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~ The Heavens Opened ~
Distance and time are meaningless when contemplating the whereabouts of heaven, that is beyond our dimensions of space and time. Jesus declared, "The kingdom of God is within you -- in your midst." Using modern vernacular, He could have put it, "The kingdom of God is in your face!" Are we experientially aware of this?
The last book in the Bible begins, "The revelation of Jesus Christ..." We can understand that in two basic ways: Jesus Christ is revealing something to us, or, Jesus Christ is being revealed. These two perceptions are quite different. I tend toward the latter, although I recognize while Christ Himself is being revealed in a way the gospel accounts and letters of the apostles do not quite approach, so are His mysteries.
Nonetheless, John writes, "[T]here before me was a door standing open in heaven" (Revelation 4:1a). Though the revelation witnessed by John is unique in biblical literature, his experience is not. For examples:
"As Jesus was coming up out of the water [of His baptism], he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:10-11).
"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened..." (Luke 3:21).
"Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.' The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him" (John 12:28-29).
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55-56).
"As he [Paul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him" (Acts 9:3).
"I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven [from the earth]" (2 Corinthians 12:2a).
"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:11a).
Here are some observations about the opening of heaven to us on earth:
1) Unlike some self-proclaimed visionaries or "sensitives" who consciously call upon the heavens to "open" to them on demand, and then reveal or "channel" what they "saw," the biblical accounts of heaven's opening attest to the reality that it is heaven's decision to "open up". This is true even in Jesus' experience. We mortals don't have that power and those who profess they do are best ignored as self-delusional.
2) The opening of the heavenly visions aren't reserved for holy people. Heaven opens upon the enemies of the Gospel also, as cited above in Acts (9:3) concerning Paul's conversion from a zealous persecutor of Christians.
3) The opening of the heavenly door is generally reserved for humble people who God deems to be trusted with what they see and to not exploit the vision for personal promotion. For example, during the revelation of Christ to St. John, an angel ordered him to not record a portion of it. And regarding Paul's visit to the third heaven, he wrote, "He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell."
4) The door to heavenly vision is closer to us than our inhaling breath, "in our face." Its opening is a grace with a purpose. The heavens can open to any of us at any time, predicated on God's purpose and trust in us to use such visions in accordance to His purposes and will.
When I am in the solitude of the forest, prayerfully attentive to the revelation of the Creator in every sound, smell, sight, taste and touch, I feel as though I am peering into the heavens. In a way I am. And I will be most grateful and satisfied to commune with God through all my senses and experience a foreshadow of His heavenly realm. But I keep watch, ready to see the opening of the heavens that permeates the skin of my body, that which is literally "in my face."
I think I will not see such direct opening until my death. Thus while I embrace my physical life on earth, I welcome my physical death as well.
I also believe the visionary door to heaven isn't completely opened or completely closed. I am not worthy nor do I trust myself to be a responsible keeper of the visions of a fully open heavenly door as were Paul and John. Keeping company with the "communion of saints" may allow me to witness what the "crowd" heard "thundered" at Jesus' baptism. I have heard the thunder of the heavenly door opening to others, and remain so grateful and awed.
The door to that heavenly vision does crack open a bit, if not fully,
and the intensity of that light is enough for me. God decided that's all
I can handle and I am supremely grateful. Many of you have experienced that
crack of heavenly vision. Of course, we want to see more. However, we best
not push on that door. It will open more and more guided by the ineffable
wisdom of God, our Father, as we continue to offer ourselves as a living
sacrifice to Him and being happy and blessed to eat of the crumbs that fall
from His table. Those crumbs are the Body of our Christ, broken for us in
His love. In those holy crumbs lies the vision of heaven.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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