The wonder and mystery of the central gospel message, salvation in Christ, is conveyed throughout the pages of the Bible using poetry, prophecy, prose, preaching, praise and parable.
When perusing the scriptures, we may find ourselves wondering about the heavenly dimension where Jesus has, for the time being, returned. How do we then grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ while he is in heaven? How do we comprehend all that Jesus asks us to believe? Why are there only a few glimpses into the heavenly dimension by so few prophets? Like a well-written story, we hunger for more details about this promised “glory”.
Unlike those in ages past who mostly accepted the mystery of life, our era of scientific rationalism wants to dissect everything into manageable bytes. However, the lesson that we must learn is finding satisfaction in the “mystery” element – being content that ultimately, in due course, we will understand and experience our awaiting hope of glory. We cannot begin to comprehend the details of what exists beyond time, space and matter! We also learn from the parable that we’re not the “potter” but rather the “clay”.
Thus, as hard as we often try, we simply fail to comprehend the depth and height and greatness of the glory revealed in the heavenly – past, present and future – even when such glimpses are generously made available. A good example that comes to mind is found in Matthew’s gospel account.
Of the twelve, Jesus took just three of his closest disciples, Peter, John and James, into the wilderness and atop a remote mountain. And there, in the isolation of that pristine environment, Jesus allowed them, suddenly in vision, to gain a glimpse of a heavenly dimension. Known as the Transfiguration, the disciples momentarily saw Jesus glorified shining “brighter than the sun”, and with him in conversation were two others whom they immediately recognised as Moses and Elijah – prophets from antiquity who were deceased long ago!
Yes, these were two of greatest men in Hebrew history: Moses who was instrumental in the giving of the Law, and yes, there was Elijah, the quintessential and epitome of all the prophets! So, what was this vision all about? Just as the disciples were grappling with and trying to comprehend what they were experiencing, a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” (Matthew 17:5)
How would you have responded to such a heavenly, other-dimensional experience? Would you have fared any better than Peter who, for example, as the most outspoken of the disciples, without hesitating suggested that they build three cubby houses to accommodate Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Of course, this definitely wasn’t what the vision demanded – we immediately sense the folly of trying to create booths to “accommodate” the heavenly. Peter profoundly misread this situation and as a result profoundly misspoke!
What about John and James? We don’t know much about their reaction from this account except that they either fell down in great fear or simply fainted. Many years later, however, in the Revelation vision that Jesus gave to John, John became so overwhelmed by what he saw and heard that he inappropriately prostrated in worship before the angelic messenger – an idolatrous act for which he was promptly rebuked. Most prophets, including Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel, trembled and often fainted when confronted with a glimpse into the heavenly dimension.
Thankfully and understandably today, we are largely shielded from such other-dimensional experiences, partly because we cannot cope with them, and, as Jesus taught, even if someone were to miraculously rise from the dead it still would be insufficient to convince an unbelieving heart. (Luke 16:31)
God wants us to remember, however, that like an unborn baby, we’re still not yet equipped to embrace the resurrected, fully-glorified rebirth splendour promised to us, when we will see our Heavenly Father face to face!
This explains why, when God came as the incarnate Jesus, he mostly taught using basic, easy-to-understand parables rooted in first century fishing, domestic livelihood and agriculture that local villagers could understand. Today, God continues to convey his will and purpose throughout the scriptures, telling of this glory through: Poetry using rhythm and rhyme; Prophecy foretelling and forth-telling; Prose given letter by letter, word by word; Preaching sermons long and short; Praise in the Psalms and glimpses of angelic worship; and only as Jesus could, Parables that are metaphors of a greater reality.
Thus, somehow engrossed in awe and wonder, we too must become content in the mystery that words in this life simply fail to accommodate. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (8:23, 26 paraphrased): “All creation yearns for the revealing of the sons of God… and the Spirit in us affirms this in ‘groans’ that words cannot express.”
Cherish the mystery, be content in the wonder, and believe in Jesus and all that he tells us.
By John Klassek