Propelled more like a kangaroo than a human, I gleefully sprang toward the giggling angels. Even from this distance, their laughter was so infectious that I had a ridiculously huge grin on my face despite not having a clue about what was so funny.|
As happens excruciatingly often, I was still warming to the heavenly thought of honeymooning with God and his perfected loved ones when it was chilled by a worry. What if this supposed revelation that has somehow been downloaded into my consciousness is merely a trick of the mind? How can I know whether it is truly from God? It feels right and it feels exciting, but are such feelings enough to confirm spiritual truth? How many million people have been spiritually deceived even though it felt right to them?
I berated myself for being so paranoid and tried to chase off the unfounded worry. It slunk away but still lurked in the shadows like a hungry wolf. I resorted to comforting myself with the thought that so far, in this extraordinary mix of otherworldly experiences, all my fears had proved groundless. The fearsome extraterrestrials I had met when I had nowhere to hide had left me alone. I hadn’t ended up stuck in first century Palestine. The spider, the water, and the berries had all seemed safe. My encounters with those malevolent angels were an obvious exception but I still ended up safe. Other than that, I didn’t know whether I had been visiting different parts of heaven, or flitting from planet to planet that perhaps were light-years apart. Maybe I had been whisked away to other dimensions or something equally weird, but I thought it most likely that I was currently in Paradise. No one could be deceived in Paradise! Then a chill shuddered through me like a Niagara of ice water: I thought of what had happened to Adam and Eve in Paradise.
Then it grew even worse: I remembered Meurel saying how Lucifer and other angels had turned their backs on God.
But that insight – or whatever it was – I had into a world in which I was in harmony with God and all creation, feels so right, I protested. It rings so true. Every part of me screams “Yes!” and “Hallelujah!” to it. Then a Scripture from Proverbs came crashing into my consciousness. “There is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death.” Tailgating that came some equally disturbing words from Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things and incurable. Who can understand it?”
I continued arguing with myself. But it feels so uplifting! Then I remembered Eve again, and wondered how exhilarating she must have found the delusion of becoming like God by eating the forbidden fruit.
I found myself so weighed down by these thoughts that my joyous sprint over the aquarium had slowed to a weary plod.
But no matter how unsubstantiated some of that recent ‘revelation’ was, the best parts are rock solid Scriptural truth, I assured myself. God is good, personal, and incomprehensibly loving. The divine plan – the plan of the One who cannot fail – is that those who cling to him will become Christlike. Somehow, everyone who wants it will be transformed. We will be pure and overflowing with inner beauty. Deceit and fear and selfishness are too contrary to God’s perfect ways to survive in heaven. Surely, love and trust and harmony and openness would characterize the relationships of the redeemed. Did not Jesus pray that all his followers be one, even as he and his Father are one? Isn’t it impossible for the all-powerful Lord of all to let that fervent prayer fall to the ground? Didn’t Jesus, at the very time of upholding the sanctity and exclusiveness of the marriage bond, indicate that in the life to come we would be too angel-like for marriage to exist? Doesn’t Romans talk about earth’s subhuman creation yearning for the day when, along with the bodies of Christian believers, it would be transformed? Doesn’t Colossians – or is it Ephesians? – proclaim Jesus as the firstborn of all creation, through whom and for whom all things were made and then goes on to say that through his sacrifice he has reconciled to himself all things?
I was surprised to note that my pace had picked up again. In that exhilarating motion that slid somewhere between gliding and bouncing, I sped almost effortlessly across the invisible surface as if airborne. What struck me, however, was how long it was taking to reach the angels. It was as if the expanse separating them from me kept stretching. How could they seem so close and yet be so far away? Physicists keep coming up with discoveries and theories that defy my understanding. Is some peculiar law of physics coming into play? I puzzled. Or have my eyes somehow been fitted with zoom lenses? But the angels had not just looked close, they had sounded close. Is it something to do with the atmosphere? Does the air act like a huge magnifying glass and amplifier?
Whatever the explanation, I had no complaints: the journey was invigorating and there was plenty to occupy myself.
