Recognizing the difference of God’s time in relation to man’s time is a fundamental Bible concept. Its misunderstanding can cause problems in other, more advanced, areas of Bible study. For example, misunderstanding God’s time in relation to man’s can affect one’s subsequent doctrinal understanding of God’s foreknowledge or His Old Testament promises. It can also have a serious impact on a host of eschatological beliefs like Jesus’ supposed thousand-year reign or whether He’s already returned.

How Scripture answers "What is God’s time in relation to man’s?"

God’s time in relation to man’s time is so contrary that Scripture presents them in contradictory terms2,6,12. What might be a very, very long time to man (e.g. expressions like “feels like an eternity” or “this is never going to happen”) are to God “a little”1,7, “one day”2, “not far off”8, “speedily”5, “a brief moment”13, or a “mist”10. God’s time is so drastically different than man’s, that sometimes even the future events are expressed in the past tense3,13! Regardless of the “when”, we are always implored to “Look!”11 and act as if it’s “Today”9.

Understanding expressions of God’s time (as if that can even be said when speaking of eternity) in relation to man’s time are critical when studying end times topics, and especially when considering if Jesus has already returned. However, it should be noted that the writer’s point (e.g. God’s message to you) in these “time” passages1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 isn’t about the “when” but the “why” the Christian must endure and live by faith until what’s next!

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.
The Lord declares for you to be strong, Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua, son of Jehozadek.  He says for all the people of the land to be strong. Work [at building the temple] for I am with you, according to the covenant [Mosaic] made together when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst so fear nothing.  For the Lord declares: Yet once more in a little while I will shake the heavens and all the earth.

Haggai is prophesying to those that returned to the land from Babylonian captivity.  Released by Cyrus the Great of Persia, they returned to their home [promised] land and had to rebuild their lives.  Haggai [and Zechariah his contemporary] encouraged them in the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem – sometimes referred to by historians as “Zerubbabel’s temple” (verses “Solomon’s” prior and “Herod’s” later in the first century).  God’s statements here are in a response to their specific underwhelmed reaction to the temple not being like “its former glory” (vs 3).

Verse 6 of this passage is applied by the inspired writer of Hebrews to the second coming/final judgment of Jesus Christ. (

Hebrews 12:25-29
). Specifically, there the writer contrasts the Christian’s place in the unshakable, spiritual kingdom of God with the second coming of Christ and the literal “removal of things that can be shaken.”

Scripture-block application to this question

God, through Haggai, tells the people to “fear not” since “in a little while” He will bring judgment.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Approximately 500 years later, in the first century, an inspired writer confirms this still has not yet happened.

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Remember that to God one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day.

Peter’s letters have been of encouragement to the saints to remain strong during persecution and false prophets (vs 1).  God has not forgotten them or His promises (vs 9); the “day of the Lord” will come as a “thief in the night” (vs 10).

Scripture-block application to this question

Christians are implored to “not overlook this one fact” – that what to man may seem like a figurative thousand years (many times more than any one person’s lifetime), is just a single day to God.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

In the very next verse, Peter goes on to point out that God is “not slow to fulfill” (vs 9). The same point from Haggai1, and the same contrast of what indeed would appear to be “slow” if judging by man’s time.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
Blessed be Israel’s God, for He has visited His people in order to purchase them back. He’s raised up a saving bounty for us through the house of David, His servant, just as He spoke about through His prophets of old,

Zechariah’s prophecy from God that was spoken when his mouth was finally opened after the birth of his son, John the Baptist.  The prophecy describes John the Baptist and his mission as well as his cousin Jesus and what He would do.

Scripture-block application to this question

God speaks through Zechariah in the past tense about this that are yet still to happen.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

Don’t throw away your assurance and its great reward. You need to endure and continue to do the will of God in order to receive what [He] has promised. Remember what God has said through the prophets, “In a little while the one will come and not delay; but until then my righteous will live by faith, not shrinking back so that I can approve him.”

