Becoming a Person Who
Was and Is and Is To Come
In Revelation 1:8, our precious Lord says He "is and who was and who is to come" (NKJV). In other words, He has a comprehensive, dynamic relationship with past, present, and future. 2Corinthians 3:18 says He is making us into His replica. If we understand the thesis of Revelation 1:8 (that the Lord has a comprehensive, dynamic relationship with past, present, and future), and if we understand the thesis of 2Corinthians 3:18 (that He is making us into His replica), we inductively arrive at a synthesis. That synthesis tells us that He is working to make us into persons who, like Him, also have a comprehensive, dynamic relationship with past, present, and future. This is why we cannot fixate or get frozen in any one time zone; as an omnitemporal being the Lord is present in all of them and working in all of them. Sometimes He is working on the You that is, sometimes He is working on the You that was, sometimes He is working on You that is to come.
The word time (in all its forms and various Mediterranean original words) is used an astonishing amount of times in Scripture. Here's the theological mathematics, so to speak. The KJV uses any and all forms of the word time 765 times; the ESV uses any and all forms of the word time 824 times; the NASB, 957; the NIV, 1065. If we added those up (3602) and divided by four to find the average, the average would be 900. This means God inspired His written Word, in the original languages, to refer to the concept of time around 900 times roughly. That is an average of 13.5 times for every book of the Bible.
The arithmetic screams at us. It tells us we not only have a relationship with the Lord, we also have a consequential, complex relationship with time.
Chronoception = Time Perception
Our relationship with time can be captured in one word: chronoception. The word chronoception means "time perception", how you orient yourself to time, how you orient yourself on the past-present-future spectrum. You may not know it, but your deeper intentions and life structure are driven by your chronoception. That time orientation is the centrifuge that spins our emotions, thoughts, behaviors, choices, relationships, ministries, theology, into cycle after cycle after cycle after cycle. We need to look at the three chronoceptions, the three time orientations, that all people have until they are awakened and transformed in their relationship to time, and consequently, their relationship with the Lord.
The Past Chronoception
The past chronoception is a time orientation that consciously or subconsciously fixates on the past. When we say a person is "stuck in the past" we are saying they have a past chronoception. The most telling indicator that a person has a past time orientation is they are largely unable to perceive what is being said or done in the present tense, much less the future tense. When churches cannot demolish outdated traditions and methods to be more Biblically accurate and spiritually powerful, they have a past chronoception. When families try too hard to recreate past joys and past good times, instead of pioneering new ones, a past chronoception at work. A person or group with a past chronoception is stuck somewhere (or multiple somewheres) in their history.
This describes the religious elite of Jesus' day. The Jewish leaders were fossilized in Mosaic theology and Abrahamic blood-privilege and could not perceive the workings of God in the present tense, nor could they perceive the future that was emerging through the incarnation and the apostles.
At Kadesh Barnea, Israel was supposed to penetrate the promise land for the first time (Num 13,14). But, because of slavery-induced low self-esteem in Egypt, they disobeyed the Lord and did not advance into the land. Their psychology was stuck in a past-tense orientation, and because their history was so brutally negative and still unhealed, it gave opportunity to stubbornness and sin against God. Read especially Numbers 13:30-14:9.
The Present Chronoception
The present chronoception is a time orientation that consciously or subconsciously fixates on the present. The most telling indicator that a person has this time orientation is they have a tunnel-vision about right-now distractions and attractions. It is terribly difficult for them to slow down or block off meaningful time, first for intimacy with the Lord, second for their overall health and wellbeing.
In the parable of the sower (Lk 8), Jesus referred to a present chronoception person as the ground with thorns and thistles. He said those thorns and thistles are the right-now distractions and attractions of this life. He said this kind of ground "stands for those who hear...and they do not mature" (v14 NIV).
Satan tempted both Eve (Gen 3) and Jesus (Mt 4) with a right-now tunnel-vision. Eventually God, at a future time, would have awakened Adam and Eve to the moral reality of good and evil. But Satan pushed Eve to block out any future hope of God granting higher knowledge, and talked her into a right-now tunnel-vision of getting it herself. The same happened with Jesus. Satan tried to push Him into a right-now tunnel-vision of getting what the Father had promised Him at a future time. It is important and a bit stunning to notice that Satan, in his two greatest temptations, used time as the subtle leverage point toward sin.
The Future Chronoception
The future chronoception is a time orientation that consciously or subconsciously fixates on the future--potentialities or still-to-come realities. The most telling indicator that a person has this time orientation is they are dreamy and impractical. They fantasize about a promise land without an exodus, wilderness, and conquest first. They see promise without process; they see destiny without diligence; they see winning without wisdom. They see future as an isolated reality, an island to hop over to, not the eventuality of a strategically constructed landbridge from past to present to future.
The baby Thessalonian church developed a future chronoception when they became obsessed with eschatology. Some had quit their jobs, became idle and lazy, became dreamy and impractical, some were afraid they missed the Jesus spaceship, all because of a perception of time that became obsessed with the seeming imminency of the Lord's return. So Paul wrote 1 and 2Thessalonians, sent Timothy to them (1Th 3:2), and pulled them out of that future chronoception and pastored them into a healthier balance, a more comprehensive relationship with past, present, and future.
The Lord's Chronoception
Hopefully you can see how each of us perceives and orients to time in a certain way, until we get illumination from the Holy Spirit to help us grow into a mature relationship with time, in the context of our relationship with the Lord. What does a mature relationship with time look like? Now we come full circle back to my opening words: God has a comprehensive, dynamic relationship with time, He was and is and is to come, and we are being made into His image, which means we also will have a comprehensive, dynamic relationship with time, our past and our present and our future.
So how do we respond to all this truth practically?
A Comprehensive, Dynamic Chronoception
Regarding the past, I must process and learn and heal from my past as guided by the Holy Spirit. I must have an increasingly enlightened and healthy relationship with my history. As a defense mechanism to avoid going there, some Christians misuse Paul's words in Philippians 3:13 about "forgetting what is behind". Read the context starting from 3:1 and interpret Scripture responsibly. Paul is referring to forgetting about Old Covenant spirituality and pressing ahead into the emerging New Covenant spirituality, and ultimately, the heavenward prize. That was an urgent message for first-century Christians who had a strong temptation to return to Mosaic Judaism, or create a hybrid monster of Judaism and Christianity (read the book of Galatians).
Regarding the future, I must seek the Lord consistently (Col 4:2, Heb 11:6, Ac 17:27) for personal vision about His plan for me (Ps 139:16). If I grow in my seeking and finding prayer life, shortterm and longterm visions from the Lord will begin to illuminate my thoughtlife and inspire me to specific courses of action in the present based on His plan for me.
Regarding the present, God orders our steps in the present according to His visions for our life. That means I cannot be actionally optimal, strategic, or meaningful in the present if I am living without a sense of calling to this or to that. Consequently, ordering and optimizing our present tense is inextricable from a diligent prayer life that generates vision.