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The Gospel of the Nephilim


Old Testament Reading: Genesis 6:1-4

New Testament Readings: Colossians 1:19-20; 1 Peter 3:18-20

When one takes the trouble to tie together some of the intriguing loose ends of the Bible, those verses and passages which seem to suggest odd implications that hardly fit into any familiar theological system, sometimes one discovers strange things indeed. The three passages we just read are an example. Together they suggest the exotic notion that other beings besides Homo Sapiens once fell into sin and that, stranger still, they were redeemed by Jesus Christ.

These are the mysterious entities called the Nephilim, the mythic titans of the Bible from whom Nimrod and Goliath of Gath were descended. Colossians says Christ died to reconcile the heavenly beings called Principalities and Powers to himself and to end their estrangement from God. And before Easter Morning he went in ghostly form to the unthinkable place of their imprisonment, as if pure spirit can be confined, and there he preached to them some alien gospel.

What sort of gospel would it have been? And can we picture these vast superhuman intelligences passing the ages spinning out theologies of the Cross based on that unknown redemption? Was there an Anselm, a Gregory, among the ranks of the Powers?

Alas, it is a secret forever closed to the prying eyes of mere mortals, as when in the Book of Revelation the Seven Thunders sounded forth some message too potent for human ears, and John the Seer was bidden seal it up! If there were in fact a Gospel of the Nephilim, we could never know it. Our own redemption is enough to occupy us for a long time to come.

What I have just said may seem to be nothing but the vainest variety of speculation, yet I think the notion of an unknowable Gospel of the angels and Giants is a useful foil, a kind of missing piece, an implicit benchmark by which our religious expectations and disappointments are often   measured. Before I am done this morning I hope you will see what I mean.

You see, I am convinced that the great temptation for religious seekers is to strive for a gospel not meant for them. If, as 1 Peter says, the angels longed to look into the things concerning our salvation, it is equally true that the eyes of mortal man seek with Promethean curiosity to seize a religious reality too great and too high for them. God's great messengers have always had to deal with this lust.

"The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, 'Why does this generation seek a sign?    Truly I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.'" (Mark 8:11-12)

"For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)

"Those who disbelieve say, 'If only a portent were sent down upon him from his Lord!' Lo, Allah sendeth whom he will astray, and guideth unto himself all who turn unto him."     (Quran 13:27)

What is the matter with this demand? It is just that it is Promethean, Faustian. It is seeking a salvation, a revelation, never intended for it, and such seeking is sin. Here is what Arthur Machen says on the subject in his classic tale, "The White People."

"The essence of sin really is ... in the taking of heaven by storm.... It appears to me that it is simply an attempt to penetrate into another and higher sphere in a forbidden manner. You can understand why it is so rare. There are few, indeed, who wish to penetrate into other spheres, higher or lower, in ways allowed or forbidden. Men, in the mass, are amply content with life as they find it. Therefore there are few saints, and sinners (in the proper sense) are fewer still.... Yes; on the whole, it is, perhaps, harder to be a great sinner than a great saint.... There is something profoundly unnatural about sin... Holiness requires as great, or    almost as great, an effort; but holiness works on lines that ­were­ natural once; it is an effort to recover the ecstasy that was before the Fall. But sin is an effort to gain the ecstasy and the knowledge that pertain alone to angels, and in making this effort, man becomes a demon.... The saint endeavours to recover a gift which he has lost; the sinner tries to obtain something which was never his. In brief he repeats the Fall."

In short, those who demanded a sign from Jesus, Paul, Muhammad, all sought a superhuman gospel, a salvation fit for angels, a gospel written in the heavens and engraved in miracles.

In Corinth there was prevalent a Christianity of this type. Its members called themselves the "spiritual ones." Church historians called them Gnostics, for they had, they thought, attained that knowledge (gnosis) that is beyond the heavens, beyond the angels, even beyond the Old Testament God himself!

And such knowledge, they claimed, elevated them to the height of the Nietzschean Superman, beyond worldly good and evil.

Their worship consisted of pneumatic ecstasies, prophetic rantings, boasts of visions and revelations -- and contempt toward those not similarly enlightened.

