You Can't Escape God, 1978
The miracle of Ascension
IS IT TRUE THAT JESUS BODILY ASCENDED FROM EARTH for a return to Heaven (on the 40th day after his resurrection) as asserted in traditional Christian teachings?
According to the New Testament, Jesus, preparatory to his departure, led some (or possibly all) of the Apostles "out as far as Bethany." Then, as Luke's Gospel describes it, "He lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up to Heaven." Mark's Gospel says, "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into Heaven." Greater detail is provided in the Book of Acts, however. It says: "While they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward Heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by in white apparel. Which also said, 'Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into Heaven."
Yet, in every subsequent century and especially in our modern World many men have rejected those claims of Jesus' ascension on the grounds that -- as an apparent violation of Earth's force of gravity -- it would have been impossible. Indeed, even many professing Christians have consciously or subconsciously assumed the Scriptural accounts of the ascension are only theological embroidery; that Jesus' soul went invisibly to Heaven but that his earthly body must have been abandoned on Earth.
Traditionally, the Church has responded that the veracity of the Apostles has been too well proven to permit any justified doubt of what they reported. Yet, to the challenge of "impossibility," the Church has heretofore been limited to a vulnerable retort that "all things are possible with God." Thus, the Church has seemed to argue that Jesus simply "un-legislated" the law of gravity to make it inapplicable to himself. In contrast, modern science has held that the law of gravity can only be overcome by an application of some kind of off-setting force but has failed -- until now -- to identify any such force as possessed by Jesus.
Accordingly, the Church has needed an identification and explanation of some force equally valid within the laws of nature that Jesus surely used simply as an offset to the law of gravity. In other words, the Church has needed to become able to convince a science-minded modern World that Jesus had a means to accomplish a bodily ascension from Earth that was not an "impossible violation of the laws of nature."
Let us approach such a showing, therefore, by first perceiving it was natural and inevitable that God's Son, having come to Earth from his normal abode in Heaven, would choose to return to his Heaven-home as soon as his earthly purposes of his visit were finished. In turn, our logic also reminds us that although Jesus could have chosen to abandon his earthly body on Earth while only his soul-cell returned invisibly to Heaven this arrangement would not have served the desirable purpose by which a bodily ascension provided a final visible proof of his divinity at the same time that his outbound bodily departure made it obvious that he was headed toward a destination place located somewhere outward from Earth. Moreover, a mere abandonment on Earth of the earthly body of God's Son not only would have cast doubt on his divinity but also would have confronted the Apostles with a perplexing problem of how to protect that body from normal deterioration or from despoliation by persons hostile to the claims of divinity he had previously made.
We perceive, therefore, that Jesus had many cogent reasons for departing from Earth by ascension of his earthly body. Yet we can also understand why he made his ascension in the presence of only a few witnesses. Thus, except for reasons we have earlier cited, Jesus could have traveled to Rome to make his departure observed by many thousands of spectators. We perceive, however, that such a spectacle would have had a greater impact on humanity than God desired; it would have been contrary to his intention that Mankind should advance toward soul-perfection by a necessarily gradual process. Hence, Jesus chose to have only a strictly limited number of witnesses to record the bare details of his ascension, leaving it for much later generations to discover the physical means by which the phenomenon of such a departure was actually accomplished.
Accordingly, our next step will approach the significance of the fact that Jesus remained on Earth precisely 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension, showing there was surely a scientific reason to explain why he didn't depart on, for example, the 15th day or the 39th, or delay beyond the 40th. Let us first note, therefore, a number of secondary reasons which account for the fact that the ascension did not quickly follow the resurrection.
Thus, one obvious reason for the considerable interim was clearly to allow The Apostles sufficient time to relax from the tensions they had just previously experienced. Also, Jesus wanted them to accustom themselves to the fact that he was still very much alive and still possessed of divine powers, so they would not be dismayed by the fact of his ultimate departure.
We are not surprised, therefore, that several Apostles sought relaxation by going on a fishing trip, and that Jesus used even this occasion to demonstrate his continued possession of divine powers. Indeed, that fishing itself became the occasion for a new miracle which showed additionally that the post-resurrection Jesus was the same as he had been before. Thus, after the fishermen had spent an entire night in a boat without catching any fish, they saw Jesus watching them from the shore and heard him call to "Cast your net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find." Now let us note that commercial fishing had been the previous occupation of Peter who was among those present; hence, if there had been any splashes or surface ripples on the water to show the presence of fish where Jesus directed, there would have been no need for advice from the shore. However, the men in the boat complied with the suggestion; then, as they attempted to draw in their net they found it so laden with fish that they couldn't lift it. Moreover, when they had dragged it ashore they were so astonished at the greatness of their catch that they not only made a fish-by-fish count of their haul but also recorded the number as if to challenge other fishermen for all time to come. There were, as the Bible itself reports the size of the catch, precisely 153 fish in the one haul that were large enough to be counted.
