Some, if not most, theists assert that time exists in heaven. How can this be?

If time is at all based on physical laws (spacetime, emergence, etc.), it won't be able to exist as it does currently in heaven, as the laws of physics would presumably not exist in heaven (it brings up problems such as heat death, particle decay, etc.) Instead, another form of time must exist. This raises two problems.

First, could time even exist in any sort of other way than it does now? What about McTaggart's attack against the A-theory of time, for example? Is the way we experience time not simply a byproduct of our physical brain?

Second, how could one "transition" into this state? Many accounts of a resurrection like this (some are here in section 7, others here in sections 2 and 3) rely on the fact that some part of us remain the same (whether physical or non-physical). Since whatever this is - your brain, some non-physical soul, etc. - change with time (otherwise, it'd be like dying and returning to your state when you were just born), how can they transition into a different time? If whatever this "soul" is just appears in a new timeline, it isn't really the same thing; it is a copy. So, how could this transition between two different forms of time take place, given that the self must exist within time?

How would a theist answer these arguments? Of course, one could reject the idea that time exists in heaven. While some theists do this, others maintain that time exists in heaven. For example, the SEP, in section 5.2, talks about the "supposed tedium of immortality." In this section, the author very much assumes that time exists in heaven, and presents arguments within that framework. So, for a theist who asserts that time exists in heaven, how would these problems be addressed?

  • 2
    Hi, welcome to Phil.SE :) Unfortunately you involve too many questions from different fields for your post to have meaningful answers. What is time? What is the relation between time and mind? What is the mind-body problem? What does theism tell us about soul? What is the after-life, and reincarnation? Does a "recreation" of one's body/soul means a "copy"? Can there be multiple times? Etc. Jul 20, 2019 at 19:22
  • @yechiamweiss Sorry if I was being too broad. I'm sort of asking this from a Christian concept of heaven. In terms of the question what is time, would I be wrong to say that there is mostly a consensus among philosophers and scientists about what time is (eternalism, from what I understand)? While certainty there is no agreed upon definition on souls and such, I don't really think that's important for the question, as all definitions (whether it be purely material, substance dualistic, or something in between) require the soul to continually exist in time. Does that help clear anything up?
    – user40443
    Jul 20, 2019 at 19:38
  • 1
    There is no consensus on time, modern physics tends towards the view that time is emergent, and both A and B models are moot. The relationship between the atemporal states and temporal world has some analogies to the relation between "eternal" God and created world, see Hartle–Hawking state and On the Emergence of Time in Quantum Gravity by Isham-Butterfield, p.52ff. But the post overall is too broad. You should split it into separate questions, and ask some of them on Christianity SE.
    – Conifold
    Jul 22, 2019 at 5:25
  • 1
    How are you defining "heaven"? Are you sure theists define it the same? Jul 22, 2019 at 6:26
  • 1
    Current time as a "subset" of a more real time is too naive a metaphor, heat isn't a subset of Brownian motion in any reasonable sense, one has to switch to more fundamental descriptions we don't yet have. Again, this is in the realm of pointless speculation.
    – Conifold
    Jul 23, 2019 at 3:01

3 Answers 3


Is the way we experience time not simply a byproduct of our physical brain?

Second, how could one "transition" into this state?

I don't see what this has got to be with 'time' -- at all. You just seem to be asserting that everything is physical, and so there can't be anything non-physical, which you've defined as "heaven".

What are the prospects for survival on a materialistic view of persons? One possible reason for thinking that materialism is not hostile to the prospects of an afterlife is that, historically, the standard view of the afterlife in the major theistic traditions is that it involves the resurrection of bodies. While there is a longstanding theological tradition that links belief in bodily resurrection with dualism, many theologians and some philosophers argue that dualism is a Platonic import into theistic traditions (Cullman 1955), and that it is more in keeping with the Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic stress on bodily life to understand the afterlife in materialist rather than dualist terms.

You may want to bear in mind that God is -- for Theists -- in control of physical process.


A classic Christian response adapts the ancient Greek concepts of chronos (ordinary, sequential time) and kairos ("proper moment") which, in Christian theology, can be described as "God's time." The idea is that there are certain moments we experience as "timeless," as existing, in some way, outside of ordinary sequential time. Platonically, we could say we are experiencing a glimpse of a deeper reality in those moments. Heaven, therefore, would exist in kairos and Earth in chronos.


There are many different kinds of theists... So there would have to be many different answers to this, with none more correct than another.

The broadest scope of answers though based on my experience with many theists, would simply be that God makes it work... When one has crafted or inherited the idea of a plane of existence that has no empirical data indicating it's qualities, and one has further decided that this plane of existence is not subject to analysis based on evidence or data about our own experience, then one is simply deciding the qualities of that plane of existence based on internal belief. As such, no argument or explanation is either needed or possible.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .