Beyond knowing and into the marvels of God.
The wonder and mystery of the central gospel message — salvation in Christ — is conveyed throughout the pages of the Bible using six p’s: poetry, prophecy, prose, preaching, praise, and parable.
While perusing Scripture, we may find ourselves wondering about that heavenly realm or dimension in which Jesus has, for the time being, returned. How do we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ while He is in heaven? How are we to comprehend all that He asks us to believe? Why are there only a few glimpses into the heavenly dimension by so few prophets? As when we read a well-written story, we hunger for more details about this promised “glory.”
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Unlike those in ages past who mostly accepted the unknowable mysteries of life, our era of scientific rationalism wants to dissect everything into manageable bytes. However, the lesson we must learn is to find joy in the mystery itself -— being content that ultimately, in due course, we will understand and experience our awaited “hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). We cannot begin to comprehend the details of what exists beyond time, space, and matter! We learn from the prophet’s parable: “O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand”
Thus, as hard as we try, we fail to comprehend the full mystery of the glory of God to be revealed. But God says that by faith in Christ, we “may be able to comprehend with all the saints . . . the width and length and depth and height” of the mystery of glory that is the “unsearchable riches” and “love of Christ which passes knowledge” (Ephesians 3:8-19).
The mysterious glory revealed in Christ is ours to search out. Heavenly glimpses of His ultimate eternal glory are generously made available as well. A good example is found in Matthew’s Gospel.
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. In what is known as the Transfiguration, these disciples momentarily saw Jesus glorified, shining brighter than the sun. With Him in conversation were two others they immediately recognized as Moses and Elijah — great prophets from Israel’s antiquity who were deceased long ago (Matthew 17:1-13).
Yes, these were two of the greatest men in Hebrew history, symbolizing the law and the prophets who pointed to Christ: Moses, instrumental in the giving of the law, and Elijah, the quintessential prophet. 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. Hear Him!” (v. 5).
How would you have responded to such a heavenly, other-dimensional experience? Would you have fared any better than Peter, who, as the most outspoken of Christ’s disciples, quickly suggested they build three shelters to accommodate Jesus, Moses, and Elijah (v. 4, NIV)? Of course, this wasn’t what the vision required. We immediately sense the folly of trying to create tabernacles to “accommodate” the heavenly. Peter profoundly misread this situation and profoundly misspoke.
What about John and James? We don’t know much about their reaction from this account, except that they either fell down or fainted in great fear. Many years later, however, in the Revelation vision Jesus gave to John, he became so overwhelmed by what he saw that he fell down in worship before the angelic messenger — an idolatrous error for which he was promptly rebuked (22:8, 9). Prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel all trembled and often fainted when confronted with a glimpse into the heavenly realm of glory (Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1; Daniel 8).
Thankfully, we are largely shielded from such other-dimensional experiences, partly because we cannot cope with them or believe them. 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 splendor promised to us when we see our heavenly Father face to face (1 John 3:2). But for now, we know Jesus, God’s beloved Son, and we know Him better when we “hear Him.”
This is why Jesus 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 forthtelling; prose, given letter by letter, word by word; preaching, sermons long and short; praise, like the Psalms that glimpse angelic worship; and as only Jesus could, parables, those metaphors of the greater glorious reality to come.
Somehow, being engrossed in awe and wonder, we too must rejoice and be content in the mystery that words in this life simply cannot accommodate. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, all creation yearns for the glory to be revealed of the sons of God. The Spirit affirms this with groans that words cannot express (8:18-26).
Cherish the mystery, be content with wonder, and trust in Jesus: Hear Him.