Jesus didn't explain how he knew where so large a catch would be found. However, we can deduce he caused a radiance from himself to enter the water so that it attracted the fish in the same manner as might be done today by shining a powerful electric light into dark waters. Like all his other miracles, Jesus surely caused this one also to be accomplished by a purely physical process.
There were, of course, many doings in the 40 days preceding the ascension which were not recorded. Nevertheless, the return of Jesus to Heaven was not to be put off indefinitely. Moreover, the interval of waiting had been long enough for the Apostles to recover their aplomb, to know of a fresh miracle, and to recall -- in anticipating of the forthcoming ascension -- how Jesus had demonstrated levitation when he walked on water, and how he had appeared and disappeared "when the doors were shut."
Thus, if the Scriptural descriptions of the ascension seem to modern science to be unfortunately brief, let us remember that the witnesses could not have provided us with an explanation which they didn't possess; also, that God's plan intentionally avoided allowing this event to be prematurely explained. Moreover, to accomplish his ascension Jesus had no need to use -- for the witnesses to see -- some huge and daring mechanism; thus, it was not as though the Apostles had been modern reporters at the launching of a space vehicle, experienced in reporting scientific details. Instead, not being science-minded, the Apostles didn't make estimates of the speed or acceleration of the departure. They forgot to estimate the approximate distance at which Jesus disappeared from their sight. They didn't report how long they watched, the time of day, or the weather conditions -- except for mentioning a cloud. They did remember to note that immediately after the ascension "two men in white apparel" (i.e. angels) became visible and that these said Jesus would return "in like manner" at some unspecified future time. Finally, the witnesses were so awe-struck that they neglected even to mention the when or the how that the angels also departed. Nevertheless we can be sure that Jesus did bodily depart from Earth not only because the credibility of the Apostles was subsequently proven but also because we now can deduce in terms of modern science the very process by which this phenomenon was accomplished.
Concerning the question of how gravity was overcome in the ascension of Jesus, our logic already has repeatedly indicated the answer. First, there is the fact that magnetic and certain electrical forces are reversible to produce impulses either of attraction or repulsion; thus, we have already perceived how electronic forces of repulsion expel the soul-cell at the death of the other cells of a human body. Second, there is the fact that many creatures have a known ability to exert an outflow of electrical force; certain eels, for example, can generate and send out charges that have been measured even to the level of 600 volts; thus, it is evident that although our species has only a dormant capacity to generate bodily electricity in large amounts our potential to do so is surely enormous. Indeed, bearing in mind that our bodies are composed of trillions of cells, each made up of electronic particles, it is noteworthy that even storage batteries are composed also of what we call "cells", with a capacity of about two volts apiece. Third is the fact that even Earth's polarity has been reversed repeatedly. Thus, when we reflect that Jesus was able to fill his earthly body with such vast quantities of the Holy Spirit that even his garments became luminescent, we need only to comprehend that he could put at his command an electromagnetic bodily force sufficient -- with its polarity opposed to gravity -- to achieve the phenomenon of levitation. In other words, he could lift himself to any elevation he chose and without any expenditure of fuel or energy in the same sense that a permanent magnet does not require a replacement of its magnetism after it exerts an attraction or repulsion force.
The presumption of the Apostles that the earthly body of Jesus ascended all the way to the place called Heaven is, however, in need of logical correction. Of course, his body was so filled with the Holy Spirit that it was immune to oxygen scarcity and to cold temperatures at the high altitude that it encountered. On the other hand, he had no need to make a permanent retention of his earthly body; instead, his soul-cell would "grow" an entirely new body upon its arrival in Heaven. Yet, we can also be sure he didn't cause his earthly body to plummet back to Earth. Thus, there is added significance to be explored in the fact that Jesus still possessed his earthly body when the witnesses saw it pass into a cloud.
What happened after the cloud shut off the view of the departing Jesus can be deduced if we begin by recalling our earlier conclusions that he had come most of the way from Heaven to Earth some 33 years previously while still possessed of a heavenly body and while attended by Moses, Elijah, and a retinue of angels; that all of them had traversed the principal distance while using as their abode an Annex of Heaven which subsequently was erroneously described by the Magi and others as a "star." In turn, let us recall our related conclusion that Jesus had abandoned his heavenly body on that Annex so that only his soul-cell was then brought to Earth. Accordingly, it becomes impossible to escape a consistent conclusion that Jesus, beginning his return to Heaven, retained his earthly body only long enough to intercept the Annex on a day when he knew its waiting-time orbits would bring it most conveniently close for a period of hovering near the Jerusalem area. Further, we conclude that he divested his soul-cell of its earthly body as soon as he returned to the Annex and that he thereupon acquired a new heavenly body in no more than a few days or perhaps in no more than just a few minutes. Thus also we conclude it was not Jesus alone who became concealed by the cloud which the Apostles mentioned but also any view of a daytime hovering of the Annex that was waiting near Earth.
