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Bible verses about Time
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Satan, in a fanciful vignette, summoned three demons before him and gave them a project. "You are to go throughout the earth," he commanded, "and I want you to deceive as many people as you possibly can, causing them to be lost. But before you go, I want to hear how you plan to deceive them."

The first demon stepped forward and said, "I am going to tell all these people that there is no God." Satan shook his head, saying, "That would work on a few people, but most wouldn't buy it. There is too much evidence that a Creator God exists. I reject your plan because it wouldn't deceive many people."

The second demon came before him and said confidently, "I will teach everybody that there is no hell." Satan just laughed. "People know better than that! They know there is a place where unrepentant sinners will burn, never to live again. Your plan would never work either. It may deceive a few people, but eventually they would catch on to you."

The third demon rose and said, "I will tell them that there is no need to hurry." Satan said, "Go! You'll deceive everybody!"

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Because God is Creator, time belongs to Him. As it relates to man, time began with the creation of the heavenly bodies, for we measure it by their movements. God has given each of us a slice of time to use as we choose. In this regard, time is life, and if we master the use of time, we are well along the road toward mastering life.

There are many clichés, aphorisms, and idioms relating to time: "Time marches on." "Time waits for no man." "Time is what we save so we might waste it." We have "time on our hands" and "time to kill." Others try to "make time." All of us try to "find time." The young wish time would go faster, while the old wish to slow it down. Some try to turn back time and others seem suspended in it.

Reminders of the passage of time are everywhere: clocks, watches, and calendars; the movements of the sun, moon, and stars; the passing of seasons; and the cycles of life. We are constantly aware that time moves inexorably forward, and we cannot stop it.

We see wrinkled skin, balding heads, and gray hairs. Aching muscles that used to meet vigorous demands with ease now complain upon even slight exertions. Our eyesight dims and blurs, and our ears no longer hear as sharply. We witness the birth of children and grandchildren and the deaths of friends and relatives. Even seeing a young person after several years and noting how much he has grown can be a shocking experience.

Inevitably, we wonder when our time will end. Time is absolutely irreversible and irreplaceable. All of us are running out of it, and God says to redeem it (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5).

In order to accomplish our goals, it is vital to get control of time. But life is full of time robbers, scheduling conflicts, and unexpected events that demand the use of our time. Very frequently, in fact every day, demands upon our time force us to make choices among them. When this happens, we wish that we had more time, or that things would be scheduled with more consideration, or that we were more efficient and effective in using it. We regret having procrastinated.

Extra time is something God can give. In the fifth commandment, He promises, "Honor your parents, and I will lengthen your life" (Exodus 20:12). That is more time! But if we make the right choices, He will smooth our paths so that we make the most efficient use of the time we now have.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Leviticus 23:15-16

Pentecost is unique among the holy days because it is the only annual feast determined by counting. All the other festivals God commands us to keep on certain dates on the Hebrew calendar, but we must count for Pentecost. Whether we count fifty days or seven weeks or seven Sabbaths from the day of the wavesheaf offering, we must still go through the exercise of measuring the time to keep the feast properly. Why?

God does nothing without a purpose, and His purposes always include giving His people additional instruction for their ultimately eternal benefit. Counting to Pentecost is no exception. Even a cursory examination will expose several fascinating avenues of study.

First, God commands us to count. Counting is a means of calculating sequential items, events, and measurements. The Bible equates counting to numbering and measuring, and it becomes a metaphor for judging and evaluating. When we understand what the period from the wavesheaf offering to Pentecost represents, the extended meanings come into play.

Passover symbolizes our redemption from this world and the forgiveness of our sins. Unleavened Bread typifies our lifelong task of coming out of sin and putting on the new man in sincerity and truth. We begin to count on wavesheaf day, which occurs during this period, and the fifty days extend to Pentecost, a festival that prefigures the harvest of God's firstfruits. The fifty days, then, represent the period of a Christian's conversion, the time between his calling and his resurrection to eternal life.

Thus, God wants us to count, number, or measure the time of our conversion. This should bring several well-known verses to mind. For instance, Paul considers us wise if we are "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). He cautions the Romans, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). In both instances, he is advising Christians to measure and make use of our time carefully.

