Question 3. “If the Death and Resurrection of Jesus occurred in history, how can history be rewritten?”
I take this objection more seriously than any other. After all, if Time is made sinless, why would Christ come? Moreover, how could Christ be murdered in a sinless world? Teaching the restoration of Time seems to also imply that the glory of God would be lessened.
Let's start by establishing some common ground. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are the most important events inside and outside of Time. It was looked forward to not only by the people of God, but by the angels. It was dreaded by the devils, who worked in vain to thwart the promised Messiah by wiping out His chosen people.
It is looked back on by us as the rock of our faith. Paul says that if Christ was not truly raised from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all others, for our hope would be truly dead. The entry of God into our Space/Time, born fully God and fully man, was nothing less than the fulfillment of the eternal promises of God and the point of all history.
Nothing is more important than the historic mission of Jesus, and I raised this objection to myself while formulating this theory. This objection is why I searched for a better explanation of how redemption relates to Time. I did not want to accept my own theory out of fear that it might undermine the importance of Jesus's birth, death, and resurrection.
But I think there is much in Scripture that indicates that Christ's sacrifice was more than simply a temporal event.
Jesus now dwells at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33), not within our created Space/Time. In His place, He has sent the Holy Spirit, saying it was preferable for Him to leave that the Helper might come (John 16:7).
Christ appeared to John at Patmos as a being beyond Time (Rev. 1:9-20), still bearing the marks of His crucifixion (Rev. 6:5). The Lamb Who Was Slain has won an eternal glory by His willing death on the Cross, a victory which cannot be taken from Him by any means. It is a victory that transcends Space and Time.
As Hebrews tells us, while the human High Priests offered sacrifice after sacrifice for the remission of sins, Christ the High Priest offered one sacrifice for all time. It does not matter if we live 2,000 years after that sacrifice and on the other side of the world, it will not matter 20,000 years after and on another planet! Christ calls us, who have not seen and yet believe, more blessed than those who both saw and believed (John 20:29).
This is one way in which all Christians agree that the Cross transcends Time: the single sacrifice paid for all future sins. This is strange to human minds. How can the sins of the future be paid for by a sacrifice of the past? This only makes sense if we recall that God is eternal, seeing the end from the beginning; sins which are in our future are already known to Him. Even so, the entire system only makes sense if Christ's sacrifice is also eternal, transcending time to cover sins that had not yet occurred.
There is another sense in which Christ's sacrifice is eternal. Paul says that the sacrifices of the past, of Moses and David, were only accepted by God on the basis of Jesus's future death and resurrection. But this was not a mere matter of God taking it on faith that Christ would pay the price at some later date. One does not simply open up a tab with God. No, the death of Jesus also transcends into the past, making the animal sacrifices efficacious.
Hebrews says of Jesus, that "after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified." (Heb 10:12-14). This sacrifice replaces not just future animal sacrifices, but also past animal sacrifices - "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4).
Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, but the blood of mere animals is not what was at stake. If the blood of animals was what truly mattered, how could the prophets condemn those who sacrificed with unclean hearts? Abraham's faith was accounted to him as righteousness not because of burnt offerings (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-4), but because all believers, past, present, and future, are saved by the blood of Christ.
Paul speaks on this subject at length in 2 Tim. 1:9-11:
"Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles."
The grace given to us on account of Jesus' work was given to us before Time began. It was hidden for a time - until the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) when Jesus Christ appeared - but has now appeared. And what was given to us before Time was also given to the Old Testament saints before the revelation of the Son. Salvation was always by faith, even when the full nature of the Messiah was hidden by Time.
So salvation transcends Time into both the future and into the past - this much at least should not be controversial, though it is not often stated in these terms. And if we recall that the sin of the rebel angels took place outside Time and that human sins committed within Time have eternal consequences, it should not surprise us that sin transcends Time as well as salvation.
There is yet another sense in which salvation transcends our Space/Time. The saints who have gone before us no longer exist in this world, but in the presence of God. A salvation won within Time remains effective outside of it.
So then, it is not a question of whether or not the death of Jesus Christ on the cross will change Time itself. It has already changed Time irrevocably. All of history pointed to it before it occurred, all future history will point back to it. It led the destiny of nations, raised kings, and overthrew empires. It changed the lives of men and women, determining the eternal bliss or woe of their souls thousands of years before Jesus has His first human breath. I repeat, it is not a question of whether or not the Cross has changed Time itself. Without an eternal God leading all things to Christ, nothing would work together for good!
This is why I feel led to believe that the nature of time will be changed: it is already being changed. Without the blood of Christ transcending Time, history would be an even greater nightmare of completely unrestrained, unregenerate human hearts. The future would be a bleak pit without hope. There would be no new earth, and no new heavens beyond it. Show me a Christian that does not believe that the death and resurrection of Christ transcends Time, and I will show you a Christian without hope in this world or the next.
This is why I say with relative confidence that the death of Christ is not limited to our current Space/Time. Certainly, it had to occur in our Space/Time to fulfill prophecy, and so that Jesus could live a truly human life, but it is an event that conquers and restores Time, not one that is a slave to it. If it makes the eternal heavens new, how much more our world of Space and Time?
So far from undermining the historical reality of Christ, far from unmaking the temporal basis of our salvation, the recreation of Time is already being accomplished. And I believe that what has been accomplished shows the way to what is still to come.
As we discussed in the previous section, we are not dealing with a Marty McFly model of Space/Time. Changing Time only effects beings which exist in Time, not beings which exist outside of Time. Removing sin from Time would erase the death of Christ from this world's timeline, but that, perhaps is the entire point. Christ's work on Earth was to wipe out sins, to take them on Himself. He sucks the poison out of this world.
But even if the sin of murdering God is removed from the timeline, Jesus is not a solely temporal being. As the Eternal Son of God, the wounds remain on His hands, and the glory cannot be stolen. Restoring Time to a sinless state only effects Time, not eternity. The objection makes sense if we look at the issue with the eyes of temporal creatures, but not when we look at it from the eyes of eternity.
From the eyes of eternity the death of Christ is what makes the redemption of Time possible and what renders it inescapable. Without the death of Christ, this world could not be restored, and it is the mercy and justice of an eternal God which make sin untenable. Christ's sacrifice will not be unmade in the new order of heaven and earth, but rather has become their very foundation.
Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is already returned to eternity. Christ's presence with the Father is the sign and seal that no mere accident of Space and Time can shake our salvation. Just as the worst horror of sin is the mark it leaves on eternal souls, so the greatest triumph of the Cross is now a part of eternal God. Our names our written on His hands. Our salvation cannot be erased because it is part of the eternal glory of God.
This is why I do not think that the destruction of Space/Time would unmake the work of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. It would remove the event from Space/Time, but while establishing it as the eternal foundation of a restored created order. I fully understand if some do not agree with me, but I want to be quite clear in stating that this is not a doctrine which seeks to undermine the importance of the Incarnation.