feast: From Pilgrims to Pillars (Part Two)
Refinement, Enhancement, and Glorification Metaphors
David F. Maas
Given 21-Oct-16; Sermon #FT16-05A; 32 minutes
In the sanctification process, we are refined, enhanced, and ultimately glorified as we are transformed from temporal to eternal. We have some clues as to how we will appear in a glorified state as we look at the description of Christ's glorified body in Revelation and the transfiguration accounts, as well as the radiance of Moses' face as he came down from Mount Sinai. The intensity of the heat in both the refiner's furnace and the potter's kiln resembles the fiery trials Christians must endure for the Refiner to remove the dross. Film restoration provides some analogies, based on modern technology. as to how perishable silver nitrate films can be converted to high quality digitized electronic files, as it were, backing out the damage caused by entropy. Crime forensics DNA research helps us to see how God can indefinitely preserve our character—data collected from our lifetime experiences—-in a kind of schematic diagram. Quantum physics has demonstrated that the matter we perceive is a whirling dance of electrons. As God is light (exuding electrical force fields far more intense than the sun), we human beings, created in God's image, exude electrical energy. In God's kingdom, we will reflect God's self-contained luminosity.
We are going to turn to a number of related scriptures to weave together a theme. All scriptures will be taken from the Lockman Foundation’s Amplified Bible. In my Bible, the editor inserted a caption above chapter 5 in II Corinthians. It reads, “The Temporal and the Eternal,” which summarizes or states in a nutshell the focus of my two-part sermon “From Pilgrims to Pillars,” (or as one individual suggested to me several weeks ago, “From Tabernacle to Temple”—Our Journey toward adoption into the Family of God.”)
The Temporal and Eternal
II Corinthians 5:1-5 For we know that if the earthly tent [our physical body] which is sour house is torn down [through death], we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our [immortal, eternal] celestial dwelling, so that by putting it on we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened [often weighed down, oppressed], not that we want to be unclothed [separated by death from the body], but to be clothed, so that what is mortal [the body] will be swallowed up by life [after the resurrection]. Now He who has made us and prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the [Holy] Spirit as a pledge [a guarantee, a down payment on the fulfillment of His promise].
I Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.
I John 3:2-3 Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory]. And everyone who has this hope [confidently placed] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (holy, undefiled, guiltless).
Now let us move to the last book of the Bible.
Revelation 1:13-16 and in the midst of the lampstands I saw someone like the Son of Man, dressed in a robe reaching to His feet, and with a golden sash wrapped around His chest. His head and His hair were white like white wool [glistening white], like snow; and His [all-seeing] eyes were [flashing] like a flame of fire [piercing into my being]. His feet were like burnished [white-hot] bronze, refined in a furnace, and His voice was [powerful] like the sound of many waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword [of judgment]; and His face [reflecting His majesty and the Shekinah glory] was like the sun shining in [all] its power [at midday].
From here we will go to Mark to read about the transfiguration.
Mark 9:1-3 And Jesus said to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste (experience) death before they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured (changed in form) before them [and began to shine brightly with divine and regal glory]; and His clothes became radiant and dazzling, intensely white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
Matthew 17 adds this dimension:
Matthew 17:2 And His appearance changed dramatically in their presence; and His face shone [with heavenly glory, clear and bright] like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light.
Luke 9:29 As He was praying, the appearance of His face became different [transformed], and His clothing became white and flashing with the brilliance of lightning [harkening back to the dramatic pyrotechnics of Mount Sinai which we rehearsed on the Feast of Trumpets or Yom Teruah].
I do not think anyone of us here could imagine the heart-stopping emotions of the disciples as this dazzling display of pure light opened before them. Several composers for the pipe organ have attempted to replicate this awesome experience through music. The late Bengt Hambraes, a Swedish-born composer who migrated to Canada, has endeavored, with a great deal of success, the overwhelmingly, dazzling, electrifying, nearly terrifying reactions of the disciples witnessing this event in his 1963 composition, The Transfiguration.
This work cannot be performed in a regular concert hall, but requires a venue with high amplitude acoustical speakers which would blast all heavy metal, punk-rock, and hip hop performances right out of the water. Bengt Hambraes’ compositions for organ features both dramatic sound and light displays, dramatically and powerfully using rheostat-like devices to increase the amplitude.
The light switches in my home are equipped with rheostat devices to increase or decrease the brightness, from romantic dim to stark bright. The late David Jon Hill once speculated that when the resurrected saints interface with their physical clientele in the Millennium, they will have to either be equipped with a rheostat device (regulating the voltage emanating from us) or have to wear a kind of bee-keeper costume, or a veil like Moses had to wear when returning from Mount Sinai, as I will read to you from Exodus 34:
Exodus 34:29-35 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hand, he did not know that the skin of his face was shining [with a unique radiance] because he had been speaking with God. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to approach him. When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out. When he came out and he told the Israelites what he had been commanded [by God], the Israelites would see the face of Moses, how his skin shone [with a unique radiance]. So Moses put the veil on his face again until he went in to speak with God.