A few Old Testament verses may be even more on point. David writes in Psalm 39:4, "LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am." If we understand just how short our time is, we also realize how weak and insignificant we are next to God and eternity. It forces us to rely upon Him and strive to improve. This is the kind of attitude that God desires in us and will enhance our growth in character.

Moses, too, makes use of this imagery in Psalm 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Properly evaluating our lifetimes builds wisdom in us, and wisdom—the godly use of knowledge and understanding—will make our behavior pleasing to God. Wisdom will help us to prioritize our time properly so we can devote ourselves to what is truly important.

Second, God has us count fifty days. What is significant about the number fifty? Fifty is the round number of years human beings live in a normal adult life (compare Numbers 1:3; Psalm 90:10). Fifty years, then, represents the period during which we live, grow, overcome, bear fruit, and prove our devotion to God through trials, tests, blessings, curses, and life's other varied experiences. Fifty years corresponds to the span of our conversion.

Biblically, the number fifty has its closest association with two things: the Tabernacle/Temple (in some of its measurements) and the Jubilee. The apostles describe God's church as a temple, and Christians are individual "living stones" within it (I Corinthians 3:9, 16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:5). The fifty days thus symbolize the time it takes to complete the work of building a habitation for God.

Every fiftieth year in ancient Israel, the Jubilee was decreed on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:8-9), which, among other things, represents unity, being at one, with God. The Jubilee was a year of liberty, when all debts were cancelled and inheritances reverted to their original families (verse 10), foreshadowing "the restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). It was also a year of rest (Leviticus 25:11), when no crops were sown or reaped, a foretaste of God's rest (Hebrews 4:4-10). Under this type, the fiftieth day of the count, Pentecost, represents the harvest of Christians into God's Kingdom by the resurrection.

Overall, then, we count to Pentecost for two major reasons:

1. God commands it, and
2. It teaches us to realize and use carefully the ever-shrinking time we have to come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

In His wisdom, God has us annually take stock of our procession through time so that we will devote ourselves to making the most of it. In doing so, we can gauge our progress toward God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf Offering


 

Psalm 90:1-4

Perhaps only Isaiah 40 can compare with this psalm in presenting God's grandeur and eternity in contrast to our frailty and mortality. Moses' point, however, is that God's eternity is the answer to our problem with time.

One might think that we hardly need to be reminded of this. But when the misconception that we are already immortal ("You shall not surely die") is combined with our innate and powerful proclivity toward abusing time, it is urgently necessary that God emphasize this on occasion.

God often underscores the brevity of our lives. Job laments: "Now my days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good. They pass by like swift ships, like an eagle swooping on its prey" (Job 9:25-26). In Psalm 39:4-5, David prays:

LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, you have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah.

And finally Asaph writes, "For He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again" (Psalm 78:39).

The rapid passage of time is something we need to be serious about. We cannot live as though there is no day of reckoning because judgment is now upon the household of God (I Peter 4:17).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Psalm 90:1-10

Psalm 90 gives us probably the best biblical perspective of time. This psalm, the only one attributed to Moses, compares how man and God view time and life. His conclusion, of course, is that man and God look at time from entirely different perspectives. It is this difference in point of view that makes a huge difference in how we conduct our lives.

Moses begins by asserting that God is everlasting and almighty (verses 1-2). He can destroy men's lives, and a thousand years later, He resurrects them to life with a word (verses 3-4)! Thousands of years can pass, and God can still bring people back from the dead! Man has no power over death, but God can, has, and will overcome time and death by the power of the resurrection. To God, these thousands of years pass swiftly "like yesterday . . . like a watch in the night."

This is far different from man's point of view. "The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (verse 10). Ethan, the psalmist of Psalm 89:47-48, echoes this in his plea to God:

Remember how short my time is; for what futility have You created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? Selah.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Time and Life


 

Psalm 90:12

The phrase "number our days" expresses the thought of putting in order, arranging the use of, or prioritizing time because the end of one's life is fast approaching. Moses wanted us to remember that our remaining number of days grows smaller each day.

He reminds us because we rarely make a conscious relationship between sin and our mortality. We are so busy living for the moment that we fail to see a connection between our conduct and our finite lifespan. Moses appeals for help that we might be wise and live by faith. Proverbs 4:5-6 urges us, "Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you." Because it bears so profoundly upon our accountability to God, using time properly may be the greatest of wisdom.