The Hebrews writer is beginning the conclusion of his letter imploring the Jewish Christians to remain faithful and not forget all of the “better” things they have in Christ.  A Christian continuing to sin willfully is further described as “one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace” (vs 29).

The writer appears to be quoting from both Haggai 2:6 and Habbakuk 2:3-4.

Scripture-block application to this question

The Hebrews writer uses the same point God made to Habakkuk6. He stresses that God succeeds with all things in His time, and that the Christian only need to live by faith. If the “little while” was man’s time and not God’s, he would not be emphasizing the need for endurance.

And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

God will certainly give justice to His elect who are crying to Him day and night. He will not delay with them, and will quickly give them justice. But really, when the Son of Man comes, who will He find faithful?

Jesus shares a parable (only in Luke) for the purpose of teaching them to pray without losing heart (vs 1). It’s about a worldly and profane judge (vs 2) and a widow seeking justice for her adversary (vs 3). He repeatedly refused to give her justice, until finally, due to her continued persistence, he relents (vs 5).

Jesus’ point is that God, being righteous, would hear even more the continued pleas from His elect.

Scripture-block application to this question

Jesus relates that while in God’s time, He acts without delay and “speedily”, the real question is who will remain faithful.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

We know these are terms stated in “God’s time” since Jesus’ whole point of sharing the parable is that “they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (vs 1).

And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

God told Habakkuk to record the vision so that everyone can be warned who reads it. While the vision has not yet reached its preordained time, it will quickly come and not be compromised. If it seems to not be happening, just wait, it will surely happen, and in fact, is in no way delayed.

The book records a conversation between Habakkuk and God.  The prophet first questions why God is tolerating the sin of Judah (1:2-4). After God responds (1:5-11) that He’s raising up the Chaldeans (e.g. Babylonians), Habakkuk questions how/why a more sinful nation would judge a less sinful nation (1:12-2:1).

The Babylonians began their dominance around 605BC and began carrying Judah away in captivity around 586BC. God exacted judgment on Babylon around 539BC.

Scripture-block application to this question

God tells Habakkuk that His judgment (the vision) will come at the exact, right (“appointed”) time. Even though it “seems slow” (from Habakkuk’s perspective), it “will not delay” (from God’s perspective). The interplay between God’s time (“hastens”, “not delay”) and man’s time (“awaits”, “slow”) is obvious.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Habakkuk possibly saw at least the beginning of God’s judgment on Judah, but probably did not live to see His judgment on the Babylonians.

In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.
In a short time, the wicked will be done away with and even though you search carefully you will not find them. Rather, the meek will inherit the earth and enjoy abundant peace.

A psalm of David (around 1,000BC) about God’s faithfulness to His people. The “land” is a big theme, mentioned six times in a future state of inheriting or dwelling in the land. Interesting, since the nation of Israel was already long established in the Promised Land.

The phrase, “the meek shall inherit the land” is repeated by Jesus in His “Sermon on the Mount” as one of the so-called Beatitudes (Mt 5:5).

Scripture-block application to this question

David speaks of the judgment of God on the wicked and the “meek shall inherit the land”. Obviously not fulfilled in David’s time, one thousand years later Jesus repeats this in His sermon on the mount applying it to His kingdom (the church).

Listen to me, you stubborn of heart, you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory.
Pay attention to Me [God], those that are stubborn and walk in unrighteousness. My righteousness is inevitable and not far off, bringing salvation that is not delayed. I will put salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.
God’s spokesman, the prophet Isaiah, preaching to Judah around 700BC before the Babylonian captivity some 100-120 yrs away. God reminds Judah of their sins and God’s faithfulness and the inevitability of judgment. Specifically, He’s addressing “transgressors” (vs 8) and “stubborn of heart” (vs 12).
Scripture-block application to this question

A general declaration from God (through Isaiah) that His justice “is not far” and “will not delay” (much like Habakkuk6). Yet, regardless of the current context for Isaiah’s purposes/audience, the statement, “I will put salvation in Zion…” is a clear allusion to Messiah, coming some 700 years later. Clearly, “not far” and “not delay” are in God’s time, not man’s.

