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Christ in Time and Space

Dominique Deming
December 3, 2004

Christ in Time and Space


Imagine becoming two-dimensional. Up to this point, you have been your normal threedimensional self, but in an instant you have been changed to a two-dimensional creature.
Everything else about you is the same. You can think, you have desires and passions, you have
the ability to will, but you are stuck in a two-dimensional body. All the physical activities you
enjoyed as a three dimensional being are denied to you. Most of your freedom you enjoyed is no
longer available to you. You are less than you were. You are limited. Now, imagine you chose to
become two-dimensional. You chose to lay aside the form that allowed you to enjoy your
favorite physical activities. You chose to lay aside the freedom that comes with a threedimensional body. You chose to rid yourself of the agent that allowed you to carry out your will.
You chose to limit yourself.
Jesus did this very thing when He became man. He limited himself. As God the Son,
Christ is eternal and omnipresent. These are two of Gods incommunicable attributes, both
necessary for Him to be God. Eternality is defined as that which is without beginning and
end, and is without succession, or does not proceed in a succession of moment one after another;
and is opposed to time1 God is outside of time; He is not confined by it in any way. In fact,
time only exists because God created it. Time began the moment creation began because God
created time for His creation. As the creator of time, God cannot be confined to time.
Omnipresence is being in all space at once. As with time, space was created by God and it cannot
confine Him. Space was created for Gods creation. Though God is outside both time and space,
He is able to interact with both. Because He is the creator of them, God is able to accomplish his
will within the constrains of time and space. Time and space do not limit God.
1

John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, (Paris, Ark.: Baptist Standard Bearer, 2000) pp. 45-46.

Yet, Christ, when He became man, confined Himself to time and to space. Being God
incarnate, He became everything man is, including being subjected to the controls of time and
space. While the analogy between the three-dimensional man becoming two-dimensional is not
perfect, it does grasp the limiting nature of Christs incarnation. No longer was Christ able to
exist in all time. No longer was Christ able to be in all places at once. Jesus, when He took on the
form of a man, became limited by the very things He created. Accustomed to existing in all ages,
Jesus was forced to live day by day, moment by moment, in successive time. Used to being
everywhere at once, Christ was forced to move step by step, foot by foot in spatial habitation. He
was limited in a way we cannot comprehend. And He chose this. God the Son, chose to take
upon himself all the limits of time and space and suffer the loss of freedom in order to carry out
the divine plan of salvation. For thirty-three years, Christ lived in history (the combination of
space and time) voluntarily.
Theologian John Miley said:
[Christ] is God in his divine nature man in his human nature . . . The necessary
union of the two natures is possible only in the mode of a divine incarnation. The
divine nature is eternal while the human originated in time. The divine was
therefore eternally before the human. Hence the union of the two in the person of
Christ must have been an event in time.2
Miley recognized that the incarnation must have taken place in time because, as a man,
God incarnate had to exist within time. Miley stated that The Son, who was in the form of God,
was made the likeness of man. He assumed a body of flesh and blood in the likeness of our
own.3 Christs human body must have existed in time if it was truly a human body, so Christ
must have existed in time.

2
3

Miley, Systematic Theology, (Peabody, MA : Hendrickson, 1989), 14.


Ibid, 11.

Lewis Sperry Chafer:


. . . [T]he whole doctrine of the incarnation is only the prologue to a historical
treatise. The historical treatise which it introduces naturally is written from the
point of view of its prologue. Its object is to present Jesus Christ in His historical
manifestation, as obviously the Son of God in flesh.4 (Emphasis mine)
Chafer carefully points out that God manifested Himself within the bounds of time. He, like
Miley, emphasizes Christs human nature and His experiencing all that is essentially human.
[Christ] became flesh. That is to say, He entered upon a mode of existence in which the
experiences that belong to human being would also be His.5 Among these experience is that of
being confined to time and space.
Rev. James P. Boyce disagrees and claims that Christ was not actually limited in His
eternality, namely not being confined to succession of moments and space.
[Christ], therefore, had, by virtue of his divine nature, all divine experience; and
by virtue of his human nature, all human experience; thinking, willing and
purposing as God, and exercising all the divine attributes of omniscience,
omnipotence and omnipresence, etc., and thinking, willing and purposing as man,
with limited powers and limited knowledge, subject to temptation, suffering,
doubts and fears.6
Arguing the necessity for Christ to exercise all His divine attributes in order to retain His
divine nature, Boyce declares that Christ was not limited by space or by time.
Scripture, while not directly saying God incarnate was limited by time and space, does
provide us with strong clues that He was, indeed, bound by them. John 1:14 says And the Word
was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten
of the Father,) full of grace and truth. Christ was made flesh. He was made all that was
essentially human. Included in what belongs to man essentially is the aspect of living within time
and space. Philippians 2:7-8 says, But made himself of no reputation, and took on the form of a
4

Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, c1993), 41.
Ibid, 40.
6
James Petigru Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology, (Hanford, CA : den Dulk Christian Foundation, n.d.), 290.
5

servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man Here
again, we find Christ being all that is essential to man. Luke 2 tells us of the birth of God
incarnate. Included in this narrative is a distinct time and place within history. Verse 2 tells us the
time in which Christ was born. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of
Syria. Christ was born within the time of Cyrenius who lived in a certain time of history. Later
in verse 11, we read the place, or space, in which Christ was born. For unto you is born this day
in the City of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. We learn that the space where God
incarnate began His time on earth was in Bethlehem, the City of David. In the story of Lazaruss
death and resurrection found in John 11, we learn that Jesus was not in Bethany, but in another
place (Christ had to go to Bethany), and that he abode two days in the same place where he
was. (John 11:6) This passage shows Christ existing in space and in time. He could not be in
Bethany at the same time He was away; neither was He existing in all of time, for He abode two
days. The Bible mentions Christ acting in specific times and places in history, but never is God,
as man, described as acting in all of time or in every place.
Christ became man. He was made in fashion of His very creation. Christ fully made
Himself everything a human is. He was not always this way: He had to restrict and limit Himself
to have the form and fashion of one of His created beings. It was a conscious, voluntary act. He
became as man in order to redeem man.
God incarnate existed with everything that characterizes man; all things essential to man.
Being bound by time and space is one of those things essential to man. Man cannot live
otherwise. Man is a created being and all of creation exists in time and is bound by succession of
moments. Space, too, limits all of creation, for when God created, He imposed space and spatial
restraints upon all. Man cannot even comprehend what it would be like to exist outside of these

restrictions. Christ, because He was formed in the fashion of man, had to be bound by them as
well.
It must be stressed, however, that Christ did not give up any of His divine nature. Christ
did not lose His eternality, nor did He lose His omnipresence. To have lost these would have
made Christ less than God, because all these attributes are necessary in order for Him to be God.
Christs deity is never denied in Scripture; rather, it is affirmed. Therefore, Christ must have
retained these attributes while He was on earth as a man. In order to be fully human and
experience all things essentially human, Christ laid aside His attributes of eternality and
omnipresence, just as He laid aside His glory and riches. He never lost these things, they were
always His but He chose to do without them. Christ purposefully limited Himself to His creation
by casting these aside. He denied Himself the attributes of eternality and omnipresence so that
He might minister to His creation. He subjected Himself to His creation so that He would be
further glorified.
Christ voluntarily limited Himself. This cannot be overemphasized. God, Creator of all
things, laid down His glory, on His own accord. Nothing could limit God unless He allowed it.
Gods creation could never bind Him unless He bound Himself to it. Christ Himself chose to
reject His eternality and omnipresence to bring salvation to man and glory to His Father.
Limiting oneself is not easy, and it is usually undesirable. Yet God came to earth and
accepted the limitation of mans dimensions. Time and space are dimensions God is outside and
completely independent of; yet, He chose to deny this and give up the freedom that come from
being outside of them. It was restricting, yet Christ did it because He loved His creation. He did
not deny or give up His divinity, but he chose voluntarily to lay aside His eternality and
omnipresence to take on the form of one of His creatures. He chose to limit Himself.

Works Cited
Boyce, James Petigru. Abstract of Systematic Theology. Hanford, CA : den Dulk Christian
Foundation, n.d.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, c1993.
Miley, John. Systematic Theology. Peabody, MA : Hendrickson, 1989.