I’ve been reading 2Corinthians lately. I read through Galatians and Colossians before that. The common theme has been to not accept false doctrine. While that has been the main emphasis in these epistles, what struck me most in the past few weeks has been Christ’s character. He is my comforter so that I can comfort others. Our sufferings are meant to further the gospel. So I guess in a way the comforting character of Christ should cause me to discern truth and boldly share the Christ-centered gospel as Paul insisted. Thus by growing closer to Christ and letting his character shape my understanding of God, it should also cause me to assess doctrines currently being preached.
This morning I began to discuss the book Heaven is for Real with a friend. I haven’t read the book and in order to accurately accept or reject it’s claims I need to digest its contents. Many Christians might be hesitant about reading it for fear that they’d become “of the world”. However, I tend to take the position that unless I read opposing views and research beliefs or doctrines contrary to my worldview, or Scriptural contents for that matter, my arguments do not have a firm foundation. If we speak claiming we know something but haven’t researched to understand other theories, we will be made to look like fools. I think this is why we are charged to test all things and accept what is good (1Thess. 5:21). How do we test all things, as commanded, if we don’t test our faith too? Count the cost of being a disciple. (Luke 14:25-35). It’s not something to be taken lightly. So while I should address this topic in greater detail after I’ve fully tested this boy’s claims, I’ll try to speak from what I do know of his assertions and then reflect on what Scripture says about this boy’s revelations.
As far as I gathered from the synopsis of the story, Colton Burpo became ill around 5 years after his appendix burst. While in surgery, he said he visited heaven and could see his parents praying in another room. During his heavenly experience, he met his miscarried sister and great-grandfather. Colton even sat in Jesus’ lap. He then returned to his body and has written his novel telling people about his trip to heaven and back, recalling details about his deceased relations and how Jesus looked and acted.
My focus today will be about Christ’s looks. Scripture is actually quite vague about Christ’s physique. There is a verse, Isaiah 53:2, that briefly mentions a prophecy regarding the Savior’s features. It states that there was no beauty that would attract us to him. Jesus was an average dude, at least in his physical features. He could perform miracles but his physical appearance was common. He was a carpenter’s son and would have been involved in the trade so he had muscles (I should know because my husband is a carpenter and he’s….alright I’ll leave this PG since I am discussing Christ’s looks and all), but his facial features were probably pretty plain.
Here is an interesting expose about Christ’s nationality and appearance: http://sundayresources.net/neil/2012/11/08/blue-eyes-in-the-bible-and-other-misconceptions/. It is an opinion article. Since the Bible doesn’t really touch on outward appearance and focuses more on the heart’s motivations, most theories about Jesus’ physical appearance are going to be opinion articles. We do know Jesus was a Jew. It is likely he had dark hair, tanned skin (he was a carpenter and would have worked outside in the Middle Eastern heat), and dark eyes. We can’t be certain of this since ancient records and Scripture don’t really touch on Christ’s facial features. I recommend reading Josephus’ historical records to get a non-Scripture based account of those times. Even Josephus’ writings don’t contain imagery of Jesus’ face colors.
Yet, Colton isn’t arguing about Jesus’ physical appearance during Christ’s time on earth. Colton saw Jesus in heaven. The question then is not what Jesus looked like on earth, but what his stature and facial attributes would have been in heaven. Although highly allegorical and fantasy-like, the books of Revelation and Daniel give us a brief understanding of the divine Jesus, the Christ seated at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf. Let us then review Revelation and Daniel to find the key to the heavenly Jesus and his physique.
“His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;”- Rev. 1:14 (KJV)
“As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.”- Dan.7:9 (NIV)
From these accounts, we see that Jesus would have had piercing eyes. He was pure, refined by his fire. This was quite a sight. It was so powerful that when John saw Christ, he fell at Jesus’ feet as though a dead man (Rev.1:17a). The heavenly Jesus is not some familiar comrade but is rather a majestic being that invokes a fear akin to reverence.
Colton said Jesus had blue eyes and that he sat in the Messiah’s lap. An apostle who walked with Jesus didn’t even sit in his lap. We might like the idea of children flocking to sit on Jesus’ lap in his throne. However, I think we should be cautious about such a vision. Even Moses was hidden in the cleft of a rock before God passed by and Moses only saw God’s back because his face was too wonderful. (Chesterton writes a fictional story about seeing the face of God in the novel “The Man Who Was Thursday” and is a great read.) Those closest to God, as recorded in the Bible, fell prostrate before the divine Author. While an image of a child sitting in God’s lap might bring a smile to American faces, we would do well to exercise hesitancy before accepting this little boy’s notions. Children might have sat in Jesus’ lap while he was God incarnate, but all the individuals who encountered Christ in his heavenly form before Colton had a reverence for Christ and would frequently bow their faces because God’s majesty was too great to gaze upon.
Thus, as I said before, since I haven’t read Colton’s book I am at a disadvantage in completely dismissing his claims. I will be able to accurately accept or reject Colton’s thoughts by comparing them with the authenticity of Scripture once I have read Colton’s accounts. However, judging from the synopsis I read about his encounter with the divine and reading the biblical character’s encounter with God, I’d say we should review Colton’s experience with grave discernment . I am not saying we should dismiss this boy’s experience as false gospel, but we should assess his claims with due caution.
Christ can be my comforter and empathizer, but he is also my judge and creator. He is awesome. May I, and hopefully others, not confine God to what soothes our souls, but rather reflect on the grandiose measure of his character and appearance.