6. The Power of Story
It is not possible to understand what God is doing in us or in the earth apart from story. Story alone opens up the heart, which is at the center of the revelation of God. That's why the Bible, in contrast to all religious or philosophical books, is so filled with and woven around story, the human story.
6. The Power of Story
And I will give to my two witnesses and they shall prophecy. . . The angel speaking to John - Revelation 11:3
In that day you shall know that I am in the Father and you in Me and I in you. Jesus speaking just before Gethsemane - John 14.
Revelation 11 and 12 are the central chapters to comprehend the transition between two ages that we are in, to recognize and move with what God is doing and is about to do in the earth.
But if you Google “the two witnesses,” you will plumb the depths of the bizarre ridiculousness that swirls around what is known in the church world as “Bible prophecy.” You will even find websites of individual people claiming that they themselves, set above all others, are these two witnesses. It doesn’t take long to sense that they do not know the Jesus upon whose breast we lean our heads.
I have no intention of “predicting” any future events. The prophetic word in the Bible is not given for us to play guessing games with the future. It is given to us to understand the present, particularly the revelation of Jesus Christ in our union with Him.
Peter set the standard for the New Covenant use of Bible prophecy on the day the church was birthed. He looked around at what was happening before His very eyes in the present experience of Christ in the church. As Peter watched, the Spirit of God brought to his mind the prophecy of Joel and suddenly he understood the present experience of the church. He stood up in front of the gathering crowds and said, “This (what you see happening now) is that” (what Joel prophesied). The understanding the Spirit of God gave Peter concerning the prophetic word of Scripture had nothing to do with the political events of the world, but rather the present revelation of Christ in His church.
This is the purpose of all Bible prophecy.
Revelation 11:3 speaks of the normal Christian life. The angel did not say “I will give power,” he said, “I will give.” What is there that we, as believers in Jesus, have not been given? Jesus said,“All authority in heaven and earth is given unto Me, go therefore . . .” Paul said, “All things are yours, whether life or death or…”; he said, “How shall not God, with Christ, freely give us all things?”
But we cannot know Christ in Revelation 11 without approaching the chapter differently than we have approached it in the past. This is true of myself as well. I have little idea, really, of what it is talking about. This is a way we have not been before. I, also, must draw from the understanding of Christ in us revealed as us in this world in order to rejoice in the power of this mighty vindication of God in which His grip has seized us.
It is not possible to understand what God is doing in us or in the earth apart from story. Story alone opens up the heart, which is at the center of the revelation of God. That’s why the Bible, in contrast to all religious or philosophical books, is so filled with and woven around story, the human story.
With The Lion King, I can preach the gospel in the public school classroom. With The Odyssey, I can show a revelation of the knife point of the dealings of God in a man’s heart. You may think me silly, but through The Lord of the Rings (the book, more than the movie), I see the power and victory of God in our lives over all enemies through honor and through weakness, so that tears stream down my face at the wonder and glory of His purposes.
Nothing can show us God like story can. We are caught in the telling of the mightiest story in the universe, and we are the heroes of that story. The ring Frodo carried was the source of the enemy’s power – self living for self – power to compel others for good or for evil, the Lie. The enemy never imagined that anyone, carrying the source of such power, would seek to eliminate it forever.
It wasn’t the wise one, Gandalf, who brought down the enemy. It wasn’t the mighty one, Aragorn, or even the devoted one, Frodo. No. The one upon whose shoulders and sturdy legs the fate of all the world rested, and all free peoples and living things, was the simplest, in some ways the weakest of all the characters of the story. His name was Samwise Gamgee. Sam won solely out of heart, from the deepest love, tested beyond all measure and found true. At the very end we discover that, after all, the entire book was Sam’s story.
Fallen man is still the image of God. That image is darkened by shadow, yes, but man, even in darkness, is still more like God than we can understand.
All of the great tellers and writers of story in human history follow the same pattern for the same purpose. You cannot know what a man is until you open him wide to get past all the facade and deceit and all the masks, to get at his heart, to see what he really is, on the inside, when all pretense is swept away. Only then do you see the heart of this being called “the image of God.”
And to open up a man’s heart, you must press him beyond all measure. He must come to utter failure, to impossibility, to the complete end of himself. And there, for the first time, he knows himself as he really is.
This is exactly what God does with us; this is how we know Christ.