Romans 13:11-12 carries this thought down to our day, expressing the urgency of our situation:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Ecclesiastes 1:3-11

Overall, how do we, as Christians, perceive time? Every day we are witnesses to its progression. Daylight comes and passes, and night arrives only to be followed by daylight again. We can look at a clock and see that its hands are moving. But how - in what manner - is time moving?

As a culture, the Greeks have become known as a people sensitive to the rhythms of time, and this, though written by Solomon, a Hebrew, is a decidedly Greek view of life and of time's movement. This perception of life and time - their acute awareness of things like the perpetual ebb and flow of tides, the continuous cycle of the four seasons, and the constant repetition of weather patterns - became a major building block of Greek philosophy, leading them to develop the concept that time is cyclical.

They concluded that man's life is lived within a series of continuous, changeless recurrences. To them, time works like a wheel turning on an axis, and the events that mark time's progress repeat themselves endlessly. They believed that nothing could be done about it because such events will happen eternally. Thus, a person is born, lives his life on a stage, and when his part is done, he exits. Such belief inexorably leads to a fatalistic view of life.

Notice verse 8 especially. The Soncino Commentary opines that Solomon is saying that this inescapable repetition in life is such weariness that he lacked the words to describe it aptly. Despite what Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 1, the general Hebrew outlook is decidedly different. The Hebrew concept of time greatly benefited from God's revelation. In Jude 14-15, the apostle quotes an Old Testament personality, Enoch, whose pre-flood prophecy deflected Hebrew thought about time in a far different direction:

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude 14-15)

This quotation shows that the Hebrews who believed God knew that time was headed on a very different path from the Greek view. Events do not just happen in a vacuum; they are moving in a definite direction. Enoch is warning that a time is coming when men will have to answer for what they have done during their lifetimes.

Even so, he is nowhere near the earliest indicator that time and the events within it are moving in a specific direction. Notice Genesis 3:14-15:

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."

God had revealed Himself to the Hebrew descendants of Abraham, and some among them, like Moses, believed what He said. Thus, they knew that time was not cyclical, as the Greeks perceived it, but linear: The Creator is moving time and all that happens within it in a definite direction.

The prophet Amos receives credit for giving that "sometime" a general title, or at least the term is first used within his prophecy. He called it the "Day of the Lord." Generally, he appears to mean the time when God will intervene with a strong hand in the affairs of this world - an act that is definitely not repetitious.

However, it remained for the Christian church to define time and its right usage for its members. The church's conception of time blends the cyclical concepts of the Greeks and the linear concepts of the Hebrews. It is true that many things in life - things like wars, economic depressions, and political revolutions - do recur in an inexorable manner. Yet, as the New Testament shows, much of this happens as a result of man's self-centered nature. In other words, they do not have to happen, but they do happen because man's choices make them happen. Man continually makes bad choices because his nature is unchangingly anti-God.

Thus, in general, the Christian view is that time indeed contains stressful, repeating cycles, as Solomon describes, yet the New Testament calls these cycles "evil" (Galatians 1:4). However, it also shows that time is moving in a definite direction and that God Himself is orchestrating many of the events within its progress toward the return of Jesus Christ, the Day of the Lord, and the establishment on earth of His Family Kingdom.

This led the church to develop, under the inspiration of Jesus Christ, an overall concept of time management unique to church members. It has its roots in the Old Testament: Isaiah 55:6 urges us to "seek the LORD while He may be found."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 

Ecclesiastes 3:11

We should tie this directly to the truth of verse 1: “There is a time for every purpose.” The key word, of course, is “time.” In life's challenges to our faith, in which God is involved with us, some purpose is being worked out. In verse 11, we learn that both the timing and what is being worked out are “beautiful.” The event might be challenging, but God, who is involved in the Christian's life and in this challenge, calls it “beautiful.” With that hopeful knowledge, what should our attitude be?

The root of the Hebrew word translated beautiful literally means “bright.” The Hebrew word can be translated “fair,” “comely,” “beautiful,” “suitable,” “appropriate,” and “timely,” depending on the context. In Job 42:15, the same Hebrew word is translated “beautiful” when describing Job's daughters. It indicates something good and admirable, a blessing.