How long was required for the Annex to return Jesus to Heaven has been suggested by a tentative calculation of probable speed and distance as offered earlier in our study. On the other hand, there is good evidence to be further amplified later herein that, in his use of the Annex, Jesus remained close to Earth for as much as a year subsequent to his ascension, and that the same or a similar Annex has been near Earth even until the present day.
THAT JESUS REMAINED IN LIVING CONTACT with his Apostles at intervals for a considerable time subsequent to his departure from Earth is another highly significant truth of theology long overlooked or insufficiently stressed; yet, this is one of the principal facts that was first demonstrated by the event which is called the Christian Pentecost.
In his final instructions to the Apostles preceding his departure, Jesus told them it would be the responsibility chiefly of his Church to do a World-wide job of teaching theological truth and the foundational precepts of moral conduct. "But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye shall be endued with power from on high," he added. In addition, the Apostles were told they would be "baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence." Thus, on the day of the Jewish Pentecost, ten days following the ascension, the Apostles were "all with one accord in one place" when Jesus' promise to give them an added quantity of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled.
"Suddenly," says the Scripture, "there came a sound from Heaven (i.e., from the sky) as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues (i.e., languages) as the Spirit gave them utterance."
Thus, to examine the details of that tremendously dramatic and significant experience, in the terms of modern science, let us begin by noting some of its immediate results. We perceive, therefore, that the Apostles were so mentally stimulated by the new infusion of the Holy Spirit that they hastened outdoors to preach to people in the street. Moreover, Peter found himself able to speak so persuasively that three thousand converts were added to the Christian fellowship in response to his sermon.
In turn, Peter quickly confirmed that his increased content of the Holy Spirit had enhanced his powers to perform miracles of healings. Long before Pentecost, of course, all the Apostles had already possessed enough of the Holy Spirit so that emissions of it from them accomplished numerous instances of healing. Shortly after Pentecost, however, when Peter and John encountered a beggar who had been crippled since birth, Peter was glad to use this opportunity to test anew his healing powers. "Silver and gold have I none, but such I have I give thee," he told the crippled man; then taking him by the hand, the Apostle commanded, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" Thereupon the Bible's account says, the cripple found "immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength (i.e., in their muscles)" and the man "entered with them into the Temple, walking and leaping, and praising God." The Temple priests responded, however, by having Peter and John jailed; yet, the next day when the previously crippled man testified of his cure, the Apostles were released.
In a subsequent experience, two Apostles were locked in a dungeon at the order of the priests. That night, however, "an angel of the Lord opened the prison gates" and told them to continue their preaching. Thus we perceive that, although Jesus himself had departed from Earth, at least one angel had been temporarily assigned to earthly duties of assisting the Apostles in the difficult early stage of their mission.
Given another hearing before the Sanhedrin, the same Apostles were asked why they had disobeyed the high priest's orders to cease their preaching. But, now emboldened by the Pentecostal supplement of the Holy Spirit and by the experience with the angel, Peter lashed back at his accusers. "Obedience to God comes before obedience to men," he told them. Then, still more fearlessly, the accused became the accuser. "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree," he told the priests.
Rocked back on its heels by such a bold counter-charge, the Sanhedrin probably would have retaliated with maximum violence had it not been for one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who rose to the defense of the Apostles. "Take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men," he told his fellow judges. Then, Gamaliel recalled to their memories that there had been others before Jesus who had made Messianic claims and that those had been proved false. Yet, Jesus might be different, he warned. Hence, "If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought," he said. "But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest happily ye be found even to fight against God." Thus constrained, the Temple officials had the arrested Apostles beaten, but allowed them to be released again.
Now returning our analysis to the beginning of the Pentecostal phenomena, let us note that the Scriptural word-picture of the Holy Spirit is also mutually corroborative with our logic's earlier independent definition. Obviously, the Holy Spirit which was visible on this occasion was not a person either as a single entity or as one capable of being divided into twelve or more parts. Instead, it was seen to be as of "cloven tongues like as of fire." Thus, we perceive that each of those portions consisted of a cluster of electronic particles of a special nature whereby we call them "Holy" because, having originated in Heaven, they were sent to Earth at God's command, and because they are of the same substance as the heavenly bodies of God and of God's Son. Accordingly, we again perceive that although the Holy Spirit is of holy substance, it is neither a person nor a co-God.
Further corroborating the foregoing conclusion, we perceive that the clusters of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost resembled fire in having a fire-like radiance. They were probably of about the same size as the single cluster which descended on Jesus at his baptism. They were radiant because each cluster consisted of trillions of densely packed electronic particles in a state of unorganized internal agitation. Thus, even the noise made by the approach of the clusters was precisely what modern science would expect of such a physical phenomenon -- an internal "buzzing" of the clusters combined with air turbulence caused in their passage.
Next, we note that although the Apostles were recipients, none of the clusters descend on any people in the outside street. This shows that the clusters literally were aimed at the place where the Apostles were known to be waiting. Even so, we must recognize that the high receptivity of the Apostles served as a supplementary guidance, such as a lightning rod attracts a bolt of lightning. Similarly, as lightning is carried into the ground from such a point of contact, it is evident that the clusters of the Holy Spirit entered the bodies of the Apostles.
