The complete title of this article series is: ‘What is NOTHING? – Texture, Temperature, & Time’. We will be examining each of these three principles as they relate to the concept of absolute nothingness in three (3) separate articles. Below is a brief description of the material that will be covered in each article:
Part 1 – Texture: This article will focus on common concepts of ‘nothingness’ and the true nature of the total absence of matter – including how that relates to our physical existence.
Part 2 – Temperature: This second article will examine the relationship between energy and matter, and will explain why whenever matter is present energy will exist.
Part 3 – Time: This final article will focus on the concept of time as a construct of our physical universe, and will explain why the passage of time is directly related to the existence of matter and energy.
What do you think about when someone refers to ‘nothing’? Do you think about an empty container, or perhaps a vast open space? Whatever it is that you think about when the concept of ‘nothingness’ is mentioned, your idea of ‘nothing’ is probably far from the truth of what it is – or rather what it ISN’T.
We use the word ‘nothing’ on a regular basis, and probably give it very little (if any) thought at all.
For example, someone may say to you, “What’s that in your hand?”
You reply, “Nothing,” and open your hand to show that it is ‘empty’.
Or, while sitting at a diner the waitress walks by and notices that you’ve drank all your iced tea and says, “I see you’re empty. Would you like some more?”
You reply, “No thanks – nothing more for me.”
In each instance the terms ‘nothing’ and ‘empty’ were used to convey the idea of a general lack of substance or content. In fact, this is the way in which we all commonly use these terms every day – and in this context such usage is perfectly correct.
However, because of our common usage of these terms we have become (in a way) desensitized to the more pure and basic meaning that they represent. This is the meaning which we will be exploring in this (and the two subsequent) articles.
It is interesting that numerous dictionaries list among their definitions of ‘nothingness’ as ‘nonexistence’, ‘death’, ‘void’, ‘emptiness’ – with ‘death’ being among the most common definitions found. Yet, when we examine each of these definitions we still have no real clear indication of what ‘nothingness’ truly is because every one of these terms are concepts that themselves require further explanation.
For example, if we define nothingness in terms of nonexistence, then we must define what it means to exist. If we try to consider nothingness as ‘death’ then we must define life and what it means to be alive. All of these terms address the principle of ‘nothingness’; however, none of them truly define the meaning of ‘absolute nothingness’.
The physical definition of absolute nothingness is the absence of everything. In the strictest sense this means no matter or energy of any kind exists at all anywhere. As we shall see in the two ensuing articles, this is a foundational truth that cannot be ignored regardless of one’s view of the genesis of the universe. Without matter and energy neither temperature (which is a measure of energy) nor time (which is dependent upon the activity of matter and energy) can exist.
The physical definition of ‘absolute nothingness’ is the absence of everything.
For the purpose of alliteration (a tool that makes the theme of this article series easier to remember): ‘Texture’ = the ‘fabric’ of our universe (i.e. ‘matter/energy’).
Therefore, ‘texture’ and ‘matter/energy’ may be used interchangeably throughout this article series.
One term that comes close to defining ‘nothing’ or ‘nothingness’ with a high degree of accuracy is that of a ‘vacuum’. An absolute vacuum is a true void in which all matter has been removed so that only empty space remains. Outer space comes somewhat close to this; however, it is still filled with many particles (even though there are places where those particles may be sparsely located). Furthermore, many forms of energy in the form of radiation are constantly passing through the entirety of outer space, which would disqualify it from being an ‘absolutely empty’ region.
In fact, for something to be defined as ‘absolutely nothing’ it cannot be a region of space (or anything else for that matter); for, by definition if it is ‘something’ it is no longer ‘nothing’.
This last statement even disqualifies the subatomic regions in which there may exist no matter or energy for brief periods of time because they are still bound by regions of matter and energy.
Therefore, when we are speaking of ‘absolute nothingness’ we are truly speaking of something that by definition cannot exist in our universe!
‘Absolute nothingness’ cannot exist in our universe.
The ‘Nothing’ before ‘Everything’
Regardless of your view of how the universe came into being the challenge comes when trying to reconcile two diametrically opposed conditions into the reality that exists. Whether one is a proponent of secular science or a Bible-believing Christian, most hold to the position that our universe did not exist at all until a specific point in time at which it sprang suddenly into existence.
Here is our quandary…
Before Creation (as a Bible-believing Christian I will use the term I believe to be true) there was ‘absolutely nothing’. This means no matter. No energy. No time. No nothing.
There were no resources from which to form any of the basic elements, subatomic particles, etc… in existence anywhere – because there was no ‘anywhere’!
Link absolute nothingness to Creation and the impossibility of ‘something from nothing caused by nothing’.
Now most Bible-believing Christians like to begin at Genesis 1:1 at this point and proclaim, “In the beginning God created the heaven (literally ‘heavens) and the earth.” Indeed, this IS the best place to begin to proclaim that the Lord is the beginning and Creator of all things.
However, the account of Creation goes far beyond Genesis Chapter 1 in the Bible. In fact, in 2 Timothy 2:15 the Apostle Paul tells us to, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the world of truth.”
