Immortality: Is it an Existence in Another Space-Time Dimension?
By Paul Billington
or several years now science-fiction writers have been suggesting the possibility of travel through time. Mass audiences have been entertained with the idea of beings travelling backwards and forwards in time just as they please. For some people however, the concept goes beyond science-fiction. One man (calling himself a scientist) was recently heard over the radio to claim that time travel was, mathematically speaking, quite possible--though he did admit "we lack any experimental evidence for it."
This tantalizing subject, or rather the ramifications and conclusions that some have
drawn from it, has attracted those who spend their time in nothing else, but either to
tell or to hear some new thing. It has proved to be fertile ground for speculative
philosophy. Taking an expedition outside the realm of reality the question is asked:
"Are we not faced with a dimensional limitation..." in our views of God and the
universe? This question was floated around universities in the 1960's and appeared in an
article by columnist Kenneth Gatland in The Daily Telegraph in 1966--together with
a diagram (reproduced right), which is supposed to illustrate how appearances can be
deceptive if we lack the perspective provided by some other dimension. Could it be, asked
Gatland, that intelligent and sophisticated man passes into another dimension at death. He
"To our logical minds it appears ludicrous that all this inherited experience is erased by the phenomenon called death. And many will argue that, in death, the "hallmark" of evolution is carried into another dimension. Like the Flatlander (in the diagram) we can construct many theories. But our dimensional limitations are such that at best we can comprehend only shadows of the truth."
Amongst the many theories that have been constructed is one that sees the concept of eternity as circle-- i.e. time represented as a never-ending and continuing line, hence a circle (see diagram). God, who is immortal and--so it is said--not subject to time, is depicted at the centre of the circle and is thus able to view and access any time frame he chooses (in effect, God can both view and can travel through time--or rather to any time period He wants). According to this theory, people like Abraham, David, the apostle Paul (or presumably Pharaoh and Hitler) though dead as far as we are concerned, are alive from God's viewpoint.
The whole concept of course, is utter foolishness. It is not a practical reality. It is
in fact a step back into the pagan philosophy of immortal soulism, but with a space-age
gloss on it. Such is the case with a recent thesis that came to our notice using the term
'Metachronology'. This theory sees believers being rewarded with immortality at Christ's
coming, with the result that both he and the immortalized believers can move back and
forth in time--even to times before their natural birth! In this way (says the theory)
Christ was active before he was born...and so on.
Turning to the 1973/74 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica, and to the article on Metaphysics, we find the following under the sub-heading Space and Time.
"Many metaphysicians have argued that neither time nor space can be ultimately real. Temporal and spatial predicates apply only to appearances; reality, or what is real, does not endure through time, nor is it subject to the conditions of space. The roots of this view are to be found in Plato and beyond him in the thought of the Eleatic philosophers Parmenides and Zeno, the propounder of several paradoxes about motion. Plato conceived his Forms as eternal objects whose true location was nowhere. Similarly, Christian philosophers conceived of God as existing from everlasting to everlasting and as present in all parts of the universe. God was not so much in space and time as the source of space and time. Whatever falls within space and time is thereby limited, for one space excludes another and no two times can be simultaneous. God, however, is by definition an infinite being and so must exist timelessly and apart from space."
We notice two points from the above quotation. First that these notions of space and time being only temporal appearances, originated with the philosopher Plato. Secondly, that Christian philosophers adopted the thinking of this pagan philosophy and concluded that God "must exist timelessly and apart from space." This was Gatland's theory--his other "dimension" in 1966.
Edward Gibbon in his classic work Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (chapter 18) has supplied more detail of the development of Greek and Roman philosophy:
"Yet there were a few sages of Greece and Rome who had conceived a more exalted, and, in some respects, a juster idea of human nature, though it must be confessed that, in the sublime inquiry, their reason had been often guided by their imagination, and that their imagination had been prompted by their vanity. When they viewed with complacency the extent of their own mental powers, when they exercised the various faculties of memory, of fancy, and of judgment, in the most profound speculations or the most important labours, and when they reflected on the desire of fame, which transported them into future ages, far beyond the bounds of death and of the grave, they were unwilling to confound themselves with the beasts of the field, or to suppose that a being, for whose dignity they entertained the most sincere admiration, could be limited to a spot of earth, and to a few years of duration.