What an encouraging truth! God's timing, His oversight of events, and what He wants them to accomplish are something good! They are not merely broadly good but also suitable, fitting, appropriate, and timely.

Was the scattering of Israel and Judah beautiful in its time? If we read Lamentations without considering God's entire purpose, the situation appears very ugly indeed. However, over the long haul, the answer is undoubtedly, “Yes, it was beautiful and good!” It was suitable for that occasion.

What about the scattering of the church? Was it beautiful? The same is true. Our going through it may have been stressful, requiring painful adjustments while enduring to the end, but in the long term, it will most certainly be beautifully good.

Is correction good? Do we really want to continue doing things wrong? If God had not done what He did when and how He did it, how many serious spiritual character and attitude flaws would have gone uncorrected? How disastrous would they have been to the salvation of many?

How many nice people have we fellowshipped with in the past but who have seemingly been swept overboard and appear lost? The reality may be that they were “nice tares.” They indeed may have been fine people with many social graces but completely unconverted. Perhaps they no longer fellowship with us because God delayed their true calling, sparing them from the Lake of Fire.

Peter states clearly that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9). There used to be a television program called Father Knows Best. Yes, He does! And because of the way God has acted, many more will enter His Kingdom in His image than if He had not intervened. It is even possible to consider that we may all have been lost except for His rough intervention!

It is critical for us to keep in mind always that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). His overview captures the entire span of events; He sees the entire picture. We, though, live in a time-bound, material universe, and all we have is a mere point of view (I Corinthians 13:12). For the most part, we are restricted to grasping things from our narrow perspective. This is why faith is required of us and why Solomon states in verse 11 that we cannot “find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”

So how can we meet life's challenges in the right spirit?

If we think the scattering of the church has been difficult to accept in a good attitude, we need to be patient because prophecy reveals that things will become much worse as time moves on! I am personally becoming ever more aware that time is moving on for me. My mother, who lived to be almost 93, said to me once, “Getting old is not for sissies.” She was saying in her unconverted way that, regardless of age, the trials of life never do really end. As one ages, they simply morph into another form.

To help us through our current spiritual trials as well as the intensifying times ahead, we must come to know God through a personal relationship and trust Him to work things out. We must use our faith, knowing that we do not see the entire picture.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time


 

Ecclesiastes 3:12-14

Ecclesiastes 3:1 states, “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.” But is the timing right or wrong, bad or good, suitable or unsuitable, ugly or beautiful?

It depends on who chooses the timing. Paul writes in Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” God set the time for this to occur. It was not happenstance; the timing was fitting. Mark 1:15 shows the same principle: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus means that the time God set to preach the gospel had been reached. Matthew 26:18, 27-29 contain similar thoughts: The timing of His crucifixion and even the timing of when Jesus will drink wine again was set. Mark 8:31 reveals that God set the length of time Jesus spent in the grave too.

Acts 1:6-7 adds an important fact:

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.”

God has sovereignly set the times, including appointing the times for our trials too. Are not times set by men for school tests? The proctor says, “You have 40 minutes, then the test is over.”

Understanding this principle helps us to grasp Solomon's conclusions in Ecclesiastes 3:12-14. Some translations contend that the last phrase is best read as “that men should stand in awe before Him.” When will that take place? It will not truly occur until after the resurrection. Of what will we stand in awe? We will truly admire many things about His glory, but after going through these experiences with Him so closely involved in our lives, what will really strike us with mind-numbing awe is what He has been able to create of us.

God's timing is always good, right, and appropriate. It is up to us to use our faith in Him to remain in a good attitude, using the time that He has set for us to grow, overcome, and meet the responsibilities our trials impose. We deal with nothing as continuously as time. Every day, from the moment we wake up until we go back to sleep, we are watching time, setting times, meeting schedules, calculating how much time we have, etc. This highlights that everything matters because we have only so much time.

While our time is limited, we can live in faith and hope because of the overall message of this magnificent chapter: God is in control of time all the time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Three): Time


 

Isaiah 57:15

This verse—wonderful, grandly mysterious, and full of import—exceeds our comprehension because it is something beyond human experience. What does it mean to inhabit eternity? No human can adequately explain it, and we are humbled to realize from verses like this how insignificant we are beside the awesome grandeur of our God.