“Oh wretched man that I am, who can save me from the body of this death?” as the deepest cry of the heart, are the sweetest words to our Father. Finally, He can show us who we really are. Christ is our life, we have no other life.
Go to Netflix.com; if you are not subscribed, then do so, you get the first month free. Rent the movie Jane Eyre – 2006 with Toby Stevens and Jane Wilson. There are many Jane Eyre movies, but this is the one I want you to watch.
All human thinking, including most Christian thinking, comes out of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Most of Christian theology views the things God says from the thought processes and the seeing of the tree of knowledge.
You cannot get to the tree of life from the tree of knowledge. There is no path between the two, no connection. You cannot grow out of the tree of knowledge until, finally, you’ve grown up enough to see and understand the tree of life. No, the cross alone is the tree of life, yet we have seen even the cross through the thinking of the tree of knowledge. If you are trying to bring yourself to the cross, trying to die to sin or self, trying to get your flesh under foot, however you call it, all you are doing is sitting fully in the tree of knowledge, looking over at the tree of life, and trying to comprehend the meaning of something you cannot understand by the rules and definitions of knowledge.
And we have never lived in the tree of life, nor have we seen the world or Christian truth from the tree of life – until we comprehend that Christ is our life, we have no other life.
We must make a lateral leap, abandoning utterly the thinking of the tree of knowledge, seeing all things completely out from the tree of life, though it is all brand new to us. It is through story that we are enabled to make that leap. And that story is Christ.
In all great story, the hero loses everything, and in losing everything, he or she wins all that is meaningful. (Sounds like something Jesus said.) In a story like Gladiator, the hero loses everything at the beginning of his journey, and then again loses everything at the end. Yet in losing everything, the hero always wins that which is most important, and that which is most important is always family. (Sounds like something else Jesus said.)
We can read everything in the New Testament mechanically, rooted in knowledge, or we can read everything in the New Testament organically, rooted in story. It is the same words, but they respond totally differently to the two ways of knowing with no connection between them. There is no path from the tree of knowledge to the tree of life!
Charlotte Bronte, who wrote Jane Eyre in the early 1800’s, was the daughter of a clergyman. She and her sister wrote two of the greatest works of literature in all history. The movie I want you to watch opens up to us the genius of this remarkable woman so well.
Consider these thoughts as you watch Jane Eyre. First, it is patterns of truth we are seeking to understand, not the mechanics of principles. Jane Eyre is you and I; Jane Eyre is the bride of Christ (I’m speaking of patterns here). And let me be so bold as to say that Jane Eyre, by pattern, is God.
There are five points, or scenes in the story I want you to notice in particular. First, Jane begins unwanted, growing up under a cloud of false accusation. You will be struck at the awfulness of what she is told about who she is. Then, at the end, Jane in her mid-twenties is a tree of life gathering all whom she knows and loves, from highest to lowest under the abundance of her joy. Consider deeply that final scene. All of the life and goodness, all of the inclusion and place, all that is family, comes from Jane. Even Rochester is a beneficiary of her joy.
So the question Charlotte Bronte explores is how does Jane pass from living under a cloud of hideous and false accusation to extending a tree of life over her “family?” In this passage are three critical points that I want you to ponder. I will even suggest that you stop and watch each of these three scenes a second time through before proceeding on. The rest of the story and the skill of the writer and of the girl who plays Jane Eyre so well, serve primarily to drive these three points as deeply into the heart of the reader/watcher as possible.
The first scene is Jane and Rochester outside under a tree. He is pressing her cruelly, in his crude way, trying to see what she really feels about herself and about him. She makes this statement, “I am your equal in mind and in heart.” This is the first scene to consider.
The second is the largest and the telling point of the entire story. It is the entire period from her walking down the aisle, hoping that she has found happiness, to her collapse into unconsciousness and sickness in a muddy field far away. The story from beginning to end is told primarily to give scope and meaning to this utter shattering of her heart.
The final scene to consider is the moment when she hears the call of her beloved and wakes out of sleep, as it were, by responding to that call as the only passion of her heart. It is in this moment that her shattered heart rings true.
It is these three points, standing firm in who she knows she is, the cruel shattering of all of her dreams and hopes, and the leaping of her true heart in response to the call of her beloved, that show us how one born under accusation becomes a tree of life.
I cannot explain the meaning and significance of these things to you. That comes only through the power and pathos of story and the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Let God speak to you through story.