Moreover, the immediately subsequent conduct of the Apostles shows that much of the Holy Spirit entered particularly into their brain cells. Thus, Peter's mentality supplied the words of his Pentecostal sermon so fluently that it seemed as though no cogitation had been required whatever.
But how can modern science account for some of the Apostles speaking "in tongues" at Pentecost? We find that actually there were two forms of phenomena involved. First, it is evident that some recipients of the Holy Spirit at that time received so much into their brain cells that it temporarily disarranged their mental mechanisms. Thus, when they tried to voice their thoughts they uttered gibberish instead of words. This phenomenon has been called "glossolalia," and some people have erroneously supposed the sounds thus uttered were words in non-earthly language. Actually, the sounds were only what we have called them -- gibberish. Nevertheless, this was one form of phenomena at Pentecost which reflected the impact of the Holy Spirit and the electronic nature of it. The second form of the phenomenon to which the "in tongues" phrase of the Bible refers was, however, a sudden ability of other Apostles to speak in languages which were quite worldly but which supposedly they didn't know. The obvious explanation of this ability begins with the fact that the Apostles had lived for many years in a commercial cross-roads of the World. Thus, although they had usually confined their speech to perhaps no more than Aramic and Greek or Latin, they had heard many tradesmen speak in other tongues, and what their ears had heard their memories had subconsciously recorded. Hence, when their brains were sharpened by the Holy Spirit, the same memories permitted them to use languages which previously they had only subconsciously possessed.
Added significance is also to be found in Peter's previously mentioned use of healing powers immediately following Pentecost. Thus, let us particularly note that the healing of the crippled beggar did not occur until the Apostle grasped him by the hand. Likewise, it is noteworthy that Peter first increased the man's receptivity to the Holy Spirit, which the Apostle was about to confer, by invoking the name of Jesus so that the beggar knew a healing -- much desired -- was to be offered to him. Thus, the heightened receptivity of the crippled man welcomed the infusion of the Holy Spirit as it became available in Peter's hands. In similar manner, we recall, Jesus had also used a touch of his fingers in his miracles of healing; indeed, even the angels had done likewise at Jesus' resurrection. Hence, again we perceive that such physical contact to conduct a flow of the Holy Spirit was exactly as modern science would expect even in many other forms of electronic transmission.
Now let us examine the question of where the clusters of the Holy Spirit came from. We have earlier deduced, of course, that the basic source of the Holy Spirit is in Heaven. Yet, the clusters received by the Apostles at Pentecost must have been aimed at the room where they were assembled from some place nearer to Earth than Heaven. Hence, it is is an inescapable conclusion that they were aimed from Earth's relatively nearby Annex of Heaven. Moreover, we deduce that the aiming had to be done by heavenly beings who used the Annex as a temporary abode. More specifically, we deduce that Jesus himself had remained on that "platform in the sky" to fulfill his promise to send additional quantities of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.
The conclusion that it was Jesus himself who sent the clusters of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles from such an Annex is further supported by the fact that he logically desired not only that his promise should be quickly fulfilled but also to demonstrate to them that he continued living and in possession of divine powers despite his 10-days-earlier departure from Earth. Likewise, a companion conclusion that Jesus remained near Earth for probably no less than a year following his ascension -- to enable him to stay in close touch with earthly affairs while the Apostles were adjusting themselves to their increased responsibilities -- will be further supported in our present chapter when we shall analyze the phenomena related to the conversion of St. Paul.
Finally in our study of the Pentecostal experience we note a further significance in the fact that it came precisely 10 days after the ascension, even as the ascension was precisely 40 days after the resurrection. Thus, such precision combined with the fact that 40 is the fourth multiple of 10, strongly tends to indicate that the Annex had been known to Jesus to be normally operating in a 10-day orbit. In other words, the departure of the Annex from a close and hovering proximity to Earth had begun at the time the angels who had participated in the resurrection had completed their task. Accordingly, Jesus could have chosen to make his ascension at the orbital returns of the Annex at any 10-day juncture. Likewise, he could have made the Pentecostal phenomena occur 20 days, for example, after his ascension instead of 10. Thus, we can further comprehend why Jesus told the Apostles they would receive the promised infusion of the Holy Spirit "not many days hence," rather than at a specific date. He simply contemplated a possible delay in the fulfillment of his promise; hence, he gave them an indefinite mention of time rather than risk that a 10-day promise unfulfilled for an added 10 days would have left the Apostles emotionally upset at a critical moment. On the other hand, he did not want to specify on the 20th day, which would have allowed sufficient margin for contingencies, because he knew the 10th day would be preferable if it also proved to be possible.
