Finney was intoxicated not by mere feelings of joy, but by joy itself, a billion burning quasars of pure joy. All joy he had known on earth was like drinking from the contaminated lower waters, far from the source of the stream. Now he was drinking from the Source itself, the fountain-head of Joy.
This world was so bright and overwhelming he felt it would have blinded and ripped his earthly body to shreds. The joy of heaven was like a volcanic explosion, spectacular and thrilling, but never subsiding. Not like a once-in-a-lifetime eclipse seen for a moment then gone forever, but an ongoing phenomenon, yet one whose familiarity bred neither contempt nor indifference. The longer he experienced it, the more potent it became, as if his capacity to experience joy was increasing by the moment, leaving the next instant always more rejuvenating than the previous. Like a blood transfusion, this admixture of joy invigorated him to explore the further joys of this new and marvelous world. Where should he go next, and what should he do? He would ask his guide.
Finney could see the luminous wonder in the deep-set eyes of the mighty warrior, who seemed at times tutor, philosopher, bard, and poet. Suddenly he realized Zyor was gazing deep into his own eyes, as if he saw something equally remarkable within Finney.
“I long to understand what it means that you, my master, were created in his image. There is something of his very essence in you. Something that permits you to see things that elude my grasp. For now, at least.” Zyor’s voice took on a wistful tone as he added, “But I think perhaps forever. For there are things about Elyon’s relationship with you, things which my kind shall always long to look into, which we may never understand.
“At the heart of the mystery, etched forever in my mind is that incredible day,” Zyor’s voice lowered to an intense whisper, “when Elyon stepped through the portal of eternity and left our world for yours. Creation was a wonder, but not a miracle. It pales in comparison to the true miracle, that he would become...one of you. The Creator becoming the creature. It could not be. And yet it was. It could not happen. And yet it did.”
As he beheld the wonder in Zyor’s eyes, Finney realized the angel was demonstrating the concept he’d earlier expressed—the joy of learning, and the marvel of pondering what he might never understand.
“For a long time, as earth’s history progressed, certain things seemed predictable. My comrades and I began to think we knew what would happen next, that we understood Elyon’s plan. Then, in a moment, our presumption lay shattered. We realized we knew nothing of the ways of God. We had not comprehended the unfolding drama of redemption. It was a terrible realization to learn how little we knew, even having been with him for so long. Terrible, yet,” and Finney saw a faint but distinct smile, “wonderful.
“He became one of you. Not merely like you as I myself have done, but one of you. Not for a moment, but for a lifetime...and for eternity. God became man. While Gabriel announced the miracle on earth, Michael announced it to us. I will never forget his words as he pointed through the portal and we gazed upon that teenage girl. You will meet her eventually, master Finney. She was lovely. She reminded me of your Angela.”
The angel’s fondness for Angela was unmistakable in the way he said her name. Finney was touched by the reminder Zyor had been there beside him when Angela was born and attended all her birthday parties and softball games. He’d been by her bed each night as Finney prayed with her. The valiant warrior, the loyal guardian, had come to love her. With sweet anticipation, Finney longed for the day he’d have the privilege of introducing Angie to Zyor.
In a voice that seemed to take on Michael’s texture and tone, Zyor proclaimed the archangel’s unforgettable words of old—”The unborn child now living in this Galilean peasant girl is the Creator of the universe.”
“When Michael saw the shock on our faces,” Zyor continued, “he added simply, ‘Elyon has become a human child. The Son of God is now the Son of Man.’ “
Finney marveled not only at what Zyor was telling him, but that the angel had never ceased to wonder at an event millions on earth affirmed in their doctrinal statements with such little wonder at all, with hardly more than a second thought. To Zyor Christmas was not making a list and shopping at a mall. It was the heart and soul of the cosmos itself.
“And just when we thought Elyon could not surpass this greatest miracle with another, there came the greater one.” Zyor stood, and his voice trembled, not only with awe, but now with unmistakable anger.
“That little hill, where little men were permitted to do unspeakable things to Elyon’s Son. My comrades and I jammed against the portal, begging permission to break through and strike down the cowards, to unleash the relentless wrath of heaven’s army. We longed to raise our swords as one, to destroy every atom of the dark world. All that was in us thirsted for revenge. We ached to once and for all obliterate that cancer of rebellion against God Most High.”
