Like waking from the most disturbing nightmare, dazed, heart racing and breathless, I eventually became aware that Chebon and Meurel were still talking.|
I shook myself, trying to bring myself back to reality. This is reality, isn’t it? Instantly regretting that thought, I tried to hurl the question out of my mind. Far too many matters were shattering what used to be a cozy, wondrously boring life.
There was a mind-shattering array of things in what I had just experienced in that Palace that I desperately needed to process. It was annoyingly hard to focus, however, because of the conversation that droned on with cold disregard for my confusion and raging emotions.
“Why doesn’t the Ever-Present One annihilate the entire species?” asked Meurel.
“Exactly!” came the disturbing reply “I doubt any of us has ever visited that place and not asked that very question within five earth-minutes of arriving. At times it takes all my strength to restrain myself from wiping them out.”
My heart thumped. I defy anyone to focus on other weighty matters after having heard those words.
“Oh, you wouldn’t!” protested Meurel, staring wide-eyed at Chebon.
“I would indeed – if only the Holy One would let me! And justice would be on my side!”
“How could the perfect Judge possibly uphold justice and eliminate evil without wiping out the entire human race?” asked Meurel.
“Beats me! It’s got something to do with the immaculate Son’s earth-mission.”
“All of heaven is abuzz with this. Please, Chebon, you must know more . . .”
“Even the entire celestial intelligentsia has puzzled long and hard over this mystery, Meurel.”
“Teeeeeoool!” said Meurel in a half-whisper, “This must be big. Come on, spill the beans.”
“Spill the beans”? That’s a peculiar expression coming from the lips of someone who has never even visited earth. Meurel had presumably uttered some sort of extraterrestrial equivalent of that expression, but it surely couldn’t have been anything close to a literal translation. I concluded I must be hearing quite a sophisticated interpretation, modified precisely to conform to my use of English. I wanted time to ponder the implications, but I was far too enthralled by the fascinating conversation to risk missing a word.
“Well, Meurel, I’m no expert in holy law. I do know that by visiting earth, the wondrous Son has become the only innocent person on his adopted planet.”
“Yes . . .”
“Somehow, though the only sinless person there, he will become the scapegoat for all humanity’s sin.”
“Teeeeeoool!” exclaimed Meurel. I was beginning to conclude that this strange sound these beings sometimes made was some kind of emotional release, perhaps an expression of amazement.
“Somehow, by the holy Son suffering the world’s greatest injustice, it becomes legal for the Innocent and the guilty to swap destinies.”
Meurel’s eyes almost popped out.
“The beloved Son is so desperate to save this sinful race that there’s no limit to how far he’ll go to save them.”
There was silence for quite some time. Then Chebon said excitedly, “Ooooh, I feel a song coming!”
He launched into song.
“Chorus!” shouted Chebon hurriedly, then sang:
He signaled to Meurel and they sang the chorus in harmony that touched my heart in a way I cannot explain.
Then Chebon sang the next verse alone.
They continued, this time dancing as well as making the harmony even more complex.
Perhaps I should pause here to explain my anguish in striving for balance between accuracy and ease of reading. Rather than call the superhuman movements dancing, it might be more accurate to call what I witnessed an extravaganza of rhythmical gyrations combined with synchronized superhuman acrobatics that frequently seemed to defy gravity. My dilemma is that such clumsy expressions make reading tiresome and still leave you with little conception of what actually happened. I constantly find myself having to mention things that are so far outside normal human experience that it is like longing to describe a symphony to people deaf from birth or a rainbow to people who have never seen.
Chebon abruptly stopped, and a couple of notes later Meurel stopped as well.
“Did you hear something?” asked Chebon. Suddenly their ears grabbed my attention. As I stared, my eyes nearly fell out! Their earlobes were growing in length and twisting forward until facing directly ahead of these astonishing beings. Upon reaching that point, their ears began twisting backwards until pointing behind them. Back and forth they moved, not mindlessly, like oscillating fans, but with distinct, precise movements.
Both extraterrestrials looked around, but there was no one there.
“Pssst!” I looked around and a nonhuman arm was waving from behind a bush, “Over here!”
“What in heaven . . . !” exclaimed Chebon, his ears beginning to shrink to closer to human proportions.
“Shhh!” said the colossal alien as he gingerly came out of hiding, looking all around as if checking to see that no one else was there, “I don’t want the others to hear. I’ve just got to talk to someone.”
“Whatever is it, Kokbiel?”
“You know how everyone’s expecting the matchless Son to come back here shortly?” said Kokbiel.