The purpose of this message is to illustrate the process of sanctification, in which a temporal flawed being is transformed to a new perfect indestructible being, through cleansing, refining, enhancing, and glorifying. The first message dealt with the cleansing process. Today’s message focuses on the refinement, enhancement, and the glorification process. As in the last message, I will be using both classical biblical and modern metaphors illustrating this fascinating process.
Returning to the metaphor of the refiner’s furnace, we understand that ore is crude, unstable, and temporary when compared to the refined metal at the end of the process. Also, returning to Andrew Hessong and Tim Thompson’s article, “Being Purified as Gold,” we learn the following insight:
At this point in the purification process, the crushed and cleansed ore is collected and placed in crucibles of clay; then it must be submitted to the furnace. The dross-filled gold ore melts at the extreme temperature of 1,948 degrees Fahrenheit (1,064 degrees Celsius). In order to raise the furnace to that white-hot temperature, bellows are used to pump oxygen into the raging fire. Once the ore melts, an amazing thing happens: The impurities in the gold begin to rise to the top. The refiner is then able to skim the impurities off the top of the molten metal. The more this process is repeated, the purer the gold becomes.
The spiritual antitype of this smelting process we can equate to the fiery trials Christians face. Though often intense and extremely unpleasant, this vital step is a necessary part of our spiritual sanctification journey.
I Peter 1:6-7 In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Scroll forward to I Peter 4.
I Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test you [that is, to test the quality of your faith], as though something strange or unusual were happening to you.
Only after we have been fired in the furnace, can the Refiner begin to skim the dross from our spiritual character. Isaiah 1:25 says, “And I will bring My hand again upon you and thoroughly purge away your dross [as with lye] and take away all your tin or alloy.” This process, which metallurgists call calcination, is repeated over and over and over. Each time, a little more dross is skimmed off and the gold becomes more purified.
To tolerate such intense discomfort, we must keep the Refiner’s perspective, remembering that the faith and the character they produce our heavenly Father counts more precious than refined gold. We have our Refiner’s full assurance that no matter how intense or painful the trial become, He will not allow a trial to become more than we can possibly handle—and He will provide a way of escape. You might want to jot down I Corinthians 10:13 and Psalm 34 to review that promise.
June Hunt, in her insightful article, “The Refiner’s Fire: the purpose of trials,” asserts, “To gauge his progress, the refiner looks for his own reflection on the surface of the gold-filled or silver-filled crucible. The more dross removed, the less distorted his reflection. The Bible says our Refiner sits over the refining process to purify us, “He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).”
Only when the Refiner looks into the crucible and sees a clear reflection of himself is the process complete.
Like the intense heat of the smelter to purify silver and gold, the intense heat of the potter’s kiln also depicts the intensity of the sanctification process. In his article, “The Kiln of Life,” Steve Wickstrom highlights some insightful facts about turning temporal, corrupt, and unstable clay into permanent ceramic artifacts. He states, “The kiln is a type of oven that produces temperatures hot enough to harden objects made from clay into pottery.” The kilns could produce temperatures between 800-1000 degrees Celsius. This amount of heat is needed to permanently alter the chemical makeup of the clay so that it takes a permanent shape. This super-heated shape can then only be altered by breaking the finished product.
Clay comes from the earth (just as we do) and therefore contains some measure of carbon, organic materials, and sulfur. All these elements burn off between 300° and 800°C. These elements need to be removed or else defects will occur in the pottery during vitrification. If they get trapped inside the clay instead being released, the clay will become discolored and the pottery shape may become distorted.
At about 900°C the clay particles begin to fuse with each other. This bonding process is called “sintering” in the pottery world. After the clay has bonded, or sintered, it is no longer truly clay, but has instead become something that is called ceramic material [temporal to permanent]. At this point the ceramic material can be cooled, removed from the kiln, and painted with glazes for decoration.
The glaze painted ceramic pottery is then placed back into the kiln to finish the firing process. The kiln is then heated to about 1000°C. At this temperature, the ceramic material matures and the glazes are sealed into the material. When it is removed from the kiln, what was once a wet piece of clay shaped on the potter's wheel is now a beautiful piece of pottery.
Now I would like to switch to images and metaphors from contemporary sources, namely the film industry, law enforcement, and quantum physics.
In the early stages of film restoration, copies of the original print were made and stored in a temperature controlled vault to prevent deterioration. It soon became apparent that chemically based negatives and positives are perishable and have the tendency to deteriorate after a time. Like the Masoretic scrolls Richard Ritenbaugh was talking about in his commentary, the chemically-based film does not have a long shelf-life, even in the most ideal cold storage. It reminds me of a statement I heard Herbert W. Armstrong say to a group of students gathered near the library, “We don’t really have true life in the flesh; it is more physiochemical existence.” We could liken ourselves, in one sense, to the volatile silver nitrate prints made before 1929.
Because of the intense efforts of dozens of film restoration societies, by working in partnership with the leading film archives and studios, The Film Foundation has saved nearly 600 films from extinction through the medium of electronic digitalization, restoring them to pristine condition, almost as though they were filmed yesterday.