Right: The pilospher Plato. A 4th Century Bust probably copied from a Greek original.
With this favourable prepossession they summoned to their aid the science, or rather the language, of Metaphysics. They soon discovered that, as none of the properties of matter will apply to the operations of the mind, the human soul must consequently be a substance distinct from the body, pure, simple, and spiritual, incapable of dissolution, and susceptible of a much higher degree of virtue and happiness after the release from its corporeal prison. From these specious and noble principles the philosophers who trod in the footsteps of Plato deduced a very unjustifiable conclusion, since they asserted, not only the future immortality, but the past eternity of the human soul, which they were too apt to consider as a portion of the infinite and self-existing spirit which pervades and sustains the universe."
This then, was the pagan philosophy which became adopted into Christian thinking and
doctrine as the apostolic age drew to its close. It is manifest again in the theories of a
"time-dimension" -- which some see as the equivelent of "heaven".
These developments had been predicted by the apostles. For example, Paul had written to Timothy saying that "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables"--2 Tim. 4:3-4.
These "fables" (Gk. muthos, from which comes "myth") were circulated by "evil men and seducers (impostors)" who would wax worse and deceive the brethren--so says Paul, 2 Tim 3:13. These "impostors" (R.V.) were false Christians who turned away the ears of disciples from the truth and substituted the myths of both Jewish and Greek philosophy. It was evil men of this stamp that Justin Martyr warned against (writing approximately A.D. 140):--
"Although you may have met with some who bear the name of Christians, and yet do not confess this very thing (i.e. a restoration of Jerusalem), but dare blaspheme the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; and who say that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that straightway after death their souls are received into heaven--now you must not think that such are Christians."
The case would be analogous to someone today meeting up with a person who said he was a
Christadelphian, but who denied the Hope of Israel and a physical resurrection of the
dead. This would deny an inheritance of the literal land of Canaan for ever, as was
promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now if such a person taught instead the myth
of human spirits being introduced into a dimension that was "Beyond our kind of
Time" he would be an imposter; he would not be--and should not be received as a true
Christadelphian. Such was the situation then in the time of Justin Martyr; it exactly
fulfilled the apostles prediction.
The apostates who began introducing the world's philosophy and mythology among Christian communities during the first century, appealed to certain passages of Scripture as though they supported the fables taught. They "wrested" or wrenched the words of the apostles and of other Scriptures said Peter--2 Peter 3:16. This practice was continued for centuries by those who cast down the Truth and blasphemed both the Father and the Son by teaching mythology in their name. Thus it is that we find every religious community claiming the name "Christian" today, supporting their creed and their views with Biblical texts--whether those texts actually teach the doctrines insisted upon or not. One prominent teaching of Christendom which has been supported by wrenched Scriptures is the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul. The idea is not Christian at all, but was a popular belief in many ancient pagan cultures.
Space-age immortal soulism follows in this same pattern. For example, it has been
suggested that whereas our world knows only three dimensions, there is another realm which
has four. The verse sometimes quoted to "prove" this is Ephesians 3:18,
which is not making a point about either time or space, but about love. Read the context.
Other passages of Scripture are similarly "wrenched" in order to give apparent
support to these concepts of a timeless dimension. Another favourite is Luke 20:38, but
again the context must be noted. The verse is not talking about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
continuing to live in some weird dimension--it is quite clearly referring to the fact that
the dead are to be raised; it is answering the Sadducees' disbelief in the
resurrection of the dead (verse 27).