We are caught up in a far greater story than that of Jane Eyre or Samwise Gamgee or Odysseus, a story that these lesser stories can only point us to dimly, through a glass darkly. The story we are in has nothing to do with the mechanics of obedience, but everything to do with the opening up and the exposure for all to see of the very heart of Almighty God.
This is God’s story; it is His heart that must be pressed beyond measure and opened for all to see the depths and reality of infinite and eternal heart.
God is birthing His very heart inside of us, that He might reveal Himself as He really is for all creation to know Him – through us. And just as it is God’s story, so, beyond all comprehension, it is our story.
At this point you might wonder what this has to do with Revelation Chapter 11 and the two witnesses.
Consider the climax of Jane Eyre, that period of unthinkable shattering of her heart and every part of her being. That place where the author of the story takes for us the hero, a simple, true-hearted little girl, and presses her to the wall, beyond all measure, opening up and exposing for all to see the very core and essence of her being, in agony, in sorrow, and in loss. Revelation Chapter 11 and 12 is that same portion of the great story of God. It is the climax. It is the passage through which all things are made known.
That is why all the attempts to “explain” Revelation 11 found throughout Christianity are so very, very sad. None of them considers in any way the Heart of God, His story, His vindication and triumph, or the Tree of Life.
Or how He fulfills all these things concerning His own story in you and in me by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
God’s Heart Ripped Open
And I will give to my two witnesses and they shall prophecy. . . The angel speaking to John – Revelation 11:3
In that day you shall know that I am in the Father and you in Me and I in you. Jesus speaking just before Gethsemane – John 14
We must learn to see all things out of the tree of life. We have never done that before. (And many who think they do, do so only a little, little bit if at all.)
All my sharing (and the sharing of others of like minds) with you has been to switch us (myself included) out of the thinking of the tree of knowledge where almost all Christianity dwells, including almost all that is charismatic and “endtime” or third feast, and into the thinking of the tree of life. Yet we ourselves have never seen the world or the things of God out from the tree of life, and so this is all brand new for us.
It takes a miracle of God on the inside of us to see and understand anything out from the tree of life, yet this is Christ and it is the normal Christian life.
How do you get into the Tree of Life? It’s really quite simple. Open your eyes, you’re already there. “In that day you shall know.” Today is that day.
It is here in the garden, before sin has entered, that God begins to write the story that will pierce His own heart wide open for all creation to see.
Some think the Garden of Eden was a wonderful place. Not true! The Garden of Eden was the center of sin in the universe. It was the location of all contention and rebellion against God. It was a den of vipers; it was a snake pit. It was a battleground, a theater of open war.
God could have confined Satan to anywhere in the universe. Satan is not omnipresent. He was in the garden because God wanted him there; and all of his demons were there with him. God set him up for God’s own purposes and for the fulfillment of His determination. None of this story is about man. All of it is about God. And God Himself chose to reveal the breaking open of His own heart through man.
In the same way, none of Mary’s story was about Mary, and she knew that. All of it was about God, and God Himself chose to reveal the breaking open of Himself through Mary.
And a sword shall pierce through your own heart also, that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed. Luke 2: 35
These words were spoken to Mary, but they were not about Mary, they were about the God who was breaking forth through Mary – God becoming visible, pressing Himself against the wall, tearing His own heart open for all to see, as incomprehensible as that is. Just exactly who is this character who claims to be our Creator? What does He do when the chips are down, when He has lost everything, when His enemies are triumphant over Him? Who is He, from the inside out, hanging naked and exposed for all to see? Who is He, really?
Yet we do not think for one minute that it was not also Mary’s heart that would be pierced. It was not just God’s Son, hanging from that cross. It was Mary’s son as well, as much Mary’s as God’s. Every tear God wept, Mary wept; and every tear Mary wept, God wept.
The piercing of Mary’s heart and the piercing of God’s heart were the same thing. Today, you and I are Mary. We are the woman clothed with the Sun crying out in pain to be delivered of the wondrous revelation of Christ inside of us.
I want to share two of the Annie Schissler visions. You can find a link to obtain a booklet of her visions for yourself on the home page of www.dyordy.com.
Annie Schissler Visions from I Looked and I Saw Visions of God.
