By Elizabeth Prata
Missionary to Vanuatu in the late 1800s, John G. Paton, writing about the death of one of his first native converts in his book Thirty Years Among the South Sea Cannibals, said:
“While staying at Aneityum, I learned with as deep emotion as man ever felt for man, that noble old Abraham, the sharer of my Tannese trials, had during the interval peacefully fallen asleep in Jesus. He left for me his silver watch one which I had myself sent to the dear soul from Sydney, and which he greatly prized. In his dying hour he said, “Give it to Missi, my own Missi Paton; and tell him that I go to Jesus, where Time is dead.”
That converted cannibal had a real and profound grasp of his position in Christ. I have read many times that in heaven sin will be dead, tears will be dead, sorrow will be dead, but I never read anything put quite like that. In heaven, time is dead.
What will it be like when we are never running late? When the good labors we perform stretch endlessly ahead in joy and interest but not in constriction of artificial hours or days? When we don’t have birthdays or appointments? When there is no catching up, falling behind, or getting ahead? Instead, all our tasks and meetings simply unfold perfectly and in a pace that is like the very river of life streaming from the Fount- constant and perfect?
God instituted seasonal time, and He instituted day and night. (Psalm 104:19, Genesis 1:14). He did this for the benefit of man, certainly not because God needed to mark time. He dwells in eternity where it is all time at once. The clock measures time precisely, in specific increments, and this mechanism more than any other has subdued man. The clock at once has inhibited man in his actions and catalyzed man in his actions. I’m late! I’m early! I’m behind! I’m on time- I deserve a gold star!
The clock segments the teacher’s day. It regulates the inmate’s day. It formulates the train conductor’s, the pilot’s, the bus driver’s day. The clock convicts the chronic tardiness of the employee. The clock dares. The clock monetizes. (“Time is money!”)
Anarchist George Woodcock wrote in The Tyranny of the Clock,
Socially the clock had a more radical influence than any other machine, in that it was the means by which the regularisation and regimentation of life necessary for an exploiting system of industry could best be attained. The clock provided the means by which time – a category so elusive that no philosophy has yet determined its nature – could be measured concretely in more tangible forms of space provided by the circumference of a clock dial. Time as duration became disregarded, and men began to talk and think always of ‘lengths’ of time, just as if they were talking of lengths of calico. And time, being now measurable in mathematical symbols, became regarded as a commodity that could be bought and sold in the same way as any other commodity.
Sadly he did not know that liberating man from the tyranny of the clock would only enslave him to another device, another machine, another apparatus, whatever it may be. Certainly we are enslaved these days to smartphones…
God created time for our benefit and ever since He has been ordaining its orderly progression, despite man’s over-dependence on the clock.
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. (2 Peter 3:8)
In heaven, time is dead. However, without clocks the orderly progression of all things will continue, for God is God of heaven as He is of earth. Our liberation from the tyranny of the clock will free us in ways we can’t even imagine. The old cannibal/new man, Paton’s convert Abraham of Vanuatu, knew. He went where time is dead and men are alive. Where there are no clocks but precision is more precise than it has ever been anywhere on earth.
making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:10).
In heaven we will experience life without time. In heaven, time is dead, but saints are alive