I have always found the mere fact of being human a source of deep puzzlement and at times torment. The existential questions I would ask my parents were treated as unanswerable, then as a teenage drinker my mind was often driven to what felt like the edge of insanity. Trying to control my emotions I abandoned hedonism and forsook even the simplest pleasures of tasty food and enjoyable company. Fun died, but despair grew stronger. In time such dark spaces led me to Christ, but soon some of the old queries resurfaced. I could never deny the pressingly real presence of Jesus, but the desire for absolute non-existence retained a strong appeal. Very recently the Lord has been showing me some things that have started to put my heart a rest. As a young man I prided myself in being scientific, rational and objective, but as I have aged I find a clearer vision of ‘ME’ emerging via the apocalyptic images of scripture.
A Throne in Glory
“Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal….And above the expanse…there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance….and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.” (Ezek 1:22ff.) This vision of a crystalline throne proclaims that transparency is the very essence of the divine nature. God wants to be seen! A similar apocalyptic revelation appears in Daniel. “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him….and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.” (Dan 7:13ff.) At the centre of these astounding illuminating visions, in the midst of the crystalline array of beauty, is “a human likeness”. Such beauty can only belong to Jesus.
Seeing the Centre Clearly
In calling himself “the Son of Man” Jesus acknowledges he is the figure at the centre of the Old Testament apocalyptic visions. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.”” (Matt 25:31) is one such unmistakable allusion. But Christ makes an even more exalted prophecy about his identity, ““When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am”” (John 8:28)? In John’s Gospel the “lifting up” is the cross (John 12:32), and the revelation that Jesus is “I am” means he has the status of God (John 8:58 cf. Isa 43:10). The throne room visions of Ezekiel and Daniel find their fullness in the cross; this is the place where Jesus is once for all glorified (John 12:27-33). Let me try to explain more fully.
In Wangaratta Cathedral, where I was ordained, stands a large crucifix of Christus Rex (Christ the King). Jesus is portrayed on the cross with his head upright crowned with a victor’s crown. This likeness conveys the rich truth that Christ’s suffering is the power by which our bondage to sin, evil and death is dramatically broken. For those with eyes to see it, the cross is like a great crystal radiating the glory and majesty of God, and upon it Jesus, the Son of Man, one like us, is enthroned.
Some years ago the Lord gave me my own image of the cross [illustrated below]. The spots of red signify where Jesus was pierced and bled. When they are connected they make the form of a crystal prism through which the light of God’s holiness shines revealing his true beauty and glory. This image speaks of the total healing of our humanity. By the piercing of Christ’s head our minds are renewed, by the nail pierced hands our actions are made whole, the wounded feet heal our actions and his broken heart mends our hearts. In the divine wisdom of the weakness of the cross (1 Cor 1:17) all the dimensions and dynamics of lost humanity are purified. We are restored in the fullness of the image and glory of God revealed and actualised in the Son of Man (Gen 1:26-28; Col 1:15).
What we must see by faith in the cross was revealed apocalyptically to John in the book of Revelation. “Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and …I saw… one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” (Rev 1:12-16) What Ezekiel and Daniel saw in part John sees directly, the meaning and destiny of humanity is the glorified Jesus. Christ is at the centre and pinnacle of all things human – all our thinking, acting, behaving and feeling. In such visions of the glorified person of Christ all the questions I can ask about ‘ME’ suddenly are crystallised and beautifully clear. I was created to think, act, behave and feel just like Jesus does, this is my future (1 John 3:2).
“Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the regeneration of all things, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones…” (Matt 19:28). “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Rev 3:21 cf. 20:16). “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt 13:43). The time is coming when my eyes will behold the glory of God exactly like Christ’s do, my ears hear the voice of the Father as he does, and my heart will be filled with the Spirit to the same measure as his (Col 2:9-10). Then the ‘ME’ who I was always intended to be will be completely clear. “And at last our eyes shall see him through his own redeeming love.”
In the meantime every deviation from a vision of the absolute centrality of Jesus means a loss of sight of our destiny and identity – this is the cause of the emotional disturbances, relational fractures and idolatrous behaviours of the contemporary Australian Church!
We can only know who we are when we know what our Creator is like. The invisible God has become visible in Jesus Christ. The revolution of vision that the Lord is seeking to release is not one of megachurches, massive Christian meetings and many miracles, it is the vision of Christ for whom we were all created (Col 1:15). The lens through which everything becomes clear is Christ the crucified and reigning King. Jesus himself is the crystal that radiates all the beauty and dignity of our common humanity. To see Jesus in the midst of the glory of the radiant throne room of God is to see one’s true self, it is to see ‘ME’ as I was always intended to be (Rev 4-5). Only such a depth of vision can heal all of who are puzzled and tormented about the meaning of their humanity. Is this the vision you are seeking?
“You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” (Augustine)