reference is made to Adam’s* son Seth*, born when Adam was 130 years old. But before we run into years, our way of measuring time, we encounter “generations” a "God word" without a number attached.

(* an asterisk after a name indicates that person has a short biography in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES.)

A list of the generations of Adam* is given in Genesis 5, there are 10 of them and they cover the entire 2nd Big Epic.

Here the length of each man’s life is given, and we see long lives, over 900 years.

God determines to limit this to 120 years but gives no reason.

During these long lives, wickedness overwhelmed the earth, and only one man was faithful.

To him, God turned over His purpose for salvation and the complete restoration of creation to its original perfection.

This meant shutting down the sin that had corrupted that perfect world, which He did in the Flood.

Time in the 3rd Big Epic is from the rainbow covenant to the Babylonian exile, 2349-588 BC, 1781 years

God’s purpose in this Epic is to create a people, a holy, chosen people, and to bring them into a Promised Land of their own. This took 1781 years in our time.

He inaugurates this epic in a covenant with all of us that He will never again destroy the earth by water.

Again, a Kairos time, limited only by the renewal of all things.

We see God’s time again in the genealogy of Noah’s* sons in Genesis 10 and 11 leading to the call of Abram* in chapter 12. This translates into chronological time as 427 years, from the Flood in 2349 to Abram’s call in 1921 BC.

That call begins God’s purpose to have a chosen people and a holy place for them to worship:

And the LORD appeared unto Abram*, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. – Genesis 12:7

This call came in the land of Canaan when Abram* was 75 and had no children. God told Abram this would take 400 years. It was completed 430 years later in the Exodus when Moses* led the people out of Egypt and to the promised land in 1491 BC.

An important insight into God’s thinking on time explains the delay between the Exodus and the entry into Canaan:

for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. – Genesis 15:16

God sees all, even the hearts of the wicked, and He has factored all things into His time and timing.

God did bring His people into the Promised Land as promised, and showed His control over time by making the sun stand still when Joshua fought the Amorites:

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.

Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. – Joshua 10:13

God gave His people judges for 430 years and then kings for 500 more until the temple was destroyed.

One other time God showed His power to control time, by making a brief connection between Kairos and chronological time, supernaturally turning back the sundial:

Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward.

So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down. Isaiah 38:8

The 3rd Big Epic ends badly for God’s people, whose sins had brought righteous judgment, but His grace is there, given by the very prophets who proclaimed His wrath.

Time in the 4th Big Epic is from the restoration of the temple to the destruction of Jerusalem, 537 BC- 70 AD, 607 years

This is the culminating Big Epic of the Bible, beginning with a prophecy on rebuilding of the temple and rising to the climax of history when the Lord Jesus Christ died, rose from the dead, and established His church, all in one year, 34 AD.

God had sent His prophets to warn and counsel the kings of His people from David on. One of the last of these prophets was Jeremiah* (659-588 BC) who lived when Nebuchadnezzar* conquered Jerusalem, burned the Temple, and took the Jews captive to Babylon.

For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. – Jeremiah 29:10

The prophet Daniel* lived through this 70-year period and cited Jeremiah* to the Persian king Cyrus* who opened the way for the Jews to return to their homeland. They did, and the second temple was dedicated in 516 BC. It lacked the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple, but Haggai prophesied:

The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2:9

But when would that be? When the Messiah came. God gave Daniel* a vision of 490 years until the Messiah would be cut off in 456 BC. Jesus was crucified in 34 AD, 490 years later.

We have no chronological time given for Jesus’ ministry except Luke’s testimony that “He began to be about thirty years old” when He began His ministry. Luke then immediately connects Him to His genealogy,

The Son of God lives in both Kairos and chronological time:

Your father Abraham* rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.

Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. John 8:56-58

He did get into God’s time again when He spoke about the destruction of Jerusalem

Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. – Matthew 24:34

From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Luke 11:51

And the Kairos time translated into 70 AD, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. God had already brought His Church out of Jerusalem and His kingdom was being built on the judgment of those who had refused the great salvation offered through His Son.

Time in the Overruling Promise and its fulfillment

4004 BC– 33 AD is the chronological time span that we apply to God’s Kairos time and everlasting purpose for the Lamb, slain before the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8)

That plan has been realized, but it is a prelude to greater times ahead:

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: Ephesians 1:10

What a glorious prospect!

My times are in thy hand: Psalm 31:15

O God, our help in ages past, listen HERE

our hope for years to come,

our shelter from the stormy blast,

and our eternal home:

Under the shadow of your throne

your saints have dwelt secure;

sufficient is your arm alone,

and our defense is sure.

3 Before the hills in order stood,

or earth received its frame,

from everlasting you are God,

to endless years the same.

4 A thousand ages in your sight

are like an evening gone,

short as the watch that ends the night

before the rising sun.

5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

soon bears us all away;

we fly forgotten, as a dream

dies at the op’ning day.

6 O God, our help in ages past,

our hope for years to come,

still be our guard while troubles last,

and our eternal home!

Isaac Watts (1719)

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