Last week, we considered time and eternity. We are very familiar with time here on earth. We often need to get things done, be at certain places, or carry out other activities based on a time schedule; and sometimes we even run out of time. To help us, we keep our watches and clocks constantly ticking and set correctly. We view time as being linear and also know that one of these days will actually be when we come to the end of our time on earth. For we will then have gone “the way of all the earth,” as Joshua refers to the commonality of death (Joshua 23:14), and will, therefore, have no more need for any timepiece.
But though our lives are intertwined with time, God is not limited nor governed by it. For He dwells in eternity, which is separate from time, and is the Creator and Master of our time (Genesis 1:14). It is also because of His great love for us that the Lord had reached into our time—and continues to do so—to carry out His will according to His “schedule” (cf. Gen. 6:3; 18:14; 21:2; Exodus 9:5; Josh. 10:12-14; 2 Kings 20:5,6; Jeremiah 25:11,12; Galatians 4:4; Romans 5:6).
We are not only subject to time while here on earth, but are also limited to distance—and compared to infinity, our longest journeys could be diagramed as less than one small step. For even with modern spacecraft, how far can man really go to explore the universe? Though we have come a long way in modern technology and space research (that has helped in so many other fields, too), it almost seems unreal that prior to Edwin Hubble’s discovery in the early 1920s, man’s concept of the universe was that it was filled with just one galaxy—our Milky Way. Hubble, however, observed that there were many galaxies beyond our own—about 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe! So his finding changed man’s concept toward our vast cosmos.
But just in thinking of our Milky Way Galaxy, it is said to be 100,000 light years wide. How, therefore, could man—even in the most advanced, futuristic spacecraft that could go the speed of light—traverse all of that in one lifetime? For even if he could spend 75 years traveling at that speed, he would cover but a small fraction of the distance. If instead, however, a robot was used that needed to be recharged every 75 years, it would have to be recharged 1,334 times to make that journey across our galaxy, traveling at the speed of light. But could even the best of robots last for 100,000 years?
Just as God, however, is not limited by time, neither is He limited by great distances. Think for instance of the great space that surrounds us. Is it not infinite? Or would there be a large wall of some sort that borders it all, with a sign that says, “Caution: You have reached the end of space”? Even if there were such a wall (which I certainly would doubt), how could there not be more on the other side of it—and even if that “more” were just empty space?
An intriguing thought that occurred to me one night in the very early 1970s pertained to where the center of space is. Have you ever thought about that? We can talk about the sun as being the center of our solar system, and there is also a center of the Milky Way Galaxy. That’s because these specific areas are finite with dimensions. But where is the center of infinite space? We would have to say, logically speaking, that there is not just one center; but, rather, an infinite number of centers. For example, here on earth, infinity goes out in all directions. But if we were on a planet 100 trillion light years away, it would also have the same infinity going out from it in all directions. This can be liken to an imaginary road, endless in both directions. Regardless of where you would stand on that road, you would always be in the center of its length. So no matter how far you would go one way or the other, you would always have the same distance of infinity on both sides to still travel. For infinity has no edge nor border that you can move closer to—even if you tried for an eternity!
I found that thought new and amazing that every entity in the universe, when considered individually and in relation to the infinite space around it, would be in the center of that infinity. I wondered, too, if there might be a lesson in that of equality. That not just one would have the distinction of being in the center of it all, but everything would.
Thinking of eternity and infinity truly does go beyond our ordinary, everyday thinking. Though we understand what these terms mean, they are beyond our human experience. For how can we really imagine something that had no beginning, but just always was and always will be? Or to imagine space that goes on without end throughout infinity? Is that not more than we can really conceive? For instance, if we would try to imagine what it would be like to go on and on and on through space with no end, our imagination will stop before we can complete what an infinity would be like—and the same with eternity. We just can’t really imagine it. So our concepts of eternity and infinity are very incomplete. Isn’t that something? We can imagine many of the most bizarre and impossible things, but we cannot fully imagine eternity and infinity. Yet, they both exist.
I remember when I was very young that, after hearing of 1,000,000, I thought I would never have a need of using a number that big in all my life. But as I got older, that number became very common, as well as numbers in the billions and even trillions. So right now we know of our limited time, but one day we will truly be familiar—on a very personal level—with eternity.
Just as God has power over time, He also does over infinite space. The psalmist says in Psalm 139:7-12: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,’ Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.” This is also an amazing thing. That even if man could soar billions of light years through endless space, God would still know not only where that person was, but also what was going on in that person’s mind, as David also mentions in the previous verses of Psalm 139: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it” (vv. 1-6).
Because our universe is so vast, and we here on earth seem so small in contrast to it, that indicates to some folks that there must not be a God. For they have mistakenly reasoned that “if there were a God, why would we be made so insignificantly small?” As if we are nothing but a speck, in this vast universe, that no Supreme Being could possibly even be concerned about. But what does size have to do with it? Actually, we are many millions of times larger than microscopic organisms. Even compared to the average size of vertebrate species (which would be the size of a typical cat), man is much bigger. But suppose God did make everything larger. Let’s say that everything that exists in the physical realm—whether something God created or made by man—was enlarged 100 trillion times? Who would notice the difference? There would be no difference, relatively speaking. For the same proportional ratios would still exist. What we are twice the size of now, we would still be twice the size of then. So everything would appear the same, as if no change in size even took place. But think of this, too. Isn’t it much more of a marvel to live in a universe that is so vast and incredibly larger than us that it causes us to reflect on just how truly great, how extremely powerful, and how far superior our Creator must be? It is as if the whole universe metaphorically expresses the greatness of God; and it has been said that where we are situated in the universe, in our galaxy, in our solar system, and on our planet Earth is one of the best places possible from which we can observe the universe around us—as if the Lord does want us to take notice and consider it. Is that a coincidence? Solomon writes, “Consider the work of the Lord...” (Eccl. 7:13). Notice the fault Isaiah writes about God’s people who “do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord, nor do they consider the work of His hands” (Isa. 5:12). Observing the celestial bodies certainly made a powerful impression upon David concerning God’s superiority over man. David writes in Psalm 8:3,4: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?” David was amazed—but not unbelieving— at how someone as great as God, as seen in His demonstration of creating the heavens, could truly be concerned for mankind. The magnitude of the universe causes us to think on the greatness of God and, at the same time, helps us to humble ourselves by realizing how small, fragile, and dependent we are upon the Lord, in comparison.