How I thank God for the Bible! I told myself, remembering that just moments ago it had helped my sanity to anchor myself in it. Scriptural truths are like stepping stones in a swamp of uncertainty. Get off the stones on to my own guesses or supposed ‘revelation’ and I might stand or sink – no one really knows – but I am always safe on the firm revelation of Scripture.
I had only begun chasing this thought down the corridors of my mind when, to my horror, I crashed into the Pharisees and theologians and chief priests of Jesus’ day. Their astounding Bible knowledge was indisputable. While presumably believing they were honoring God, these reverent scholars of Holy Writ, plotted the murder of the Son of God. I again plummeted into despair. They were more men of the Word than me. They prided themselves in it. That’s it! It was a eureka moment for me. They prided themselves on their Bible knowledge.
My thoughts dashed to Jesus emphasizing the importance of humbling oneself, and becoming as a little child. Children keep asking questions. They keep growing. They do not suppose they know it all. They are not too proud to admit they need help. When the psalmist prayed “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law,” he was displaying this childlike attitude. His faith was not in his scholastic ability. He acknowledged a deep dependence upon God to give him special understanding of the Bible.
Then I thought of Jesus’ own example. “I can of myself do nothing,” he said. What humility! What childlike dependence upon God! “I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just,” Jesus continued, “for I seek not my own will but the will of him who has sent me.” He is the glorious Son of God who said, “I do not seek my own glory,” and “I do not accept praise from people.” How different would my understanding of Scripture be if I continually dismissed human approval and sought only to please God?
As I drew closer to my destination I noticed that one of the nonhumans rolling on the ground was plump. Then I spied a third coming toward them from another angle. I had guessed correctly. They were on a sandy beach. I recognized the leaner, more muscular one. His eyes were fiery, not just in intensity but almost in color, his nose was broad and he towered over the other two. It was Chebon. Was I slowly warming to these peculiar beings?
As I stepped on to the beach I accidentally flipped some sand backwards onto the clear stuff. The sand flew off. Amazed, I had another go and the same thing happened. That soft, clear substance seemed to repel sand, rather like the way identical magnetic poles repel each other. But why isn’t it just scattered? Why does all the sand go back to the beach? I puzzled. The rest of the sand – or perhaps something under the sand – must attract it. Then as I took a few steps I noticed that the sand was moving to replace every depression made by my footprints.
As I examined the sand I discovered it was unlike any sand I had ever seen. At arm’s length it was white but up close it was remarkably colorful.
Everything – down to a single grain of sand – seemed perfectly ordered. Nothing, it seemed, could ever be out of place, or be soiled. Everything seemed perennially fresh; swept spotless forever.
I looked up, and the other heavenly being had arrived. “What’s the joke?” he asked those giggling. Upon hearing his voice, I looked closer (something I still did not feel comfortable doing) and realized he was Meurel. It almost felt good seeing another familiar face. The downside is that their size and majesty still kept me on edge and they continued to ignore me.
“It’s unbelievable!” said Chebon before breaking out into laughter again. It seemed ages before he eventually managed to add, “Lucifer –” then he was off again, chuckling uncontrollably, rolling all over the floor, slapping the plump one on the side, who was also convulsing with laughter. “Oh, you tell him!” he finally told the plump one, and burst into more laughter.
The plump one turned around. It was ‘Chubby’ Kairel! It was almost like meeting an old friend. It was strange that I should feel so attached to these beings. I guess I felt more insecure in this alien, though pleasant, environment than I realized. I seemed to be seizing any semblance of familiarity. On the other hand, so much about these beings was overpowering that I never managed to feel more comfortable in their presence than if I were stark naked in front of royalty. I was beginning to realize that not all angels have a vastly superior intellect. Some seemed almost childlike at times. Should I find myself nose to nose with a man-eating crocodile, however, I would not require it to complete an IQ test before I felt on edge. And likewise, if I were in the presence of some dignitary or Christian superstar. A chill jolted through me as I recalled Chebon confessing he had to fight the urge to wipe out all of humanity.
