Time Frame Considerations
Some have mistakenly thought and taught that God is totally oblivious to time, as we know time. Therefore, time is absolutely irrelevant in all of God's dealings with man. Some reason that since "...one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," time matters not (2 Pet. 3: 8). I submit to you that Peter's statement is simply pertaining to the fact that God is not limited by time, not that God does not consider time (vs. 3-10). Jesus will come when God is ready and not when man thinks or says and just because he has not already come, does not mean that he will not, this is what Peter is teaching. Moreover, God is aware of time and time often plays a major role in various determinations (cp. Heb. 5: 11-14). The view that some erroneously entertain about God and time adversely affects many different truths and Bible subjects. Not only is time awareness important, but often time frame matters are highly significant (how events relate to and affect one another). Let us now notice a few matters and see how time frame plays a major part.
The dispensations seen in the Bible. A dispensation is a period of time, especially a time period that can be categorized. Most scholars realize that there are three major dispensations seen in the Bible. They are: Patriarchy; the Law of Moses; and the age of the gospel. Patriarchy involved God dealing with man through the father or patriarch of the family and commenced with Adam and Eve, lasting about 2, 700 years. When God gave Israel a written law, another dispensation was introduced lasting about 1500 years (Ex. 20, Deut. 5: 1-3). The third and final age is when Jesus inaugurated his covenant with the Great Commission (Mk. 16: 15, 16, Acts 2). These vast time periods represent a total of about 6, 000 years (the age of the gospel will continue until Jesus comes, it is called the "last days," Acts 2: 17ff.). The preceding ages anticipated the last days when Jesus would come in "the fullness of time" (Gal. 4: 4).
As mentioned, during what we call Patriarchy God dealt with the fathers. However, beginning with the issuance of his written law to Israel, God principally relied on his written code, the Ten Commandments. Today, God has spoken through his Son and we are to abide in Jesus' teaching (Heb. 1: 1, 2, 2 Jn. 9-11). The Book of Leviticus contains teaching as to the Aaronic Priesthood (Lev. 9, 10, 16). To serve as a priest under the Law of Moses, one had to be a descendent of Aaron and he had various duties to perform. In this dispensation, however, there has been "a change in the priesthood" (Heb. 7: 12). In this age, every Christian officiates as his own priest (I Pet. 2: 9). Animal sacrifice was a major part of both Patriarchy and the Law of Moses. However, with the offering of Jesus, such sacrifices have been fulfilled and have ceased (Heb. 7, 9, 10). In order to determine what to do to be saved today, learn about Jesus' church, and how to live, one would not turn to Exodus 5 (Patriarchy) or to Exodus 25 (Law of Moses). We are governed by the New Testament (2 Jn. 9-11).
The salvation of man. As mentioned, the only way that man can determine in detail how to be saved is from the New Testament. The Book of Acts is the history book of the New Testament, telling us about the establishment of Jesus' church and what men and women did to be saved and be a part of that church. Belief, repentance, confession of Jesus' deity, and water baptism for the remission of sins are seen as constituting the plan of salvation for the lost (Acts 2: 36; 38; 8: 36, 37). Man is not saved at the time of initial faith, even the demons "believe and tremble" (Jas. 2: 19). In this time frame, faith precedes repentance, repentance comes before confession, and confession is anterior to baptism. Baptism is the last and final act performed by the lost before becoming a Christian (Rom. 6: 2ff.). Baptism, the final act, should immediately follow belief, repentance, and confession (Acts 16: 30-34).
Man is often unaware of a time frame in the matter of salvation. Hence, man has the lost being saved before baptism. This is called the doctrine of "salvation by faith only." Some, Catholicism, have man saved with only the act of baptism without any time consideration to or presence of belief, repentance, and confession (baptismal regeneration, infant "baptism," etc.).
