Does God Keep Time?
AS THE First Cause of events, Jehovah God is the creator of time. This fact can be noted by reading the first book of the Bible. At Genesis 1:1, 14 we read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And God went on to say: ‘Let luminaries come to be in the expanse of the heavens to make a division between the day and the night; and they must serve as signs and for seasons and for days and years.’”
Thus Jehovah set in motion giant time-indicators—the earth spinning on its axis, the moon orbiting the earth, and both revolving around the sun to give us days, months and seasons. These heavenly bodies help us to know what time it is, without cost or responsibility to us for their running or adjustment.
Why Be Time Conscious?
Jehovah is time conscious and he wants us to be, too. We are made to be that way. But not all of God’s servants have displayed wisdom in their use of time. Some have neglected building sufficient sensitivity to God’s timetable of events.
For example, in the seventh century BCE God’s chosen people had no excuse for not knowing what time it was. The prophet Jeremiah wrote: “Even the stork in the heavens—it well knows its appointed times; and the turtledove and the swift and the bulbul—they observe well the time of each one’s coming in. But as for my people, they have not come to know the judgment of Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 8:7) Instinctively animals know when it is time to respond to seasonal changes. But the Israelites, despite repeated appeals to their minds and hearts, did not want to know that it was God’s time for their judgment, or, rather, they did not care.
What about us today? Do we know what time it is? Jehovah has always had an appointed time for expressing his will and judgment. In the apostle Paul’s speech to the Athenians, he said: “True, God has overlooked the times of such ignorance, yet now he is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.” (Acts 17:30, 31) Do you believe that we are close to that ‘day of judgment’? Or do you think that time is far off?
During the first century the time came for the earthly appearance of the man whom God would use to judge the earth. His arrival was a very important date on God’s timetable, as the Bible says: “When the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman and who came to be under law.” (Galatians 4:4) Right on schedule was the arrival of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
This coming of Christ in the first century marked a judgment period for the city of Jerusalem. In the year 33 CE Jesus warned those residents of a coming destruction by an enemy army. He said: “They will dash you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave a stone upon a stone in you, because you did not discern the time of your being inspected.” (Luke 19:44) Thirty-seven years later that prophecy came true. If you had been living then, would you have known what time it was? Would you have known that it was God’s time to send his Son to earth and to render judgment against Jerusalem?
How could you have known this? Similarly, how can you know what time it is today? How can you tell whether we are near to that foretold ‘day of judgment’ or not?
Consulting God’s Timetable
Just as we need to consult a timetable telling of arrivals and departures prior to our traveling by train or plane, so we need a timetable to know what God wants us to do and when. The Bible serves as God’s timetable. By consulting this Book we can know the scheduled arrival of events affecting humans. For example, all the first-century Jews should have been prepared for the coming of the Christ. Why? Because, by his prophet Daniel, God had long before foretold that the Messiah, or Christ, would arrive in the year 29 CE. (Daniel 9:24-27) Actually, the Jews in the first century who knew Daniel’s prophecy were awaiting his appearance in that very year. (Luke 3:1, 2, 15) Jewish scholar Abba Hillel Silver wrote: “The Messiah was expected around the second quarter of the first century C.E.”
The same can be said for today. By using the Bible’s timetable we can determine that now is the time for Christ’s invisible presence as King.a Therefore, his coming to execute God’s judgment upon the wicked and his 1,000-year ‘day to judge the earth in righteousness’ are very near.—Acts 17:31; Daniel 4:10-17; Matthew 24:7-31; Luke 21:24; Revelation 20:4-15.
Our View of Time Affected by Belief
Nineteen centuries ago any who failed to appreciate God’s timetable and who became impatient with Jehovah’s appointed time for his Son to arrive missed out on marvelous blessings. Similarly today, if we become restless and ask, “Where is this promised presence of his?” we too will miss out on God’s favor because of not knowing what time it is. (2 Peter 3:4) Due to their environment, this type of fidgeting spirit hovered over the first-century Ephesian Christian congregation and posed a real threat to their faith. Do you find your faith weakening because of your impatience with God’s time schedule? What can we learn from the apostle Paul’s counsel to the Ephesians?
The non-Christian Greeks in Ephesus did not believe that time moved in a straight line. Schools of Greek philosophy taught the cyclic view of time. Events recur mechanically, that is, life can be repeated in endless cycles. If a person squandered his time in one cycle of life, he could gain it all back in a repeated life. This type of thinking could have induced in the Ephesian Christians an uncaring attitude toward Jehovah’s timetable of events, including judgment.
Also, a pleasure-oriented life-style surrounded the Ephesian Christians, exerting strong pressure on them to relax in their consciousness of God’s time schedule. For them to believe that living for the present by engaging in voluptuous living and self-gratification was wise would make them no different from the animals that have no concept of the past or the future, only the present. If they wanted to inherit the future, they needed to remember this historical fact: “For you know this, recognizing it for yourselves, that no fornicator or unclean person or greedy person—which means being an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.”—Ephesians 5:5.
In the verses that follow, Paul warns those Christians to be fully aware of what time it is. Otherwise, they could be fooled into thinking that they had enough time to invest in unchristian conduct and get out of it without suffering spiritual bankruptcy. He said: “Let no man deceive you with empty words, for because of the aforesaid things the wrath of God is coming. . . . Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:6, 10) So, in view of God’s timetable, our conduct does affect our future.
How could those Ephesians meet with God’s approval? How can we? By “buying out the opportune time.” By “perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Ephesians 5:16, 17) When must this be done? Now! Why? Because we may not have another opportunity to do so. Since 1914 numerous events predicted in the Bible marking these as the “last days” have been occurring, all observed by one generation, giving us the appearance that time has speeded up. We do not want to be found with no time left for building a good relationship with Jehovah and his appointed Judge, do we?—Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 3:10, 11.
An Aid to Be Time Conscious
God has arranged for a dedicated, spirit-anointed body of people to help us to be time conscious. This “faithful and discreet slave” serves us spiritual “food at the proper time” and exhorts us to ‘always have plenty to do in the work of the Lord.’ (Matthew 24:45; 1 Corinthians 15:58) In this way we can be useful in God’s service both now and in the future. But it will cost us something. Time. We all have the same amount of time to invest each week—168 hours. How well do you invest your time? Does it show that you really know what time it is from God’s standpoint?
‘I have no time,’ many will say. That is why you must be willing to buy time from other areas of your life. Hobbies, music, recreation, secular work all compete for your time. And new gadgets, like TV video games, can become compulsive eaters of your time. While it may be enjoyable or necessary to spend some time in wholesome recreational activities, does your life show an honest balance of your time with what you know about God’s timetable?
Which poet’s words do you want applied to you?
“Time goes, you say? Ah no!
Alas, Time stays, we go.”
Or this one:
“All day long I will bless you,
And I will praise your name to time indefinite, even forever.”—Psalm 145:2.
Which one it is will depend on whether you really know what time it is.
[Box on page 7]
EVIDENCE OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE AS HEAVENLY KING
Have you observed the following?
Increased Crime Matthew 24:12
Famines Mark 13:8
Global Preaching Mark 13:10
Earthquakes Luke 21:11
Pestilences Luke 21:11
Fear of Future Luke 21:26
Selfishness 2 Timothy 3:2
Love of Pleasure 2 Timothy 3:4
[Pictures on page 5]
A flight timetable informs travelers of arrivals and departures
The Bible’s timetable informs us when events of God will occur