The second chapter of Philippians describes how Jesus willingly emptied Himself of all His heavenly privileges. He gave up His rights as God to take on the form of a servant and occupy the likeness of men.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7 NASB).
Although it’s impossible for us to understand all the things Jesus surrendered in taking on the form of a man, one “form of God” He relinquished was “Ancient of Days.” The term “Ancient of Days’ denotes the eternal nature of God, the God whose power and authority places Him outside the realm of time. After all, God created time; He is in no wise its servant. Isaiah 57:15 speaks of God inhabiting eternity or timelessness. Daniel saw a vision of the Ancient of Days.
“I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.” (Daniel 7:9 NASB).
Humans, on the other hand, are bound by time. Our earthly lives have a beginning and an end. Time is a commodity and without the quickening of the Holy Spirit, we always run short.
Are Three Years with Jesus Enough Time?
In those first few days following His baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus began walking through the Region of Galilee, preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In John 1, we read that Philip was one of the first disciples Jesus called. Although several followers heard of Jesus by the testimony of another, Philip responded as Jesus said, “Follow Me.”
Like his brethren, Philip was sometimes slow to anticipate the power of God. Before Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand, it was Philip who answered Jesus, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them,” (John 6:7). In John 14, Philip spoke for the Twelve when he asked Jesus to “Show us the Father.” Jesus answered him;
“Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9 NASB).
Our understanding of discipleship often includes the element of “time.” In the flesh, Philip spent three years walking with Jesus. By reason of time, one would think Philip should understand that seeing Jesus was the same as seeing the Father. Nonetheless, without the revelation of the Holy Spirit, time brings man no closer to understanding.
The God of Time: A Few Hours with Philip
In Acts 8, a Spirit-filled Philip was returning from proclaiming the Gospel in Samaria. An angel of the Lord told Philip to go south on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. He met an Ethiopian eunuch, an officer of the queen of the Ethiopians. Though he was returning from worshipping in Jerusalem, the eunuch was puzzled over Isaiah 53.
“He was led as a sheep to slaughter;
And as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
So He does not open His mouth.
In humiliation His judgment was taken away;
Who will relate His generation?
For His life is removed from the earth.” (Isaiah 53:7-8 NASB).
Philip joined the eunuch in his chariot. Using this scripture as a starting point, “he preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35 NASB). The eunuch believed and ordered that the chariot stop, so as to allow him to be baptized.
“When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:38-39 NASB).
In a span measured in no more than one or two hours, a disciple was won who returned to spread the Gospel into Africa.
The God of Time: Five Days with Watkin Roberts
A convert of the Welsh Revival, Watkin Roberts gained passage to India in 1908, at the age of twenty-two. The missionary group, with which he was associated, received a request from the remote Hmar tribe to hear the Gospel. Roberts sent a copy of the Gospel of John. In response, the chief asked that someone come to explain the book.
Going to the Hmar was no small risk. The Hmar people of Northern India had a well-known reputation as headhunters. In 1871, they had beheaded over 500 British soldiers. Though his missionary brethren opposed the trip and the British government forbade it, in 1910, Watkin Roberts made his way through the jungle to preach to the Hmar people. Roberts was with them only five days before the British authorities came and removed him by force. In that five days, the chief and four Hmar men confessed Christ.
For the insolence of staying in Hmar homes and eating Hmar food, the British colonial government expelled Roberts from India. He returned to Wales; tragically, Roberts thought himself a failure as a missionary for most of his remaining years. However, in 1956 at the age of 70 years, Roberts was visited by Rochunga Pudaite, the son of the Hmar chief. Roberts learned that God multiplied the five days he spent with the Hmar and that forty-eight years later, over one hundred churches existed, not to mention schools and hospitals, all in the name of Christ. The chief’s son, Rochunga, developed a written language for the Hmar and translated the Bible. The Hmar were now a predominantly Christian people, all thanks to five days of faithfulness. The story of Watkin Roberts, Rochunga Pudaite, and the Hmar people is told in a very compelling movie entitled, “Beyond the Next Mountain.”
God is the author of time. As its Creator, God stands outside of time and is in no wise limited by constraints of days or years. The Ancient of Days commands time to do His bidding.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NASB).
Whether it be three years, a few hours or five days, time bows to its Creator and the will of God is done to His eternal glory.
The featured image is © Tina Rencelj / Shutterstock.com