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Chapter 3: Eavesdropping
I turned a bend in the trial and stopped dead. A man, looking rather like an Arabian in traditional dress was sitting on the ground under a tree. I was about to make myself known when I saw an angel, walking towards us. “I don’t know . . .” the man sighed dejectedly. Looking up, he noticed the angel and slowly stood to greet him. To my shock, as he rose to his feet he began to grow taller. A chill shot through me as he continued to change. His beard faded until it was gone, his skin grew golden and his clothing became an otherworldly garment of exquisite colors.
I was not yet confident that I could accurately distinguish between angels. In the celestial palace I had seen what must have been millions of them. Nevertheless, every angel that I had so far studied close up was quite distinctive in appearance. Even relative to other angels, the being in front of me was tall and muscular, with a nose a little broader and forehead a little higher than most. His eyes were like flaming arrows. It was my guess that the angel the man had changed into was Chebon.
“What’s wrong, Chebon?” asked the angel as he continued to walk towards us.
So it is Chebon! I congratulated myself.
“I’ve been on earth patrol,” Chebon replied, still sounding dejected. “Have you ever been?”
“No,” replied the angel, his voice tinged with slight regret, “I’ve never left this dimension.” Then his eyes lighted up. “Powering through the dimensional interphase must be sensational!”
“Powering through the dimensional interphase?” What’s he talking about? I wondered, Is there more to skipping between worlds than I realized? What had I missed by losing consciousness when flitting from world to world? This realm had me bubbling with questions like a little child, but with no one to give me answers. Everyone seemed to treat me as if I wasn't even there. The only consolation was that in the presence of these fearsome beings, I preferred to be ignored.
As usual, the angels’ lip movements did not correspond with the words I was hearing. If my sound shell theory is correct, does the shell have the additional effect of rendering me invisible? But the animals could see me. Then again, they said nothing that needed translating. I found myself alternating between viewing my unanswered questions as fascinating mysteries and frustrating ignorance.
As I pondered the mystery of being treated as if I were not there, I wondered if I jumped in the path of an angel whether he would walk right through me as if one of us – I’m not sure which – were a ghost. That was one experiment I wasn’t keen to perform.
“It’s spectacular alright,” agreed Chebon. “And the galaxies aren’t bad, but the moment you touch down on that sin-infested planet – Ooooo.” He shuddered in revulsion.
“Tell me about it!” begged the other angel excitedly.
“The human race is so perverse,” said Chebon, “You know, besides Jesus, not one person on the entire planet is morally perfect!”
“None? I know that’s what they say, but it’s so hard to grasp. None?“
“Unbelievable isn’t it! I’ll tell you how bad things are. Imagine two humans hate someone. Both wish the person were dead. One would never dare commit murder, simply because he’s afraid of his society’s punishment for that crime. The other one is brave enough to ignore the penalty and commits murder. Some humans would regard the one fearing punishment as quite respectable and the fearless one as depraved.”
“Surely not!” There was a stunned look on his face. “Both wish the person dead and one is considered more moral because he’s a bigger coward?”
My blood pressure rose. It hurt – I was almost angry – to hear aliens criticizing my own species.
“Disgusting, isn’t it!” replied Chebon. “Their morality is so crude – it makes my skin creep.”
Hmmm . . . “makes my skin creep” . . . I’d have expected that to be a human expression.
“Do you understand sexuality?” continued Chebon.
The other angel’s eyes lit up more than ever, “Oh, yes! I’ve studied it. Fascinating!” He was almost whispering. “I know all about the peculiar reproductive powers of earthly creatures. It’s astounding – sharing in divine creativity not by using one’s mind, but one’s body, while at the same time achieving a sort of sacred, mystical union with another creature. It’s kind of like creating a new song and yet it’s a living being! There was awe and excitement in his voice. “Creating life! Can you imagine it? What a mind-boggling, fearful task! And for humans that being that emerges is in the very image of Almighty God! What a sacred, privileged responsibility!
“It’s like effortlessly sculpturing a masterpiece, using material from your own body. It’s like fashioning a most intricate, ingenious work of art while you sleep. It’s two beings so delighting in each other that they fuse together for life and that very act produces life. Two become one and suddenly there is more than two. They die to individuality and from that death springs life. In fact, their love explodes until they teem with life.”
It was only then that the uniqueness of each angel struck me as peculiar. Whereas sexual reproduction creates a natural variability, we all know that cloning creates more or less identical offspring. It was clear to me that angels, although not created by sexual reproduction, are not clones in any sense that I am familiar with the term. How were they created? Why did God go to all the effort to make every angel unique? Surely we humans would have mass-produced them. I felt this must say something significant about how astoundingly superior to us God is, but I had to let the thought go because the angelic conversation continued.
