Part Four

by A.E. Knoch

MAN, as at present constituted, is not fit for a heavenly destiny. Those who are blessed among the celestials must be radically changed in order to fulfill their mission among the creatures on the orbs of space. This the apostle Paul discusses at length in his first epistle to the Corinthians. In the fifteenth chapter he replies to the questions, How are the dead being roused? With what body are they coming? The objector probably had no thought of heaven, but it furnished an opening for explaining the secret (1 Cor.15:51) that those who received his ministry would not reappear as they had been in this life, but would enjoy a great and glorious transformation. This would take place when Christ calls them back from death at His presence, when He comes to the air for His beloved saints.

Paul discusses this change in detail as it affects the spirit, the soul, and the body. To each of these He returns. He appeals to the plant, the animal, and the mineral kingdom for illustrations. Indeed he ranges over the whole universe in his efforts to clarify this great change. The vivification of the spirit is explained by means of plants (1 Cor.15:36-38,43,44). The rousing of the soul is shown by facts regarding the flesh of animals (39,45,46). The resurrection of the body appeals to celestial as well as terrestrial bodies (40,41,47-49). Each one of these is worthy of prolonged study, for they foretell an experience in store for us, which is most welcome and beyond everything that we can think or imagine. It will turn all our sorrow into joy, all our heartache into jubilation.


It is significant that there is a change from flesh to bodies, when celestial creatures are discussed (1 Cor.15:40). The difference is defined as one of glory. For us, indeed, the flesh as we now know it, disappears in the celestial glory, when it is changed by His presence. Indeed, whatever glory our present bodies of flesh and blood may have in its proper sphere on the earth, it would no longer be glory in comparison with that above. We are not physically fit for any other environment except the terrestrial. The process, which slowly brings us down to the grave on earth, would be almost instantaneous if we should be transported into the heavens, above the atmosphere, deprived of oxygen and warmth. Heaven is supposed to be a place of utmost pleasure. But what little we know by experience of the upper regions above the earth would lead us to make it a scene of swift suffering and sudden decease.

But even if men could manage to overcome the lack of oxygen and the cold, how long could they live at a distance from the soil? This frame of ours is a soilish body, and cannot exist for long apart from the plant-producing ground. Even on the earth's surface he must often labor hard and sweat heavily to extract a living from the sod, in accord with God's curse upon the ground. It would not take long for hunger to drive a heavenly adventurer down to dine, for his flesh would soon fade away without constant replacement.

But it is doubtful if the term "celestial," or on-heavenly, refers to the upper regions of earth's atmosphere. It seems rather to denote that which, or those who, are on the heavenly luminaries, such as the moon, the sun, or the stars, for these are mentioned (1 Cor.15:41). The much-debated question as to whether these are inhabited has not been settled by scientists, but the Scriptures seem to clearly teach that there are created beings on the heavenly lights. First, however, let us note that these are never referred to as human beings, sons of Adam. What little we know of nature confirms the thought that mankind not only does not, but cannot, live on the orbs of space.

The Greek term epouraniois is indefinite. It may refer to things or persons. So far it seems that translators have preferred to add the word places. But a study of the Ephesian epistle will lead us to see that this is far from satisfactory if it is intended to exclude living, intelligent beings. Such passages as, "to the sovereignties and the authorities among the celestials may be made known, through the ecclesia, the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph.3:10), clearly refer to the dwellers in the "heavenly places." The word "place" (which is not in the Greek, but is added by the translators for the sake of English idiom), puts a limit to the thought which is not in the original. It is included in the rendering "among the celestials." Besides, English idiom usually demands "among" rather than "in" with the plural.

During an early epoch in my life, ere I was called by God, I was preparing myself to be an astronomer, so made an effort to acquaint myself with the nearer luminaries, especially the moon, for I had only a small telescope. Long continued observation of its different phases, especially of that intermediate zone where darkness and the light meet, as well as the crater-like spots, gave me much to think about, and convinced me that it was not fit for human habitation. The shadows of the mountains are exceedingly sharp, which seems to show that there is no atmosphere worth mentioning. They looked like the shadows in a vacuum. In that case it is probably very hot where the sun shines and very cold in the shade. I noticed this even on a high mountain on earth. I held out my palm to the sun, which burned on one side, while it was cold on the other.

