Hourglass running out of sand

Time in a Bottle (Redux)

Hourglass running out of sand


I call this sermon “Time in a Bottle (Redux)” because, back on October 3 of 2010, I did a sermon called “Time in a Bottle.” The title of both talks is based on Jim Croce’s classic love song of the same name…well, minus “Redux” in this one :-)…

The first time I started it off with Ephesians 5:15-17…

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

…and the primary point of the first sermon is summed up by its very end:

I also know that we can learn, from his experience and the Bible, that we can never assume we have more time.

So I ask you…Christian…and non-Christian…

How should you be spending your time?

Where will you be spending your time in eternity?

Outside Looking In

This time…no pun intended :-)…however, what brings “time in a bottle” to mind for me is a part of the conversation James, Nev, and I had during the Bible study Nev led before service last week. As beings trapped in space and time, it is impossible for us to understand an existence outside it.

To understand a state with no time.

Don’t agree? Let’s do a quick test. I have my handy, old-fashioned stopwatch here…for five seconds I want you to imagine no time. Ready? Go!

[ Wait five seconds. ]

How successful were you? I bet you were very aware of every second that passed. The silence…well minus the constant hum of the fans and coolers here…might have been deafening.

Now, in fairness to you…it’s not like this is an optimal atmosphere to think of “no time” and I didn’t give you…time…to prep…but, regardless, at best you can lose track of time. You cannot truly imagine no time because, without time, you wouldn’t exist. It is foundational to your being and your experience.

You might say that time is trapped in a bottle and we are trapped in time. As such, we are also trapped in that bottle.

Whereas, I would argue, God created that bottle and is on the outside looking in.

And if I am going to make a convincing argument about that, what will I have to base it on?

That’s right, the Bible! 🙂

So let’s turn there…

[ These are quick sermon notes…not cleaned-up…and missing the “extras” that come out in the audio (which is available here). All quotes are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. ]

Proof God Is Not Trapped in Time

Before we do that, two quick caveats:

  • Proof, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder…and no person can be convinced against his or her will.
  • There is no Scripture that says, “God is outside of time” or “God is not trapped in time.”

In the Beginning

Now…having shared those two caveats…let’s dive in Scripture…and the first reference is easy to find. Please turn to Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

What is before “the beginning”?


Time is something.

In the beginning, God created everything. Before that, nothing but God Himself (or should I say “Itself” given the Trinity?) existed.

But…to be honest…my use of the word “existed” shows how I am trapped in time…trapped in the finite trying to describe the infinite. “Existence” is a time bound word.

Now, I would not say my “in the beginning” evidence is really convincing…and I did not keep track of which web site I saw suggested it…but it seemed, being the very first words in the Bible…a good place to start.

“Start” being another time bound word. 🙂

1,000 Years

For our next indication that God is outside of the time bottle looking in, let’s turn to 2 Peter 3:8:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

How is time perceived by God?

Kids, I know that when you are bored, a couple minutes may seem like a thousand years…but that’s not what the Holy Spirit is saying here. It is saying that God’s experience with time is drastically different than ours. The verse’s point is not that God is super old…it’s that time is entirely different for Him…and Psalm 90:4 also uses the thousand years approach:

4  For a thousand years in your sight

are but as yesterday when it is past,

or as a watch in the night.

Again you may not yet agree God is outside time…but if He is in it…He is in it in a way clearly and immensely different than you and I.

Controlling Time

So far my argument that God is not in a time bottle with us is that (a) “in the beginning” implies “before time” and (b) that the best explanation for the “thousand years” verses is God being outside time.

In line with that second approach is this next verse. Background is that good (but imperfect) King Hezekiah has been told he is going to die…Hezekiah petitions God for a reprieve…and God agrees. Hezekiah (of all things) asks the prophet Isaiah what the proof will be that he’ll be healed and…

9 And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” 11 And Isaiah the prophet called to the LORD, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz (2 Kings 20:9-11).

What happened in those verses?

Time went backward!

Think about that. God made time go backwards!

And that wasn’t the only time our Lord appears to have controlled time. Celebrating a victory, Joshua prophesied something quite incredible:

12 At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,

and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”

13  And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,

until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel (Joshua 10:12-14).