The largest star known to man, which also happens to be the brightest, is VY Canis Majoris. It is 4,900 light years from earth and has a diameter of 1.7 billion miles. It is a hypergiant star. So its diameter is not just 100 times wider than the earth’s, nor 1,000 times, nor 10,000 times; nor even 100,000 times; but it is more than 214,000 times wider than our earth’s diameter. But even the size of that enormous star seems like hardly a speck when compared to infinity!
Yes, the vastness of God’s universe is most impressive. It is said that the observable diameter of it is 93 billion light years. Man, down through time, must have often gazed and long wondered at all the many stars in the sky that could be seen with just the naked eye. Whatever power could bring all of that into existence is truly an omnipotent power; and we are told in the very first verse of the Bible of that power, who happens to also be more than merely a power; but a Being, as well, and a most Supreme Being at that—far above any other. Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” We also see in the Bible of all the Godhead being involved in this great work of creation—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For God said, “...‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to our likeness...’” (Gen. 1:26). John 1:3 declares that “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” If you also read John 1:1-3,14, you’ll see that verse 3 is referring to Jesus Christ as the One who did this creating of all things. Corresponding to that, Hebrews 1:2 says that God the Father “made the world” through Jesus, which is also rendered as “worlds” and “universe,” in some other versions. Paul also speaks of this by saying, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible...” (Col. 1: 16). Concerning the Holy Spirit’s involvement, Psalm 104:30 states, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the ground.” During the time of the great creation, the Spirit is seen as being a part of that in Genesis 1:2. For after we read that “...God created the heavens and the earth,” this verse then states, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” So that was before God had even made light.
How can the vastness of the universe be overlooked? There is a greatness about it that boggles our mind. It indicates God’s wisdom, His power, His eternal nature, and His omnipresence. For in thinking of the stars, the Lord not only created them, but also placed each one of them where He wanted it to be and gave a name to each one as well (Gen. 1:16,17; Isa. 40:26).
Many today, in speaking of the universe, refer to it as a “closed system.” What they mean by this is that the universe does not fill all infinity. Rather it is just the area where all the billions of galaxies are. They say you will never reach the end of it because of the curvature of space (in which even light is bent), as Einstein spoke of. That if you were to go in a straight line long enough, you would eventually arrive where you started. This, of course, would be similar to a pilot who is maintaining a steady and level course at a constant height above the earth. Though his instruments and senses indicate that he is going in a straight, level course, while maintaining a consistent altitude, he is actually going in a large circle that would have him orbiting the earth, if it would be possible for him to have enough fuel to do so.
But taking the curvature of space into consideration, why not chart the course to be a “true” straight line that would go beyond the “closed system” (instead of continually encircling it) and travel throughout infinity? Surely there is more beyond this “closed system.”
Speaking of the “closed system,” while disregarding all the infinite space around it, reminds me of those who would tell us that the universe began about 13.75 billion years ago with a “Big Bang”—but then want to ignore the “time” to be accounted for, prior to that. What happened before the creation and time? God was in eternity, having always been and always to be. As we saw in Genesis 1:1, God created the heavens and the earth “in the beginning,” which would be the beginning of the universe and time, and not the beginning of God; for He has always been. The creation itself also indicates to us that God is eternal, according to Romans 1:19,20: “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” In other words, since it is obvious that the universe had a beginning, rather than being eternal, there was a need for some great first cause to bring it into existence—and a first cause which had to have always been or else nothing would have ever become. That first cause is the Almighty God. So though some folks do not believe in a God who can keep living forever, they need to realize that the creation shows that God already is forever. For it required something eternal to bring non-eternal things into existence.
We need to distinguish our realm of time as that which is set apart from God’s realm of eternity, rather than trying to mix the two together in some kind of time-line. But we can be thankful unto God for sending His Son into our realm of time and for all the ways that God continues to deal with us in the physical and spiritual realm, that we might one day make it to His eternal realm of glory—if we will submit to His gospel plan of salvation. In closing, let it also be said that perhaps “space” is not the best or correct word to be used in expressing that which extends beyond what we can know through astronomy; but the point is, even if there be something else way on out there, would there not still always be a continuation of endlessness (of whatever) in all directions?
How great our God is! He truly knows the answers to all our questions, about eternity, about infinity, about anything. As impressive as the universe is, its Creator is even more so. The Lord had no trouble in creating the heavens, forming the galaxies, placing it all in such a wide expanse that man, even traveling at the speed of light, could cover only a small fraction of it in a lifetime. How great heaven will be, however, where we will never run out of time to enjoy it. May we, therefore, humbly and faithfully give ourselves to the good Lord Jesus Christ by our faith and obedience to the gospel, that we may be in His good keeping—now and forevermore!