Category: Incarnation (page 1 of 1)

Heaven is Open, Dear Friends!

The WORD

51“And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 1:51). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

 

When did Nathanael see the heaven opened, and when did he see the angels? There are only two instances in the New Testament telling us that the heaven opened. The first was: when Christ stepped out of the Jordan after His Baptism by John, we read that the heaven opened, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, and the Father’s voice was heard (Matt. 3:16–17). The second was: as we read in Matt. 17:1 ff., the heaven opened when Moses and Elijah appeared to Christ and three of His disciples on Mt. Tabor. A white cloud overshadowed them, which made their faces and their garments as lustrous as the sun. Only the three apostles saw the heaven opened there; Nathanael was not present, nor was anyone else. Therefore our text must have a special meaning. Christ Himself interprets it. As we see, He refers it to Himself. The evangelist does not mention a ladder but merely says that the angels of God ascended and descended upon the Son of man. Therefore this story must be interpreted spiritually. The vision which the patriarch had on the site where Jerusalem was subsequently built points to Christ. For when Christ became man and entered upon His preaching ministry, then heaven was opened. Beginning with that time, it is open and remains open. It has never again been closed since Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan; and it will never again be closed, hidden though this sight is from the physical eye. When heaven is open and God the Father addresses us, we note this only with our spiritual sight. Before the advent of Christ heaven was closed, and the devil had full sway; but in and through Christ the heaven stands ajar again. Now Christians see heaven opened, always hear God the Heavenly Father conversing with them, and behold the dear angels continuously ascending and descending upon us. The Heavenly Father still addresses these words to us: “This is My beloved Son!” He will continue to do so until the Day of Judgment, nor will heaven ever be closed again. When you are baptized, partake of Holy Communion, receive the absolution, or listen to a sermon, heaven is open, and we hear the voice of the Heavenly Father; all these works descend upon us from the open heaven above us. God converses with us, governs us, provides for us; and Christ hovers over us—but invisibly. And even though there were clouds above us as impervious as iron or steel, obstructing our view of heaven, this would not matter. Still we hear God speaking to us from heaven; we call and cry to Him, and He answers us. Heaven is open, as St. Stephen saw it open (Acts 7:55); and we hear God when He addresses us in Baptism, in Holy Communion, in confession, and in His Word as it proceeds from the mouth of the men who proclaim His message to the people.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, pp. 201–202). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Luther highlights St. Bernard imaginings of Lucifer’s fall

Editor’s note: Fascinating…Luther discusses the thoughts of St. Benard here on Christ taking on flesh (he uses the term “bag of worms”). While we cannot say this is more than a vivid imagining inspired by this amazing happening, it is cool to ponder (and helps put perspective to the amazing event of incarnation of our Lord). NOTE: It’s a little long, but worth the read.

St Bernard on Lucifer’s fall

This fact elicited the awe of St. Bernard and gave rise to many fine thoughts, found especially in his devotions. He gave it as his opinion that this had caused the archfiend Lucifer’s fall and eviction from heaven. Perhaps Lucifer, so St. Bernard supposed, had fore-knowledge of God’s eternal resolution to become a man in time, and not an angel. This provoked his insolence against God. He was aware, of course, that he was a creature more beautiful and excellent in appearance than man. This also aroused his envy of mankind; he begrudged man the high honor of God’s assumption of human nature. This vexed him and his companions. They became envious when they learned that God would despise them and assume human nature. Therefore Lucifer and his hosts fell and were driven out of heaven.

For if an emperor were to place a beggar at the head of his table and were to assign the seats at the lower end to great and mighty lords, kings, princes, to learned scholars and wise counselors, they would certainly be amazed and humiliated by this act. We human beings on earth cannot do better than the elder son, of whom we read in Luke 15:25–30. His brother, the prodigal son, the reveler and rake, was now reduced to begging and had returned. In welcome his father had butchered a fatted calf for this spoiled son, who had devoured his living with harlots and knaves, whereas the father had never given even a kid to him who always obeyed his commands. When the elder brother heard all this, he became angry and jealous.

St. Bernard thought that Lucifer and his company were similarly affected when they learned that God was to become a man and not an angel. And if we really ponder the matter, we cannot but conclude that it would have been far more reasonable and honorable for God to adopt the nature of His noblest creatures, the angels, than that of sinful human nature, which had imbibed the poison of the old serpent, the devil, in Paradise. God’s assumption of human nature and the union of God and man in the person of Christ is comparable to placing a filthy sow at table and chasing away holy and pious people.

Furthermore, St. Bernard said that the good angels rejoiced at the time and said: “If this arrangement is pleasing to God, our Lord and Creator, then it is also pleasing to us.” And they remained in heaven and recognized Christ as their Lord and God. This is verified in Matt. 28:6, where the angel says to Mary Magdalene and to other women: “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”
Although these ideas expressed by St. Bernard do not constitute an article of faith, they do sound plausible.

The dear fathers, I say, were amazed that the divine majesty assumed every aspect of this bag of worms, our human nature, except sin and guiltiness of death. He ate, drank, slept, waked, etc.; but He was not born in sin as we were. To be sure, this is so indescribable and inexplicable that anyone who really believes it must needs wonder. Yes, heaven, earth, and every creature must be awe-stricken at the thought that God should regard man dearer and nobler than an angel, although man is really a wretched creature by comparison. God’s preference for the human nature over the angelic might well arouse envy. But all this should make us meditate on the great glory that is ours. For the angels in heaven rejoice over the incarnation. This is why they constantly surround the Lord and serve Him. This is why they were about His grave when He arose from the dead.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 22, pp. 104–105). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.