Foretastes of the Glorious Transfiguration
In his book titled Miracles, C. S. Lewis writes concerning the time when Christ walked on the Sea of Galilee that it was a glimpse given to us of the powers of the new creation. By that he meant that whereas many of the miracles of our Lord demonstrated some of the powers that the first Adam lost in his fall, the miracle of Jesus walking on water represents a power beyond anything that the first Adam had. The fact that Peter was enabled to join Jesus for a time on his aquatic stroll indicates that those who are in Christ are bound to inherit such powers through their union to the Second Adam that exceed what would have been theirs had the first Adam retained his original righteousness. Such miracles of the old creation contained in that dominion over the paradise that Adam lost, as well as the singular glimpse we have into the powers of the new creation, help us to form some conception of the wonders of that glory for which we Christians are bound and which we shall find to be incomparably greater than all the sufferings we will have endured through our lives in this world (Rom. 8:18).
In addition to Scripture’s testimony, we find in the testimony of creation traces of our powers that have been largely lost and which we in Christ are surely bound to regain. For example, there are reports of seemingly incredible powers of perception and feats of strength that people experience when in a crisis. When I was a boy, I read a newspaper account of a woman who lifted the rear end of a car off her child who was trapped under it. There is also the more common phenomenon of altered perception and performance that athletes refer to as their being in the zone. Additionally, many people who have had near-death experiences report that in their crises the passage of time slowed dramatically while they saw the events of their lives flashing before them.
The feats of strength can at least to some degree be explained as our fearfully and wonderfully made bodies producing a flood of adrenalin to help us fight or flee from the crisis. The experiences of heightened perception were the subject of a recent fascinating medical study I heard discussed on a radio programme. Apparently, when we are in a life-threatening crisis, our brain processing speeds up greatly. It is not that time slows, but that we in a crisis are temporarily enabled to process information more rapidly and make decisions more clearly and quickly.
I have myself experienced both phenomena. As a track runner and football player in school, I recall three distinct occasions when I was in the so-called zone – a state in which one’s body experiences a burst of speed and power appreciably beyond what anyone thought possible, while the mind is heightened to a concentrated and effective awareness that brings the challenge at hand into crystal clear focus, while the complex features needed to meet the challenge are easily and perfectly grasped.
As a mature adult, I experienced my most vividly and accurately recalled incident of altered awareness when I fell from a tree I had climbed to prune. I fell from a height of about 15 feet, and I had a chainsaw in my hand. As I fell less than half a distance that should have been covered at a rate of 32 feet per second (if you are not good at maths, it took less than half a second for me to hit the ground), I had clarity of mind and seemingly plenty of time to think about tossing the chainsaw, then, deciding that I might land on it, I determined to hold on to it but to keep it at an outstretched arm’s length from my body. I pondered how I would land and what, if anything, I could do to lessen my likely injuries. I decided to try to achieve a slight rotation of my body so that I would land on my feet, and I slightly flexed my knees so that my legs could act as shock absorbers. When I landed, as my feet hit, I counter-intuitively locked my knees, and, because I had landed at a slight backward angle, this action resulted in my rolling over backward and springing up onto my feet, all the while holding out the chainsaw. I was completely uninjured! A safer landing from such a height could not have been better planned or executed.
Why do I write these things? Because the Word of God and the experiences of our lives teach us that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our personal philosophies. To me, such experiences give glimpses into the amazing wonder and glorious character of the promise that ‘. . . we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet . . .’ and that ‘. . . . this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.’ (1 Cor. 15:52-54).
When he was alive and preaching through the Book of Revelation, my friend James Philip remarked concerning the Apostle John falling down to worship the angel who had shown him the vision of the new heaven and earth (Rev. 22:8,9), that if an apostle prostrated himself before an angel, what would we do if we saw a glorified saint for whom the angels are but servants (Heb. 1:13-14)? Surely for us the best is not only yet to be, but the glorious powers that are to be ours are far greater than we can now grasp. But at least we can glimpse them and find from such glimpses that grateful wonder replaces our worries.
William Harrell is Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia
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