The book of Revelation is always abused by those who seek texts to support false teachings--and because the book is rich in metaphor and symbolic language, passages are wrested and distorted frequently. For example, Revelation 1:8 which talks about the Lord "which is and which was, and which is to come" has been used to suggest the idea of a timeless dimension or state. That the Spirit in this same passage says "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending" does not get the same attention somehow. We must ask, surely, the beginning and ending of what? And does not this "which is and which was, and which is to come" fit within that beginning and ending--thus:
Viewed in this way, it will be seen that a development of something is indicated. This development concerns the one who says "I am the Alpha...etc." It is "the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." Is this not a development of the Lord in some way? The idea is seen again in verses 17, 18 "...I am the first and the last. I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore (Gk. unto the ages of the ages)." Here again is the first and the last describing various conditions of development in the past, in the present and to future ages. Now this idea which we find in the Revelation is an echo of Isaiah's prophecy. For example, in Isaiah 41:4 we find this:
"Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations .from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last: I am he."
So there has been a calling from the beginning by the Lord (Yahweh--the "He who will be"), who is the first but also with the last; or as Rotherham's Emphasized Bible has rendered it; "And with them who are last". So we can see from Isaiah that this concept in the Revelation originally applied to the development of a people called out of various generations by the "first", and that this "He who will be" or First Cause would ultimately be identified with the body of people thus developed as "the body of Christ" (1 Cor. 12:27).
Revelation 1:6 is thus seen to be teaching the true doctrine of God manifestation in
Christ (see 1 Tim. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16) and not an unreal timelessness based upon the
philosophy of Plato and his pagan cohorts.
The word immortality has nothing whatsoever to do with space-time or other-worldly dimensions. As a dictionary will soon demonstrate it simply means undying or incorruptible (from the Latin moro--death). In the New Testament it is translated from the Greek athanasia which literally means deathlessness.
This meaning is verified by what the apostle Paul tells believers in 1 Corinthians chapter 15. He discusses how the dead are to be raised and "with what body" they will come (verse 35). He points out that there are various kinds of bodies--and they are not all the same (man, animals, fish, birds and so forth--verse 39). He also says that there are celestial (or heavenly) bodies. To amplify this he says "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body" (verse 44).
Everyone knows what is meant by a natural or earthly body--and the apostle is careful to point out the fact that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (verse 50). This being the case, he says "we shall all be changed". In other words, an earthly and natural flesh and blood body which is subject to decay and corruption cannot inherit the kingdom of God because such a body will not last for ever. Consider this in the light of Genesis 17:8 where God told Abraham:
"...And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession..."
This then is "the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb. 9:15). But it is not possible for flesh and blood to inherit the land of Canaan on an eternal basis. A natural body, subjected as it is to corruption and death cannot receive anything as an everlasting possession because it will eventually die. The only possible solution is for the natural flesh and blood body to be changed, just as the apostle says.
So what will it be changed to? The inspired apostle tells us that the corruptible body must put on incorruption. He says that this mortal (dying) nature must put on immortality (or deathlessness)--verse 53. When this has been accomplished, the result will be that "Death is swallowed up in victory." Those who are the subjects of such a bodily change will no longer be subject to death. As Jesus himself expressed it: "Neither can they die any more"--Luke 20:36. That, according to the Scriptures, is what it means to be immortal.
For those who are not changed, death will eventually come and they will sleep for
eternity--they will not be conscious of passing time ever again but will have entered a
black void where all existence and time has ceased--Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.
"The dead know not any thing" says the preacher; "his thoughts perish" says the Psalmist (146:4)--so the dead have no consciousness, they do not experience anything; their senses have ceased to function--they have passed away into oblivion. A dead man may lie in his tomb for a thousand years--yet he will not be conscious of one passing second. Such is death. For the living however, there is the awareness and consciousness of passing moments--the experiences of life, whether good or evil; and even if it be evil there is hope.
Now if a natural body is changed so that it is immortal or deathless, conscious existence will continue for ever. In other words an immortal being could look forward to an infinite amount of time. Thus the Psalmist says of God--"But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end" (Psa. 102:27). Here is infinite time stretching on into an endless future, the scope of which is beyond the experience of mortal man.