Kairel’s melodious laughter at last calmed down enough to ask Meurel, “What’s the perfect time in the Jewish calendar for the Messiah to die?”
“Well, let’s see . . .” said Meurel, deep in thought, “this will be the ultimate sacrifice. Most sacrifices are offered . . . er . . . during the Passover? Hey, wait – the Passover – that’s commemorating the time when the Timeless One intervened in human history to free his people from slavery.”
“Yes!” added Kairel enthusiastically, “As Jews look back to that point in time, so God’s people will forever look back to the time when their Savior died to free them from slavery to sin.”
Meurel’s face lit up. “Come to think of it, there are so many parallels between the Passover and the ultimate sacrifice. There’s the shedding of blood of a male lamb that is faultless. There’s –”
“And don’t forget it’s the time when hordes of pilgrims from all over the world converge upon Jerusalem. The city will be crammed with witnesses,” chimed in Kairel, who was also becoming excited.
Chebon at last seemed to have regained his composure. “And it’s only a few weeks before Pentecost, the ideal time for the outpouring of God’s Spirit.”
“Yes!” Meurel sounded triumphant, “There’s no doubt about it, the perfect time would be the Passover. Hey, isn’t that just a few earth-days away?”
“Right!” said Kairel.
“Well, just yesterday, earth-time, the Jewish leaders decided that under no circumstances would they arrest the almighty Son during the Passover.” Chebon started giggling again.
“They did?” Meurel sounded concerned.
“Yes, because of all the pilgrims,” added Kairel. “You know how the crowds flock around the incarnate Son. There’d be a riot if they tried to arrest him with thousands of potential supporters around.”
“Oh, no!” said Meurel, his face lined with dismay.
“And it’s more than just the ideal time. The glorious Son has already publicly announced that he’ll die during this Passover!” Chebon was off again in fits of laughter.
“That’s a catastrophe! How can you laugh? You should be ashamed –”
“Calm down!” said Chebon in between laughs, “There’s more!” Chebon was beside himself again. In the end, he waved to Kairel to continue.
“Yes, just today Lucifer entered into Judas – Lucifer would you believe!” He was laughing again. “Lucifer has persuaded Judas to betray the holy Son!” Then Kairel collapsed into another laughing fit.
“I don’t get it,” puzzled Meurel.
“Hoooo, hoooo, hoooo, haaaa, haaaa, haaaa!” Finally, Kairel sobered up enough to explain, “Judas, being in the priceless Son’s inner circle, can lead the Jews to the Son when he’s away from the public eye. So there’ll be no riot! They won’t have to defer his arrest!”
“Teeeeeoool!” exclaimed Meurel, “So the priestly Son really will die at the right time and all because of Lucifer!” Now it was Meurel’s time to double over in laughter.
“How vain can you get –” commented Chebon, “Lucifer imagining he could defy the Flawless One! The Evil One has created havoc, but the All-Knowing, All-Powerful One has always had the upper hand.”
Kairel, a huge grin on his face, said, “There’s Lucifer, using all his evil genius to destroy the God he hates and he ends up furthering the Undefeatable One’s purposes!”
“And hastening his own destruction!” added Chebon. “Oh that devil! Even when he wins he loses! Everything he hurls in fury boomerangs back onto his own head!”
Meurel, almost whispering in reverent awe, “What a fearful thing it is to rebel against the Stupendous Lord.”
Kairel’s eyes lit up, “Hey! Wouldn’t that make a great song!”
Wow! Angels will make a song out of anything! I then remembered that often the Bible speaks of singing a new song. They sure know how to have a good time.
Grinning from ear to ear, Chebon sang to a lively tune:
O that devil,
As he sang, he started skidding his feet over the sand, producing a sound. Others joined in with different foot moments and the result augmented the music in a most remarkable way.
He signaled to the other two and they repeated the lines two times, at the end of which Chebon sang,
“He’s armed to the teeth with boomerangs.” He nodded to the others and they joined him in repeating the new line twice. They chuckled.
From nowhere, Kairel’s musical contraption appeared, just like it had on earth, and they sang the song again with his accompaniment.
