Thursday, December 31, 2015

[BTT010] The Fall of Time and the Three Curses

Previous: [BTT011] The Fall of Space and the Fall of Time

The argument so far is thus:

1). Time is part of creation, not part of Eternity.

2). The nature of Time can be changed, and indeed, has already been changed from a perfect state into a fallen state.

3). Just as the rest of creation will be restored to its perfect, pre-fall state, so will Time.

I do not think that most readers will have any major objections up to this point. I feel that most Christians do not think about the redemption of Time, but only because we do not think very much about the relation between Time and Space. Once we see and accept that Time is part of creation, the necessity of its redemption fairly cries out to us.

But there is a point where the discussion becomes an argument. First, in what exact sense is Time fallen? In Genesis 3, we are given a fairly clear picture of how the fall affects Space - the earth brings forth thorns and diseases, childbirth and work become painful, and our physical bodies die. This gives us some good leads in exploring how the fall affects Time, but it also forces us to indulge in a certain level of speculation.

Second, in what sense will Time be redeemed? Once again, it is fairly easy to get a Scriptural image of what a restored Space will look like - no more death, no more pain, no more sin. The lion will lay down with the lamb, there will be no more war, and God will dwell directly in our midst.

It is much harder to imagine a changed, redeemed Time. Will this redemption apply only to the Future? To the Present and Future? Or dare we suggest that the redemption of Time will also apply to the Past?

After all, the redemption of Space will not apply to only one country, one continent, or even one planet. It is all of physical creation, from the Earth to the Sun to beyond our galaxy, that will be burnt up and replaced with a “New Heavens and a New Earth.” Redemption will not extend only to the upper atmosphere of Earth.

What then of Time? When the physical universe is burnt up like an old cloth in a furnace, what does that mean for Time? We can very easily accept that the Future will be redeemed, we can easily accept that there will be a definite Present moment in which this will occur (though we know not the day and hour, we can reasonably assume that it occur in a particular day and an hour), but what about the Past?

I would like to look at how the fall affects Time first and how the redemption will affect Time second. After all, if we understand how sin has affected Time we will be better equipped to tackle how redemption will restore Time.

To understand how the Fall has affected Time, we must go back to the moment that the curse was proclaimed onto the world, as described in Genesis 3:14-19. In this passage, God pronounces what effects the Fall will have on three individuals: the Serpent, Eve, and Adam.

            “So the Lord God said to the serpent:
            “Because you have done this,

You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”

             -Genesis 3:14-15

First, God pronounces His judgment on the Serpent, who we know from the rest of Scripture is actually Satan. Now, there is a legitimate line of thinking that claims that in this passage God curses both a literal serpent that Satan was possessing and Satan himself. It is common to see paintings of the temptation of Eve in which the snake has legs, thus implying that part of God's curse was reducing snakes into ground-crawlers.

I have no particular objection to this interpretation, but it does require a certain amount of speculation. The Genesis account does not explicitly tell us that snakes had four legs before the Fall. Perhaps God is using the snake which Satan inhabits to tell us something of Satan's fate.

Scripture certainly does imply that part of Satan's existence from here on out consists of “going to and fro in the earth, and…walking up and down in it” (Job 1:6-7). Cast out of the assembly of his brother angels, Satan is reduced to crawling around on a sphere of clay. Lucifer, the bright morning star, must eat the dust of the world that he led into sin.

I am taking this time to discuss the identity of the Serpent, not because I do not think that my readers are well of who Satan is, but in order to draw out the role of Time in this curse. Satan is cursed “all the days of [his] life” and bound to the physical world of dirt in a way he was not before. Part of Satan's curse is that he is now bound to Time. Even if he has until the end of history before he must face the Judgment, for a being that once dwelt in eternity “His time is short” indeed!

Second, Satan is cursed by the prophecy of the Seed. This too is a curse relating to Time. From here on out, there will be enmity between Satan and the woman, between his seed and her Seed. This is Satan's ticking clock. One day, the Seed will come and crush his head.

Satan's future is written, his Time is set. Struggle as he may, the day of vengeance comes inexorably closer. He can fight the woman and her seed, kill and accuse humans, work his own seed of sin, death, and separation from God, even go so far as to fatally wound the Seed, but it is all in vain.

For Satan, a very real part of the curse is the simple onward movement of Time. Even if part of this curse is turning snakes from four-legged creatures to no-legged creatures, the Messiah, the Promised Seed, does not come to wage war on physical snakes. The second part of the curse only makes sense in reference to Satan. After all, we are given images of redeemed snakes in the World to Come. Isaiah 11: 8-9 tells us:

            “The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
              And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
              They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
              For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
              As the waters cover the sea.