The sun is generally too bright to bear observation through a small telescope, so I studied photographs, and observed sun spots through dark glasses. Once I made a considerable journey to get the best possible view of a total eclipse of the sun. When the moon was fully centered on its disc, the corona could be seen, long streamers of flame reaching out on all sides. The sun's surface seems to be in the greatest turmoil. The main fact that emerged was this: that human beings cannot exist in its terrific heat for a moment. If we can't even gaze at the sun unless it is totally eclipsed, except through dark glasses, and when we are at a vast distance, how could we live in the midst of such a turbulent lake of fire?

The other heavenly orbs were too far away for my telescope. I could see faint rings around Saturn, but not clear enough to form any conclusions about it. But from photographs and the descriptions of those who have made painstaking observations, I am convinced that none are really fit for human habitation, unless, possibly, the planet Mars. Venus is too near the sun and so cloudy that we would be parboiled, perhaps, before we could reach its surface. The planets at a greater distance from the sun than our earth would probably be too cold. Beings constituted as we are, who must confine themselves within a narrow range of temperature, cannot even live in all regions of our own planet, let alone the outer realms of space, or the heavenly bodies with conditions vastly different from those on earth.

Of the stars we can say very little positively, as science is too theoretical to be a safe guide. But it seems evident that the solar system is a model for others in the universe and that the countless luminaries that can be seen by means of the photographic plate are the same as our sun, and may have satellites corresponding to it. I am convinced that we are not called to selfishly luxuriate in the "heaven" of orthodoxy, but to be God's representatives to all the orbs of space. It will be our more blessed privilege to give, rather than to get. It has seemed most significant to me that, unless I first made up my mind to really study the Bible to see what it was all about, I started with Genesis and was stalled for very wonder at the statement: He made the stars also. To speak so of the myriads of mighty monsters in the infinite field of the heavens, was beyond man. These few words kindled my interest in the Bible, and in the stars of which it speaks so simply.

Since then I have come to know God and the special mission which He has given the ecclesia which is the Christ's body. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing among the celestials. Our home is not on earth, but in the heavens. Some day we shall visit our near neighbors, the moon and Mars, and doubtless we will be able to live upon the sun and any of its satellites. Moreover, we will reach out to the stars, and spread the knowledge of God's name on every member of the milky way as well as on Sirius and Orion, from the North Star to the Southern Cross. Once we grasp the grace that is ours in Christ Jesus, and the glory of spreading His fame to all the universe, the stars are transformed from strange pin points of light into the most magnificent field of human endeavor ever granted to any of Adam's race.

I have lived much of my life in a clime where the stars come close to earth. I have lain for hours on my back on a roof-top in Jerusalem, simply soaking in the stars, which seemed so much nearer than in the northern zones where most of my friends reside. In the murky north it is not so easy to understand Jehovah's word to Abraham, for the stars are usually obscured, and only the greatest lights are always visible. But in Palestine, without a glass or telescope, on a clear night, the sight is bewildering, and no one would care to count their number. Of course those of minor magnitude are not visible to the naked eye, and a patient photographic plate will see many millions more. This will be our parish! To declare God's name to the denizens of this indescribable domain have we been "ordained!"

The greatest glory of earth will be the holy city, new Jerusalem, with its vast extent, and its enduring decorations of gold and precious gems. But this terrestrial glory will not compare with the celestial magnificence. The city, so wide and broad and high, sinks into insignificance before the immeasurable reaches of inter-stellar space, and the immensity of some of the stars. There vast audiences are waiting for the message that we bring, which we will announce, not only by word of mouth, but by our very presence and overwhelming glory, heightened by the background of human sin and enmity to God, as witnessed by the pages of earth's history and sealed by the cross of Christ.

Since the aeroplane has been able to soar to inhuman heights, it has become abundantly clear that no man can live many miles above the earth. I have climbed. mountains, much lower than this, and found breathing difficult, and sustained effort exhausting. High fliers must be provided with oxygen masks and heating equipment. Compared with other stellar distances, man can rise above the soil only a most minute measure. His present flesh binds him to the earth with a very short rope. He is a prisoner, confined within a narrow layer of air just above the surface of his habitance.

