Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Gateway Between Heaven and Earth

My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know, everybody you see, everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake, and they live in a state of constant, total amazement.
— Patricia Graynemore to Joe Banks,
in Joe Versus the Volcano
(One of my favorite movies.)
When everyone is asleep, the few who are truly awake look like dreamers. Consider the story of Jacob, when he went out from Beersheba toward Haran. Along on the way, he spent the night at a certain place and went to sleep with a stone for his pillow.
Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven, and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. (Genesis 28:12)
The Lord appeared to Jacob and confirmed to him that same promise He had made to Abraham and Isaac, telling him that He would bring him back to this land upon which he was resting, and it would belong to him.
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28:16-17)
Jacob went to sleep and dreamed reality. We would call it a dream, because we have been asleep for so long that our perspective is all backwards. What we consider to be reality is actually a shadow, but what Jacob experienced that night was the fundamental nature of reality. For the first time in his life he was seeing things as they really are.

When he came back from his dream, he understood something that had been true all along, only he just had not realized it:
Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it!
For a brief moment, the shadows of the natural, sleepy world were peeled back to reveal the underpinnings of the universe, and Jacob was gripped hard by this truth: “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

Yes, there is a portal between heaven and earth, and the angels, God’s messengers, are constantly ascending and descending, ministering to the needs of the saints.

Has it not always been this way? In Isaiah’s vision of the LORD in His holy temple, he heard cry of the seraphim, those fiery angelic beings who minister before the presence of the LORD:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Hosts.
The whole earth is full of His glory.
Think of it. The whole earth is full of the glory of God — and always has been! There has never been a time when this was not so. It is woven into the very fabric of the universe, for the worlds were framed by the Word of God, and are not His words filled with His glory?

We do not realize this because we have been asleep for so long. Jacob had what we call a “dream” and Isaiah had what we call a “vision.” These were powerful moments of lucidity and wakefulness to the way things really are. For an instant they saw the truth, the true truth about everything: God is in this place and His glory fills the whole earth. Though Jacob and Isaiah may have fallen back into sleep, it was not as deep as before, and they carried the truth with them, and this truth changed them forevermore.

Now, fast forward to Jesus at about thirty years old. We are in John 1:43-51. Jesus is beginning His ministry and is calling His disciples. He finds Philip and says, “Follow me.” Philip finds Nathanael and says, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asks — it is a rhetorical question.

“Come and see,” is all Philip answers, and they both go to see Jesus.

Seeing them coming, Jesus says, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit.”

“How do you know me?” Nathanael asks.

Jesus answers, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

“Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel.” Nathanael has suddenly stumbled into a divine moment of lucidity and wakefulness.

Then Jesus declares, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these. Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Though you may not have realized it as you sit there reading this (wherever “there” may be), the LORD is in that place. There is a portal, a gateway between heaven and earth, and you are at “ground zero” with the angels of God ascending and descending all around you. The whole world may be asleep, but you are invited to come and be one of those who live in a state of constant, total amazement — a life of divine lucidity and wakefulness. You begin by understanding that it is all about Jesus, for He is the one upon whom the angels ascend and descend.

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