The snake is a fitting symbol for Satan crawling around in the dust of our world, but the snake as an animal is part of the original, good creation. Jesus will not destroy snakes, He will make them our companions and friends. Snakes look forward to the redemption as much as the rest of creation. The passage of Time is not a curse on them, but on Satan.

Moving on to Eve:

            “To the woman He said:

            “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
            In pain you shall bring forth children;
            Your desire shall be for your husband,
            And he shall rule over you.”

             -Genesis 3:16

This is perhaps the curse least related to Time, but it is still a curse related to the future. Now, it is difficult for us to imagine a form of childbirth that would not be painful (a friend describes it as “a watermelon being pushed through a tennis ball”), but the point is something which was once only blessing is now part curse.

However, if we look back at the curse on the serpent, we can see that this curse is mixed with a blessing. The Seed will be delivered in pain and sorrow, but it is coming. There is a Hope in our cursed timeline, a Seed which will overthrow the enemy.

It is also interesting to note that men ruling over women was not a part of the good original order, but rather the fallen order. This verse has been used time and time again to justify male domination, but nothing could be further from the point.

Bear in mind the unique dignity given to the woman in this passage. It is not the man Adam who the serpent will be at war with, it is the woman Eve. The Seed, the redeemer, the over-thrower of sin, will not be born through a man, but through a woman. The future of woman is filled with pain, but it is a pain which will deliver the Savior into the world. Men may die for the truth, but only a woman can give birth to the Truth, the Way, and the Light.

Jesus may be a man, but the glory of his birth belongs to Eve and Mary, not to Adam and Joseph. Without women, there would be no Redeemer, no hope for all of Time.

Let us turn to the man, to Adam and his curse:

            “Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

            “Cursed is the ground for your sake;
             In toil you shall eat of it
             All the days of your life.
             Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
             And you shall eat the herb of the field.
             In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
             Till you return to the ground,
             For out of it you were taken;
             For dust you are,
             And to dust you shall return.

            -Genesis 3:17-19

In Adam's curse, we perhaps best see the effects of sin on Space, on the physical world. Adam's curse does not only affect him in the way that the curses on the serpent and Eve affect only them. The ground itself is cursed on Adam's behalf, the creation is “subject to futility” because of Adam's sin.

What a terrifying vision this is! The sinless creation is turned into a nightmare of pain and death in order to punish Adam for his crime! Satan is cursed to eat the dust, but Adam is cursed to become it. It is in this curse that we see creation bound for the sake of one man's sin.

While the curse on Satan and the curse on Eve give us a glimpse of the coming Seed and the inevitable Redemption, the curse on Adam ends on the bleakest note possible. There is no hope of new births to lighten the curse on Adam, only a life of futility which ends in death.

In a very real sense, Adam is now bound more tightly to Eve than Eve is to Adam. Eve may be subject to desire for her husband and to chafe under his rule, but her salvation is contained inside her very body. Not so for Adam! He is the ruler of the kingdom of death. His hope can never be in his body, which will toil, wear out, and die, but in protecting the woman from whom new life will come. Nowhere do we see so clearly the Gospel message, that salvation will not be born from the futile work of our hands, but from the gift of God.

This, then, is the curse on Time: bodies will grow old, work will become futile, and history will be the oppression of the guilty. Perhaps this is best expressed by Entropy, the physical law by which energy is scattered into an unusable form. The Sun and her sister stars will run out of energy and explode, succumbing to the futility of their work. All of the monuments of man will crumble and fall, all systems be reduced to chaos, “things fall apart, the center cannot hold.”

How clear the Fall becomes when we look at Time! Our world is so fallen that it marches forward toward a universal scattering, not an evolution into a perfect state. While Time cannot destroy matter or energy, it can break them apart.

When we look at Time, we see the curse on Adam in its purest form. All our effort is broken and reduced to dust. The finest poetry is forgotten. The greatest empires crumble. Our cities will be swallowed by the sea, the continents will be pulled into the mantle of the Earth, and the Earth will be consumed by a dying Sun. All that is will be undone, pulled into an increasingly chaotic state until the sin of man has reduced the universe into an endless gray void.

The lesson of Time is that our world cannot continue on its own. Time, though it was created good, has become as much of a source of futility as Space. Were it not for the Seed, the works of man would all be pulled into a universal cloud of dust. Without the pain of birth cursed on woman, the promise of God cannot be born into Time.

Next: [BTT011] The End of Time

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