Monday, September 11, 2006

More than meets the eye

I've heard the phrase "seventh heaven" before, but I don't know where it came from. But at least "third heaven" is in the Bible:
I must go on boasting ... I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know -- God knows. And I know that this man ... was caught up to paradise.
2 Corinthians 12.1-10
So first, I'll go out on a limb here by saying I think Paul is talking about himself. He says he's going to go on boasting, then he says "I know a man in Christ who ..." and then gives first-person details. Then, I'll notice that Paul says he was caught up to "the third heaven" and then he says he was caught up "to paradise." I guess "paradise" means heaven, but what's this "third heaven" stuff about?

A few years ago, at a seminar to help prepare counselors for the Mien Youth Camp, I heard an explanation of the three "heavens." For what it's worth:
  1. First is the material world, the one in which science and technology pretty much work.
  2. Second is a world that most North Americans don't have experience of, a world involving demons and witch doctors, charms and curses.
  3. Third would be the world where God "lives"; usually when we say "heaven" it's this third heaven that we mean. Paradise, in other words.
Probably most North American Christians live in the first and think about the third. Any experience of the second they chalk up to hallucination or coincidence.

But in other parts of the world, this second is understood as powerful and real. Most missionaries in Japan can tell you about the effect of "o-mamori", charms left in the attic of a house after it's built. Nightmares, ghosts/spirits, and a palpable feeling of darkness have all vanished when the "o-mamori" is found and destroyed. I can tell you about it, too: one day, when we were living in Japan, one of our daughters started having nightmares. Every night she would wake up terrified. We looked into the usual things, and nothing turned up. Finally, I went into the attic with a flashlight and found the "o-mamori" -- it was a charm with some writing on it and some design. And it was in a part of the attic directly above our daughter's pillow.

I took it out and burned it in the barbecue. No more nightmares.

How do these things work? I don't know. The Bible doesn't say a lot about them, but we get hints of territorial spirits and so on, things that just seem assumed.

There is apparently a lot more to reality than meets the eye -- or is taught in school or in our materialistic culture.

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