I am quite certain that the force of gravity, which we will call weight, would make it very awkward for us anywhere but on the surface of the earth. On the moon we might be mighty acrobats, yet on Jupiter we would be glued to the ground. But I do not need to prove this. Everyone of us knows that he has weight, and it takes quite an effort to lift one of our own size even a few feet from the ground. In our present bodies we certainly cannot jump from the earth even to the moon, our nearest neighbor, or to any other of the planets or the stars. We have a terrestrial body, not a celestial one.

How is it possible to overcome the force of gravity? Can our bodies be so changed as to lose all their weight? Just how they can be transformed we cannot tell, but there are indications all about us which give us a clue to the means. The clearest of all is a very simple experiment. Who, roughly speaking, can jump the highest? Why, the one who is the strongest, who has the most power. This is the key. Our present bodies are infirm because of their mortality. But mere muscular strength does not solve the problem. We are not fitted for any other environment, even under ideal conditions, and would need strength far in excess of the present.

Another illustration may help. We wish to offer an animal wholly to God. How can we send it aloft to the empyrean? In Hebrew it would be called an ascent offering. How did the priests send a heavy animal up to God? They changed its substance. Take an animal that cannot jump even its own height and apply power in the form of fire, so that it is resolved into gases, then these will ascend without effort seemingly, and all except a very small residue will float away above. The ashes that remain are nearly nothing in comparison with the weight of the beast. It would have been a tremendous task to carry the carcass up the sides of high Hermon or lofty Lebanon. In this simple fashion, however, almost all of it ascended as a restful odor to God.

The same thought is suggested by the action of the messenger of Jehovah, who left Manoah and his wife by ascending in the flame of the burning sacrifice (Judges 13:19,20). The point is that the force of gravity can be entirely nullified by giving the constituents of the body a different constitution. A diamond will sink in water, but soot, the very same substance, will float, and a carbolic gas will ascend to the sky. The flesh of a fish will float about in water, but, when eaten by a bird, will fly in the air. God gives the celestials a body that has no fear of fire, and that ascends without apparent effort to the empyrean. Of this nature will be the change of our terrestrial bodies when He comes. When we hear His shout and the dead are roused, then we will find ourselves able to sink upwards as it were, and meet the Lord in the air.


Man prides himself on being the most intelligent of earth's denizens, yet he cannot answer the most elementary questions about himself. He does not know whence he came, what he is, or whither he is going. He gropes about in a London fog. His thinking and acting is based on ignorance, conceit and selfishness. Even his highest efforts to benefit his fellows, economically, socially, politically, morally and religiously, unless based upon a recognition of God and His plans, are futile and doomed to failure, because they run counter to the current of His intention. Even the little light that man has is distorted. He is quite right in his yearning for immortality, but fearfully astray when he denies death in order to obtain it.

Once our heart sees clearly that the mission of mankind demands a period of preparation in which evil is the essential factor, how futile and offensive are all the efforts of men to avoid the sweat and tears and blood which is their lot! How pitiable is the pride that persists in making man the arbiter of his fate, the captain of his soul! How illusory are his dreams of happiness, how misleading the mirage of a new world with freedom from want and fear, in independence from his Creator.

Once we realize the loving and glorious purpose that underlies God's dealings with humanity, we no longer fuss and fret, and fear the future, we do not rebel at the misfortunes of our lot, the miseries of our existence. According to the grace and light vouchsafed to us, we bear our burdens with patience, we bow before the trials that assail us, we acquiesce in evil that is our part, we thank God for the deception, the injustice, the misery, the suffering, the anguish in the world, though it aches our hearts, and we glory in the future fruit of all this deluge of sin and insubjection when the lesson has been learned.

Glory awaits us, far beyond our fondest dreams! Blessedness will be ours beyond our most ardent anticipations! So great is God's grace that we, the last and lowest on the earth, shall be the first and foremost in the empyrean. All hail to our God and Christ Jesus, His beloved Son! For our mission to the celestials is the highest honor in the universe.

[Part Five]

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