Why didn't Jesus simply arrange to have an increased quantity of the Holy Spirit conferred upon the Apostles shortly before his ascension, instead of waiting until later? One part of the answer must have been that he alone could not have supplied the vast quantity needed for twelve Apostles simultaneously; yet for various reasons he did not wish to call upon angels to provide assistance. Quite probably he realized that if such aid from angels had been openly provided it would have suggested more than he then desired the manner in which his resurrection itself had been accomplished. Another part of the answer, which we have earlier cited, is that he wanted the Pentecostal phenomena to demonstrate that he continued to be God's still-living Son even though his own departure from Earth had been already accomplished.
STILL OTHER EXPERIENCES OF THE APOSTLES, in the very earliest times of the Christian Church -- particularly of Peter and Paul -- are also highly pertinent to the content of our present study.
Thus, although we shall need to defer to a later chapter a part of our analysis of the status of Peter, it will be convenient to begin the present stage of dealing with both of these Apostles by examining how it was that Paul was converted to Christianity in a phenomenal experience on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus.
Previously, Paul's name had been Saul and as a child he had been trained in the rigorous discipline of the Pharisees. As a result, he had been horrified when numbers of his fellow Jews accepted Jesus as being God's Son. Hence, Saul had made himself a relentless persecutor of Christians until the day when he became a Christian himself. Thus, it had been Saul who stood by with approval when Stephen, one of the first of the Church's deacons, was stoned to death by a mob of anti-Christians. Likewise, it had been Saul who "made havoc of the Church, entering into every house, and seizing men and women, committed them to prison." Finally, Saul had obtained permission from the Sanhedrin to go to Damascus to wage a maximum campaign for destruction of the Christian religion in that Greek and Jewish city.
So it was that Saul, accompanied by several helpers, was proceeding on the road to Damascus when "suddenly there shined round about him a light from Heaven (i.e., from the sky) and he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecuteth thou me?"
"Who art thou, Lord?" Saul asked, and the voice answered, "I am Jesus whom thou persecuteth." Then, as further related in the Scriptures, the voice told Saul to continue into Damascus, there to wait for further instructions.
Because the light had blinded Saul, he had to complete the journey by being led by his companions. yet, how the light was confined to so narrow a beam that it struck only Saul has been a matter that has had to wait for the knowledge of modern science to provide the obvious explanation.
By the time Saul arrived in Damascus another phase of a highly complex network of related events was occurring there. This began when a Christian named Ananias beheld Jesus in a vision wherein Ananias was told to go to the home of another Christian, Judas, where the blinded Saul was being taken. The name of Saul, however, filled Ananias with terror. "Lord," he said, "I have heard by man of this man, how much evil he has done to the saints in Jerusalem, and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name." In the visions, Jesus replied that Saul had become "a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles." Thus, Ananias was just one of several persons who had a knowledge of what had happened to Saul en route to Damascus; indeed, it was Ananias -- rather than Saul -- who was the first to hear of the special task among the gentiles which would dominate the remainder of Saul-Paul's life.
Ananias found Saul at the home of Judas as the vision had said, and so it was that Ananias told Saul that "the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me that thou might receive thy sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Then, says the Scripture, Ananias placed the hands on Saul, whereupon "he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."
Thus, it is significant not only that the blindness of Saul was healed by an infusion of the Holy Spirit, and that this typically involved a laying-on of Ananias' hands, but also that there continued to be others besides the Apostles whose content of the Holy Spirit enabled them to perform a healing process. Likewise of major significance, it is evident that Jesus was near enough to Earth not only to cause the phenomenon which temporarily blinded Saul, but also to be in communication with both Saul and Ananias.
Saul marked his conversion by changing his name to Paul, and soon thereafter "preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God." However, on a visit to Jerusalem, Paul later found the other Apostles were still afraid of him until Barnabas persuaded them of Paul's conversion. Also, it was during that visit that both Peter and Paul began to be jointly involved in further phenomena of much significance.
Peter's part in those developments began with a dream or trance in which he saw "all manner of four-footed beasts of the Earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things," and heard a voice saying: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." Peter protested he had never eaten anything which Jewish laws defined as unclean. The voice responded, however, "What God hath cleansed, call that not thou common." The dream-trance experience continued, however, to puzzle Peter until other events explained its meaning. These began when Cornelius, a Roman centurion, had a vision in which an angel told him to invite Peter to his home. Because the Jewish religion held that Gentiles were unclean in a spiritual sense, Peter would not ordinarily have accepted the invitation. Yet, when messengers from Cornelius told of the angel's instructions it became apparent to Peter that his own dream of "what God hath cleansed" had been intended to indicate an analogous application to people rather than just to food.
On Peter's arrival, Cornelius gave him further details. "Three days ago I was praying in my house," Cornelius said, "when suddenly I saw a man in front of me in shining robes. He said, "Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been accepted as a sacrifice in the sight of God; so now you must send to Jaffa and fetch Simon known as Peter who is in the house of Simon the tanner. So . . . . here we all are . . . . to hear what message God has given you for us." Thus, as the group with Cornelius included a number of Gentiles in addition to the centurion himself, the relationship between Peter's dream and the vision of Cornelius became fully clear. "The truth I have now come to realize," Peter said, "is that God does not have any favorites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him."