The concept of infinity--whether in regard to space or time--is difficult for us to
imagine, yet it is something that is clearly taught in Scripture. God Himself has always
existed and will always exist. In Psalm 90:2 it is written: "even from everlasting
to everlasting, thou art God." The word that is here translated
"everlasting" is the Hebrew Olam, and means a concealed period, or as Strong's
Concordance explains it: "the vanishing point"--i.e. infinity. Some
commentators have suggested that the word also carried a metaphysical sense, but that is
placing a doctrinal concept upon the word which its literal meaning does not support. The
words of Psalm 90:2 are clear--God's existence is not "beyond time" (which would
be equivalent to saying that God is dead), but He is constantly there throughout infinite
In view of what has been written here, there are those who will want to ask: "Is God subject to the limitations of time?" The answer to that question will depend upon the sense meant in the question itself. Some will ask the question as a genuine enquiry, others will be intending to challenge the Truth by it.
The facts are as follows. God is not subject to the measurements of time as this is governed by the movement of "lights in the firmament of the heaven" (Genesis 1:14). God can control time in this sense just as easily as we might put the clock forwards or backwards to adjust for summer-time and ordinary time. Such incidents are recorded of course in Joshua 10:12-14 and Isaiah 38:7-8.
There is another sense also in which God controls and governs "the times or the
seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7). As the Revised
Version and its marginal reference will show here, the times and seasons are
"appointed" by God's authority--in other words, events such as the restoration
of the kingdom to Israel will occur at the time appointed by God--He is in control of the
timing. There is a "set time" to favour Zion (Psa. 102:13)just as there have
been "times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). Time is thus harnessed and used by
God to work out His purposes with mankind. As God uses His power in various ways to
accomplish His designs, so also He uses His time--infinite though it is--in the exercise
of His goodness.
To say that God does not experience the passing of time would be to deny His revealed character. It is true that "a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night" (Psa. 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8); for what is a thousand years when you have infinite time at your disposal? On a lesser scale we can understand what is written of Jacob--"And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her." The time flew by--but does that mean Jacob did not experience the passing of those seven years? Of course not. So it is then with God; a thousand years is still a thousand years, but it is all relative. A seventy year-old man has lived for approx. 25,550 days--what is one day out of that? In relation to his seventy years it is of no account; so with God, a thousand years is as but a day. Time is still time, however, even to God Himself. Otherwise, of what value would it be to say that He is "longsuffering" (Ex. 34:6).9
We cannot minimize this attribute of God--it must mean something when He says (for
example) "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation" (Psa. 95:10). It
must mean something when Peter writes that "the longsuffering of God waited in
the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing" (1 Pet. 3:20). Those who would try
to put God into a dimension beyond time thus deny Him; they undermine the value of His
good Name and character. There can hardly be greater proof than this, that the whole
philosophy of a metaphysical timeless dimension is false. The thesis is utter bunk!
As a matter of fact, the Divine attributes as taught in Scripture, form the true basis of eternal life. In Exodus 33:13 Moses prayed to God: "Show me now thy way, that 1 may know thee". This "way" (or "ways" R.V.) also forms God's glory (verse 16), and His goodness (verse l9). These "ways" involve "the name of the Lord" (verse 19) which is proclaimed in the words of chapter 34:6-7. To "know" someone, we need to know or be familiar with their ways--and the closer we are to a person the more we know their ways. Thus we see Moses seeking a closer relationship with God. Now Jesus says that "this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). To "know" the only true God and Jesus Christ is to know their ways; their attributes and characteristics. This is the basis of eternal life.
The word "know" in these places means more than simply "to be aware of". This is not just academic knowledge, it is experience of. When someone exercises judgement and justice--when they discern the cause of the poor and needy so as to respond to it--then they are said to know God--Jer. 22:15-16. In other words, to "know" God and the Lord Jesus really means demonstrating their attributes and characteristics through faith. Thus the apostle John wrote:
"And ye know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life" (1 John 5:20).
These words need careful thinking about. Here is a true understanding of the issues of eternal life--and in that understanding a man or woman may glory--see Jer. 9:23-24. Let us then put aside the myths of a pagan world and embrace the Truth of God, seeking to bring forth this precious fruit in our earthly bodies through faith in the great God and His Son Jesus Christ.
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