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Brethern, take great care in case any of you might have an evil, unbelieving heart/mind that leads you to fall away from the living God.  Avoid being hardened by sins deceit by encouraging each other every day, as long as you draw breath.

Letter to Jewish Christians that is calling on them to “hold fast” in spite of persecution.  The main argument is the “better” things that exist for them through Christ Jesus. Chapter three deals specifically with Jesus’ superiority to Moses himself (vss 1-6) and goes on to compare the followers of Moses to those of Jesus.

The writer quotes from Psalms 95:7-11 (vss 7-11) where the writer there uses an even more ancient example from Numbers 14:22 and the wilderness wanderings. He goes on to explain (interpret) those who rebelled (vss 16-19) as those that followed Moses from Egypt but “provoked” God and “sinned”, thereby dying in the wilderness (vss 16-17).  As a result, they did not “enter his rest” since they were “disobedient” (vs 18), which is the same as “unbelief” (vs 19).

Scripture-block application to this question

The Hebrews writer equates “every day” (man’s time) as “today” (God’s time).

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

The writer keys on the word “Today” while quoting from an inspired writer approx. 1,000 years prior (Ps 95) making the same point to his audience, who in turn was using an example the people from approx. 1,500 years prior. Over the 2,500 year span (man’s time), it is always “Today” (God’s time).

Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

For those that say they will go here or there today or tomorrow and make plans accordingly, recognize that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Your life is nothing but a mist that appears for a brief time and then disappears.

James’ letter throughout is about encouraging and warning Christians to live out the “word of truth” (1:18) in their lives and gives many practical examples of what that looks like.

Scripture-block application to this question

From God’s perspective, man’s life (even a “long life”) is like a mist that is here and then gone.

Now Enoch, the seventh in descent beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Enoch, the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them saying, “Look! The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

Jude is writing a brief, but stern letter of warning “to those who are called” (vs 1) to “contend for the faith” (vs 3) and remaining obedient. He also warns about false teachers (vs 4), but continues to give several examples from the Old Testament of those that did not remain faithful (for various reasons) and were condemned as a result.

It is these false teachers and generally those “following their own sinful desires” (vs 16) that Jude says Enoch was prophesying about in his statement of judgment for their “deeds of ungodliness” (vs 15).

Scripture-block application to this question

Enoch, living approx. 5,000 years ago, told the people of his day to “Look!” for the coming of Christ in judgment.

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.

Listen, because what I [Solomon] have concluded to be appropriate is to enjoy all of the things your labor rewards you with the few days of life that God grants you. This is the whole of it.

Observations of the folly of life without acknowledging God and His authority.

Scripture-block application to this question

As Solomon considers the “grand scheme” of one’s life, he counts the days God has given him as “few”.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Just a few verses later (6:3), he says that a man “may live many years”. The two contrary time descriptors in this short span of verses illustrates the difference in time between God’s perspective (“few”) and man’s (“many”).

For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.

Briefly, I [God] deserted you, but with great compassion, I will yet gather you together. For a moment was I angry and hid my face, but with everlasting love, I will have compassion for you, declares the Lord, your Redeemer.

God is speaking through Isaiah the prophet around 700BC.  This chapter, along with the entire latter half of Isaiah starting around chapter 40, contains many confirmed Messianic prophecies along with images and foreshadowing of Christ and His coming Kingdom.

Extending from the heavily inspired-writer-confirmed Messianic passages in chapter 53, this chapter continues with statements (vs 1) cited by Paul in Galatians 4:27. We also see the common image of Jesus as the groom/husband to the redeemed of His church (vs 5).

Scripture-block application to this question

God, through Isaiah, contrasts the desertion of His people with His redemption as “a brief moment”. We also see the mixing of past and future tenses in this single statement. God’s desertion and anger are past tense, while His compassion and love are still future tense.

!! scripture-block context extra important here !!

Given the clear and New Testament confirmed language throughout this whole latter part of Isaiah, the “brief moment” of “desertion” by God until His “everlasting love” could be defined in terms of hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

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