Such were the words which marked the beginning of a fundamental turning point in the membership concepts of the Christian religion. Thus, although God had singled out the Hebrews as a Chosen People for a special purpose, it had become fully clear to Peter that God's Heaven was open to Gentiles the same as to Jews.
Even so, the events at the home of Cornelius had not been completed. Instead, while the Apostle was expounding the teachings of Jesus, "the Holy Spirit came down on all the listeners." This time, the Holy Spirit may have been invisible but its presence was unmistakable when those present not only began "proclaiming the greatness of God" but also began "speaking strange languages" as had been the case at Pentecost. Thus, it became obvious to Peter that it would be folly to withhold Christian membership from Gentiles; hence, he gave orders for all present to be baptized.
When Peter returned to Jerusalem, however, he found a Council of Apostles was dubious about the acceptance of Gentiles until he explained the lesson that had been taught in his experience with Cornelius. Even so, there remained a question of whether the Jewish rite of circumcision should be required of Gentiles as a preliminary to baptizing them as Christians. Paul, however, knowing himself to have been personally chosen by Jesus for the specific purpose of taking Christianity to the Gentiles, had never had any doubts on this score; instead, he had already been converting many Gentiles without requiring circumcision. Nevertheless, it was Peter who produced the arguments to persuade the Council to accept his own and Paul's already-taken position. Recalling that God had given the Holy Spirit to the uncircumcised Gentiles at the home of Cornelius, Peter contended this showed that the rite established in God's covenant with Abraham was unnecessary for Gentile converts. Thereby, of course, he also implied that, as an introduction to Christian membership, circumcision was unnecessary even for Jews.
Also significant is the fact that it was the whole Council of Apostles which rendered a decision relating to the Gentiles that accepted the Peter and Paul recommendations. Thus, although it was evident through the phenomena experienced by Paul, Peter, Cornelius, and others, that Jesus -- from a hidden temporary abode near Earth -- was still taking a hand in those days in the ecclesiastical enterprise which he had launched, it is also evident that this was a period in which he was gradually withdrawing from direct interventions, preparatory to entrusting the Church entirely to human controls.
Let us note that even the complex relationships among the events we have been examining are themselves convincing evidence that they were arranged by Jesus himself. Thus, it is plain that Saul could have been converted in undramatic secrecy; instead, his conversion involved a series of events arranged not only to ensure they would be endlessly remembered but also to help rescue him from suspicions relating to his previous background. For example, Saul could have been cured by Ananias alone; instead it was arranged that Ananias and Judas would be co-participants, each corroborative of the other. Similarly, it is significant that Cornelius sent for Peter without knowing of Peter's dream, while Peter responded to the invitation without knowing how the dream and the invitation would be jointly involved in a then still-hidden purpose. Finally, none of the participants in the early stages of the pattern of related events had any advance idea of how all these pieces would be fitted together in a then-unforseen Council of Apostles later.
The fact that many people have continued to doubt the reality of the events we have been examining means, however, that our science-minded modern World needs also a sure explanation in terms of modern science especially concerning the beaming of the light which blinded Saul and his hearing of the voice of the distant Jesus. Thus, we have already made it clear how an angel could appear in person as in the experience of Cornelius. Also, our study had already made it clear how the Holy Spirit can enter a human body and be transmitted to another human body to cure a disability as in the healing of the blinded Saul. Likewise, it has been made clear how Jesus surely made use of a temporary abode on an Annex of Heaven, near Earth, to be within a practical operational distance for serving his purposes during the early post-ascension period.
As for Saul's experience on the road to Damascus, we note that both a voice and an illumination came from what was surely a not-too-distant Annex of Heaven. Thus, a special clue to a full explanation is found in the fact that although Saul's companions heard the voice, it was only he who saw the illumination. We perceive, therefore, that the light had been transmitted in a beam so narrow that although it came from a great distance its arrival-size was probably no larger than Saul's head. Yet, until past the mid-point of the 20th century, no human knowledge existed to explain how a light could be transmitted in confinement to so narrow a beam.
However, modern science has found itself able, by the "laser" process, to project a beam of such concentrated light not only from Earth to the Moon but also for it to bounce back to Earth again. Moreover, such a beam is known to be capable of carrying not only a single voice but even of hundreds of voices simultaneously. Thus, even on the basis of merely human abilities it can no longer be said that it was "impossible" for Jesus to transmit the light which blinded Saul and to engage in a long-distance two-way conversation with him. To the contrary, we deduce that Jesus used a process analogous to laser. This does not mean that God's Son needed complex mechanisms. What it does mean, however, is simply that Jesus surely employed the same principles of light and sound transmission which are the basics of laser.
Thus, whereas the human use of laser required a complex electronic build-up of light particles and their passage through a special crystal, it is evident that Jesus achieved a similar level of light intensity and narrow beam by simply transmitting particles of the Holy Spirit through an easily available similar crystal. Indeed, in this connection we may also recall how ordinary stones beneath God's feet glowed like sapphires on Mt. Sinai.