We can say that eternity sums up all of time—past, present, and future; it stretches endlessly in each direction from when we find ourselves living. But God inhabits, lives in, all of time! In contrast, we are aware of only a tiny fraction of the past and virtually ignorant of the future.

God knows beginning and end. In fact, since He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), He is in control of the entire timeline; otherwise, He could not know how things will end. In comparison, we know by experience that we are in control of so little. Events frequently do not work out as we hoped. What a difference there is between God and us!

Eternity, according to Webster's, means "time or existence without beginning or end." We have applied this term to endless time so we can "measure" and grasp it to a limited extent. We do this because time, to almost everyone, is very important. To us of all people, time should be extremely important. We need not be frantic about it, but we should be concerned about its proper use. Why? Because how we use it will determine whether we will join God in His eternal Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Isaiah 57:15

Isaiah writes that God "inhabits eternity," that is, He dwells in perpetuity or lives eternally, continually. Moses puts it a different way in Psalm 90:2, "Even from everlasting to everlasting [or age to age], You are God." However, the way Isaiah constructed the phrase, "inhabits eternity" can mean that God moves freely in time; any period of time is accessible to Him. He made it and has power over it. Whether this was Isaiah's actual intent is unknown.

Understanding this is made more difficult because Hebrew has no general word for "time." Ad, the word used in Isaiah 57:15, simply means "duration, perpetual, continuity." This is similar to the idea behind the name Yahweh, translated "LORD," which means "He who is." This corresponds to "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,' says the Lord, 'who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'" (Revelation 1:8). God is, has always been and always will be, no matter how men perceive time.

Another of God's names, "I AM" (Exodus 3:14) also implies that men cannot truly understand His relationship to time. Robert Young, author of Young's Analytical Concordance, writes of this word, hayah, "A name indicating rather the unsearchableness of God than his mere existence, as commonly supposed" (p. 506, his emphasis). As Paul points out in Romans 11:33, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!"

God's eternity allows Him to work out His plan over the whole expanse of time. From the most remote past, He has planned, created, and fulfilled each step of His purpose to bring about His ultimate goal, the birth of sons and daughters into His Family (II Corinthians 6:18). God Himself explains how this works:

Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure," . . . Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. (Isaiah 46:9-11)

Because of God's endless life and His power over events and lives of men, He can prophesy a thing to occur in ancient times and bring it to pass today. Only a Being unconstrained by time could carry out such a long-term feat.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Time and Life


 

Matthew 6:33

What was the first of the Seven Laws of Success? Set the right goal! Jesus clearly established the highest-priority goal for His disciples in this verse. He did this because He knows that the main goal, our highest priority, determines the preparations, efforts, and zeal for reaching it.

Suppose someone offered us a tremendous sum of money, perhaps billions of dollars, but the exact amount would be determined by how well we could learn to speak German in two month's time. We would embark on the most intense crash-course program of learning in our life! We would study from morning to night, burn the midnight oil, listen to language tapes, carry flash cards wherever we went, and seek out fluent German-speakers so we could practice with them.

During those two months, no one could drag us near a time-wasting television program. We would probably allow nothing to interfere other than necessary physical activities to sustain life itself. All for money!

Notice what Jesus says earlier in Matthew 6:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (verses 19-21)

Consider these scriptures in the context of what Jesus says in verse 33. Our hearts are in the things to which we devote ourselves, the things we spend our time pursuing. He is helping us prioritize by stating and illustrating principles that will help us make right choices in managing time.

Every day another 24 hours or 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds is credited to our account, and we have to spend them. Whether we are a billionaire or a dirt farmer, except for those who die that day, all have the same amount of time. Jesus says how we spend it shows where our heart is.

Of course, Bible Study and prayer are very high priority activities. But Satan also knows this! He also knows it would be very difficult to change our minds regarding their value if he confronted us directly. So he makes use of subtle, indirect approaches, and all too often he succeeds in diverting our attention from these high priority concerns.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Matthew 13:7

Jesus is not saying that the cares of this life and riches are intrinsically evil; they are neutral. However, involvement in or pursuit of them may be easily overdone and cause great spiritual loss. He is warning people with too many interests. The most important interests, the spiritual ones, almost invariably get crowded out.

Even a person heavily involved in charitable works may be misusing time (Luke 10:40-42). Another may be so intent on his business that he is too tired to study or pray effectively, or for that matter, to think of anything else. Such a person—one who should heed Jesus' warning—has allowed other things to control his life.

