Volume 46 | Number 4 | July–September 2018

Inglés Español

The Importance of Time in Scripture

By Dr. H. T. Spence

The last Straightway issue addressed the burden of Psalm 119:126, “It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.” In this issue we must consider what concept of time prompted the Psalmist to declare such an urgency before God. How are we to view time in the light of God’s Word, the Bible?

God Is Eternal, Yet He Made Time

The Christian must first understand that God is eternal and dwells in the dimension of eternity. He has no beginning; He has no end. There is no past or future with God. He dwells in the infinite present tense of His continual existence.

In the light of this truth concerning God, all His purposes and plans are found in eternity. God created the universe, including the angels, in dateless time (Gen. 1:1). Our concept of time did not come into existence until Genesis 1:3. When God created the dimension of time, He automatically declared the concept of beginnings—establishing a past, a present, and a future.

But in declaring this truth, it must be seen that the concept of both universe and angelic time are different from our time. Interestingly, evolutionists declare millions and billions of years to account for the existence of stars and the universe. They do not understand that they are measuring the celestial existence of Gen 1:1 from earth’s perspective of time established in Gen. 1:3. Human time perspective is very limited and very different from other time dimensions of the universe. Our time is based on our solar system, which is very infinitesimal compared with other heavenly systems. Earth time to us (both circular and linear) is based on the rotation of our planet and its revolution around the sun. Therefore, our time concept is limited to our immediate surrounding existence.

When considering angelic time, we must be clear that it is not based on our solar system. Although God inhabits eternity, He works in time and through time. The universe was created by God prior to this physical earth, and we do not know what concept of time God worked through to create the universe. Nevertheless, we are clearly told in Scripture that God worked in the time dimension of six days to bring about the creation of this earth, rather than choosing to make the earth in a moment of time.

Genesis 1:14 states, “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.” It is declared from this verse that God used these firmament lights for earth’s concept of time. Time commenced with both linear (history and chronology) and circular (seconds, minutes, hours) concepts of time. Yet, as to the planet Earth and mankind, the importance of time in God’s thinking is found in the fact that He dedicated a full chapter to this truth in Ecclesiastes 3.

As the Book of Ecclesiastes carefully deals with the natural man under the sun, we are told that all the timings under the sun are in the hands of God. Twenty-eight times the word time is used in Ecclesiastes 3; fourteen pairs of opposites are employed in an effort to cover the widest possible range, and thus every aspect of human life. Life in its beginning and its end is first mentioned, and then everything in-between. These time seasons are mentioned to clearly reveal to us that the time for all things has been determined by God; everything rests on God’s will and good pleasure. This includes the time when such a work is to be carried through as well as the process of the carrying through of the matter. Truly, God has His times and His seasons.

The Importance of Time in God’s Thinking

Just how important is time in God’s thoughts concerning this planet and humanity? Leviticus 23 reveals that God was careful in appointing that His feasts be held on selective days of the year: April 14th (Passover), 15th (Unleavened Bread), and 16th (First Fruits); June (Pentecost); and October 1st (Trumpets), 10th (Atonement), and 15th (Tabernacles).

God was also careful to record the various stages of a man’s life as exampled in the life of Abraham. Scripture reveals his being 75 years old when he entered the land of Canaan; he was 86 when Ishmael was born and 100 when Isaac was born. We also read of Joseph being 17 years old when he was sold by his brothers to the Midianites going down into Egypt; he was 30 years old when he was taken from prison and made prime minister of Egypt. The story unfolds with 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. Then Jacob sends his sons down into Egypt 2 years into the famine. All these time details are rendered in the sacred history of these men.

We read in Exodus 12 of the Exodus taking place 430 years to the day from the time that Jacob went down into Egypt (Exod. 12:41). Centuries later, Jeremiah 29 declares that the captivity of Judah is to last 70 years. Within the Book of Daniel, we read that at the end of the 70 years, another 70 “weeks” of years with a total of 490 years are appointed against the Jews and Jerusalem. Then those weeks of years are broken down to 7 weeks of years (49 years), 62 weeks of years (434 years), and one remaining week (7 years).

God Speaks of Appointed Times

Hebrews 1:2 reveals that God has already created the “worlds” or the “ages” (segments of time) for the history of the world. God has appointed the end of time (Dan. 8:19). Paul on Mars Hill speaks of the times appointed and a certain day of judgment of mankind (Acts 17:26, 31). We read in Luke 21:24, “until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”; this time began with Nebuchadnezzar and will continue through the coming Antichrist.

God’s Word reveals His involvement in an individual’s life, as recorded in Ecclesiastes 3, where we are told there is “a time to be born, and a time to die.” Job 14:14 speaks of “all the days of my appointed time will I wait.” Hebrews 9:27 discloses, “It is appointed unto man once to die,” declaring that an appointed day is laid up for each man’s death. We read of this in Genesis 47:29, when the “time drew nigh that Israel must die.”

Four Reasons for Time

Why is time so important? The Bible reveals at least four reasons for the appointment of time.

The first reason is time allows God to work in and through His creation. These workings are His carefully woven providences.

The second reason is time provides a probation for an individual, a church, a community, a nation, or the world. As we read in Genesis 6:3, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, . . . yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” God truly deals with us in seasons, calling us to get right with Him or to enter deeper realms of spiritual living with Him. To the Christian He declares, “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart” (Heb. 3:7, 8). Mercy is not the doing away of judgment; mercy is the postponement or delay of judgment. It is often in that merciful delay a soul gets right with God!

The third reason is time is needed for the building of character, for entering the deeper things of God, and for the perfecting of the Christian life. How much time is needed or how much time will be taken is dictated by the heart of an individual, or even of a local church.

