Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Music of Angels

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:13-14 ESV)

While browsing John Wesley's letters to his brother, Charles, I came across an interesting paragraph. The evangelist talked of celestial music surrounding the death of a Christian lady. He writes to his hymn-writer brother on October 20, 1753:
I firmly believed that young woman would die in peace; though I did not apprehend it would be so soon. We have had several instances of music heard before or at the death of those that die in the Lord. May we conceive that this is literally the music of angels? Can that be heard by ears of flesh and blood?
Wesley doesn't mention her name but apparently he was answering an earlier letter from Charles concerning the situation. On Halloween, October 31, 1753 he writes in another letter to him:
I cannot apprehend that such music has any analogy at all to the inward voice of God. I take it to differ from this toto genere and to be rather the effect of an angel affecting the auditory nerves, as an apparition does the optical nerve or retina.
Perhaps you've heard deathbed experiences of Christians testifying to "seeing" or "hearing" heavenly things before they slipped to Glory, things that others around them did not discern. Just because we normally do not apprehend the spiritual realm in some form of our five senses in our daily lives does not mean it does not exist. Consider the words of the writer to the Hebrews:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV)
Note carefully what he exhorts: "you have come". In other words, the Christians he addressed have already come; they already are citizens of "the heavenly Jerusalem". Though they very much lived on earth they were, "strangers and exiles on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13b ESV).

Eternity is now. Eternal life is now. Jesus is with Christians—in fact, not figuratively speaking. One day Christians will be with Jesus in the same way. Either way, the one is not less real than the other. Either side of the veil does not diminish the reality of the other.