“You sound almost envious!” laughed Chebon. “I assure you, no one would envy what they have become! You know about the perversions?”
The angel’s face darkened – almost literally. “Yes,” he said soberly, “How could they do that to themselves? What could ever drive anyone to defile themselves and trash such a priceless gift?”
“I have no idea. I don’t think any of us will understand depravity,” commented Chebon. “They call rape a terrible crime . . .”
“Right . . .” replied the other angel, as if wondering what this was leading to.
“ . . . and yet some have the audacity to call it ‘love’ to seduce someone – enticing that person to engage in adultery or fornication!”
“That can’t be right!” He stared at Chebon, but Chebon stared right back. “Trying to making someone a willing partner in sin – threatening someone’s eternity by attempting the sealing of a life-long bond without life-long commitment or violating someone’s marital union – they call that defilement love?”
“Oh yes! Many who consider themselves moral actually get a buzz out of encouraging lust by the way they dress and behave. Many think it’s normal. Some even think it’s healthy! They’re blind to that evil and yet consider themselves moral just because they have an inkling of how bad rape is.”
“Isn’t their behavior sickening!” said Chebon triumphantly. “Many consider themselves better than rapists even though rape only violates the victim’s body, without touching the spirit, since rape, of course, does not make the victim a willing participant in sin. I could spend earth-days listing their hypocrisies. Most of them realize it’s wrong to break their country’s imperfect laws, but they think it’s quite acceptable to break God’s perfect laws. They might acknowledge it’s wrong to exploit another human, but they think it quite all right to exploit God! They are constantly plundering the planet he made, breathing the air he created, eating the food he’s provided for them, living in bodies he’s given them, yet they snub him and consider themselves self-made people. Every good thing they have ever experienced comes from the One they selfishly ignore. Even the sleazy illusion of pleasure they feel when sinning is possible only because God gave them the capacity to experience pleasure. Yet they ignore their loving Creator and even have the audacity to blame him when such a lifestyle doesn’t work!”
“Corrupt to the core!” commented the angel.
Meurel! So that’s his name! I felt as if I had fitted another part of the jigsaw.
Okay, I admit it: I was trying to distract myself in an effort to constrain the anger seething within me. Their pompous conversation was tearing me apart. It is not that what they were saying was totally foreign to my belief system but hearing it from alien goodie-goodie two-shoes was infuriating.
“There’s no basic difference between them and Satan. Like the devil himself, each of them has violated God’s laws,” continued Chebon.
How much more of this can I take?
“Why doesn’t God annihilate the entire planet?”
“Exactly!” replied Chebon, “I doubt an angel 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.
“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 God possibly uphold justice and eliminate evil without wiping out the entire human race?” asked Meurel.
“Beats me! It’s got something to do with Jesus’ earth-mission.”
“All of heaven is abuzz with this. Please, Chebon, you must know more . . .”
“Even the celestial intelligentsia have 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 no doubt uttered some sort of angelic equivalent of that expression, but it can’t be anything close to a literal translation. 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 too enthralled by the fascinating conversation to risk missing a word.
“Well, Meurel, I’m no expert in holy law . . . I know that by visiting earth, the Son of God has become the only sinless person on his adopted planet.”
“Yes . . .”
“Somehow, though the only innocent person there, he will become the scapegoat for all humanity’s sin.”
“Teeeeeoool!” exclaimed Meurel. I was beginning to conclude that this strange sound angels sometimes made was some sort of emotional release, perhaps an expression of amazement.
“Somehow, by Jesus 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 Son of God 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.
Greed to dive but the greedy revived;
Deceit to drown but the liar saved;
Sinning subdued but the sinner renewed.
Then Chebon sang the next verse alone.
Perhaps I should pause here to explain my anguish in striving for balance between accuracy and ease of reading. Rather than call the angelic 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 really 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 rainbow to people who have never seen, or a symphony to people deaf from birth.
“Did you hear something?” asked Chebon. Suddenly their ears grabbed my attention. My eyes nearly fell out! Their earlobes were growing in length and twisting forward until facing directly ahead of the angels. Upon reaching that point, their ears began twisting backwards until pointing behind the angels. Back and forth they moved, not mindlessly, like oscillating fans, but with distinct, precise movements.
Both angels looked around, but there was no one there.
“Pssst!” I looked around and an angel’s arm was waving from behind a bush, “Over here!”
“What in Heaven . . . !” exclaimed Chebon, his ears beginning to shrink to more human proportions.
“Shhh!” said the angel 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 Jesus 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, “God has promised!”
“He’s promised!” replied Kokbiel excitedly. “Oh, glory!” he jumped high into the air, turned a somersault, and landed spectacularly. Then, suddenly getting serious, he said, “But how come? I thought Jesus was on earth to take upon himself humanity’s full penalty for their sin.”
“He is!” said Meurel.