The Place of a Beginning
. . . Today, when He took me into . . . a place of beginnings, it made a tremendous impact on my spirit. He showed me a certain beginning that was already in process and was coming forth upon the earth, and said, “This is the place of a beginning.” It seemed as though the glorious drama of Mary were about to take place all over again, although I know that the thought is absurd (Annie’s limited reaction at the time - DY).
. . . It seemed as though God, dwelling in His Cloud of excellent glory, was bringing Himself forth into a far more natural, tangible, approachable and understandable form – God Himself becoming far more reachable by man. (Again, we understand this to be through man, not just by man. DY)
That Holy Thing
As I entered His presence, He showed me something so impressive and frightening that I feared greatly. Although He specifically told me not to fear, even so, I could not feel completely at ease, for in almost unbearable pain and in great love, He tore open, as it were, His own spiritual form or body. Even though He had told me to look at it, I feared to and wanted to hide my eyes, for after this great tearing open of Himself I could see within. There I beheld something so terribly perfect in its holiness, that even the word perfection seems to sully it in my memory. This living something was very much a part of Himself, yet it seemed as though He were bringing forth, in a tremendous beginning, a new being from His own person. It was the same beginning in God that He had shown me several days before, in “The Place of a Beginning.” For long eons He has waited to manifest this most Holy Thing which He is about to bring forth.
The tremendous, radiant perfection – the holy glory of this beginning that He showed me – was so far beyond expression and so filled with holiness and God-life, that I felt greatly perturbed, and trembled even though He told me over and over again not to fear. It was something too high, holy and perfect to look upon.
When He said, “The hour has now come,” it seemed that He was about to explode, not in an explosion of terrible destructive violence, but rather a pacific explosion. Then He came forth, as it were, in this explosion, and it was tremendously sweet. From this sweet, explosive breaking forth, He extended Himself over all; that is to say, He desired to manifest Himself, pouring this forth upon those of His own ones who were waiting upon Him. To me it seemed so imminent that it appeared to be right now, yet I know it was not at this moment of our time. (Annie saw this vision 40 years ago; it is now time. DY)
God begins His own story just as Charlotte Bronte began Jane Eyre’s.
God sets the stage for the tearing open of His own heart before all that He had created. Just as a great writer begins the story that leads to the hero losing everything by weaving the background and the beginning, so God has done the same with His story.
God stands accused before all creation. Jane was forced to stand upon a box for all her classmates to see her while the accuser explained to all of them that she, Jane Eyre, was a liar. God also stood exposed in just the same way and was accused of the very same thing. “God, You LIE.” — “Did God indeed say?”
And so His story begins.
God stood upon the box, just as Jane Eyre, head bowed, exposed before all creation, as the accuser pointing his bony finger accused God of being a liar.
“DID GOD INDEED SAY?” The words scream across the ages. It is these words that define the story.
A hero is great only if he has a worthy enemy.
The movie Gladiator with Russel Crowe won Best Picture award and rightly so. But Crowe’s character, Maximus, was only half the equation. His enemy, Commodus, dominated the scene, winning victory after victory, insidious, cruel, filling all that was family with horror and terror. If Commodus had not been so brilliantly awful, Maximus would never have been remembered andGladiator would not have gotten the Academy Award’s Best Picture.
One of the most piercing scenes in all literature (and the movie Gladiator is great literature) is the scene where one and all come forward to pick up the body of Maximus to carry him in honor from the arena. No one notices the corpse left behind, still dressed foolishly in white. No one notices; yet just the evening before all Rome was fixated in fear by that same man.
A mighty hero must have a worthy enemy. God is the greatest story writer in the universe, and God is the hero of His own story.
Without the enemy, the story does not exist. The enemy, the accusation, the opposition, these are what give definition and meaning and scope to every part of that which is story.
When I teach students to write a short story, they all come back with an enemy that is not worthy and a climax that offers no possibility of losing to the hero. They come back with words and descriptions and dialogue, but no story whatsoever. And so I make them create a worthy enemy and place their hero in danger of losing everything, and those that succeed come back to me with really profound stories. This is true of all story, even children’s stories; if the hero cannot lose, there is no story.
Any attempt to understand or explain what God is doing in the earth must take into full account this screaming accusation against God, an accusation that still stands and is hurled at Him from every side in screams and wails of horror. Out of the mouth of Satan, out of the mouth of the unregenerate, out of the mouth of the church, out of the mouth of those who call themselves Christians, the accusation is hurled.