In many cases, our worst enemies are not the obviously bad things, but the necessary and even the good things which we allow to be overdone. In athletics, is not the second best athlete always the strongest enemy of the first? So it is in prioritizing. Much of the time, our chief problem is a lack of commitment to the highest priority; we allow the secondary priorities to steal time from the primary one.

Consider the man in the parable of Luke 12:20-21:

But God said to him, "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?" So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

He was a fool because he did not have enough understanding and character to know when enough is enough. In his lust for more, he burned up his time on lower priority concerns and neglected building character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!


 

Matthew 24:37

God told Noah that He would destroy the earth by a flood, and He gave him instructions on how to be prepared so he and his family could survive. God told him what He would do but not when. What did Noah do? He prepared, though nobody else did. Noah believed God and acted according to his belief. When the Flood came, he was ready, even though he did not know when it would come.

The parallel to today is astounding. Noah's actions define a Christian's responsibilities. Putting the lesson into his life, one can also "[b]y faith . . . being divinely warned of things not yet seen, [move] with godly fear . . . and [become] heir of the righteousness which is according to faith" (Hebrews 11:7). Not putting this lesson to work is the attitude that leads to spiritual disaster, saying by one's conduct that there is plenty of time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 24:45-51

The parable of the faithful and evil servants admonishes us to be faithful and wise in carrying out responsibilities and relationships with our fellow servants, our brothers in the body of Christ.

A faithful person is trustworthy, scrupulous, honest, upright, and truthful. Without specifically stating it, Christ is saying that we have to be keeping the first of the two great commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).

In this context "wise" means judicious, prudent, sensible, showing sound judgment. It suggests an understanding of people and situations, showing unusual discernment and judgment in dealing with them. Just as Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:6 about being self-controlled, Christ's use of "wise" indicates an exercising of restraint, using sound, practical wisdom and discretion, and acting in good sense and godly rationality. In short, Christ means exercising love. He tells us that we should be faithful in keeping the second of the two great commandments: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39).

Since this parable applies to everyone, Christ admonishes us to lead in a way that unites and inspires others to be faithful. We do this by giving them the truth, a good example, and encouragement. In this way, we become wise and faithful stewards of the trust God has given us.

In these verses, Christ strongly links belief with behavior in both examples. If we believe in His return, we will not live as we would like carnally. It is as simple as that. If we really believe He will return soon, this parable shows that our belief will regulate our lives, keeping us from extremes of conduct.

This faithful attitude is opposed to that of the scornful servant, who says his master delays His coming and beats his fellows. His conduct turns for the worse as he eats and drinks with the drunkards. From the description Christ provides, the evil servant's attitude is arrogant, violent, self-indulgent, gluttonous, and hypocritical. Because he believes he has plenty of time to square his relationship with God, his conduct becomes evil.

In summary, whoever is entrusted with duties must perform them faithfully, prepared at all times to account for what he has done. The key words in this parable are faithful, wise, and ready.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Matthew 25:1-13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins pictures the church waiting for the Bridegroom's return. Because of an unexpectedly long delay, He finds half the virgins unprepared when He finally arrives.

In weddings of that time, the bridegroom traditionally led a procession of bridesmaids from where they waited to his home. Since the procession almost invariably took place at night, each bridesmaid was expected to supply her own torch or lamp. If the bridegroom came later than expected, the bridesmaid needed to be prepared with extra torches or oil for her lamp.

The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins in the parable is not that one group did not have oil, but that one group did not have enough for the unexpectedly long delay. When the cry went out, their lamps were still burning, but they were sputtering and going out. Oil, of course, represents God's Holy Spirit. The wise virgins, like the faithful and wise servant of Matthew 24:45-51, are prepared. They make sure that they remain in contact with the dispenser of oil, as is implied when they say to the foolish virgins, "No, . . . go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves" (verse 9). The wise had been in recent contact with the dispenser of oil, whereas the others apparently had dallied around. Going frequently to the dispenser, the wise, when the bridegroom arrived, had an adequate supply to trim their lamps and go into the marriage supper. The lesson is preparedness through vision and foresight.