Let it be perceived, therefore, that our study is still holding fast to the position that God and his Son do not violate the laws of nature, that their wonders are performed wholly within the laws of nature. At the same time, of course, we are also pointing out that -- even at the very minimum of divine know-how -- all things which are possible for humans to do are even more easily possible for God and for Jesus. In other words, what folly it would be to suppose that we have greater skills than theirs! Indeed, considering how vast was the scientific know-how in Heaven long before our Earth came into existence, we may be certain that even such mechanisms as humans now use for laser were available to Jesus if he really needed them.
Thus, we may be sure that Jesus had the means to shine upon Saul the light which the Bible describes and to use the same beam for transmitting a two-way conversation. Likewise, we may be sure not only that Jesus could look through the beam to see Saul but also that Saul similarly had at least a glimpse of Jesus. Of course, such seeing through a beam of light is not (yet) within the limits of human technology. Nevertheless, it is self-evident that Jesus himself was not present on the road to Damascus where he would have been seen by Saul's companions; thus, it had to be that the beam of light originated at a great distance and that it was the means by which two-way seeing and two-way hearing were both transmitted. Indeed, it is obvious that Jesus had to make use of just such a beam, and to look through it, even to locate Saul on the road to Damascus. In other words, Jesus did not just aim the beam in the general direction of Earth; instead, he not only had to see-to-identify the road itself but also to see-to-identify even the face of Saul himself.
A GREAT MANY PURPOSES OF GOD WERE SERVED by the Apostles' experiences during the first few years subsequent to the departure of Jesus from Earth. Let us note, therefore, that a considerable number of these circumstances were specifically designed to comprise a bridge of transition from a condition in which the Deity's Son had personally provided leadership for the nascent church to one in which it would be guided by human -- and quite fallible -- intellects.
Thus, the Apostles needed to be confronted with immediate problems requiring solutions for a gaining of self-confidence in their own decisions. On the other hand, however, there was a parallel need for them to be reminded that they were capable of making mistakes; that they should never believe themselves -- either as individuals or as a group -- to be infallible.
Accordingly, Jesus made it quickly evident to the Apostles that he had not provided them with a totality of theological and moral knowledge in a completely preassembled package. Indeed, as they quickly discovered, the Church, its clergy as well as its laity, would ever need to seek out and accept a great many new truths to fill previous voids and to correct previous errors.
Even before Pentecost, the Apostles had begun to assume their newly enlarged responsibilities, as in the choosing of Matthias as successor to Judas Iscariot. Thus, although they had not encountered any demonstration of a lack of infallibility, either individually or is a group, it is significant that Matthias was chosen by group decision.
In the events connected with the conversion of Saul-Paul, however, there was a discovery that all of the original Apostles had once been in error in supposing that Gentiles should identify themselves as Jews before they could be full participants in the Christian religion. Moreover, in the light of modern knowledge, it is evident that all of the Apostles were guilty of various errors at various times, mixed among the great truths which they had come to possess. For example, they were in error in their belief that the origin of God had preceded the creation of the Universe. Likewise, they were victims of a fallacy that God had made our Earth the center of the Universe, an error not acknowledged by subsequent clergy until the relatively recent time of Galileo. Similarly, the Apostles were victims of the misconception that God "manufactured" the first members of our human species much as a sculptor shapes moist clay, an error not exposed until the still more recent time of Charles Darwin and still uncorrected even in some Christian circles today.
Concerning Paul in particular, it is evident that he once erred in believing that the Second Coming of Christ would occur in Paul's own lifetime. Likewise, there had been the error of Peter, on the eve of Jesus' crucifixion, of denying any association with the Christian movement; later, Peter was guilty of still other errors which our study will presently identify.
Thus, because God's plan requires Mankind -- and even the Church -- to be limited to a gradual approach toward a completeness of moral and theological knowledge, we perceive that Jesus had two chief ancillary reasons for allowing the Apostles to be in error in some of their views. First, he wanted to drive home the point that Man's theological and moral knowledge was not already complete; that many new truths would need to be later discovered by human intellects rather than by divine revelation for the supplanting of previous voids and errors, and that even in the discovering process there would be occasionally fresh errors which would be committed. Second, to persuade the immediate and future clergy (and laity) of the Church not to oppose or evade the discovering of new truths, he wanted to demonstrate that infallibility had not been conferred even on any of the Apostles themselves.
Jesus well understood that some truths would need to be learned or relearned by the Apostles (and similarly by the Church in later centuries) by a process of inadvertently committing an error so that it would become identified as such both by its unhappy consequences and by logic prompted by such results. Thus, we find a special significance in the fact that a huge fiasco resulted when Peter and other Apostles approved an attempt to enroll all of the early Jerusalem Christians in an economic-social-political relationship of a kind known today as Collectivism.
