The very frontier of Heaven

“He was on the very frontier of that heaven he had known in the spaceship, and rays that the air-enveloped words cannot taste were once more at work upon his body. He felt the old lift of the heart, the soaring solemnity, the sense, at once sober and ecstatic, of life and power offered in unasked and unmeasured abundance. If there had been air enough in his lungs he would have laughed aloud. And now, even in the immediate landscape, beauty was drawing near.” ~ C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet

Corbin Scott Carnell cites Lewis’ space trilogy in making his case for his notion of Sehnsucht in Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing in C. S. Lewis, where longing is not painful but a mixture of both melancholy and joy.  (You can buy it here.) Lewis* revisits it again in That Hideous Strength: “The inconsolable wound with which man is born waked and ached at this touching.”

Lewis talks so much in his work about how Myth with a capital M, far from being fiction, is actually a reflection of original truth – as Tolkien put it: ” a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming a ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man ascribe to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.” In Lewis’ introduction to George MacDonald’s Phantastes he gets at how inexpressibly beautiful and precious is this longing for the “Other-World” and how the myths we have built around it act upon our soul:

“It begins to look as if there were an art, or a gift, which criticism has largely ignored. It may even be one of the greatest arts; for it produces works which give us (at the first meeting) as much delight and (on prolonged acquaintance) as much wisdom and strength as the works of the greatest poets. It is in some ways more akin to music than to poetry — or at least most poetry. It goes beyond the expression of things we have already felt. It arouses in us sensations we have never had before, never anticipated having, as though we had broken out of our normal mode of consciousness and “possessed joys not promised to our birth.” It gets under our skin, hits us at a level deeper than our thoughts or even our passions, troubles oldest certainties till all questions are reopened, and in general shocks us more fully awake than we are for most of our lives.”

* I don’t mean to keep going back again and again to Lewis, but he’s my reading challenge this year and expresses the idea of longing for the New Earth so well.

Great themes of the Bible

Jon Mroos of Elk Grove Bible Church shares an incredible thought on two great themes of the Bible: Temple and Torah. They both point to three things, he writes.

“Take the Torah or Law. The Law literally describes Adam before the fall. It describes his character as a pure image bearer. Secondly, it also describes the “second Adam,” which is Jesus Christ, as a perfect image bearer or character reflector of God. Thirdly, it describes what all those in the “second Adam” will be like on the New Earth as things come full circle and we are made truly human again like Adam, in a new garden, the New Earth. That’s Torah. That’s what the Law is designed to show fallen humans – what it looks like to be truly human again like Adam was, Christ is, and what we will be one day.

Temple is the other theme. God always works or lives with His creation through Temple. We can’t understand the fullness of this, but here is what it looks like: The first Earth (pre-fall) was the first temple as God dwelt with Adam. Heaven had come to Earth and God and man were one. That was ruined and corrupted.

A second Temple was created in Jerusalem by Solomon. It was a place where God and man could unite again. It was temporary and was really a sign pointing to the Temple to come, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ would be the place where God (His divinity) and man (His body) would unite together again and the presence of God would be experienced (the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ).

Jesus Christ as the Temple is pointing to a day when all of those who receive Him would be partakers of the final Temple, the New Earth. It is as if He has one hand reaching out and grabbing God’s hand, and another hand out grabbing your hand, and in the middle united the two is Christ as God and man are united again. And that looks like the shape of the cross as His hands are stretched out, one to man and the other to God. Just as in Solomon’s temple, His blood is shed in the middle to cover the sins that separate God and man.

Everything comes full circle again on the New Earth as it becomes the final Temple and Heaven and Earth, God and humanity, come together forever. Just like Adam, we will be joined with God and the New Earth will become the new Temple just as it once was and we will live in the presence of God as the waters cover the sea.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen it illuminated better. There’s a really awesome group of messages on the New Earth on the EGBC website if you want to dive more into that great thought, it’s been incredibly joyful to learn more about this transformation truth!

Building for God’s Kingdom

paint“What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbour as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether… They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

~ N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

That inconsolable longing

“… That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of a bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World’s End, the opening lines of Kubla Khan, the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves?

It appeared to me therefore that if a man diligently followed this desire, pursuing the false objects until their falsity appeared and then resolutely abandoning them, he must come out at last into the clear knowledge that the human soul was made to enjoy some object that is never fully given–nay, cannot even be imagined as given–in our present mode of subjective and spatio-temporal experience. This Desire was, in the soul, as the Siege Perilous in Arthur’s castle–the chair in which only one could sit. And if nature makes nothing in vain, the One who can sit in this chair must exist. I knew only too well how easily the longing accepts false objects and through what dark ways the pursuit of them leads us: but I also saw that the Desire itself contains the corrective of all these errors. The only fatal error was to pretend that you had passed from desire to fruition, when, in reality, you had found either nothing, or desire itself, or the satisfaction of some different desire. The dialectic of Desire, faithfully followed, would retrieve all mistakes, head you off from all false paths, and . . . to propound, but to live through, a sort of ontological proof. This lived dialectic, and the merely argued dialectic of my philosophical progress, seemed to have converged on one goal; accordingly I tried to put them both into my allegory which thus became a defence of Romanticism (in my peculiar sense) as well as of Reason and Christianity.”

