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THERE’S MORE TO OUR WORLD THAN MEETS THE EYE

It’s easy to miss the weight of the opening verse of the Bible –

This opening verse of the Bible tells us some obvious things about the world we live in, such as – the universe had a beginning. This point was, for a long time, mocked and dismissed by so-called enlightened scientists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries until the discoveries of red-shift, dark energy, and cosmic microwave background radiation, which have all proven that the cosmos had a beginning at a measurable moment in the universe’s past.

Prof. Roger Penrose

Prof. Roger Penrose, Nobel Prize winner.

This point was reluctantly affirmed by Prof. Stephen Hawking, who together with Prof. Roger Penrose proved that the universe must have begun with a ‘big bang’. Hawking later wrote this research into a popular book, A Brief History of Time. But recognising the theological implications of this discovery (since it confirmed Genesis 1:1), Hawking who later divorced his evangelical wife, Jane Wilde, spent the rest of his life attempting to disprove his discovery so that he could disprove the existence of God. He posthumously he published Brief Answers To Big Questions in 2018 in which he claimed that “there was no possibility for the existence of God”. Hawking had many critics of his notion that the laws of gravity created the universe. In effect, he ended his life being unable to disprove the existence of God. But this is not the point that I want to make from the opening verse of the Bible.

Genesis 1:1 also gives He who had no introduction, God, the credit for beginning the universe. For those familiar with the Chronicles of Narnia, in The Silver Chair, Aslan says,

“‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’ said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it” (C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, Apple Books, p. 35).

In the same way, Genesis 1:1 reveals that God created every molecule in the universe but not as if it was a boast — it just state it as a fact. This opening verse of The Ultimate Story doesn’t make a claim, it reports a fact — that God, the One who is outside of the material cosmos and its four dimensions, created the four dimensions comprising: matter, space, energy and time. However, there is one significant clue within the Hebrew word translated as ‘God’ in this verse that should cause the reader to reflect deeply. God, Elohim (אֱלֹהִ֑ים), is not presented as El (a singular Hebrew word for God), but in its plural form – Elohim. The reader should not be confused into thinking that this plural form of El (Elohim) is polytheism (many Gods) nor is it pantheism (the impersonal universe is God). This is one God who is: perfectly united as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (“Let us make man in our image…” Gen. 1:26), personal (He speaks, Gen. 1:26), and is the Creator of the universe (which means He cannot be the universe — which is known as pantheism). It turns out, according to the doctoral research of Dr. Michael S. Heiser, that “Elohim” means heavenly beings. Before God created the universe and its various dimensions, the only heavenly beings were the members of the eternal Godhead (Father, Son and Spirit), but later included a host of created beings who formed a type of council with Yahweh.

Thus, Genesis 1:1 is accurate when it ascribes the creation of the multi-dimensional cosmos to Elohim since the uncreated Godhead were the original and founding members. But this reveals something very special about the heart of Yahweh: He has always been in community. And as we track through the Scriptures how Yahweh created beings that populated the realm of heaven around His throne, we see that these heavenly beings became God’s heavenly family. The Bible even designates some of these more powerful created heavenly beings as “the sons of God”.

¶ Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Satan also came among them.
Job 1:6

And while this is an important point to note about the opening verse of the Bible, I really wanted to draw your attention to the word, heavens. This means that there was at least two dimensions of heaven, and because of Paul’s description of God’s throne-room (Psalm 103:19) being the third heaven (2Cor. 12:2) there must at least be three designations of heaven

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.
Second Corinthians 12:2

The Scriptures refer to the sky, particularly the night-sky, as heaven. (Gen. 1:20; 15:5; 1Chron. 27:23; Psalm 8:3). Presumably this is the first heaven. The apostle Paul refers to the realm where spiritual beings interact with our physical dimension as heavenly places (Eph. 1:3, 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). Presumably this is what we might artificially call the second heaven. And probably what Paul then refers to as the third heaven is the domain where evil spiritual beings no longer have access, is the very presence of God. It is also referred to in the Scriptures as the highest heaven (1Kings 8:27; Psalm 148:4).  

 

It seems that before God created mankind, He had created a heavenly family composed of powerful, intelligent, volitional (able to make decisions and act upon them) created beings. We get a later glimpse of the vast numbers of created heavenly beings who fill the Third Heaven of God’s realm in Revelation 5:11- 

¶ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands
Revelation 5:11

We get another glimpse of a scene of the highest heaven, in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah the prophet is shown God on His throne surrounded by magnificent heavenly creatures who serve Yahweh as heaven‘s worship leaders whose presence invoke great awe of God.

¶ In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” ¶ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Isaiah 6:1-4

But it seems that God also created a special category of heavenly beings who would watch over (they were called “watchers” Daniel 4:13) and guide the future creation of mankind on earth. These incredibly powerful creatures were given appropriate abilities to be able to interact with mankind. They appear to have been trans-dimensional — that is, they could appear in physical form in this dimension in which we exist, and they could translate back into the second heaven (and originally they could each also translate into the Third Heaven to appear before God as alluded to in Job 1). It seems that Yahweh entrusted to each of these Watchers, also referred to as “the holy ones” and “the sons of God” (Deut. 32:8) and as “Elohim” (Psalm 82:6-7), authority over a nation each, and the right to decree certain governmental decisions-

The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’
Daniel 4:17

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He divided mankind, He fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.
Deuteronomy 32:8

At some stage, a cohort of these Watchers left their assigned stations and rebelled against the Most High when they shape-shifted into humanoids who then lusted after and seduced gullible women and sired the half-breed nephilim (Gen. 6:2-4) and were doomed to eternal damnation for their wickedness — some of the more powerful beings were too dangerous to be allowed to remain unfettered until the day of damnation and they were, according to Peter “imprisoned in chains in outer darkness” (2Peter 2:4; Jude 6) — the fate the rest will be carried out at the completion of Yahweh’s plan of redemption is consummated at the Judgment “on the last day” (John 6:39, 40, 44; 11:24; 12:48). This is why the forces of evil will do anything to stop the people of God from fulfilling Yahweh’s plan of redemption. Because, when this happens their eternal doom will be enacted and apparently they aren’t too keen for this to happen. It’s why our evangelism—especially our collaborative evangelism—is so critically needed and urgent. And all of this understanding is drawn out of a deep biblical reflection into Genesis 1:1. It just goes to show that Genesis 1:1 reveals that there is much more to this world than meets the eye!

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

3 Comments

  1. John Sands

    Thank you for this. It is unnecessary for someone’s salvation and living life, but wonderful for helping one to understand and enjoy scriptures and life even more.

    I value this scholarship which is more than just knowledge for its own sake.

    It also adds veracity for doubtful readers. Would be a challenge to Jehovah’s Witnesses. I suspect that Christadelphians would love it

    Reply
  2. LYDIA

    Thank you! The Scriptures are truly incredible. God’s love is immeasurable. Another few pieces of the box lid…

    Reply
  3. Richard Brunning

    Thank you Andrew for that insight into the deep meaning of Genesis 1:1. Somewhat over my head, but I can begin to understand that our Father, Son and Holy Spirit are proven to be the Creator.

    Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.