The same is true with the Old-Time Radio Archives which has electronically re-mastered thousands of old radio programs from the 1930s and 1940s. I am amazed at the dazzling high quality clarity and high fidelity of the Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan radio programs recorded in the 1930’s. I am amazed at house re-mastering and digitization have restored classical features like Citizen Cane and Spellbound, again making it seem like these productions were made only yesterday.
The secret to resurrecting chemical based film media to high definition electronic images is digitization, systematically scanning the data converting the levels of brightness, colors, and audio frequencies to electronic impulses stored in a relatively more permanent data base. As long as the precious data (which is stored as ordered electrical pulses) are transferred from container to container to container such as our old 8mm home movie from the 1950s could be converted to VHS in the 1980s and to DVD or Blu Ray in the 1990s. As long as a company or an individual owns both the equipment to download and to transfer these electronic impulses, the data can be endlessly preserved.
Alan Donahue, in his article “How to Restore Old Movies on Your Computer,” enthusiastically proclaimed that digital storage has made home movies last a lifetime, and not only can computers store footage and make it look as good as the original, it looks even better than the original.
Perhaps that is why some New World Order elitists think they will live forever though some form of programmed mechanical consciousness, as though the contents of their brains could be backed up on a kind of USB flash-drive or external hard-drive preserved for posterity. Like the data gathered from photochemical sources transferred to an electronic medium, our data gathered in our cerebral cortex is stored in our nervous system as electrical charges.
Back on October 12th, John Ritenbaugh referenced the resurrection chapter in I Corinthians 15. He reminded us that not all flesh is the same and that all spirit is not the same, but there are gradations of spirit; only God’s Holy Spirit is guaranteed self-sufficient immortality and abundance of life. Quantum physics has added another subtle dimension to this picture. Matter is essentially not solid as we perceive, but instead is a perpetual dance of electrons. We human beings may be composed of dust, but dust electro-magnified is a whirling dance of electrons.
We learn in the Scriptures that God is light. I John 1:5 says, “This is the message [of God’s promised revelation] which we have heard from Him and now announce to you, that God is Light [He is holy, His message is truthful, He is perfect in righteousness], and in Him there is no darkness at all [no sin, no wickedness, no imperfection].
In other words, we can envision Him as a force-field of electrons more dazzling that the sun. We human beings created in God’s image can also be envisioned as a system of electrical force fields.
In a recent article in The New Science Journal, titled “We are made of Energy, not Matter,” it states, “We are of course made up of atoms. And atoms are continuously giving off, and absorbing, light and energy, all the time. It doesn’t stop even when we sleep. Every cell in the body has its atoms lined up in such a way that it has a negative and a positive voltage, inside and outside. So, every cell in our body is a miniature battery. Each cell has 1.4 volts of energy-not much, but when you multiply by the number of cells in your body (50 trillion) you get a total voltage of 700 trillion volts of electricity in your body.”
The data stored in all our memories are in the form of electrical impulses and can be stimulated to play back the good or sordid details in high definition color. I wonder about Job’s rumination, asking where the spirit in man goes after death, whether it goes in some cold storage vault under God’s throne or some other spiritual archive. I wonder about the form in which this data collected from the spirit in man will take.
Recently there have been some fascinating great leaps forward in crime forensics. In his article, “Building a Face, and a Case, on DNA,” Andrew Pollack wrote, “There were no known eyewitnesses to the murder of a young woman and her 3-year-old daughter four years ago. No security cameras caught a figure coming or going. Nonetheless, the police in Columbia, S.C. last month released a sketch of a possible suspect. Rather than an artist’s rendering based on witness descriptions, the face was generated by a computer relying solely on DNA found at the scene of the crime.”
It may be the first time a suspect’s face has been put before the public in this way, but it will not be the last. Investigators are increasingly able to determine the physical characteristics of crime suspects from the DNA they leave behind, providing what could become a powerful new tool for law enforcement. Already genetic sleuths can determine a suspect’s gender, eye, and hair color fairly accurately. It is also possible, or might soon be, to predict skin color, freckling, baldness, hair curliness, tooth shape, and age.
Even after death and cremation, it is still possible to gather DNA from charred teeth and bone fragments. After the Bolsheviks murdered the Romanovs and attempted to destroy their bodies, scientists have recently traced DNA fragments back to the original Romanov dynasty. From harvesting strands of DNA, it has been possible for researchers to clone a sheep.
The spirit in man has many aspects of God’s capabilities because it was created in God’s image. The digitized archives in Hollywood theoretically could go on endlessly—unless destroyed by an EMP force bomb. The DNA in our bones could exist indefinitely in the grave, even in a cremation urn with bones and teeth fragments. But God forbid, if we are disintegrated in a nuclear bomb, there is no hope—or is there? Hebrews 11:3 teaches us that God created the earth from nothing. If he created it once from nothing, He can create it again from nothing.
Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the spirit. Be afraid of him who can kill both body and spirit in the lake of fire.” As God’s called-out ones, we can be assured that no matter what happens to this clay vessel, the treasure inside, the electronic data infused with godly character-our spiritual schematic diagrams—will be safeguarded by our Creator until our resurrection or transformation.
And then, as Matthew 13:43 says, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”