presentism in the Bible


Presentism is the theory of time that states that the only thing that exists is the present. The “past” is not a place one can travel into and change. The “future” is not a place that one can travel into and change. We live in an ever changing “now”.

This theory of time is the most natural for humans to understand. After all, this mirrors our real life experiences. The past is a memory and the future is not yet real. At an early age we learn that if we break our toys they will never be the same.

It is not a coincidence that this is the view of the Bible. The Bible speaks in real time. Past events are always memories. Future events are always future. There is no time travel in the Bible. There is no traveling into the past to change events. The past is set and gone. The future is open.

God is described throughout the Bible in terms of presentism, even the verses commonly used to support “timelessness”:

Rev 1:4 … from Him who is and who was and who is to come…

Psa 90:4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.

Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Notice in each “proof” of timelessness the understanding that time is real and experienced in the present. God was, is, and will be. A thousand years disappear into the past. Jesus was, is and will be. Days and years are spoken of as experienced time. And this is not assuming any of the above verses are idiomatic. All of this is the reality of the Bible.

Throughout the Bible, the presentism is strong.

Gen 9:16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

God here says that He anticipates doing something in the future that will remind Him of the past.

Deu 7:18 you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt:

Here God remembers Egypt as the past and then calls on others to recall those events to shape their current thoughts.

Throughout one of the primary passages used by negative theology advocates, God speaks exclusively in presentism:

Isa 42:9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

Things “spring forth”. They come into being. Other things are “pass”.

Isa 42:14 “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once.
Isa 42:15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills, And dry up all their vegetation; I will make the rivers coastlands, And I will dry up the pools.

God speaks of enduring for a long time and now He has reached a point of action.

Isa 43:3 For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Isa 43:4 Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life.

God reminds the people of God’s acts in the past. God then mentions His past love for Israel. God lastly mentions what He will do in the future for Israel.

Isa 44:7 And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, Since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, Let them show these to them.

God challenges other gods to do what God does: declare what will happen in the future (things that “shall come”).

The entire text of the Bible speaks in these terms, any verse concerning time-frames is evidence of this. The concept of timelessness is not existent in the Bible. Events will happen, are happening, or have happened. There is no time travel, past or future. There is no “viewing time from outside of time”. The writers of the Bible were presentists: all that exists is now. The past is gone and the future is not yet.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Calvinism, God, Immutablility, Open Theism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to presentism in the Bible

  1. gricketson01 says:

    chris,you wouldnt say johns vision in revelation wasnt some sort of time travel?just curious

    • He saw horses (which no one uses for war anymore), dragons, angels, vials being poured. It is amazingly figurative. So, no.

      Random sampling:

      Rev 6:5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand.
      Rev 6:6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.”

      Rev 9:15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
      Rev 9:16 Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.
      Rev 9:17 And thus I saw the horses in the vision: those who sat on them had breastplates of fiery red, hyacinth blue, and sulfur yellow; and the heads of the horses were like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths came fire, smoke, and brimstone.

      Rev 12:1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.
      Rev 12:2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.
      Rev 12:3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.
      Rev 12:4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

      Rev 21:9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
      Rev 21:10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
      Rev 21:11 having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.

      I really don’t know anyone who makes the claim that these are recorded movies of future events.

      • WillD says:

        Chris, maybe it’s not figurative. Maybe it was a real vision. (Not a real vision of the future, but a real vision.) This would buttress the open theist perspective. The vision contained horses because that’s what men used back then. I highly doubt that Revelation will come to pass as John saw it, because things have changed.

  2. gricketson01 says:

    chris,thnx,i guess i was just hung up on the word hereafter in rev 4:1 lol

    • If General Patton called FDR into a war briefing room and stated: “Let me show you what is going to happen.” No one would expect a movie of the future. In fact, everyone would understand that whatever the presentation would be it would be a representation of the future that this is very likely but also conditional.

  3. gricketson01 says:

    great example, thnx.i catch on quick after awhile lol

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