Because it is an internal state, preparedness cannot be transferred. That is evident in the reaction of the virgins. It is a matter of the heart, an intangible that accrues by spending long periods of time under many circumstances with the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit. What cannot be transferred to those who are unprepared are matters of attitude, character, skill, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. They are personal attributes that are built and honed over months and years.

When one needs a skill immediately, how much time does it take to learn it? If a man suddenly needed the skill to repair an automobile, and he had never done any work on one, he may as well have no hands at all! It works the same way with spiritual attributes. Preparing for eventualities is the lesson of this parable. The wise virgins prepared for the eventuality that it might take longer for the bridegroom to come—they showed foresight and vision, and they entered the wedding feast. The others did not.

The oil cannot be borrowed either. In no way can it be passed from one person to another. We cannot borrow character or a relationship with God. The parable teaches us that opportunity comes, opportunity knocks, and then opportunity leaves. The foolish failed to face the possibility that the bridegroom would come later than expected, and when they were awakened, they had no time to fetch any oil and fill their lamps.

No one can deliver his brother. Each person determines his own destiny. No matter how close we are, even if we are one in flesh as in marriage, a husband cannot deliver his wife, and a wife cannot deliver her husband. Nor can we deliver our children. Everyone stands on his own in his relationship with God. God makes this clear in Ezekiel 14:14: "'Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,' says the Lord God." Though it is a hard lesson, it should motivate us to discipline ourselves, to exercise self-control, to be alert, and to give our attention to our spiritual priorities. Thus, each person determines his own destiny.

Equating the foolish virgins with their modern counterparts, the Laodiceans, their faith is perfunctory. Their church membership is routine, merely going through the motions. They have enough faith that they at least show up for church services. They have beliefs and character and motivation—but not enough!

The Bridegroom's refusal to admit the five foolish virgins (verse 12) must not be construed as a callous rejection of their lifelong desire to enter the Kingdom. Far from callous, Christ's rejection is entirely justified because these people never make preparations for their marriage to Him. In the analogy, though they realize they have met their future mate and admire Him, they never develop the relationship. In a sense, they have already rejected Him. Thus, an additional lesson in this parable is that our relationship with God must be worked on continually.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

John 5:16-17

The issue is the Sabbath. God does not stop working on the Sabbath. However, He is not laboring in a steel mill. He is not bending over an engineering table, working on His automobile, or cutting His lawn. What is God doing? Psalm 74:12 says that God is working salvation in all the world, and that work does not stop on the Sabbath.

Jesus is justifying what He did on the Sabbath by the fact that He was doing the same thing God was. He was expending His energy in God's creation, and therefore it was justifiable for Jesus to work. So, creative acts—creative work—of the kind that God is involved in does not stop just because the Sabbath arrives.

The Sabbath is, therefore, an integral part of the same process of Creation that God began on that seventh day. The physical aspect was finished at the end of the sixth day. But the spiritual aspect began with creation of the Sabbath, and it continues to this day, as Jesus establishes in John 5.

In the physical sequence of events—the first six days—God created an environment for man and life. But God shows through the creation of the Sabbath that the life-producing process is not complete with just the physical environment. The Sabbath plays an important role in producing spiritual life. It is life with a dimension that the physical cannot supply. Thus, the Sabbath is not an afterthought of a tremendous Creation. Rather it is a deliberate memorializing of the most enduring thing that man knows—time.

Time plays an important role in God's spiritual creation. It is as if God says, "When this day rolls around, look at what I have made, and consider that I am not finished yet. I am reproducing Myself, and you can be part of My spiritual creation." God created the Sabbath by resting from His physical exertions, thus setting us the example that we must also rest from our physical exertions.

He also blessed and sanctified the day. He did this to no other day! Yet people will argue, even with Christ, that we should not keep it as He did. It is very obvious that He kept it. Yet, it is the commandment that men tend most to disregard as though it is nothing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Ephesians 5:14-17

Notice the encouraging reason Paul gives to wake up and carefully mind how we live: "Christ will give you light." This is an outright promise that He will give us the help to do what we must do. Backed by this promise, we are to redeem the time "because the days are evil." If his days were evil, what would Paul think of ours?

