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An answer suggests that "time is meaningless in heaven." Do we know this to be true?

It seems like an easy conclusion to draw, based on the following:

  • God created the entire universe, including all dimensions and time. Therefore, God exists outside of time.

  • Heaven is the place of "eternal" life.

  • In Heaven we will be "with" God (so possibly/presumably outside of time as well?)

But does all of this add up to time being meaningless or nonexistent in heaven? Or does the Bible give us any other clues as to the "timeliness" of Heaven?

If there are significantly diverging views on this based on theological tradition let me know in comments, and I can try to make the question more specific, or ask separate questions for those traditions in which I am most interested.

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5 Answers

It seems that the idea that created beings become timeless in heaven is not one that is widely held. God, as the Creator of time, space, and matter, is the only Being that exists outside of time, space, and matter.

There is a significant distinction between that which is mortal, that which is immortal, and that which is eternal (outside of time). That which is mortal has both a beginning and an end. This includes the earth, our physical bodies and taxes (thank goodness). That which is immortal has a beginning but no end. This includes our souls and spirits as well as angels. God alone is eternal. Only God has no beginning and no ending.

The eternal life that we have does not mean that all of a sudden our lives go from having a beginning to not having a beginning. We have eternal life in the sense that it will have no end--not in the sense that it has no beginning. God is eternal in an entirely different sense. Perhaps our language is not specific enough in this.

The key point is those beings who have a beginning cannot go through any process where their beginning is eliminated and makes them timeless.

We have been created inside of time, space, and matter, and we will always exist within that. Only God exists outside of it.

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Don't angels exist beyond matter, and normally beyond space (at least beyond the 3 space dimensions we're most familiar with)? I have no idea if they exist beyond time... –  Flimzy Feb 7 '12 at 20:23
    
@Flimzy It is possible that they do, but the Bible records people seeing them at various times in history. Either God allows men to see things that are invisible or angels are merely hidden from us most of the time. –  Narnian Feb 7 '12 at 20:28
    
I think Augustine (in Confessions) called heaven itself an "intellectual creature" which could be considered eternal--its beginning was outside of time. Mathematical truths might also fit that designation. –  Paul A. Clayton May 30 '13 at 14:25
    
Timelessness also means immutability (change would distinguish a before from an after). This implies that there is no new perception or thought but only a constant awareness/being. This would not require omniscience, but the isolation required to avoid omniscience (or even the collective consciousness among the Blessed) seems problematic. –  Paul A. Clayton May 30 '13 at 14:56
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Here's a relevant part from the Catholic Encyclopedia on Eternity

So far for the strict or proper notion of eternity, as applying solely to the Divine existence. There is a wide or improper sense in which we are wont to represent as eternal what is merely endless succession in time, and this even though the time in question should have had a beginning, as when we speak of the reward of the good and the punishment of the wicked as eternal, meaning by eternity only time or succession without end or limit in the future. In the Apocalypse there is a well-known passage in which a great angel is represented as standing with one foot on sea and one on land, and swearing by Him that liveth forever that time shall be no more. Whatever the meaning of the oath may be, it has found an echo in our religious terminology, and we are wont to think and say that with death, and especially with the Last Judgment, time shall cease.

I tried reading the passage in revelation referenced in the above quote. Which I believe is the end of Revelation 11 and I can't make heads or tails of it, but that's par for the course.

Suffice it to say, it is the Catholic understanding that our subjective conception of time will cease in Heaven.

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I am pretty sure there will be time. Time is, basically, order. Without order there is chaos and God is a God of order. Events happen in a certain order--you plant a seed and it grows into a tree, you are in one location and then you are in another (etc).

In Revelation 22 we read about the river of God and the Tree(s) of life that yield fruit every month. Now, fruit coming to maturity is evidence of one event occurring after another.

There are many other passages of an event and then another event following it in order. Sounds like "time" to me.

