Sometimes God lets people travel through time. In the book of 2 Kings, we read of the moment when the prophet Elijah jumps onto a chariot of fire while the prophet Elisha is standing nearby. This took place around 800 BC. The chariot of fire flew up into the timescape, with only Elijah’s cloak remaining in Elisha’s hands. We don’t know how long this time travel lasted – although the very idea of measuring the duration of a journey through time is indeed rather absurd. At some point on this journey, Elijah bumped into another time traveller – Moses. Perhaps Elijah saw that there was another figure approaching from behind, to the right of the chariot, and in the end realised that it was Moses. However it went, the next time we meet these two men is on the Mount of Transfiguration, together with Jesus and three of his disciples. Their discussion there included the coming redemptive work of Jesus and perhaps also what this would mean to those time travellers.
As an aside, it is worth noting that during his lifetime Moses did not get to enter the promised land, but was only able to view it from afar, from the top of a mountain. Now, however, as a time traveller, he gets to be there together with Jesus. What was impossible within the old covenant is now made possible with Jesus. It would seem that the time travellers then received instructions to travel another good two thousand years onwards so that Moses could realise his original call from God: to be leading the people of Israel, through Jesus, into the promised land, the heavenly promised land which is something much more than what Moses was originally involved in. Elijah, on the other hand, gets to carry out his own calling: to be a father to his nation, together with Moses. The final calling of Elijah, after all, was to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. God’s plans for particular people and even whole families can stretch to cover even multiple millennia.
For some reason, these examples of time travel only seem to apply to cases of travelling into the future rather than returning to the past.
In the Narnia book ‘The Magician’s Nephew’, C.S. Lewis describes an intermediate state, a time between worlds, when Narnia is shifting from one world to the next. The Bible also describes this kind of intermediate state, one in which there is no time. Its name is death. We find in the Bible, for example, the following case where people jump through time via death: around the time of Jesus’s death, a large number of righteous people from the past rose from the dead and appeared to many people. It could be that this group included people that had died thousands of years earlier, such as the patriarchs of Israel. Perhaps someone in this group had died several hundred years before, while another had died just a couple of years earlier. Either way, a large group of people travelled through time around the time of Jesus’s death. What is it that then happened to these people after this? Perhaps they died once again after some period of time and were left to await the new resurrection. Or perhaps they continued their lives among other people, got old and then died a natural death for a second time. Perhaps they returned at some point to their graves and laid down once again to ‘rest’. Or perhaps God sent Elijah’s chariot of fire, probably quite soon after Jesus was resurrected, to collect up these people for another trip through time, perhaps taking them straight to heaven. My guess would be this last option.
It would seem that there is no time in death, nor any awareness of the passing of time. Otherwise, it would be rather boring to be dead, because if you had died, let’s say, 5000 years before the time when Jesus will come to raise the dead, you would die of boredom waiting for that moment to come. Just imagine being dead and thinking all the time ‘how long is this going to go on until something happens’. If some parts of your body went numb, you wouldn’t be able to turn or to itch your nose.
We get a clue of some kind of strange, point-like time when Jesus says to the thief on the cross that ‘today you will be with me in Paradise’. Jesus did not therefore say that now you will die and wait 2000 years, but rather that you will die and on the same day you will be with me in paradise. According to the time perspective of those here on Earth, the resurrection of the dead is still to come. It must therefore be that either this thief travelled thousands of years forward in time on Elijah’s chariot of fire or that there is no time in death, or at least not the same kind of time that we, the living, experience. To God, however, the dead are also alive.
Jesus tells in one of the gospels the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This story actually involves three characters: Abraham, who died 2000 before Jesus, Lazarus and the rich man. These three talk together at the same point in time. This means that communication is possible in a state where there is no time, or at least not the time that we experience. There is just a space, or spaces, in which people who died at different times appear, and in which there is no time. In fact, this three-dimensional space also does not seem to be the same as ours. The concept of distance clearly operates in a different way. The dead do not move around in the same way as the living do. Nevertheless, everyone can see everyone else, and no one needs to turn their head. People don’t seem to be stretching their legs much there, but with the absence of time, they probably wouldn’t be going numb anyway. Even people that have died in different countries are able to see each other, whatever it is that is meant by seeing in this context. (Ezekiel 32) A sense of finality can be seen in this story: Lazarus has made good choices and the rich man has made bad ones, and both of them are awaiting their final fate in some intermediate space. Both have lived their lives and made the choices according to which their fate after death will be decided.
Death is therefore a place where there is no time. We experience time as linear. It seems that in death time either compresses into a single point or changes its nature entirely. All the dead live in the same moment. When Jesus died, therefore, He was present in death at the same time as all those that had died before Him and also all those that would die afterwards. He therefore may have shared the gospel with the people that died at the time of Noah, people who died several thousand years before the death of Jesus Himself. The people before Noah had also died at different times. Jesus, therefore, being present in the same time and space as all these people, may have spoken at the same time to all these people that had died at different times.
Jesus, however, did not remain dead, but instead rose again. If Jesus had only spoken, for example, to people that died 4000 years before Him, these dead people would have needed to continue evangelising each other for another one thousand years just to reach the point where those that had died 3000 years before Jesus would also have heard the gospel, assuming that Noah’s Ark was constructed around 3000 years before Jesus’s death. This would be nonsensical, so it is evident that there is no time in death. If this is the case, then people who die now enter the same time state where Jesus was between his death and resurrection. Then perhaps these people also could meet Jesus. What the Bible does not tell us is what happens to people when they are in this place. It could be that people who have lived their lives in similar conditions to those that lived before Noah are treated in the same way as them. We do not know, but we can trust that God is absolutely fair and unbiased.
Death is clearly described in the Bible as some separate being or thing. Death seems to have personal characteristics, or perhaps ‘it’ even has its own personality, because God calls death His enemy. Death is a kind of predator which devours the things which God has gifted to us through his creative work, things which He says are good. Death is a prison which God in the end will destroy. Nobody remains forever in this prison, but rather ‘the last enemy to be destroyed is death’ (1 Cor 15:26). Before death is destroyed, it is emptied of all those imprisoned there. It is important that death is destroyed because if death is a person, or at least person-like, its destruction means that nothing of it or its influence can then remain in the lives of those people that God has raised from the dead.
Imagine a new universe in which there is no longer any death or any of the fear that it brings. Where there is no feeling of boredom. Imagine being able to be your best self all the time, or indeed to be much more than that, because you will have a resurrected body. Imagine living an eternal life in which you can be in many places at the same time. You could be having breakfast with Peter and at the same time flying on a unicorn towards a distant island. Imagine yourself and those dear to you full of love, joy and a great sense of significance and purpose, always close to the source of life, the Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ. And it never ends, and each new day is even greater and more meaningful than the one before. And above all, it is a place where you can love and be loved.
The new universe awaits. Will we meet each other there?
Have a blessed day,