“Yes . . .” replied Chebon and the other angel, both sounding quite mystified.
“Well the rumor’s wrong.”
“That’s no rumor,” replied Chebon, “The Father of Everything has promised!”
“He’s promised!” replied Kokbiel excitedly. “Oh, glory!” he leapt high into the air, turned a double somersault, and landed spectacularly. Then, suddenly getting serious, he said, “But how come? I thought the perfect Son is on earth to take upon himself humanity’s full penalty for their sin.”
“He is!” said Meurel.
“Then how can the infinite Son come back here?”
“Why not? He’ll pay their penalty and resume his rightful place on heaven’s throne.”
“But no one seems to have thought this through. Think about it – what’s the penalty – the logical consequence – of sin?”
“Death,” replied Meurel.
“Sure, sure, the exalted Son will die, but there’s more than that.”
“Well, there’s exclusion from the presence of the Holy Father.”
Kokbiel seemed just a trifle impatient. “Yes, the Father will forsake his dear Son when he’s crucified, but there’s more.”
“Well . . . everyone who sins is under a curse.”
“Of course anyone dying on a cross is cursed! You’re avoiding the issue!” Kokbiel seem to grow even more impatient. “What about spending an eternity in hell?”
Chebon, who had been strangely quiet during this exchange, burst into laughter. “Oh, so that’s what’s worrying you!” He laughed some more, then continued, “When a sinner is banished to hell he’s paid the penalty but he lacks the power to escape and live a sin-free life. He’s stuck there forever because he’s as defiled as ever. No matter how much a sinner suffers, he could never achieve the holiness needed to enter the presence of the Perfect One. But the endless Son, armed with the power of a sinless life, is able to absorb within himself the full legal consequences of sin and escape! He’s never surrendered to sin. The devil has no power over him!”
“Glory!” shouted Kokbiel, leaping high into the air again, “What a relief!” he shouted. Meurel, too, seemed to appreciate the explanation.
“What’s more,” continued Chebon, “the whole point of the only Son’s mission is to deliver humanity. He has to do everything for them – not just be righteous for them and suffer and die for them. He has to defeat death for them, rise for them, enter heaven for them, intercede for them, release the Holy Spirit for them, reign for them, return for them . . .”
“They need the divine Son, as their eternal high priest in heaven as much as they need him as their sacrificial lamb,” added Meurel.
“Where were you when Gabriel was explaining all this?” asked Chebon.
“Teeeeooool! He explained it all?”
“Yes!” both Chebon and Meurel replied, almost simultaneously.
“Chebon has been helping me better understand some aspects, but this part was explained to us all so that our peace would be undisturbed,” added Meurel.
“No wonder no one else was concerned!” said Kokbiel.
“How did you miss all this?” asked Meurel.
“You weren’t sitting where I was,” replied Kokbiel gleefully, “or you’d have been daydreaming too! I couldn’t get my eyes off this cute, stunningly beautiful –” He was making what looked rather like an hourglass shape with his hands.
“That’s impossible!” said Meurel, his voice seeming to betray horror mixed with disbelief. “Teeeeooool! Have you had too many earth assignments? We’re celestials!” he whispered, “We don’t have crushes on each other!”
I was vaguely aware that in the Marilyn Monroe era an hourglass figure was considered desirable but wasn’t it limited to that time? They did not even have tight fitting clothes in Bible times, did they? Were these beings flitting back and forth between different times and cultures? If so, in the light of experiences I have yet to tell you about, it would almost be enough to curdle my brain. To steal an Australian expression: What a mindmuck! I admit that’s slim evidence that they were time-hopping but if they were, I can only admire their ability to cope with it.
Insensible to my musings, the conversation continued.
Kokbiel, looking indignant, replied, “There was this cute flower growing next to me . . . and I couldn’t help daydreaming about the exquisite skill of our Creator and all the beauty that flows from his heart.”
“A flower!” exclaimed Meurel. “What’s this business?” he asked, making an hourglass shape with his hands as he spoke.
Kokbiel, with both hands moving closer together than before and in more of an s-shape, said, “It was bending in the wind!”
“Oh!” replied Meurel betraying a hint of impatience.
Kokbiel looked annoyed. “You’re the one who’s been too influenced by earth, Meurel!”
I was riveted. I had never thought of God’s angels coming to verbal blows. Obviously, I was a novice at interpreting angelic emotions but I felt there was anger in his voice.
