Bloody Wings or A Little Malarky
As Christians we have been promised eternal life, with immortal bodies, living in the presence of God. Have you ever wondered what our eternal bodies will be like. Sure, we know that we won’t get sick or feel pain. But what will we look like? Do the scriptures give us any clues? Well, for over 1000 years Christians have contemplated this question, and one of the vital clues is from 1 John 3:2;
“Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is”.
Very well and good, but what will Jesus look like that we will be like Him. Well, the next verse to look at is from Malachi 4:2;
“But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.”
Now we know from other parts of scripture that the Seraphim and other angelic beings had wings, and we also know that Jesus ascended into Heaven. So, therefore it was not unreasonable to assume that Jesus has wings and so will we. And therefore the common understanding prevailed for many centuries that we, the redeemed, will have wings and sit around on the clouds of Heaven playing lutes in worship to God.
It has been said that trying to explain the scriptures out of cultural reference doesn’t make sense (eg “being washed whiter than snow” is nonsense to someone in New Guinea). We in western Christianity, having battled long and hard to have the scriptures in our own language, still seem to be trapped in a cultural mindset. We read and understand according to our cultural frame of reference. If I said, “go get some milk” you would probably assume I meant go to Woolworths and buy a carton of milk. But for someone living in west Africa, it may mean go milk a cow. My point being, that although we have the scriptures translated into our language, they may not mean to us what they would have meant in their original culture.
Can we glean the subtle nuances of the scriptures, as when they were written, from our perspective of the 21st century? Modern doctrine seems to have concentrated on experiential Christianity. That is, having experienced the Living Lord or the Holy Spirit. And this is good, but often we may have contact and fellowship with someone, and yet still not know them fully. In John 14:9 Jesus said, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?” In the opening verses of the Gospel of John (Jn 1:1,14) we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …… And the Word became flesh”. This would show that God is Flesh, Spirit and Word. We need to know Jesus, not only in Spirit, but in the Word and in the Body. And to understand the scriptures better maybe we need to come to terms with the culture of that time. The strongest link to that culture is through the 3500 years of Jewish culture. Sure, the Jewish culture of today is not exactly as it was 2000 years ago, but there are strong similarities, and a strong historical record to help us on our way. God separated the nation of Israel to be a light to the rest of the world. So why not use that light to illuminate our understanding of our Faith.
A Judaic Prayer Shawl is called a tallit. There are tassels knotted into each corner. These are the tassels mentioned in Numbers 15:38-40. Originally these tassels were attached to the outer robe-like garments. Jesus would most likely have worn such a garment. But as the Jews became spread around the world, culture and climate made it expedient to change their clothing, and the tassels ended up on a rectangular piece of cloth used for special occasions.
The tallit is used as a prayer shawl (normally for morning prayers), as it gives the user a private place to come to God (a prayer closet). You become covered in The Word, or wrapped in the Word. Tallit are used to cover copies of the Torah (thus the Word of God covers the Word of God), and old Tallit are used to wrap old or unused copies of Torah as shrouds for the burial of the Torah copies. Men are wrapped in their tallit for burial and women are covered in one whilst being prepared for burial. It is also known as a mantle, as when Elijah cast his mantle at Elisha (1 Kings 19:17-19). When you cover yourself in the Tallit it looks a bit like a little tent, and it is often referred to as ‘the little tent’ or ‘little tabernacle’; the place of meeting with God. In Jewish custom, then and now, the tallit is used in the wedding ceremony. We see this when Boaz covered Ruth, and today a Jewish bridegroom will place his tallit over his bride, or it is represented as a canopy over the couple during the ceremony.