~ C.S. Lewis, From the Preface to Pilgrim’s Regress

Along this vein, I just started an awesome book on Lewis’ notion of Sehnsucht, Corbin Scott Carnell’s Bright Shadow of Reality: Spiritual Longing in C. S. Lewis. It is really intriguing so far; you can buy it here.

“It is Finished” ~ The New Humanity

Pastor Jon Mroos of Elk Grove Bible Church (www.elkgrovebiblechurch.org) shares an extraordinary insight into Christ’s final words:
” “Finished.” “Accomplished.” “Completed.” Jesus’ last words sum it all up. These words from John 19:30 have layers of meaning, each one displaying the fulfillment of God’s rescue of His creation which He loves so dearly. What did Jesus mean when he cried out, “It is finished” and how does this impact us today?
Part of its meaning is no doubt a picture of a debt of death that humanity owed God’s justice. Much like writing, “Paid off!” when a car is finally paid in full and you are released from the debt, Jesus Christ released us from our sin debt by declaring that God’s justice had been satisfied through the propitiation of the cross. But I believe there is another layer to these words that help us to see just how amazing God’s plan of rescue truly was.
When God the Creator made this amazing world, He finished it on the sixth day. He completed his work. On the seventh day after God had finished His creation, He rested and enjoyed fellowship with it. At the center of it all were humans that He loved. That creation was ruined under the weight of the fall and God’s justice. It was no longer finished in splendor. It was wrecked in sin and fellowship was wasted away. God could not rest in pleasure and fellowship with the creation that He so loved. How would God work this mess out? Through the promise given to Eve, that God would create a new creation in the middle of an already broken creation. A new humanity would break into the broken humanity as a type of second creation account.
When Jesus Christ said, “It is finished” he was speaking a creation language. Just as the Genesis creation story ended in triumph as God created a new humanity on the sixth day, so Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross likewise created a new humanity. God rested from His great work of creation on the seventh day enjoying His creation, and Jesus Christ on the seventh day, rested in the tomb. Jesus Christ rested from his completed labor of creating a new humanity just as God rested on the seventh day when he completed the first humanity.
This new creation, this new people that Christ created on the cross is the church. We are a new creation, a second Genesis account in the midst of the original creation, which has been so badly shattered. The finished work of the cross is how God came into our chaos to be there with us in the middle of it and to create something new on the cross. This is where it was all going; this is what it was all about. We are a second creation created in Christ Jesus to put on display a true humanity. We are to live in such a way as to reflect the character of God back into a badly shattered creation showing that there is a new hope for the world. That impacts my motives and decisions every day. That shapes the way I live in this world.”

Morning hymn in Paradise

Extraordinary passage from John Milton’s Paradise Lost:

These are thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almightie, thine this universal Frame,
Thus wondrous fair; thy self how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, who sits above these Heavens
To us invisible or dimly seen
In these thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and Power Divine:
Speak yee who best can tell, ye Sons of Light

Angels, for yee behold him, and with songs
And choral symphonies, Day without Night,
Circle his Throne rejoycing, yee in Heav’n,
On Earth joyn all ye Creatures to extoll
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end.
Fairest of Starrs, last in the train of Night,
If better thou belong not to the dawn,
Sure pledge of day, that crownst the smiling Morn
With thy bright Circlet, praise him in thy Spheare
While day arises, that sweet hour of Prime.
Thou Sun, of this great World both Eye and Soule,
Acknowledge him thy Greater, sound his praise
In thy eternal course, both when thou climb’st,
And when high Noon hast gaind, and when thou fallst.
Moon, that now meetst the orient Sun, now fli’st
With the fixt Starrs, fixt in thir Orb that flies,
And yee five other wandring Fires that move
In mystic Dance not without Song, resound
His praise, who out of Darkness call’d up Light.
Aire, and ye Elements the eldest birth
Of Natures Womb, that in quaternion run

Perpetual Circle, multiform; and mix
And nourish all things, let your ceasless change
Varie to our great Maker still new praise.
Ye Mists and Exhalations that now rise
From Hill or steaming Lake, duskie or grey,
Till the Sun paint your fleecie skirts with Gold,
In honour to the Worlds great Author rise,
Whether to deck with Clouds th’ uncolourd skie,
Or wet the thirstie Earth with falling showers,
Rising or falling still advance his praise.
His praise ye Winds, that from four Quarters blow,
Breathe soft or loud; and wave your tops, ye Pines,
With every Plant, in sign of Worship wave.
Fountains and yee, that warble, as ye flow,
Melodious murmurs, warbling tune his praise.
Joyn voices all ye living Souls; ye Birds,
That singing up to Heaven Gate ascend,
Bear on your wings and in your notes his praise;
Yee that in Waters glide, and yee that walk
The Earth, and stately tread, or lowly creep;
Witness if I be silent, Morn or Eeven,
To Hill, or Valley, Fountain, or fresh shade
Made vocal by my Song, and taught his praise.
Hail universal Lord, be bounteous still
To give us onely good; and if the night
Have gathered aught of evil or conceald,
Disperse it, as now light dispels the dark.