When you get to a certain age, you become far more conscious of the passage of time. This comes largely from the realization that of the so-called four score years that we are typically allocated for our lives here on this earth, we are now far nearer to the end than to the beginning.
As it is, we are fortunate enough to be living here and now rather than at most times in mankind’s history on this earth, when our typical lifespan would have been far shorter. Up until the end of what we call the Middle Ages (1,500 AD), surviving until age thirty would be about all you could realistically expect. Even during the succeeding period of the Renaissance in Europe, the average life expectancy seldom exceeded forty years. Even as late as 1950, the world average life expectancy was only 48.
It has only been in the last 60 years or so that we have seen dramatic increases in life expectancy due to better nutrition, scientific progress and medical advances. In 2014, according to a World Bank study, the global average stood at 71.5 years. Of course, there are considerable variations depending on where on this planet you live and what social and economic class you belong too, but our generation has certainly been blessed with the gift of relative longevity.
As human beings, we look upon time as one of the four dimensions of the reality of our existence – three dimensions of space, and one of time. In this standard conceptual framework, time seems to be unique compared to the other dimensions. In the three spatial dimensions, we can easily move in any direction along their respective axes. We can move forward and back, sideways in either direction, or up and down. With time however, we are constricted to moving only forward, towards the future. We cannot go back in time.
At least so this seemed until Albert Einstein came up with his Special Theory of Relativity. One of the conclusions to come out of the complex mathematics involved in the theory, is that space and time are not separate things, they are in effect one integrated entity known as spacetime. This implies that time is not fixed but can vary depending on your position, speed and frame of reference.
More recently some scientists have developed the concept even further, proposing that a particular instance of spacetime does not disappear as we move forward along the time axis. In simple terms, much as we know that when we move from one point in space to another, that point we left does not disappear as we move to another point, by the same token, when we move from one moment in time to another, the moment we left also does not disappear but continues to exist. We simply are not able to perceive it or return to it. For reasons that are still not clear to science, our senses are locked on to only one direction when it comes to time. It seems inconceivable, and yet it would seem that every moment of our life in the past continues to exist somewhere.
This brings to mind another misconception that most humans have about time, and that is that time is eternal in both directions, past and future. This idea has also been proven wrong by modern science. Most people by now are aware and accept the fact that science has determined that the Universe was created during the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago. What most people don’t know is that prior to the Big Bang, there was no such thing as time. Time, as well as space and matter, only came into existence with the Big Bang. It is therefore meaningless to ask the question of what happened, or what caused the Big Bang.
Ironically, most of these scientific discoveries tend to reflect what we know of the biblical version of Creation and some of the fundamental aspects of God’s divine powers. God created the Universe in a spontaneous act that could be interpreted as the Big Bang. God also must have created what we now know as time. Presumably then, God is beyond or outside of time, and is not limited by our constricted one-way perspective of time. As such, God is able to see all the moments in time, past present and future.
This leads us to the question of what exactly do we mean by “eternity”, either in the divine or temporal sense? Could it be, that eternity does not mean living forever without end, but rather, joining God in a state of existence that is outside of time itself? Bend your mind around that concept for a while!