Finney saw in Zyor seething anger, fierce rage erupting to the surface. The angel paced back and forth like a caged lion, seeming suddenly much taller and more powerful, no longer the gentle teacher. Finney backed out of his way as Zyor metamorphosed, a towering oak tree blown in a storm of wind and lightning, casting a menacing shadow and whipping out wildly with its branches.
“Here were these puny men obsessed with the offenses of others against them, while themselves driving nails through the flesh of God. Any one of us could have struck them all down, and we yearned to do it. We longed to make them eat dust and vomit clay. Millions of us, legion upon legion, crowded forward, from every corner of heaven, pressing and pushing, crying out and begging leave to destroy those who would dare to curse and mock and savage the holy Lamb of God!”
Zyor’s mighty voice echoed in Finney’s ears, and he couldn’t imagine there was anywhere in heaven outside its range. Zyor was completely lost in the memories of that day. Then suddenly it was over. The angel sat down, the anger subsiding as swiftly as it had materialized.
“But Michael would not permit us,” Zyor said softly. “For Elyon would not permit him.”
For a moment Finney thought he saw a tear in Zyor’s eye, but told himself angels did not cry. Did they? Yet now it was clear. Zyor was touched by emotion Finney had assumed him incapable of. And something else was happening. Zyor was becoming a blur. Finney’s own tears obscured his vision now. He too had gone back two thousand earth years, he had been there with Zyor, pushing against the portal, longing to go to earth to punish the enemies of God and rescue the Lamb. He too, in Zyor, had then fallen into a broken heap at the horrid realization that the Lamb must be left to suffer alone.
They sat in silence now.
“We writhed in agony,” Zyor continued. “We had never thought such pain possible here in the perfect realm. And yet we grew to know—though not completely understand—that all this was necessary to meet the demands of Elyon’s justice and his love. He did not need us to rescue him. With a single word, with merely a thought, he could have unmade all men, destroyed the universe, purged all creation of the ugliness that nailed him to that cross. But he did not. He would not. He did not go there to be rescued. He went there to rescue.”
Zyor buried his face in his hands. Finney noticed for the first time how huge and hard and callused those hands looked, in stark contrast to the gentle softness of his face. Finney also realized in this quiet moment that the Bible’s promise of no more crying or pain was indeed for a day yet to come.
As wonderful as this place is, Finney thought, it cannot be everything that heaven will be until Elyon’s plan is completed on earth.
“I can say the words which attempt to explain what happened on that day when Elyon’s Son died...” Zyor drew a deep breath. “But they are only words. I will never understand it. Yet I will never give up contemplating it. And I will never run out of time to do so, nor ever lack the company of those who share my quest and are eager to contemplate the wonder with me. And of all the adventures eternity will bring—most of which I can no more guess than you—the fact that Elyon was slain to buy the souls of men will overshadow everything. May his name be praised.
“These, Master Finney, are things you will never fully understand either—yet I sense that in some ways you already understand them better than I. You are, after all, among those created in his image. Among those for whom he died. You are the bride of Christ; I am merely the servant who attends the wedding and rejoices for both bride and Groom. You are among the privileged people those in the far reaches of the universe marvel at, and shall marvel at for all eternity.
“If I look at you sometimes in awe, remember it is because I know your kind and what you are capable of. I know how the offenses you chronicle others having done against you pale in comparison to your offenses against the Almighty. How all the rage your people direct against others, and a billion times over, should be directed against each of you by Elyon, and for eternity. When you were first closed out of the Garden of God, I thought he was done with you. You have seen many things here that cause you wonder, and you have barely begun to see. But for me, the greatest wonder is simply that you are here at all.
“For I knew what you were before Elyon captured you, and I knew your transgressions on earth even after he first laid hold of you. I marvel at your transformation, which began on earth, from darkness to light. I have never known darkness...though some of my closest comrades once chose that path, before your world was born.
“Twisted and marred beyond recognition, you were transformed by his grace and empowered by his Spirit to live as a light in the midst of the darkest world the universe has ever known, or ever will. And so you lived, Finney Keels, not perfectly, but faithfully. And this you see now is only the beginning of the glory still to come.”
Finney was warmed by the thought of unspeakable privilege in being here...and chilled by the angel’s morbid description of the world he’d once thought of, rather fondly, as his home.