“Then how can Jesus 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, Jesus will die, but there’s more than that.”
“Well, there’s exclusion from the presence of holy God.”
Kokbiel seemed just a trifle impatient. “Yes, God 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, suddenly 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 suffered, he could never achieve the holiness needed to enter God’s presence. But Jesus, 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 Jesus’ 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 Son of God, 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 hour-glass 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 angels!” he whispered, “We don’t go around having crushes on each other!”
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 hour-glass 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. He continued in an even more fiery tone. “How could you think . . .” Before he could finish his sentence, he gave a little giggle. 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. That just took the others to an even higher level of delirium.
I would defy anyone to view their antics and remain sober. I have never 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 enormous was the emotional release that it seemed the most therapeutic experience anyone could ever have.
Finally the laughter subsided. I found myself lying on the ground – I couldn’t even remember getting there – in utter contentment.
Then I heard Chebon’s voice. “Anyhow, the Lord’s doing far more magnificent and costly things now than creating flowers. He’ll transform every human who lets him and then at the right time, he’ll annihilate 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 Jesus and let him suffer instead of them suffering eternally. Not just Satan, but every human has defied their Creator and contributed to earth’s mess. It wouldn’t be fair to destroy Satan for his disobedience and ignore the disobedience of humans. Those who don’t accept Jesus’ pardon must be destroyed along with Satan and the rest of earth’s evil. Otherwise God 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 raised his arm at forty-five degrees and gave Kokbiel that strange sort of salute that I had seen Gabriel give Uriel. As I observed them I somehow gained the impression that some sort of exchange was taking place, as though their souls were temporarily mingling or they were loving each other on a level beyond my comprehension. 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?”
“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 Satan, right?”
“Of course. It tears my heart in two that Lucifer and the others have turned their backs on God 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 humans 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 God!”
“Oh, yes! But the Almighty 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 God are all too obvious now, but back then I had little comprehension of the devastating extent to which things keep going from bad to worse when we make plans without God. Of course the Almighty thoroughly warned us, but it seemed so unreal. Now I shudder at just how real it is. I loved God back then and thought him good and wise, but how much more I love and adore him now that I have witnessed the alternative!”
“Indeed!” Chebon seemed lost in thought for a few seconds. “Anyhow, we were discussing how the Son of God can pay the full penalty for all of humanity’s sin and still be able to return to Heaven. We are at war with Satan, and a major battlefield is an insignificant planet whose inhabitants the Creator has great plans for because he chose to make them in his very image.”
“Right . . .”
“Well, at present Satan has captured the entire race.”
“Only because they let him,” said Meurel.
“True, but God 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 my head spins whenever I think of it.”
“We all gasp at that one,” said Chebon. “Anyhow, the Son will be handed over to the enemy to be violated, tortured, terrorized – Satan 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 Son handing himself over, every human can walk free. All they need do is acknowledge that they are part of Christ’s prisoner exchange. When Satan has done his worst with the Son of God, the seemingly defeated Son will overpower Satan and burst through death. By then Jesus will have fulfilled to the letter his part of the transaction. If Satan’s too weak to keep Jesus captive, that’s his problem, but the Lord will have won the legal right to force Satan to keep his side of the agreement and free every human who no longer wants to be Satan’s prisoner. With the hostage crisis resolved –”
“God is free to blow Satan 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 Satan’s camp before that critical moment –”
“Will be wiped out with him,” added Meurel.
“It’s a dangerous thing to play with God’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 have 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 God 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 God 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 angelic faces as they spoke with such love and conviction about the One who meant everything to them. My fear of seeing God was intensifying and yet a longing to see him was growing also within me. Would I have the chance to see the Lord of the universe? Yes, I had seen the Son of God as he was for a while on earth, stripped of his eternal glory so as to identify with humanity. What must he be like in all his glory, enthroned at the right hand of Almighty God? I wondered in awe.
“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:
The more I look, the more I find
Wisdom bathed in majesty.
O endless power of boundless mind,
Let me slip behind the cloud
And more glories see.
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 my mind was captivated by loftier thoughts.
Almighty mind of mighty God,
Endless wisdom of matchless glory,
Boundless wisdom of perfect God,
Wonders crowned with majesty.
So much I do not know;
Truths beyond my grasp,
But what of you I truly know
Stuns me till in awe I gasp.
The more I look, the more I find
Wisdom bathed in majesty.
O endless power of boundless mind,
Let me slip behind the cloud
And more glories see.
There’s much I do not know;
Truths beyond my grasp,
But what of you I truly know
Stuns me till in awe I gasp.
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. In this case, 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 in 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 that sentence.) The infinite Lord is full of surprises and delights and wonders and joys and glories and . . . And still I sobbed.
Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 1994, 2004, 2008, 2009. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Not to be placed on any other website. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net