The act of withdrawal. Many religions have no teaching at all that even approximates the teaching of, " withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly " (2 Thes. 3: 6, this is not the same as the Catholic teaching of "ex-communication"). Those among God's people who are impenitently living in sin must be purged for the sake of the purity of the church (I Cor. 5). Factious members must be "rejected" (Tit. 3: 10, 11). However, there is obviously a time frame involved in such matters. In the case of the "heretic" (factious), he is to be rejected after the "first and second admonition" (Tit. 3: 10). Even he, a man that is attempting to divide God's people, must be given a chance to repent and desist. Each case of discipline can vary. One may say, "I am no longer interested in being a Christian, do not bother me again in attempting to bring me to repentance" and another may respond, "Thank you for showing interest in me, I know that I am in sin and I am trying to overcome the matter." Each of these situations require different time considerations and allowances. How long has it been since the first effort to restore to the present effort must be a factor.
Having noticed the above, there are some churches that seemingly have no time frame consideration at all. I have known of churches to immediately withdraw. A member shows up at a service and hears a withdrawal letter read by the elders to the church without any previous knowledge that such a process was even begun. In some other cases, years elapse from the first effort to restore and still withdrawal does not occur.
Time frame regarding marriage and divorce. In view of more people just living together in America as opposed to traditional marriage, there is an increasing amount of confusion. Also, many are contending today that marriage and divorce do not involve any civil compliance or involvement. It is evident that more is involved in both marriage and divorce than simply purpose or mutual intent. Two people conjugally living together does not automatically mean that they should be viewed as married (common law marriage is not involved in this scenario). The Bible speaks of intent, commitment, and the making known of this commitment (cp. Malachi 2: 14, Matt. 22: 2-14). All civilizations of which I am aware have had some public ceremony in which there has been the exchanging of vows to express the fact, record, and intention of marital commitment, and have also had the circumstance of the civil issuance and recording of a license. Regarding the dissolution of marriage, again there has been civil documentation and record. Think of all the confusion without such clear documentation.
It seems that today many do not know when two people are married and when they are divorced. "I was under the impression that they believed that they were married, but now they say they were just living together," some say bewilderedly. It used to be that a marriage license could be produced to prove marriage or a divorce decree to show the dissolution of marriage. Are two people married when they simply think, "We sure would like to be married" or is there more to it? When one angrily says to his mate, "I do not want to see you here when I return home," does this single act constitutes biblical putting away? (The Law of Moses was a theocratic system; hence, the spiritual and the civil were combined, cp. Matt. 19: 7. However, today there is the separation of the "church and state.")
Some are boldly teaching that while Jesus allowed divorce for the reason of fornication, the time when this fornication takes place does not matter. "The fornication may occur before the divorce or subsequent to it," say they. Hence, the circumstance for the waiting game (whoever marries first in a no fornication divorce, frees the other to put away and marry another). A form of this waiting game thinking is now emerging regarding the put away innocent party. "Since the innocent party has the right to put away," they explain, "it does not matter when the putting away mate commits fornication, even after they put away. In such cases the innocent mate (no fornication) may put away and be married to another." Jesus sets forth the following time frame posture: (1). A man unscripturally puts away his wife, (2) he marries another and commits adultery, (3) the one marrying the innocent put away commits adultery (Matt. 19: 9). In Jesus' time frame, adultery follows the unscriptural putting away; yet, the innocent mate commits fornication when she marries another.
A time frame seen in the case of personal offence. The New Testament is replete with teaching that covers and addresses all manner of situations. In Matthew 18: 15-17, Jesus addressed the one who believed that he had been sinned against by another brother and tells him what to do. Jesus even taught the offending brother what and when he was to do. Hear Jesus:
"23: Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24: Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (Matt. 5).
While public worship is important, so is the matter of correcting a personal sin against another. So much so that if while worshipping, one remembers that one has sinned against a brother, that person is to then go to that brother and make correction.
Beloved, there are many time frame situations that clearly demonstrate the fact that God is aware of time. These circumstances also show that God views different events as time related and also as even having comparative time priority within the time frame. God does not simply look at the "big picture," but God has often supplied minute detail that frequently involves time considerations.