Suddenly, Meurel fell to the ground in front of Kokbiel. “Oh, dear Kokbiel! My most humble and profuse apologies. I am appalled that I could think such a thing of you! Please, please, please forgive me. You are absolutely right! Earth assignments must indeed be befuddling my thinking. I will book another debriefing session as soon as possible.”
Kokbiel bent down, took Meurel’s hand and raised him up. He gave a little giggle. “You mean you really thought . . . !” Then they all three burst into convulsive laughter. They staggered like drunkards, whooping and cackling, sometimes doubling over, sometimes helplessly flaying their arms. One of them crumpled to the ground in fits of out-of-control hysterics. His antics just took the others to an even higher level of delirium.
I would defy anyone to view their clowning and remain sober. The joke itself must surely have meant more to them than to me but their antics were so contagious that exploding within me was a compulsion to laugh louder and longer than ever before. That was a luxury, however, that I felt unable to allow myself until first slipping further away, lest my cackles betray my presence to these intimidating extraterrestrials.
Before you, who were not there, sneer at me as chicken-livered, do a serious study of how frequently Bible heroes were scared witless at the appearance of an angel. Moreover, I suspect that in some of these encounters – perhaps all – these formidable, supernatural beings had toned down their appearance, as Chebon had done when I first saw him freshly returned from earth.
I had no clue whether I needed to avoid drawing attention to myself. Nevertheless, while feverishly straining to soften the louder of my howls, I stumbled backwards like a drunken clown in canoe-size shoes until I felt I was a slightly safer distance away. Then, surrendering to the inevitable, I let the belly laughs rip. Never in my life have I laughed so much.
I didn’t notice it for a while but eventually I realized that the expression, “laughed until it hurt” didn’t apply. There were just beautiful, invigorating feelings in what by now should have been sore stomach muscles. It was wonderful! Never have I felt so free to laugh. So immense was the emotional release that it seemed the most therapeutic experience anyone could ever have.
Finally, the laughter began to subside. I found myself lying on the ground in utter contentment. I couldn’t even recall getting there. Even before the laughter was over, however, I began to puzzle over what I had just seen. I vaguely recall in my childhood some guys making an hourglass shape with their hands to represent a beautiful woman but I haven’t seen such a thing for decades. Then I recalled the baggy first century clothing I had seen. There was nothing curvaceous about anyone dressed like that. Where in the world had Meurel visited to become familiar with such a hand sign? It seemed beyond belief that it could have happened. Then I wondered, Do they flit from one era to another?
As usual, questions outweighed answers a thousand to one and confusion was the only winner. It was a peculiar mix of frustrating and fascinating; exhausting and exhilarating. My mind and emotions were on perpetual overload and yet I never wanted it to end.
Before I could make the slightest sense of any of what I had just witnessed, Chebon’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Anyhow,” he said, Heaven’s Joy is now doing things far more magnificent and costly than creating flowers. He’ll transform every human who lets him and then, at the right time, he’ll eradicate everyone that’s marred and polluted beautiful earth – everything that’s caused pain and suffering and sorrow and . . . Teeeeeoool! What a day that will be! The entire universe will be restored to beautiful harmony and sinless perfection, as if evil had never wrecked everything.”
“I can hardly wait!” said Meurel.
“Yes,” agreed Chebon, “but each day’s delay will give earth-people another chance to entrust their lives to the exalted Son and accept his suffering for them instead of them suffering eternally. Not just Lucifer, but every human has defied their Creator and contributed to earth’s mess. It wouldn’t be fair to destroy Lucifer for his disobedience and ignore the disobedience of humans. Those who don’t accept the incomparable Son’s pardon must be destroyed along with Lucifer and the rest of earth’s evil. Otherwise the Lord of the Cosmos would be guilty of favoritism. A perfect judge –”
“I remember that bit!” interrupted Kokbiel, “A perfect judge must be impartial, no matter how much he loves the accused.”
Chebon stepped up to Kokbiel and raised his straightened arm. It was angled forward at about forty-five degrees, palm vertical. Kokbiel, facing Chebon, did the same. Their hands almost touching, they stood motionless. As I observed them I somehow gained the impression that some type of exchange was taking place, as though their souls were temporarily mingling or they were loving each other on a level beyond my comprehension. After perhaps a minute, Kokbiel left happily, almost skipping like a child, leaving the other two angels to themselves again.
“Chebon . . .” Meurel seemed deep in thought, almost reluctant to speak.
“My explanation to Kokbiel doesn’t entirely satisfy your searching mind, does it?” said Chebon.
“I’m sorry, Chebon.”