Paul, who was by no means himself opposed to displays of the Spirit, bade them think again-- were they really so superhuman? Had the mundane world really ended for them? Had they attained final glory? He tried to bring them down to earth, to show them that the bands of flesh and blood, of community and the mutual obligation to love and serve, still bound them to planet earth.

The Gospel of the Nephilim is not for poor mortals, for we are lower than the angels. And as Machen says, the attempt to transcend that humble status makes us into demons. At least into obnoxious and destructive fanatics. Have you ever met the believer in "Christian Perfection" who believes he has transcended sin? True, he is no longer aware of sinning, but his first sin of pride blinds him to all others.

Enough about those deluded souls who imagine themselves to live among the angels already in this life. I think the greater tragedy is that of those who turn away from the Christian preaching because it is merely that of human beings, merely for human beings, not for angels, not for Titans.

They will not believe in the gospel unless a resurrected man shows them the nail-holes. They want nothing to do with it if it is not encased in an inerrant book that dropped from heaven.

Listen to the scene of Jesus' return to the Nazareth synagogue as Mark tells it. Jesus preaches, and no one can deny he is quite impressive. But still they are offended at him. Why? Simply this: "They said, 'Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offense at him" (Mark 6:3).

Jesus' prophethood is discredited by the simple fact that he is one of themselves, a man like them. In their minds, that settles it. He can be nothing more, and it seems to them an intolerable putting on of airs to imagine more! John 7:27-28 says pretty much the same thing: "Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ? Yet we know where this man comes from; and when the Christ appears, no one will know where he comes from."

In other words, he is not mysterious enough! That's why a sign from heaven would go a long way towards enhancing his credibility!

But the word of God does not come with signs to be observed! It is not so weak that it must rely on extraneous fireworks and miraculous advertising! It carries its own convincing power for those who have ears to hear. Those who are on the side of the truth hear its voice.

This is what Paul said, congratulating his Thessalonian converts: "When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers" (1 Thessalonians 1:13).

Why does the word of God, the message of a new life in Christ, come to you in this humble, unverifiable, distinctly unmiraculous way, simply through stammering human witnesses like me? Because you do not speak with the tongues of angels. What the Seven Thunders have said is not for the likes of you.

The Jesus rejected at Nazareth for being merely a Nazarene comes to you in that guise, because you too are no more than Nazarenes! "For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

It is a gospel not for some imaginary world where there is no pain for Christians. Any gospel that promises such things is a deception and a sham. It is a gospel that gives something to cling to when there is pain -- even if that something is the splintered cross of Christ!

It is not a gospel for those beyond all strictures of good and evil. For no one has gone beyond them, Promethean arrogance or Bohemian cynicism notwithstanding!

It may be that in some far-off day, when God is All-in-All, that the distinction between good and evil may become obsolete and stultified. But until then, you cannot transcend morality. If Nietzsche tells you you can, he is wrong! If Ramtha tells you you have, you have not! God, I think, is beyond good and evil, but you, my friend are not!

It is not a gospel that propels its believer into a never-never land where the soul communes alone with Jesus Christ to the exclusion of all outside, for there is no such zone except your own religious narcissism. You cannot have a relationship with Christ in a cozy devotional womb cut off from others, since the only Christ we know of was the one sent into the world. He never was the property of any one devotee, and he is no more now! You may wait for him in your devotional closet built for two, but he will never join you there in its cloying confines!

The gospel for you is a gospel for your brothers and sisters as well. You cannot define your Christianity without them! You must factor in their weaknesses and sensitivities as you make your Christian decisions, and not be like the Corinthians who forgot they lived on the planet with everyone else!

The cross has a bottom! It is firmly rooted in the profane earth, the earth soaked with the violently shed blood of the Messiah who died there, and your devotion has no business straying very far away! It can never rightly soar free into the higher spheres of the Principalities and Powers! The Gospel of the Nephilim is not your Gospel!

The gospel is a great power, yet it comes to you with no form or comeliness that you should desire it. It commands but does not compel your belief. No heavenly signs emblazon its coming. It does not launch you off into the third heaven, but leaves you firmly down on the earth. Because that is where human life is to be lived. That is where you will find those Christ wants you to serve and love. And though he may have preached a different gospel to fallen spirits in their ultramundane prison, for you he has appeared only on your earth, and you can meet him nowhere else.




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