11th Mar 2015

Ten Thousand Years

By John Rankine

When we’ve been there ten thousand years

Bright shining as the sun

We’ve still more years to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.

 

We often sing these words as the final verse of Amazing Grace, a hymn written by John Newton who had been captain of a slave ship but God found him and saved him to the benefit of the church and mankind generally.

They are of course nonsense, but we allow for what is called ‘poetic licence’ because we all know what he means.

In fact, of course, time is a human concept. God in creation made it easy for us by introducing days as a unit. Genesis tells us ‘and the evening and the morning were the first day’. Hebrews still to this day count a day as beginning in the evening. An Israeli friend of mine tells me that his grandmother always told him that when he could see three stars in the sky, it was evening. In England we are mostly unable to see any stars because of the cloud in the way and of course, since man was able to divide days into hours and smaller units, we start a day at immediately after midnight.

Scientists date the ‘beginning of time’ from the Big Bang, getting on for 14 billion years ago.  Accurate measurement of time took many years to evolve, and was refined as our observations of earth’s movement around the sun and of movements of stars and planets provided increasing amounts of information. So the Hebrew calendar starts with a calculated date for the establishment of the Garden of Eden. Arabs have a similar calendar. In Christendom we split the calendar into two sections based on the calculated date of the birth of Jesus – a date now considered to be four years out.

Going from that, and our observations of the rate at which materials deteriorate we have been able to say that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old having emerged from the Big Bang. Incidentally I saw a TV programme recently about our solar system and they kept repeating that it is a miracle that Earth is here at all, as our existence defies logic. We are also aware that the moon is moving away from earth at about 2 inches a year, and that our sun will shrink over time and in about 3 million years from now will probably become a Black Hole.

What then about our ten thousand years? It is necessary to root around in Scripture to get clues as to what will happen after Jesus has come for the second time. Revelation 20 tells us that Satan and his angels will be cast into a bottomless pit for a thousand years. During that time, earth as we know it will continue and it is thought that the Jewish nation will act as administrators of virtually everything during that period. In Matthew Jesus tells us that there will be a stairway up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. This indicates that Jesus himself will reign on earth and will be sending and receiving messages, carried by angels, up to heaven.

However Revelation also tells us that there will be a new earth and a new Jerusalem. The new city will be vast. Revelation again indicates that the walls of the city (to be ‘four square’) will be 1500 miles long on each side. It also tells us that there will be no night there and no sorrow as ‘God will wipe away all tears from their eyes’.

Thus the new earth will not revolve on its axis and will not orbit around a sun. So there can be no measurement of time. God inhabits eternity. When Moses, in front of the burning bush, asks God who he should tell Pharaoh who has sent him, God replies I AM is sending you. That I AM, which in Hebrew is Jahweh, means in essence ‘I always have been, I am now and I always shall be’. In eternity there is no time.

Until I recognised this I would sometimes think to myself that it was going to be boring standing around in heaven all day singing hymns and choruses and praying and praising God. Then getting up the next day to start all over again. I was happy to learn that in heaven there will be no days and we shall not be conscious of the passage of time.

So there we have it: no counting ten thousand years. No gold watch for praising God for twenty five thousand years. There will be just one long, continuous, happy and glorious day.