“Did God indeed say?” “You don’t really believe that, do you? – Love just like God loves, walk just as Jesus walked, overcome just as Jesus overcame? Who do you think you are?”
And so they paint a picture of a God who runs away and hides in heaven because He cannot do what He says, in us, in our lives in this earth, right here and right now. And they define a very limited Jesus, One who cannot fulfill salvation in us here, nor extend salvation to anyone in the ages to come.
But this is God’s story and to write His own story, to press Himself against the wall, to tear open His own heart for all to see who and what He truly is, He must have for Himself a worthy enemy. The enemy does not counterbalance God; the enemy rips God wide open.
Satan is not at war with God – in any kind of equality. There is no battle between “good and evil.” God places the enemy into the story to serve God’s purposes, not as some independent actor.
So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. Romans 9:16-18
God has set them all up.
Satan’s role in the story is to attack that which to God is the most precious thing inside Himself. The serpent declared war on the Hero.
For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. Psalm 138:2
God loves His Word more than He loves Himself. God has placed His own Word above every other part of His being. To dishonor in any way the Word God speaks, is to blacken the heart of God; it is to call Him a liar.
The Word God speaks is Jesus.
“Let there be Light.” versus “Did God indeed say?”
Any attempt to understand Revelation 11 and 12, or the great story of God, or the salvation wrought by Jesus, or the fulfillment of the New Covenant at the end of this age, without knowing the central conflict of the story God has written is to engage in the foolishness that so often passes as Christianity in today’s world.
Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged.” Romans 3:4
The serpent in the garden and most of Christianity today judges God to be a liar, claiming that His word might be fulfilled in heaven all right, but it certainly cannot be fulfilled in the earth, in this age, in our lives, right here and right now. And so they tell a story of a God who runs away and hides in heaven because He cannot do what He says, in us, in our lives in this earth.
He that lives and believes in Me SHALL NEVER DIE. Martha, do you believe what I say?
“Did God indeed say, ‘Shall never die’? He didn’t mean you; He didn’t mean die; He didn’t mean now. You shall not surely live, you shall die. Everybody dies. And if you believe what He says, you are obviously a weirdo kook.”
God has bound Himself by His Word, by all that is Story, to prove that accusation false. You and I are caught in the grip of the mighty determination of God.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2
Present your dying, physical, mortal bodies to God that you may PROVE His will in this earth. —
For this mortal must put on immortality, and this corruptible must put on incorruptibility.1 Corinthians 15
The defeat of death and the casting off of the curse are the will of God. God is determined to fulfill His will in us and to do it through faith. Faith makes everything God speaks, Christ, personal in me right now.
Upon the cross of Christ, God tore Himself open, pressed beyond measure, revealing for all to see His heart, exposed and naked. This is your Creator. Know Him. The cross is absolute, and it is finished in us.
But here is the part of the story that we cannot comprehend.
…By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established. 2 Corinthians 13: 1 & Deuteronomy 19:15
The witness of Jesus is not sufficient for God. God requires a second witness that His word is true, a second revelation of the heart of God in man.
You and I are that second witness.
The revelation of Jesus Christ, the apokalupsis, the casting off of all that hides the heart of God from His creation, by the appointment and determination of God is found in a second ministry of Christ, a second rejection, a second death, a second resurrection from the dead.
The second witness is the vindication of God, that His Word is faithful and true.
This is not our doing, it is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. All that He is, He is in us, and all that He does, He does through us. We are His image, His tender hands, His gentle heart. Out of our belly flows the river of life from the throne of God. We are bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh; we are the flesh of God. It is through us that God makes Himself real.
All authors reveal themselves through the hero in the story they write. The story of Jane Eyre gives us a glimpse into the heart of a brilliant woman, Charlotte Bronte, reaching for an understanding of love and life through the heroine of her story, reaching for the meaning of this thing called “the image of God.”
And so God has chosen you and me as the hero of His story, and God works in our own lives the awakening to who we are, the loss of all things, and the answering of heart to the call of our Beloved.
And how do you know that you are the hero of God’s story?
Men call it presumption; God calls it faith. Do we dare to place ourselves in God and to never ever leave that place again?
But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. Hebrews 3: 6
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:19-23
Place yourself there, squarely in the center of the tree of life with all boldness and with all finality of decision, and don’t ever leave your place again.