Time Management Series
“Biblical Concepts of Time for Today” (SL#26)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 12.1 - Time Management

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 9-11 (NIV)
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: . . . What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

When we think of “time” in the Bible, it usually brings to mind ancient history, early civilizations and antiquity, writings and events from “a long time ago.” It is easy to let “time” become the great distance between ourselves and Scripture! But Scripture offers a rich array of ways to understand and utilize “time,” all of which can contribute to your study of time management. Looking first at biblical concepts of time will give you a strong foundation for time management. You may find that “time” closes, not widens, the gap between Holy text and your life today. How do we use the word “time”?

Glossary: “time” (contemporary uses)--(from The American Heritage® Dictionary)

Four Biblical Approaches
This series of articles encourages you to “have the time of your life” in the deepest possible sense. It means more than just planning your day and week efficiently (though that certainly is a big part of it for most of us). Consider carefully the depth of biblical “time” as outlined here. It is a first big step toward understanding the power and importance of your time; log your own thoughts!

This article will investigate four primary ways Scripture discusses “time.” Follow links to Scripture, commentary and glossary references as you consider your own definitions of “time.” Have you been thinking broadly enough to respond to the challenges of Scripture? Which areas of “time” have you been neglecting? Record your thoughts as you review.

  1. Time as Chronology--“chronos
    “Time is God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.” This quip from an unknown source sums up the impact of the biblical concept of time. The Bible speaks of time as “chronology” when measuring the linear passing of time--as references to the sequence and duration of events. A person's life-span, a season, a progression of occurrences, all fall under this category. This terminology also uses “chronos” to mark certain time periods by associating them with individuals or events (“the time of Abraham,” etc.); see John 14:9 and Acts 1:7.

    John 14:9 (NIV) Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
    Acts 1:7 (NIV) He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
    Glossary: “chronology” (from WordNet® 1.6, ©1997 Princeton University)
    1: arrangement of events in time 2: a record of events in the order of their occurrence 3: the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events.

  2. Time as Opportunity--“kairos
    Scripture refers to time as opportunity when speaking not of a particular moment in time, but of the proper moment. God as the creator of all time has directed the celestial bodies, the seasons, the festivals and days of rest for mankind. These proper moments give us the opportunity to interact with God's creation in making the best possible use of time. “Kairos” is time that demands action--either through crisis or opportunity--and thus refers to the “what” more than the “when.” See Ephesians 5:15-16, Acts 3:19 Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV) Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity [time], because the days are evil.”

    Commentary: Eph. 5:15-16 What is meant is simply to make the best possible use of all circumstances like prudent merchants. Kairos (“opportunity,” NIV) is the right moment, which Paul urges his readers to grasp lest it be wasted.
    Glossary: opportunity (from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary)
    1. Fit or convenient time; a time or place favorable for executing a purpose; a suitable combination of conditions; suitable occasion; chance.

  3. Time as Fulfillment
    The Bible speaks of time as fulfillment for promises or prophecies of an age which will, or has already, come. The Old Testament prophets speak not only of a particular “time” but of the time of the coming of God’s Kingdom, an assured promise of judgment and salvation. In the New Testament, that time has arrived with the coming of Christ. This “time” is a realization and fulfillment by which all other time is to be measured. See Mark 1:15 and Galatians 4:4.

    Mark 1:15 (NIV) “The time has come” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”
    Commentary: Mark 1:15 (from Zondervan Commentary) Time here is not simply chronological time (chronos) but the decisive time (kairos) for God’s action. . . He marks the fulfillment of the special salvation-time which is distinguished from all other time.
    Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV) But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
    Commentary: Gal. 4:4-5 (from Zondervan Commentary) It was a time when the pax Romana extended over most of the civilized earth; when travel and commerce were therefore possible; . . . great roads linked the empire of the Caesars, . . . far more significantly by the all-pervasive language of the Greeks. Add the fact that the world was sunk in a moral abyss so low that even the pagans cried out against it and that spiritual hunger was everywhere evident. . . . Viewed theologically, however, it may also be said that the time was full because God himself had filled it with meaning.

  4. Time and Eternity
    Eternity is a complicated idea! It often, just as does the word “everlasting,” translates a phrase, “into the aged of the ages.” Often the Bible sets eternity and time apart as opposite: “eternity,” the state of God's being, and “time,” the state of man’s. Eternity is also linked to time, for example, when referring to the end of man’s time, the coming of eternity. Better yet, eternity can be read as a possible quality of time: man will experience eternal life in his own time by accepting Christ and following His path. See Revelation 10:6 and 2 Corinthians 4:28.

    Commentary: 2 Cor. 4:18 (from Zondervan Commentary) Behind the contrast . . . is the Pauline tension between the “already” and the “not yet,” the contrast between what is now seen by mortals and what is as yet hidden from mortal gaze. . . . Paul was profoundly aware that the present age is transient (cf. 2 Cor. 7:31), whereas the age to come is eternal in the sense of being “destined to last for ever,” and that his afflictions were temporary but his reward eternal.
    Revelation 10:6 (NIV) And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, “There will be no more delay [time]!”
    Glossary: “eternity” (from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary) 1. Infinite duration, without beginning in the past or end in the future; also, duration without end in the future; endless time. 2. Condition which begins at death; immortality.

Reflection/Application

© 2006 servantleaderstoday.com; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership

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Abstract: “Time” by E. Jenni, Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. R-Z
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962 (from pp. 643-649)
A Study Abstract prepared by Lloyd Elder

To understand the biblical concept of time, one must take care not to assume unconsciously our modern Western scientific or philosophical interpretation of time in the Bible or to carry it over into the Bible. The Bible itself becomes the benchmark of its meaning of “time”:

  1. Terminology
    Only the more important and more general concepts of time are discussed in this article.
  2. In the Old Testament
  3. In the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha (not reviewed here)

  4. In the New Testament

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