“No apology needed. This is a most worthy – indeed a most wondrous – subject on which to engage one’s intellect. Perhaps it would help for you to think of it this way. We’re at war with Lucifer, right?”
“Of course!” said Meurel. “It tears my heart in two that Lucifer and the others have turned their backs on the One who keeps on giving and – as a result – turned their backs on all that is good. Sometimes it seems just yesterday when they were a part of us and as dear to me as you are. What glorious times we had together! What sweet fellowship! And now, what formidable enemies they are. If only we were fighting planet-loads of earthlings or billions of gigantic dinosaurs or cunning xyacks –”
Xyacks? Who or what are they? I wondered, but Meurel kept talking. “. . .but to battle opponents who are our equals in strength, skill and intellect . . .”
“Except that we have the Invincible Lord on our side!”
“Oh, yes! But the Undefeatable One keeps restraining himself. If only he’d use his full power, it would be over in an instant.”
“Yes, but their survival has taught us much.”
“Teeeeeoool! How right you are, Chebon! I hate to admit it, but when Lucifer first hatched his plan, his arguments seemed to have some attractive elements. The horrendous consequences of trying to act independently of the Mysterious One are all too obvious now. Back then, however, I had little conception of the ruinous extent to which things keep crashing from bad to worse when we make plans without our Maker. It lay beyond the powers of our imagination to conceive of such havoc, mayhem and degradation. Of course, the Source of all that is good thoroughly warned us, but it seemed so unreal. Now I shudder at just how real it is. I loved our Never-Ending Giver back then and thought him good and wise, but how much more I love and adore the True One now that I have witnessed the alternative!”
“Indeed! It has been so mystifying to us: the Omnipotent Ruler, who could enslave everyone, thus protecting himself from all sorrow, keeps rendering himself highly vulnerable, easily hurt and grossly misunderstood by relentlessly abandoning himself to reckless love. His unassailable delight in everyone is matched only by the enormity of the grief they bring him when they abuse and misuse the powers he has lovingly entrusted to them. None of us can fully comprehend our King’s decision but Lucifer arrogantly considered the Perfect One to be foolish in following this course. So he has sought to win respect for himself by doing the opposite – enslaving and deceiving everyone he possibly can.”
There was a pause. It was as if Chebon were deep in thought and suddenly resurfaced. “Anyhow, we were discussing how the beautiful Son can pay the full penalty for all of humanity’s sin and still be able to return to heaven. We are at war with Lucifer, and a major battlefield is an insignificant planet whose inhabitants the Creator has great plans for because he chose to make them in his own image.”
“Right . . .”
“Well, at present, Lucifer has captured the entire race.”
“Only because they let him,” said Meurel.
“True, but the Indefatigable Lord wants them freed. He has arranged a prisoner-exchange – the entire human race in exchange for his only Son.”
“Teeeeeoool! I know it’s true but it dizzies my mind whenever I think of it.”
“We all gasp at that one,” said Chebon. “Anyhow, the flawless Son will be handed over to the enemy to be violated, tortured, terrorized – Lucifer is permitted to do to him, body and soul, whatever his evil genius can invent.” Chebon’s voice began to break. Do angels cry? He paused for a while.
“I think I can continue now,” he said. “In return for the selfless Son handing himself over, every human can walk free. All they need do is acknowledge that they are part of the Son’s prisoner exchange. When Lucifer has done his worst with the beautiful Son, the seemingly defeated Son will overpower Lucifer and burst through death. By then the faithful Son will have fulfilled to the letter his part of the transaction. If Lucifer’s too weak to keep the innocent Son captive, that’s his problem, but the One who paid the price will have won the legal right to force Lucifer to keep his side of the agreement and free every human who no longer wants to be Lucifer’s prisoner. With the hostage crisis resolved –”
“The Divine One is free to blow Lucifer out of the sky at the moment of his choosing,” said Meurel.
“You’ve got it!” exclaimed Chebon. “And every human who has not decisively left Lucifer’s camp before that critical moment –”
“Will be wiped out with him,” added Meurel.
“It’s a dangerous thing to play with the King’s patience,” said Chebon.
They remained silent for a while.
“Thanks, Chebon!” replied Meurel at last, “you’ve made it so simple.”
“Far too simple,” said Chebon, “I can only splash in the shallows of a wonder so vast that even our top intelligentsia has failed to plumb its depths. I long to know more. Everything I glean about this masterpiece of divine love and wisdom makes me want to love the Limitless One more.”