This passage reveals how the early church regarded time as it applies to a Christian. For us, all days - every period in which God's people have had to live their lives by their God-given understanding, thus by faith - are evil. God's truth has always run counter to the course of this world. Thus, the truth adds a peculiar, stressful difficulty to life regardless of when it is lived. Moreover, since each called-out individual has only one opportunity to lay hold on eternal life, and must overcome, grow, and prove his loyalty to God during that time, he must make use of every experience.

Galatians 1:3-4 confirms this perspective: "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." In terms of growing and overcoming, living in a particular period in history gives a Christian no advantage. Every era, every age, is against him, and within it, he must make the most of his calling. The times have always been evil.

To the church, then, because it must operate responsibly toward God within a highly specialized understanding of life and its purpose, every age is full of the cyclical, frustrating, repetitious events that Solomon called futile vanities. Such events lead nowhere and produce a discouraging fatalism.

However, a Christian also knows that God is directing time and events to His desired end. Thus, the church's view of time is an elegant combination of both realities, realizing that it has a work to accomplish as an organization and that each individual Christian must grow and overcome within it. So, as Christians, we must face the evil of repetitious vanity produced by sin, which history clearly records, with faith in the hope of a glorious victory for God's called-out ones, which God's Word prophesies.

Thus, Paul advises in Ephesians 5:17, "Therefore . . . understand what the will of the Lord is." As we live our lives each day, we should never let what God says slip from our minds. His point is that we need to make the most of every opportunity because time is inexorably moving toward God's desired end, and it will not stop and wait for us. We do not want to be left behind! No occasion is too insignificant to do the right thing. Time is precious! We, like God, must take it very seriously.

We must not make the mistake of relegating Christian living to a mere couple of hours on the Sabbath. Christianity involves every aspect of life. Personal study and prayer are times of clarifying God's will. But we must not neglect the doing of His will as occasions arise - and they will arise every day. Woe to us if we disregard them, for they comprise the very circumstances that challenge us to overcome and grow in our seeking of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part Two): A Foundation


 

2 Peter 3:8-9

The overrall subject is the return of Jesus Christ. When Peter wrote this, there were stirrings within the church that the second coming had already occurred.

The apostles thought the return of Jesus Christ would happen within their lifetimes because they did not fully understand God's timeframe. Undoubtedly, people were becoming discouraged because they felt that matters were going awry in their world. They were frightened, anxious, and in pain, crying out, "How long, O Lord?" They were becoming impatient, and it seemed that everything was continuing as it had, and nothing was changing except for the worse. Some were becoming so discouraged that they were leaving the church.

So Peter writes that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise. God does not lie; He will send His Son to this earth. However, He is being very patient, and this is Peter's emphasis.

What kind of a plan could God devise that would produce the best in terms of character and the most in terms of the number of children who inherit His Kingdom? How could He be merciful and forgiving without being merely indulgent? What could He use as points of reference that would motivate people to continue to strive toward the conclusion of His purpose once He had mercifully forgiven them?

"That with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" indicates that God does not look at time as we do. To us, time is very pressing because we realize we will live only about seventy years. As we get older, the fact of death becomes an increasingly clearer reality. When we are twenty, we hardly ever think about death unless somebody close dies. But as we age, we think about death more frequently. Our bodies start running down. We do not have the vigor, the energy, the vitality, or the strength we used to have. We are aware of these things because we begin to feel them slip away. It becomes easier for us to become impatient because we have so many things we want to do and accomplish, yet time keeps flying by.

With God, though, time is not so critical. If a thousand years with God is as a day, how much is seventy years, the life of a human being? Nothing more than the blink of an eye. How many blinks of an eye—human lifetimes—end every day? Tens of thousands of them! Blink—they are gone, but they experienced every second of their lives. They were born and played through childhood. They went to school. They became adult men and women. They married and raised families. They watched their children grow up. They fought wars. They endured droughts and famines, diseases, and depressions. They watched death approaching, and they died. All this—a blink of an eye to God.

We cannot begin to grasp the enormousness of what God is doing until we begin to consider the scope of the thousands of years that have already passed and the billions of lives that have been lived. We must begin to look at the much bigger picture yet retain a human perspective of time and life, understanding that, to God, time means almost nothing because He has power over life and death. Vast and awesome is the scope of what God is working out, but we need to look at what is going on through the understanding God has given us of Himself.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Find more Bible verses about Time:
Time {Nave's}
Time {Torrey's}
 




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