Gathering up the insights from our study of the first seven chapters of Revelation, our focus on the Most High leads us to a new – and overwhelmingly tolerant – Christology.
Today is a day for looking back on our journey together. The study has been far from daily things. We’ve talked at times about raising children, about fighting fires. But those were meant to help us understand what goes on in heaven. We have not talked much about how God helps us in our daily lives.
Instead, we’ve talked about the beginning of the Bible and the beginning of Life. We’ve talked about how God is changing the angels through living creatures (including us, of course). We’ve talked about why the angels might resist God’s guidance.
So why would the Bible, which is God’s story, give this knowledge to us? Simply: to help us understand why there are no easy answers to the problems of our daily life.
That answer isn’t satisfying, and certainly it doesn’t stop us from searching for easy answers. Today, we often do that search on the internet. When we have a problem, we turn to Bing or Google or Yahoo. When we’re lonely, we try Bumble or eHarmony.
On the internet, the answers that we find are specific to our problem. If we’re lonely, we’re get a list of people that we should enjoy dating. If our dog is sick, we’ll get a referral to a veterinarian.
Compare this to what God says:
When there is a prophet among you,
I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,
I speak to them in dreams.
[NIV Numbers 12:6]
As we’ve learned from Revelation, those visions and dreams are hard to understand.
Should we prefer the answers that we find on the internet?
Long before the internet or even printing, Jesus came down to reveal the heart of God’s answer to all our problems. His rule was [NIV Matt. 22:37,39]:
Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.
Does that help? When we’re hungry, how is loving someone else better than a sandwich? When we are cold, how is loving God better than a blanket?
Of course, we all want to be loved. If someone loves us, they’ll give us a sandwich and a jacket. But loving is hard. If we have two sandwiches and give one to a hungry friend, what will we eat for dinner? If we let someone sleep in our bed, where will we sleep when we become tired?
This is the way of the world, then: Love has no form, because it is possible with everything. Bring any two living creatures together, and how they behave will depend greatly upon whether they love each other. But this means that love changes us: if we feel like being angry with the world, when a friend shows up, love compels us to be happy. When our favorite TV show is on, when our sweetheart sits down with us, love compels us to watch something they will enjoy also.
There is tension between love and our self. We need love – and the fewer possessions we have, the more we crave love. But we know that love will change us, and the more powerful our love, the greater the change will be. For love of a woman, a man will turn his back on his friends – and the more popular he is, the harder it is to surrender to his love. For love of a man, a woman will sacrifice her beauty to bring his child into the world – and the more beautiful she is, the harder it is to surrender to her love.
We see the challenge of surrender to love at least twice in the Bible: the first time is Job, who demonstrates his perfect acceptance of love by continuing to honor God even when everything is taken from him. In the second case, the rich young man is told by Jesus to “give everything away to the poor and follow me.” The sad young man walks away. Job honored love even when suffering; the young man did not honor love even when it stood in front of him.
All these examples are meant to prove that the surrender to love is a challenge that everyone will face, but they can also confuse us when we try to think about how they apply to our lives. Is a woman having a baby like a man starting a business, for example?
So let’s simplify things.
Love sits on the throne in heaven. I am down on earth in my body as a single self.
All things are united in love, so love seeks marvelous relationships for me. That involves two things: (1) changing me so that I others value my company, and (2) sustaining the parts of me that are good. Those two actions – changing and sustaining – conflict with each other. To do both at only the right moments, the Most High divides as he reaches down to us. The masculine part changes me; the feminine part sustains me. Heaven is divided between masculine and feminine angels.
Heaven and earth also reflect that division. Love, in combining spirits, creates infinite variations. On the earth, material things change only very slowly. Spirit is masculine and changing, matter is feminine and supportive. To prevent our souls from changing so fast that we lose track of who we are, God gives us bodies to use down on earth.
Our bodies allow us to have a “self” separate from God. When we want to be in control of ourselves, we can withdraw our spirit into our body. Sometimes we call this “insanity”; sometimes we call it “meditation.”
But how are bodies created? The masculine and feminine forces of heaven are mirrored by the sexes here on earth. It takes a male and a female to make a new body for a spirit to live in. That act is the most intimate and joyous act we experience, so much so that we call it “making love.”
In making rules about relationships, we should understand that the body and the spirit are two separate things. Although female bodies are better at housing feminine spirits, being female doesn’t make us “feminine.” In fact, as feminine spirits tend to give too much of themselves, having a male body might be good for a feminine spirit, helping it to acquire masculine traits. Similarly, being male doesn’t make us “masculine.”
I offer this to help us understand and accept the gender and sexual diversity that may be difficult for those that believe that God cares more about our bodies than our souls. It is our souls that love, and are joined forever in paradise. The bodies are just a tool that we use to practice pleasing each other.
But let’s return to God’s plan: God reaches down from heaven, trying to enter into male and female bodies. The perfect union with God occurred only with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
In the other direction, each self in its own body draws upon the masculine and feminine powers to become more like God. Through loving we learn what is good in us. Those that we aid offer gratitude to God for us, allowing him to strengthen us. When we die, God calls our loving part closer to him, while the selfish part tends to stick to the objects that we kept for ourselves on earth.
Of course, there is a dark side to this process: we can choose to be selfish – to impose our self on the world. This is the trap that forced God to expel Adam and Eve from Eden.
The seven seals on the scroll of Revelation 6 describe how we behave when we force ourselves upon the world. Our relationships are infected by domination, conflict, opportunism, death, vengeance, wrath and destruction. But we have also learned that when we allow love to guide us to serve others, we fill our lives with stewardship, harmony, innovation, peace, justice, passion and creativity.
It is not wrong to seek to be ourselves – the problem comes only when we don’t yield to love, and end up forcing ourselves upon others.
Jesus was the perfect example of the surrender to love. He entered into death with a heart full of love, and so made it into the boundary of peace. As all things desire love, Jesus bears the terrible burden of that longing. Jesus bears the weight of selfishness as it seeks to infect heaven. This is the “burden of sin.” But selfishness cannot pass through him because he came as the perfect servant – he sought nothing for himself.
Those spirits among us that learn to serve pass through Jesus into the Most High. In that paradise, spirits bear perfect witness to each other’s needs, and the Most High gives them the power to satisfy each other.
Behind the barrier of death, selfish spirits tear each other apart fighting over the power that is left. Eventually, all the captives of death are set free, and the selfish are left alone with the memories of the suffering they caused.
It’s time to wrap up this study.
The stories of the Bible testify to the challenges we face in accepting love. Because we are each unique, however, it can be hard to see how those stories apply to our lives. In fact, when we read the wrong stories, we can make things worse, rather than better.
Revelation provides us with ideas that help us to understand the problem in a general way. While we have introduced those ideas in earlier teachings, this week we tried to gather them all together. We should now understand better how love is working to free us from selfishness, and so be more faithful and patient through the hardships that we suffer.
And even better: learn to stop worrying so much about ourselves, and focus our attention on helping the spirits around us shine more brightly and beautifully in our lives.