Previous: [BTT008] The Beginning of Time
Any discussion of the original creation must turn inevitably to the tragedy of the Fall, an event that so radically altered the nature of the universe that we must struggle to understand what life was like before it. What was it like to live in a world without death, without disease, without pain in childbirth? How could the lion lay down with the lamb?
Even so, it is relatively easy to understand how the Fall has affected Space, the material creation. We may not know how lions fed themselves before death came into the world, but we know what they eat now. We have all felt our bodies heavy with disease, felt the painful curse put upon our work as we struggle to provide for ourselves and our families. We struggle with sin, with the twistedness of our own hearts. There is not a day of our lives in which we do not come face to face with the consequences of the Fall on the race of human beings.
But the effects of sin are not limited to humans. It extends to animals, which must also shed blood to survive. It extends to plants with the creation of thorns and thistles, with vines and weeds that choke the life out of other plants. While the death of plants is not put on the same level as the shedding of human blood (or even animal blood) in Scripture, their struggle for life in a hostile universe is an all-to-clear reflection of our own.
In The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton poses the haunting question, “Why does each thing on the earth war against each other thing? Why does each small thing in the world have to fight against the world itself? …Why does a dandelion have to fight the whole universe?”
Every thing that is, not just humans, must partake in the dreadful struggle for continued existence, feeding on the life of others and being fed upon in turn. Even the stars grow old and die. From the largest, most powerful star in the depths of space to a broken dandelion struggling up from the concrete, the whole of creation is in “the bondage of corruption” (Romans 8:21).
Just as humans are not the only part of creation subject to bondage under Sin and Death, so humans are not the only part of creation which will be redeemed by God. In Romans 8:19-22, Paul paints a beautiful picture of the creation that will be redeemed along with us:
“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”
It is not enough for God to redeem His sons and daughters out of a dying universe. God will not be content until the entire creation, which He made good, is returned to that original state of goodness.
The dandelion which struggles against the universe is subjected to the same hope as us: that God will remake all of creation according to the “glorious liberty” which frees us from Sin and Death. “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23). The need we feel in our hearts for the redemptive love of Christ is shared by the whole of creation.
It is very commonly accepted Christian teaching that the Fall has affected physical space - death entered the world, changed the physical natures of humans, animals, and plants. If we keep Paul's teaching in Romans 8 in mind, we can easily expand this to the whole of creation - not just living beings, but rocks, water, and air. After all, Jesus says that if His people do not respond to His divine presence, the rocks and trees will praise him (and while we might be tempted to assume Jesus is speaking metaphorically, Paul seems to take Him quite literally).
But as we established earlier, Time and Space are both part of the same creation. This thing called Time is by definition not a part of Eternity, nor part of the Eternal Nature of God. Just like the Sabbath, Time was not created for God's needs, but for our needs as human beings. If created Space is subject to the hope of redemption, it seems to follow that created Time is also in need of a Savior.
As human beings, we instinctively know that the realm of Time is the realm of change. We change in time, growing from babies into adults and from adults into elders. Time weathers down monuments and great cities, eats away at mountains and transforms languages. It is in Time, not in Eternity, that we age and die, that our works are buried beneath the sand and forgotten.
However, there is also a sense in which we think of Time as unchanging - the Past. We move forward in Time, not back. The Past remains ever as it was. It is as if once a given moment slips past our fingers, it becomes permanent. I would say that it becomes etched in stone, but even words etched in stone are weathered away. The Future has infinite possibility and the Present is still fluid, but the Past is as firmly settled as Eternity.
This is a perfectly natural thing for beings within Time to feel, to think. We cannot reach back into the Past and change it any more than we can rewrite the laws of gravity. But to a being which exists outside of Time, this might be a laughably limited perspective.
Next: [BTT010] The Fall of Time and the Three Curses