The Great Reversal

Transparency in Heaven

by Tony Stoltzfus

An important key to seeing from heaven’s perspective is understanding the Great Reversal. What is closed and invisible on earth will be open and transparent in heaven, because we will inhabit a new creation with new dimensions. It's going to be awesome!

The easiest way to understand this is by analogy. When you go to a party or to root for your team and meet new people on earth, what part of them do you experience first? You see their hair color, whether or not they have glasses, how tall they are, or some other bodily characteristic. You see the physical part of them first. It is only as you ‘get to know’ a person over time that you experience their inner thoughts, feelings and values. Their thoughts and feelings are hidden inside the physical container of their body, and only the outside of the container is accessible to you at first.

The true self within us (containing our thoughts, feelings, memories, beliefs and desires) can only express itself through the medium of the body—the physical container. We use speech to communicate, and physical sound waves created by our bodies convey our thoughts to another. We move our muscles, and our hands convey the body language clues that reveal the heart. We take a physical action, and our motive of love or anger, fear or security is revealed for all to see. But without the words or actions produced by our physical body, no one can know what goes on inside us. >Everywhere, a physical intermediary stands between your true self and mine. The outward body is a container for the soul, and the soul can only express itself through the body.

Now, here's where things get interesting. In heaven, we still inhabit a body, but it is completely transparent to what's on the inside. That's the Great Reversal! Our true self, the soul and spirit, are no longer hidden, unable to communicate directly. Meet someone in heaven, and the first thing you’ll see is their spirit shining brilliantly out, overflowing the container of the body and communicating directly with your spirit. Instead of hiding the inner self, the body is transparent to the light of glory pouring out of the spirit within. Heaven turns us inside out. Our light is no longer hidden under a bushel, but shines out for all to see. Here's another analogy. Imagine a lamp on a side table, holding a light bulb within a dark lamp shade. During the daytime, when the room is bright, we first perceive the shade. It may be only later (if at all) that we realize there is a light bulb shining inside it. The bulb is there, but it is hidden within the shade. Now picture that same lamp, only this time at night. You immediately perceive that they lamp is on from the light it produces. The way we look on earth is like the lamp in daytime. Our body is the dark shade on the outside, protecting and concealing our spirit (the light) within. When others look at us, they see the outside, and only perceive the light within if we tip up the shade.

Now, imagine that shade is clear, transparent glass. The first thing you’ll see is the bulb – the burning glow within shining out through the nearly-invisible shade and capturing your attention. It is only later that you realize from the transient reflections off the glass that the light is contained within a physical shade. In heaven, our body becomes like that transparent lamp shade. Our true self shines forth through the clear body of the glass shade and falls on those around us. They first thing they see is the bulb, our inner essence. In other words, they see our heart and who we really are first. No physical intermediary of words or actions is needed to communicate. This is accomplished not by making our body more transparent (replacing the shade), but by increasing our spirit's ability to communicate. We live in this fallen world as spiritual beings, yet with limited access to the larger spiritual realm. When we enter that larger world and inherit it's true abilities, our ability to see in the spirit will be radically increased.

The Great Reversal in Scripture

So where in the bible does this picture come from? An inner light shining out from a transparent physical thing is a common picture of heaven. For instance, Revelation 22 describes the river of life as ‘bright [or ‘clear’] as crystal’. The root for crystal comes from the Greek word krystallos— from kryos, which means frost or ice. The ancient Greeks believed the clear, glass-like quartz crystals they found in the Alps were made of ice frozen so hard it could not melt. The word for ‘bright’ in John’s phrase “bright as crystal” is lampron – where we get our word for lamp. It is also translated “clear, gorgeous, bright, shining, or fine.” The verse in questions reads, “He showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the lamb” (Rev 22:1). To be a bit more literal, we might translate it as, “A river of life-water, clear and lamp-bright, shining as through eternally-frozen rock-quartz.”

What John saw in heaven looked like the clearest, most transparent naturally-occurring thing he knew, shining like it had a flame burning inside it. Its most striking attribute was the light shining out from within the physical container, not the reflection off the river’s surface (what we would normally notice first). Amazed, he described this flow as a torrent, a flood, pouring out from God’s throne. It looked like a river, in that it was solid, more physical than air, yet clearer than any water he’d ever seen. It was lit from within, emitting light instead of reflecting it. And its essence was neither light nor water, but life. Was this thing a river filled with light? Or was it a light pouring out so voluminously that it look like a river?

What John struggles to describe was a substance with properties unknown in the physical world. He compares it to a river, and to a light, and to a rock crystal, but it was not any of these things. What John saw was the inner essence of God, his true being, pouring out of him a cataract of glory and life and love. It appeared physical to him because glory is a physical thing in heaven. It had physical form, just like we have physical bodies, but in heaven the physical was transparent to the life within. The new creation is a physical place, but those physical dimensions are only a part of the larger space of heaven. Seeing in the larger dimensions makes the physical transparent.

Another example of how the Great Reversal conveys new properties on the physical world is seen in the description of the city of God in Revelation 21:21. John described it as being made of ‘pure gold, transparent as glass’ (Rev. 21:21). He saw a city where even the brilliance of the most valuable metal known was overshadowed by this inner light. John is accurately relating exactly what he saw—that the presence of God within the physical object was so immediate that the object is seen as transparent to the spirit within. John comprehended that the most ‘real’ part of the city was not roads and buildings, but its spiritual presence shining out through a transparent container of matter.

Shining Forth

The root word of ‘transparent’ (diauges) in this passage comes from ‘auges’, meaning brightness. It is literally, to shine (auges) through (dia). Diauges is also used of the breaking of daylight on the darkness of night, or to describe the light dawning in our hearts: “So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns [or “shines through”—diaugazo] and the morning star arises in your hearts” (II Pet. 1:19). Here again we have the imagery of a lamp (spiritual reality) shining through and revealing what is in the heart.

This same theme is found in Ezekiel, where the prophet states that: “over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of a firmament, shining like crystal…” (1:22). Here again, light and transparency characterize heavenly things. He also saw on the throne a human form, “as it were gleaming bronze, like the appearance of fire enclosed round about…” Both John and Ezekiel are careful to say things looked like fire or had the appearance of crystal. In other words, they knew they were describing things that had no human equivalents, so they were reduced to making similies—describing the heavenly in inadequate earthly terms.

What this all means is that in heaven, you can look forward to "knowing fully, even as you are fully known." You will have relationships without barriers; and the love others and Father have for you will directly impact your heart--words and actions will not be needed to feel the full impact of his love. And that is going to be way cool!


This article is from a forthcoming book on heaven's perspective by Tony Stoltzfus. When I finish it, you can get it at Coach22!