What happened in those verses?

Time Stopped!

Face of clock in sand

Think about that. God made time stop!

Now…if you are a huge skeptic…I am sure that in both cases you can posit a different explanation, but with the two does it not make more sense that, at least for a portion of the universe, God controlled time for Hezekiah and Joshua?

Methinks so. 🙂

And ultimately…since Scripture does not specifically say, “God is outside of time” or “God is not trapped in time” we have to basically go with the best possible explanation we can for “in the beginning,” “one thousand years” verses, making a shadow go backwards, and our sun not setting a whole day.

Which is that God created time…and as such…perceives it from the outside…and having creating it…can also control it at will.

Throw in how badly it would conflict with all the verses that show God is omniscient…and we really do need to settle with the fact that God is not trapped in the time bottle.

Just at the Right Time

I don’t want to spend more time debating it…pun intended this time…now double pun. 🙂

Because I want to move on to one other important thing that Scripture shows us about God and time. It also is an argument that God is outside time, but that’s not why we are going to discuss it.

Not commenting much until after reading all of them, let’s quickly review four scriptural selections:

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:1-5).

When did God send forth his Son?

When the fullness of time had come.

5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

When was the testimony given?

At the proper time.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:1-6).

When did Jesus die for us?

At the right time.

I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, 14 to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen (1 Timothy 6:13-16).

When will the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ be displayed?

At the proper time.

So once we see a case where something happened at the fullness of time, once where it was given at the proper time, once where it was at the right time, and once where it will happen in the future…again…at the proper time.

When does God do things?

At the fullness of time. At the right time. At the proper time.

I don’t know about you, but too often I say or do things at the wrong times. At inopportune times.


How about God? When does God do things?

Always at just the right time!

Which, I mentioned previously, is also an argument that God is outside time…He sees the end from the beginning and, thus, knows exactly when the perfect time for Him to “interfere” is.

Praise God! 🙂

A Delay of Unknown Time

Using another time bound word, this sermon is almost over. But, before we wrap it up, let’s use more time bound words and ask, “We know that Christ will return at the proper time, what is He waiting for?”

Remember how we looked at 2 Peter 3:8 to see that God sees time differently than we do?

Before saying that, Paul spent time talking about scoffers who…because even then Jesus hadn’t come back…”…will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation'” (2 Peter 3:4). Paul continues a bit more before getting to the “thousand years” verse…

Including talking about the flood…which ties this sermon back to last week’s. 🙂

And then we return to verse eight, although this time we’ll continue through verse 10:

8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed (2 Peter 3:8-10).

Why does Jesus…well…take His time coming back?

Because He is “patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

Now, that is not only a God who is outside the time bottle…but it is a God who is love.

He owes us nothing

We deserve to die

Every last one of us.


At the fullness of time

At the right time

At the proper time

He sent His Son to die for us.

And at the proper time

Will return

But waits

Not wishing any should perish.

Do you have time for an awesome God like that?!

Do you have time for our awesome God?!

Your Time

As I noted in my first “Time in a Bottle” sermon:

September 20, 1973 was just like any other day for Jim Croce. After wrapping up a concert at Northwestern State University, he climbed on a plane to head to Sherman, Texas in order to perform at Austin College.

One can only imagine how he, the pilot, and four other passengers experienced their last moments after their Beechcraft E18 failed to clear a pecan tree at the end of the runway. All of them died instantly less than an hour after Jim had heard the last cheers of the concert goers.

Horrible tragedy. However, five years ago today I also discussed another occasion where almost 3,000, including over 400 first responders, also started a day “just like any other day”…but had their day…and their lives…end in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

It is now exactly 15 years from that infamous day.

As you think about the thousands lost, I want you to think of your time.

It’s great that our God is so glorious the Second Coming is delayed because He wants none to perish, but this day…

Which may have started just like any other day for you…

May be your last.

So, I ask you again…

Do you have time for our awesome God?!

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Alan is an ordinary guy, living in a small, high plains Colorado town...and humbled to be a minister of God...

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