What Time is It?
Does anybody really know what time it is? That is the provocative opening line of the song by the same name released by Chicago in 1969. It is actually a question that has lingered in the air for much longer than that. Jesus asked that same question in a conversation with the religious leaders of Israel. Hear His stinging rebuke:
“Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?”
-Luke 12:56 (cf. Matthew 16:3)
So, what time is it? Does anybody really know?
Earlier this month, the majority of Americans obeyed Congress by turning back our clocks one hour. It is an interesting annual ritual. I was amazed by how many time pieces I had to reset again. I was even more amazed at how many time pieces I did not have to adjust! My iPhone, Fitbit, atomic clock in my office, digital clocks at church—they all adjusted automatically! There are some smart people who have programmed the devices I use every day to automatically know what time it really is.
The New Testament has much to say about time. In fact, there are at least three Greek words in the NT that can be translated with the English word time. Here they are: kronos, kairos, and eschatos. We get our English word, “chronology” from the Greek kronos. That is measured time. It is easily understood and it is what contemporary Americans are most concerned about. It is the least important word or concept with respect to time in the NT. We are infatuated with kronos — but NT writers were not.
The NT is much more concerned with kairos – “meaningful time” and eschatos – “end times.” God has put an eternal calendar in place and these two concepts work together to give time its real meaning. God has already defined and planned the eschaton. The end has already been scripted. We are living in the eschatos already as Peter announced at Pentecost, “In the last days (eschatos), God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:17).
The eschaton is like a magnet that is drawing history toward God’s desired end. Meanwhile, we are to live into the kairos moments along the way. Meaningful time. Time that is filled with God’s presence and insight. We use the concept in our everyday parlance already — the time was just right, it’s about time, etc.
The NT is concerned with kairos. Knowing what God is doing at any given time. Recognizing those moments and discerning His hand at work. Back to our rebuke from Jesus given to the religious leaders. He said — you don’t know anything about the present kairos. You are the leaders of God’s people. You should know what time it is!
So—–it’s Advent. Guess when that event occurred on God’s eternal calendar? At just the right time. When the time was right.
Hear how the Apostle Paul put it:
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.”
Advent is a celebration of God’s perfect timing. The time was full. It was right. Mary and Joseph had their entire kronos upended by God’s kairos so the stage could be set for the eschatos to commence.
Pay attention, brothers and sisters in Christ. Stay tuned to God’s reckoning of time. So, you will be prepared to answer the next time someone asks you, “Hey, what time is it?”