As we’ve been working through 1 Corinthians at church, our pastor has been pounding home just what it means to be the church – we are Christ’s body, God’s temple; if anyone destroys God’s temple, He will destroy them, etc – I’ve been reminded of a vision I once had. I went to look up the notes I’d written down, and discovered I had been a very bad writer indeed. So this is another attempt to say what I saw. (I say “vision” loosely. I had some pictures come to my mind as a kind of story. Those pictures have stayed with me over the years as a kind of tying together of some themes from scripture. They have been helpful for me to remember.) So:
I saw myself walking through a large mansion, with many floors and hallways stringing rooms in many directions, and I knew that this was the house that God was building, a temple not made by human hands. It was full of rooms, but not full of people, because every part of the house was made up of people – the foundation was Jesus Christ, and the walls and floors and ceilings were made up of the members of His church, each person tightly fitted to the next. The thing that struck me was that the house looked empty. The problem with a house made out of people is that there’s nobody in the house. Who is it for?
I saw that there was a steady flow of visitors to the house – people who were not part of the church. They would tour the rooms, see the architecture and the arrangement of the rooms, the fixtures, the lighting. For some it was like a tour of a museum, or a famous landmark – interesting, but not inspiring. And I thought to myself, that surely the house wasn’t meant for their benefit. Surely we are meant for something more than tourism! But there were others who were able to see more than that – something of God’s design for the world, a reflection of His glory. These people were overcome with awe at the splendor of what God was doing there., and they began giving themselves over to different rooms and walls until they laid down their lives completely and became a part of the building. And I saw that the house was intended for them, in the sense that they were brought there for the sake of the house.
Then I noticed that the air around me was flowing, not like the air of a fan, or the steady flow of a breeze, but the in and out of a bellows, or breathing. I looked around to see what was making the air flow like that, and I saw that the walls and floors were moving. The rooms were oddly shaped, with hardly any straight lines or regular angles, and the hallways connected everything in a kind of bewildering pattern. Each room was constantly changing. Some rooms were expanding and contracting, like giant lungs, which is what was causing the air to flow through the building. Some rooms were actively growing, dividing into new rooms, and changing function as the changed shape. Some rooms were even moving from one part of the house to another! Slowly it dawned on me that it wasn’t just the stones that were alive. The building as a whole was functioning as a living organism. The house itself was alive! Then I could see the house from the outside and saw that the building was slowly taking on the shape of a man, and I remembered what it says in Ephesians – “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man…”
Next, I saw that the entire house was shaken by a terrible earthquake. The ground shook with such force, that I was sure that the entire structure would be broken in half. Whole wings did collapse, and many rooms fell from a great height to be completely severed from the construction, but the building as a whole was not destroyed. However, the earthquake did start a fire that swept through every room, and it burned for a long time, because there was no system for fire suppression, and the rooms that had survived the earthquake were the ones that were most open to air movement throughout the building. When the dust had cleared and the fires had finally stopped, I saw that the house had changed dramatically. Instead of pristine, chiseled blocks, they were smoke blackened and scarred. Not one block was left untouched. They all had chips had broken off, and a network of cracks spidering through them. Dark ravine-like lines traveled the course of every block. The whole thing looked ready to crumble.
I was dismayed. It seemed completely pointless. What good was it to build a building with such character – a living building – only to subject it to earthquake and fire. There had been no attempt at all to protect the building from the dangers of natural disaster. In fact, it looked deliberate, which made the destruction of such value even more meaningless. Why would God do this to the living stones of His own dwelling place? It was awful! Then I heard a voice say,
But now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12:26-29)
Slowly, my perspective was pulled back from the building, and as my view expanded, I saw something different. The house was now covered in a tight network of statues. Every wall was bas-relief; every pillar was a pose. Every floor and ceiling was covered in mosaic. It was as if the earthquake was the last “ting!”, breaking the plaster off a cast iron mold. God was building a house for himself, for his dwelling, according to His glory, and He wasn’t concerned about the impression He made on people who couldn’t see the whole picture.