Then Kairel attempted a new verse, “What a fearful thing it is,” he sang, then the others repeated his line twice, at the end of which they looked to him for more. Kairel was deep in thought, then with a twinkle in his eye as if he had been teasing, sang, “To fight the Lord.”
Then it was Chebon’s turn. “What a foolish thing it is,” he sang. Then the others joined in:
What a foolish thing it is,
I have never heard angels sing in unison. I wonder if they even know the concept. Their harmony was . . . “Out of this world” is an expression that comes to mind, but despite my natural weakness for corny puns, I’m not brave enough to risk readers sniggering at what to me was a profoundly moving experience and is still a sacred memory. Perhaps if I were more musical I would have a more adequate vocabulary, but the harmony was not just staggeringly beautiful, it was exceedingly intricate.
As the music continued, Kairel and Chebon both looked to Meurel, as if expecting him to contribute. He thought for a couple of seconds, then sang, “What a futile thing it is.”
Then everyone joined in:
What a futile thing it is,
“What a fearful thing,” sang Kairel, who then looked to Chebon.
“What a foolish thing,” sang Chebon, then looked to Meurel.
“What a futile thing,” concluded Meurel. He signaled to the others.
“To fight the Lord,” they sang together, and then burst into laughter.
“Great song, Chebon! Why not call in some of the choir? said Meurel.
“Yeeeaaaaaah!” chimed in Kairel.
I have no idea how he did it, but instantly there were a hundred or so angels surrounding us, some with various contraptions in their hands that I guessed to be types of musical instruments I had not seen before.
The trio quickly taught the newcomers the song, ending with the refrain:
O that devil,
Then a brilliantly colored, translucent boomerang appeared in Meurel’s hand. Everyone turned deadly serious. Meurel’s face clouded in apparent rage. He hurled the boomerang with all his superhuman might. It swooshed through the air with amazing speed. Although boomerang-shaped, its flight was as straight as a bullet’s. It whirled parallel to the floor at Meurel’s eyelevel until it was out of sight. The supernatural audience went wild with delight. Meurel turned around to acknowledge their cheers, obviously enjoying being the center of attention. Suddenly I noticed the boomerang had re-appeared. Meurel was too absorbed in waving to those cheering him to notice what was happening. The boomerang, acting as if it were on an invisible rubber band, kept getting faster and faster and louder and louder. LOOK OUT!
Everyone hushed to a deathly quiet, but it was too late. The weapon slammed into Meurel’s head with a sickening crunch. His head lurched forward while simultaneously he uttered a grunt. He staggered and then collapsed; his limp body crashing to the floor, where he remained motionless. In the deathly quiet, I thought I could hear my heart pumping. Except for my heart, everyone seemed paralyzed.
Suddenly Meurel sprang to his feet again, a bright, cheeky smile on his shining face, as he held aloft the boomerang that I had been sure had killed him. The angels burst into wild cheering and whistling, laughing and jumping. Meurel beamed with delight, seeming to feed off all the commotion like an attention-seeking showman.
Then I wondered: did the angels know all along that it was just an act? Except for me, were there no spectators but only eager participants in a spontaneous game? Had I just witnessed communal fun on a level I had never dared let myself ache for? I sensed in these ethereal beings an exquisite oneness, uninhibited selflessness and love of life. I suddenly felt that for all my existence I had been pining for this without ever knowing it.
Right to this present moment, to have witnessed this communal spirit and unconstrained joy has been both a delight and a source of heartache. It is like someone born crippled and living with cripples, unexpectedly discovering that some people can run and leap and dance. As a delicious crumb that just intensifies a starving man’s hunger, what I sensed in those heavenly beings awakened something within me. It felt as if I were becoming vaguely aware that I’ve been robbed of what I was born for.
Like a carefree child turning into a madly-in-love virgin aching for marriage, I’ll never be the same. Though more intense, what I feel is reminiscent of that peculiar mixture of pleasure and pain that grips me when I gaze upon a sunset. With the beauty comes an ache to fill some indefinable emptiness within; an uneasy awareness that I was made for glories planet earth cannot give.