And a final reason is time reveals what is in a person, a church, a school, or a nation. God gave Cain opportunity to change his way: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Gen. 4:7). But we then read that Cain killed Abel. He passed up the day of opportunity. Likewise, in the days of Noah, God gave the people of the earth 120 years to repent, yet He eventually had to send the Flood as judgment. Even in the New Testament Christ cried over Jerusalem declaring, “O Jerusalem, . . . how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:37, 38).

Seasons of God’s Dealings

Oh, the seasons of life! Each is a part of the times appointed for us. There is the season of childhood that is to prepare for adulthood. Will the child respond to God and His Word during this early season? How will the growing child respond and live in the season of the teenage years, and then the season of becoming a young adult? As the seasons change, how will he or she respond during the prime of the life, and then in the autumn season of the latter years? Even when individuals come to God for salvation, they must come in God’s season for that soul. They cannot enter the Kingdom anytime they want; God’s dealings in godly sorrow to work repentance unto salvation must come within the appointed season. This is also true for a local congregation. When God is dealing with it, the people must respond in God’s appointed day of grace, or such a ministry could pass up that day of grace.

History has already been planned out by God; therefore, it is to unfold according to His appointment. The thousands of prophecies given in Scripture not only prove that God knows the future but also that He is the controlling factor of history. Note Daniel 2:21:

And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding. He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.

Times in this passage of Daniel becomes the broader term for the years, and seasons becomes the suitable time to do a thing.

The Scriptures reveal that God also has appointed a time in history known as the “Last Days.” The Bible clearly reveals that this period of time began with the coming of God’s Son. The Last Days were appointed for the church, the church mainly of the Gentile world. The last two thousand years have been the last days of the church ages, for as Paul designated in Romans 11:25, “Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” This fullness of the Gentiles will come to an end at the rapture, when the church concept will cease. Another time of God’s dispensational economy will then begin what is called the Great Tribulation.

Yes, God has appointed the ages. And though man’s world system seems to presently control and dominate the concept of time, God is working through it all in accordance to His times and seasons and His plan for history.

Though we find ourselves in the Last Days, a concluding time of these Last days is prophesied about. Daniel speaks of the End Time (Dan. 8:17b, 19b). Jesus Himself gave us greater details in the two segments of the End Time and the end of the age. There is the beginning of the End Time (Matt. 24:4–8) and then the end of the End Time (24:9–14). We truly believe we are in this second segment.

The Church on earth went through many apostasies in the first fourteen centuries, but then the providence of God brought the Reformation, which profoundly affected the age time for Christianity. Nearly two hundred years later, God sovereignly appointed the Evangelical Revival that brought the church into its deepest insights of redemption, drawing the heart more to the inward workings of grace. This revival became a movement in time to prepare the true church for the second coming of Christ. If the rapture had taken place during this season, no doubt there would have been many more individuals ready for such a glorious catching away.

But how sad, after the greatest spiritual move of God within the church on earth, the present season of the Laodicean church age came. This season has brought the institutional church into its final plunge of global apostasy and has established a prelude season to the coming of Antichrist. This is the worst, most deceptive falling-away of the church in all its history. It is not so much the apostasy of Roman Catholicism (the oldest Christian apostasy); it is the apostasy of the great move of God in the Reformation and the Evangelical, Revivalist movement.

Our present season of history has catapulted the institutional church well into a public, universal falling-away, which continues to declare the terms Gospel, Jesus Christ, and Christianity. But they speak of another Gospel, another Jesus, and another Christianity, for the institutional church has denounced the literality of the Bible and the historical Jesus. Christianity is the only religion that has publicly renounced the historicity of its sacred writing the Bible, and of its true Christ; it has created a modern Jesus and a modern concept of being a “Christian.”

Yes, we have witnessed the public death of Christianity. We have come to the end of the church as a witness on earth, for it has become the voice of apostasy rather than “the pillar and ground of truth.”


God has appointed the ages. And though man’s world system seems to control and dominate the time, God is working through this present history in accordance to His times and seasons. Just before the Great Tribulation, there will be tribulations, troubles unlike any time in history. The reason for these troubles is not only to set the stage in God’s providence for the coming of Antichrist but also for the final preparation of a people to end the church age. Only a remnant will be watching and waiting for His imminent return. That remnant becomes the precious fruit at the end of the church. Only troubles can bring this about. These troubles will have to be hard and difficult; they will have to be wars and rumors of wars. It has taken a reckless, anti-American such as Obama to initiate the chaos in our country and the world; and it is taking someone like Donald Trump to bring about the final reactive chaos from the liberals to aggravate the evil in America, and ultimately all Western civilization and the world. There are many forerunners of Antichrist and many forerunners of the False Prophet to place the world in the posture of the finality of the “Day of Man.”

The Bible’s miraculous content gives the entirety of history. But God has placed enough mysteries in the prophecies that only He knows the intricacies and details of time and history. And this is true of our lives. Every stage of life and the seeking of God for that life are timed out by God.

Psalm 32:6 reveals, “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.” The Psalmist also declared in Psalm 37:18, 19, “The LORD knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.” Psalm 89:46, 47 brings the cry, “How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire? Remember how short my time is.”

Hosea 10:12 exhorts us, “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” Christ cried unto the city of Jerusalem in Luke 19:44, “because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” The apostle Peter announced in Acts 3:19, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.”

Our blessed Lord gives us a final word in Revelation 1:3: “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (the time of urgency, the time of crisis).

May God grant us both discernment of the times in which we live and discernment of the times for our lives in seeking the Lord.