Anyhow, my conclusion, is that there IS time, but more then likely not as we currently know it or understand it.

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(I was going to say something about the laws of thermodynamics but) Time may be a kind of order, but there may be other kinds of order than Time. A still image may be orderly arranged but doesn't change--doesn't show signs of either temporal order or chaos, as time is taken out of the equation altogether. (I seem to remember C.S. Lewis saying something like this about hell.) –  Muke Tever Feb 8 '12 at 13:54
    
Time involves sequence; there are forms of order that are not linear. –  Paul A. Clayton May 30 '13 at 14:28
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It doesn't make sense that there is no time in heaven. After all, just talking takes time to occur, and plenty of talking gets done in heaven throughout the book of Revelation. There are passages like Rev. 8:1 (silence in heaven for about half an hour) and Rev. 6:10-11, in which the martyrs are told to wait a little longer. It takes time for the trumpets to blow and bowls of wrath to be poured; they are not all poured out at once. We are told in Eph. 2:7 of the ages to come ahead of us. Every event takes place over a span of time.

Remember that a "time" will come when there will be a new heavens and new earth, and we'll be on earth. We have no reason to doubt that time will continue as we know it.

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But isn't the Biblical account of Heaven symbolic? If there were time, we shall never reach a 'satifying destination' but always be on a journey...it makes 'emotional' sense to me that we should, at least, ponder if time continues in the same manner. It might be that it remains (we are finite, after all) but is it made different? Either which way, it is an interesting question. I have heard theists debate either side of this one... –  Sehnsucht Nov 13 '13 at 17:56
    
Personally I have such a deep seated loathing for the idea of never reaching my perfectly satisfying goal and not always heading for another (whatever that might be!) that I feel, in my gut, there is more to be said here. But that could be disregarded as mere opinion. –  Sehnsucht Nov 13 '13 at 17:59
    
@ThomasJennings The perfectly satisfying goal is to be with Christ forever, without sin to mar the relationship. I have no reason to think that the account of heaven is symbolic; there are too many details there. Of course, there are symbols, but they are explained as such. –  Steve Nov 14 '13 at 3:32
    
Perhaps. If so, ALL Heaven's bounty must be within God/Christ alone, because, personally, I find descriptions of gold roads, trumpets etc inspires nothing in me. It is fantastic that there will be no sin, pain or tears; the negations detailed are lovely. And I have no doubt that our ultimate joy will be in our Lord. –  Sehnsucht Nov 14 '13 at 16:48
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Time is a property of our physical universe (like gravity). Why would it exist in heaven?

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Welcome to this site, and please do check our help center and site tour when you have a moment. Your question is a perfectly good one, but it isn't an answer to the original question on this page - we follow a Q&A format, rather than one with extended back-and-forth discussion. If you do have a question which meets the site guidelines, and hasn't been asked already, then this should be posted as a new question instead of a reply to an existing question. Thanks for your understanding, and again, welcome! –  James T Mar 30 at 16:36
    
@Dean, your answer is fine. it is an answer to the original question, and it's a good answer. about the only thing i can think of to add that might make it a better answer is that None of us know if we will experience time in heaven or not because other than, as a tenet of faith, that we believe we will live with God, no one has the foggiest idea if there will be time in heaven. i personally believe there will be both time and timelessness. i think nothing will be out of reach of our experience in heaven. but, of course, i don't know squat, nor does any other living mortal. –  robert bristow-johnson Mar 30 at 17:42
    
Welcome to the site! This next is just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites?, and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Mar 30 at 21:57
    
If you're talking about heaven as it is now, the home of God, then perhaps not. If you're talking about the eternal state which is sometimes called heaven but which should instead be called the new heavens and earth, the new universe, then it will share all the properties of this universe, except sin! –  curiousdannii Mar 30 at 22:11
    
sounds good but can you elaborate, please? Welcome to C.SE. –  deleteMe Mar 30 at 23:52
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