Suddenly, but gently, the sand flew aside revealing the spongy material covering the sea. These powerful beings began leaping into the air and the mysterious material that turned me into a kangaroo began acting like a giant trampoline firing them higher and higher into the air. I had been astonished at the heights they had attained in the Endless Palace, but they were now soaring several times higher, and of course, combining it with mind-buckling acrobatics.
After a time of indescribable jubilation, the music started up and the choir resumed the song with greater gusto than ever:
O that devil,
Finally, their song ended. They all cheered and rejoiced. Then someone started up another song that was obviously known to them. They sang and danced to it; pausing, then punching the air with great delight whenever they sang “power.”
Who can deny all the – power of God?
Always delight in the – power of God.
Satan is foiled by the – power of God.
By the blood of his Son the victory’s won;
For a split second of stupidity I wondered how they could be singing about Jesus’ shed blood when he had not died yet. Then I recalled my experience on that gloomy planet and joyously embraced that mysterious Scripture that speaks of the timeless Son having been slain from before Planet Earth even existed.
Well, here goes . . . In that palace that seemed to have no end, as I gazed upon that countless number of glorious beings, each was dressed in almost-blinding white, and yet I somehow sensed that each was dressed in a different shade of pure white. I know – it’s impossible. White is white. You can get close to white, but there is only one color that is pure white. And yet . . .
I might blame the light. I would call the light in that place ‘weird’ if planet earth were the standard of normality. But that feels dishonest. Having experienced what I did, it is earth, not that place, that now seems weird. It is as if on the planet I grew up on, pure white is flat, having somehow lost an entire dimension. I guess I’ve been spoilt, but white on earth now seems as disappointing as black and white television compared with color.
I’ve explained that their hair was not white, only whitish. There was no mystery about the hair of each angel seeming a different shade. I’m no color expert but it seemed to me that the hair coloring of each angel, though of course different from the color of the clothing, blended perfectly with the clothing in a way that another angel’s hair would not.
There’s an alternative explanation for what I saw. I find it attractive because it is less likely to get me locked away in an asylum. Perhaps at certain angles, the material of their clothing gave a hint of a gorgeous color – a little like metallic paint on cars – and perhaps because of the folds in their garments this other color was never entirely missing, even though the overall effect was that each garment was snow white. The exact shade of the almost invisible secondary color seemed unique for each angel. (At least I never noticed two wearing identical shades of white.)
There’s another possibility. I realize I’m further risking my reputation by offering yet another speculation, but I wondered whether the material in every garment was identical, but it somehow changed according to the uniqueness of each angel. I cannot explain why that seems to ring true.
I know you think I should let this matter go but you weren’t there. There was something elusive and yet captivatingly mysterious about part of me feeling certain I was seeing the purest of whites and yet another part of me somehow sensing additional hues. Theories kept pouring into my head in a wild attempt to come to terms with it. Even if you reject my other guesses, fabric that at a certain angle shines a different color sounds believable. It might even be correct, but as much as I have tried to convince myself, it doesn’t sit quite right with what I saw. Could I have been temporarily granted superhuman eyesight?
Whatever the explanation, from top to bottom every garment shined pure white and yet it somehow felt as if every garment were a different shade. And the myriads of different, yet identical, colors seemed to portray an individuality and yet a oneness about these beings that somehow felt right to me. In fact, for some reason that surpassed conscious thought, both the sight and the concept of an exquisite blend of uniqueness and uniformity exhilarated me.
It was obvious that they wanted another brand new song, “Come on, Meurel!” urged Kairel.
Meurel thought for a moment then sang:
What a wondrous thing,
Meurel, looking to Chebon, said, “Your turn!”
Chebon immediately burst into:
What a glorious thing,
The whole choir joined in, singing and dancing and rejoicing. It seemed they would go for hours, but I found myself mysteriously sliding backwards. Some unknown force was pulling me. It was imperceptible at first but I was gaining speed at an ever-increasing rate. Soon the scenery became a blur. Then I blanked out.