It was not just the atmosphere that was so much clearer, I was seeing spiritually with a clarity I had never before known. I was also seeing myself clearer and consequently becoming increasingly disillusioned with myself. The astounding compensation for my lowered view of myself was the new joy I was feeling towards God. What had begun as the movement of a couple of rocks in my heart was gaining momentum and threatening to become an avalanche. You will think this peculiar, but I can only describe what was happening as falling in love – with God. Yes, in love with God!
I had always insisted that God is a person, not a concept nor a mere force, but it was as if what I had previously known of him was a mere shadow. Hey, there are no shadows here! I thought, smiling at the coincidence. My smile vanished as I puzzled over whether it was just a coincidence. Anyhow, you cannot love a shadow. What was happening to me was like having read about someone in a book, then suddenly coming face to face with him and discovering he is far more exciting than I had dared dream. My heart was turning somersaults. One moment I was awestruck, the next overjoyed, the next some new emotion. I was still merely hearing about God and seeing his reality reflected in the faces of celestial beings as they spoke with such love and conviction about the One who meant everything to them. My fear of seeing Most High was intensifying and yet a longing to see him was also growing within me. Would I have the chance to see the Lord of the universe?
“How right you are!” said Meurel, his voice reminding me of their presence. “Will you join me in singing Eternal wisdom?”
“Perfect choice!” replied Chebon. Then they sang in reverent harmony:
Eternal mind of endless God,
The more I look, the more I find
On each occasion that I had seen glorious beings rhythmically moving to music, their style was quite different. Often their movements were high energy, spectacularly acrobatic displays. This time as they sang, however, Chebon and Meurel proved themselves equally at home with beautifully graceful bodily contortions accompanied by highly expressive movements of hands and limbs. To my amazement, their toes seemed almost as expressive as their fingers.
As the sun is too glorious for me to fully appreciate its splendor and I can only take fleeting glances at it, so was the beauty of these beings. As I tried to drink in their astounding good looks and gracefulness, I remembered that they do not sexually reproduce. Each was fashioned directly by God. We, in contrast, come from a long line of sinners. Sin has ravished the human gene pool and we bear the consequences in our bodies. I wondered how magnificent the human body and mind would be without these defects. But then the angels resumed their song, and loftier thoughts captivated my mind.
O matchless mind of mighty God,
Almighty mind of mighty God,
So much I do not know;
The more I look, the more I find
There’s much I do not know;
No wonder these ethereal beings love singing! That song broke even further my hard heart. I had rarely ever bothered to understand the mysteries of God. I might have been born again, but I had longed to understand the deeper things of God little more than I had bothered to understand some obscure science. I had been content to remain aloof from the most wonderful Person in existence.
I’ve already confessed to so much of my craziness that I guess I have little to lose by telling you what followed. I cried. Being in control is almost a religion to me. Those ‘sparklers’ and the aftermath had been a powerfully emotional time, but I had congratulated myself for restraining my emotions as well as I had. Now, however, it was as though I had been continually forced back until this unmanly act was the only exit. I was driven to such bitter regret over squandered opportunities and mistaken priorities that had robbed me of life’s greatest treasure – knowing God more intimately. It seemed there could be no greater loss; no greater tragedy; and no alternative response but to cry. As bitter tears washed my face, I found it peculiarly refreshing, as if each teardrop softened my sun-dried soul. There was a liberating honesty about it; like blabbing a fearfully kept guilty secret and to one’s surprised relief finding acceptance. On and on I sobbed.
Oh, sweet tears of repentance! Tears, so bitter when they erupted, seemed to turn to nectar the moment they touched this God-charged atmosphere. Until then I had no idea that to see through tears is to see through a telescope. It was then that I knew that tears touch the heart of God. Like a gentle summer breeze, the words, “Blessed are they that mourn,” caressed my softening heart. Realizing those precious words of Jesus were preserved in my too-often-closed Bible, I sobbed even more – I who had previously prided myself on my Bible knowledge.
As I wept, the lights switched on inside me and I knew something of the greatness of Almighty God. Imagine, if you can, a diamond of infinite size, with each of its endless facets revealing unique splendor. That’s a hint of the beauty of the character of the infinite Lord. Oh, for an eternity to savor his beauty, marveling at the limitless treasuries of his majesty, wisdom, grace, love, power, justice, goodness, faithfulness, creativity, generosity . . . (Give me eternity and an infinite vocabulary, and I’ll work on completing that sentence.) The infinite Lord is full of surprises and delights and wonders and joys and glories and . . . And still I sobbed.