This is bigger than any 72-inch plasma HDTV or 72-foot jumbotron. It’s bigger than the color displays in Times Square or on the sides of any Goodyear blimp. It’s the answer to the question, the question, the one whose answer in the Douglas Adams universe is “forty-two” and requires the ultimate computer to spend millions of years to build a bigger computer that can correctly phrase the question.
That question was originally asked as, “What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?”
And “forty-two” is a very unsatisfactory answer to the mortal mind, even if correct.
But out here in the mostly-non-Douglas Adams universe, it isn’t even close to correct.
I think the answer is in Ephesians 3:8-11, where Paul seems to almost brush it aside as a footnote about why God wanted Paul – and all of us – to see the gospel as a purpose in life:
Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. … (emphasis mine)
I think that’s the really, really big picture.
I’m not really, really sure I understand what it means, but I am fairly, fairly willing to take a crack at it.
Why does God create us? Why does He create us mortal? Why does He give us the choice, from the very beginning of creation, between good and evil; between selflessness and self; between living forever and dying?
I believe it has something to do with the angels – that “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” refers to them. That there is an eternal purpose behind creation. That it displays the manifold wisdom of God.
There have been all kinds of books written about angels, and most of their content is speculation – and the honest authors admit that. We really don’t know very much about angels. We presume that they are kind of heavenly halflings: created at a point in time (or at least in eternity), and eternal thereafter. We deduce that some were given responsibilities to carry out; became rulers and authorities. (Satan seems to be referred to euphemistically earlier in Ephesians as the “ruler of the kingdom of the air,” for instance.) We conjecture that something went wrong at some point further down the timeline. Some of them rebelled. Some of them remained loyal to God: recognized His manifold wisdom (that good is intrinsically greater than evil?) and continued to obey and worship Him. The rest … fell. We don’t know when. We don’t know a better word for it. And Satan, the Accuser, seemed to be at the head of the pack.
For a while, Satan seems to split his time between prowling up and down the earth in search of victims like Job and showing up before the Lord to accuse them of treachery.
Are you seeing a pattern match here?
God believes in Job, as surely as Job believes in God. God knows that Job has the integrity to live out, even while suffering, his belief that good is intrinsically greater than evil and that His God is good. He will question God, challenge God’s mercy and justice. But he will not challenge God’s authority to do what He wills. He will not curse God and die.
It was a taste of things to come, I think.
Paul says that God’s intent was to display his manifold wisdom to these rulers and authorities (All of them? Just the rebellious ones? – I don’t know!) now and through the church.
Yup. You read that right, and so did I.
The fellowship of believers in Christ is the culmination of God’s ultimate plan. Will they continue, even in suffering, to live out their faith in God through Christ? Mortal beings, born to die, who have never seen God face-to-face (though some of them were witnesses to His incarnation)?
The former are the folks, I’m convinced, that Jesus is talking about when he comments on Thomas’ belief at seeing the wounds of the crucifixion in His resurrected body: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29b)
That’s us. And I believe it puts us in a position of truly cosmic responsibility:
Again, Paul seems to brush it off as common knowledge while upbraiding the believers at Corinth for being unwilling to wisely judge disputes among themselves; instead they filed lawsuits in pagan courts.
I don’t think he means it literally; scripture is abundantly clear in many instances that the Lord is the only righteous judge.
But I still believe we have a role.
Those of use who follow Christ should lead lives that daily prove good is intrinsically greater than evil; lives of selflessness and service to others; lives that speak of Christ’s sacrifice and His giving nature. If we, who have not seen, can so believe and live our faith – then for the angels who knew and saw God and His ultimate goodness yet rebelled, there can be no excuse, no pardon, no alternative than to live out the rest of their eternity in exile and the punishment of never, ever seeing Him again.
No more roaming up and down the earth. No more appearing before the throne to accuse. No more evidence will be admitted to mitigate the sentence.
Instead, the mortal believers will be changed; will become immortal; will take that place of knowing and seeing Him face-to-face and being forever blessed.
And so the angels are judged … by us. Perhaps not us as their judges; but certainly as the standard by which they are judged. That’s how the church makes known the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers in the heavenly realms.
Conjecture, I know.
Yet it is a simple answer which happens to fit all of the available facts, and I think William of Occam would be willing to shave with it.
And, for me, it’s the answer to the $64 gazillion dollar question; to life, the universe and everything – and to how really, really big of a picture we find ourselves in.