As the Book of Acts describes that experiment with a brevity dictated obviously by a related embarrassment, "The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common; they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed." Plainly, the Apostles had forgotten or overlooked the lesson that God much earlier had taught the Hebrews in Egypt when they similarly surrendered the individual ownership of their properties into the Collectivist controls of Pharaoh's State. Likewise, the Apostles had forgotten or overlooked the full meaning of Jesus' words in which he said, "The poor ye will have with you always."
That the Apostles' experiment with the anomaly of "Christian Collectivism" proved to be a fiasco can be known from the fact that it clearly died out amid highly unpleasant circumstances. It can also be known from logic alone. Thus, the defects in the Apostles' coercive attempts to put Christianity on a Collectivist basis are wholly apparent. In the first place, the program -- with childish illogic -- implied that there was some special virtue in a collective possession of money as distinguished from tangible property; in turn, with like illogic, it was implied that there was a corresponding lack of virtue among the buyers who supplied the money so that they became the owners of the goods and services which the followers of the Apostles sold. In the second place, the Apostles had overlooked the inevitability of an exhaustive drain on the collectively-held wealth that was soon imposed by "free loaders" -- people who could limitlessly inflate their actual or imagined "needs" far beyond their productive capabilities or intentions of contributing to the pooled wealth. In the third place, the fallibility of the Apostles was shown by their overlooking the impossibility of a bureaucracy, even with good intentions, to measure the variations of individuals with respect to their put-ins and take-outs with the correctness requisite for justice for all.
Of course, all of the Apostles shared in that temporary Collectivist manifestation of Apostolic fallibility. On the other hand, there is added significance in the evidence that Peter was not only a chief proponent of that early Christian dabbling in Collectivism but also was guilty of a grievous corollary error when he dealt so harshly with two "half-way" members of the group-ownership structure that they died of fright when he declared they were guilty of a sin which actually was non-existent. The two who so died (named Ananias and Sapphira) had, as a matter of fact, shown themselves wiser than Peter in their suspecting an unsoundness in the group-ownership program. Thus, instead of surrendering all of their wealth to the group's possession, they had simply sought to protect themselves from the risk of poverty by retaining a portion of their wealth in their own hands. Yet, Peter condemned them with such a high degree of Collectivist fervor that they, supposing him to have been endowed with divine judiciary powers, collapsed and died while he looked on.
After the Collectivist experiment had collapsed, however, Peter and the others made no effort to revive it. In other words, by seeing the unhappy results of their own error they learned an economic-social-political truth which they fallibility had previously lacked.
Nevertheless, even to the end of their days, the Apostles never came into possession of all theological and moral truth. Instead, as Jesus intended, it remained for other men in later centuries -- both clergy and laity, both Christians and non-Christians -- to make additional discoveries of theological and moral truths to supplant previous voids and to correct previous errors.
THE NEED OF ALL EXISTING RELIGIONS in our modern World for still more advancements of truth than have been cited up to the present point of our study will be further explored in subsequent chapters herein.
Thus, we shall next need to deal with the long-disputed questions of how to fulfill the intentions of Jesus with respect to the kind of organizational structure requisite for proper management of the Church, especially concerning the correct relationships between clergy and laity and between Church and State. Also we shall need to determine what pedagogical techniques should be used by the Church for maximum efficiency in fulfilling its obligation to teach; thus, in this category we shall need to clarify the real purpose of "worship," deduce the real purposes of the Christian sacraments, and examine the usefulness of liturgies and the mechanisms and efficacy of prayer. In turn, we shall properly consider the available processes and the prospects for all of the existing religions of modern Man to rid themselves of moral and theological voids and errors by putting themselves in possession of a unity of moral and theological truth.
Preparatory to considering the correct relationships between Church and State, however, it will be appropriate now to note again that our study will deal only to a limited extent with the questions of morality in the economic-social-political conduct of nations and men. This will be for two basic reasons which already have been mentioned or implied. First, as our subsequent analysis will show, the Church's authority to teach morality was divinely intended to include only its basics -- leaving it for secular society to learn how to translate those basics into the greater complexities of modern life. Second, to deal with the vastness of those complexities would be too large a task, would require too many pages, to be included within the covers of our present study; thus, the World's need to learn with certainty what morality requires in secular conduct can be adequately served only by the preparation of some other new study that will be allied to but separated from our present study, even though such a sequel to this present volume will find it necessary to deal initially with morality's most bedrock fundamentals in such a way as to slightly overlap the content which is herein supplied.
We shall, however, make one exception to such a separation of related studies by dealing to a limited extent herein with the World's size of population problem for the sufficient reason that the disputed matter of birth control measures has been unfortunately hitched to certain theological concepts in vast need of correction and clarification.
Finally in this bridge of words to the chapters which follow, let it be noted again that the scope of religious truth involves modern as well as ancient matters. Thus, it requires not only the discovering of truths to fill previous voids or correct previous errors of theology and morality but also a logical analysis of all matters which generally relate to the ecclesiastical organization which Jesus founded and which he charged with an obligation for the teaching of truth to nations and men.
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