This tells us that with diligent study we will uncover many details about truth in God’s Word. Such is the case with the Creation account.
Following is a brief examination of two (2) passages in the New Testament in which we learn that the Lord Jesus Himself is the Creator present at the beginning of Creation; and, that everything in our universe was made by Him. This leads us to only one logical and inescapable conclusion – that before He created everything, there was absolutely ‘nothing’!
“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
When we examine this passage closely we notice two very significant comments with regard to Creation. The first is that we are told ‘all things’ were made by Him (Christ/the Word); and, the second is that without Him (Christ/the Word) was ‘not anything made’.
Looking more closely at the Koine Greek word used for the first of these two expressions we learn that by Him was ‘each and every’ (πας – ‘pas’) individual thing that exists made. In this context this is a specific reference to every component in existence from the largest composite (such as a galaxy full of stars) down to the most minute individual item (such as a subatomic particle).
As if the first phrase in this verse were not enough on its own to point out the total sovereignty with which the Lord created all that exists, the second expression serves to compliment the first by telling us that without Him ‘not even one thing’ (εις – ‘ace’) that exists was made.
When these two expressions are found in the presence of the Greek word γινομαι (‘gin-o-mai’ meaning ‘to cause to be’, ‘to bring into existence’) which in the form used is translated as ‘made’ in this verse, the entire statement becomes impressively clear. The Lord brought into existence every last item that exists from absolutely nothing!
The Lord brought into existence every last item that exists from absolutely nothing!
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
In this passage from Paul’s letter to the Church at Colosse the same word (πας) is used for ‘all things’. The context is exactly the same as in John 1:3; therefore, Paul is referring to the same Creator and the same act of Creation as is John.
Unlike John 1:3, where the Apostle John uses the word ‘made’ γινομαι for the Lord’s act of Creation, in this passage the Apostle Paul uses another word translated as ‘created’. That word is κτιζω (‘k-tee-zoh’). This word refers to God’s Creation of the ‘worlds’ in this, and other similar contexts found in the New Testament.
Other examples of the use of κτιζω (to create) in the New Testament are:
Eph. 3:9 – “…who created all things by Jesus Christ”
Rev. 4:11 – “Thou art worthy, O Lord…for thou hast created all things…”
Rev. 10:6 – “And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created…”
In Colossians 1:17 the Lord Jesus is said to be ‘before’ all things. There are two applicable meanings for the word ‘προ’ (pro), which is translated as ‘before’ in this verse. One is ‘prior to’, and the other is ‘superior to’. Both meanings apply here which is perhaps why this particular word was chosen in this context.
First, as Creator the Lord Jesus is eternal (Heb. 13:8, e.g.). He always was, is, and always will be (Rev. 1:4).
Second, He is omnipotent. He is greater than all of His Creation, both that of this universe and that of the heavenly realm. This power is demonstrated in the second part of verse 17 in Colossians 1 where we learn that by Him all things ‘consist’.
The Greek root word translated as ‘consist’ is συνιστάω (soon-is-tah-o) meaning ‘to unite’ or ‘to join together’. In this verse the perfect active tense indicates that this is a condition which had a beginning and continues to be by the action of another – in this instance, by Christ Jesus the Creator (the Son in whom all believers have redemption re: vv13-14).
Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is not only the Creator of the universe and the heavenly realm (along with the promise given in John 14 of the ‘place’ He is preparing for those who love Him); but, He maintains a Personal and continual relationship with His entire Creation by holding it together continuously!
While it may be comfortable for many to believe that the universe somehow sprang into existence out of nothingness, the evidence and simple logical reason point inexorably to a Designer.
The Bible not only tells us accurately about the Creation of the universe in which we live; but, it also tells us about the Creator’s relationship with His entire Creation and His Love for the one and only part of His Creation formed in His Own Image – mankind.
He has a longing desire to have an eternal relationship with everyone; and, anyone who will call upon Him in faith He will never reject.
In His Love,
Dr. Jack L. Burton
Watch for Part II of this Article series in September. We will examine the principle of temperature and energy as they relate to ‘nothingness’ and discover why ‘nothing’ is ‘un-discoverable’!!!
(1) Merriam Webster Online Dictionary
(3) The Free Dictionary
(4) New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, King James Version. James Strong, LLD., S.T.D. Nelson. ©2005.
(5) Thayer’s Greek Definitions. 1886, 1889. Public Domain.
(1) Article: Infinity – The Signature of God
(2) Article: By Him All Things Consist
- All Bible quotes in this article are taken from the KJV.
- Bible passages in double quotes (“) appear exactly as found in the KJV.
- Bible passages in single quotes (‘) have been modified for emphasis or ease of reading only (such as capitalization of pronouns referring to God, bolded text, or modernized punctuation, etc.) without altering the actual wording of the text.
Disclaimer: While to the author’s knowledge all of the information cited in the referenced material related directly to the content of this article is correct and accurate, the author in no way endorses any of the cited references in their entirety – especially where the material contained therein is in direct contradiction with the Creation account given in the Word of God.