The other day a science commentator on television was talking about ‘parallel universes’ – how scientists of today are speculating that our universe is not the only one, but that billions of others also exist (the ‘multi-verse’ concept). Public television and other channels like Discovery have had long programs where science-people have expounded “look what we have found”. In fact, if you Google ‘parallel universes’ you will get over two million hits. Ever since ‘string theory’ came along, coupled with the announced discovery of the elusive ‘Higgs particle’, it seems that the idea of real parallel universes has gained credibility in the scientific community, and serious study is continuing. The picture they use to help us understand what they are talking about is a bubble pipe. You blow soap bubbles in the air. The bubbles float about. Some are small, some are large. Sometimes soap bubbles join and merge to form funny shaped bubbles or even twin spheres.
It is claimed that universes behave in a similar manner as they are said to float about in what is called ‘hyperspace’, and sometimes they collide. Magazines like Scientific American have published articles on how our universe may have originated, perhaps when two universes joined together, and an interconnecting portal was formed and a massive exchange of matter and energy took place. Interconnecting portals? You would think from the wide-eyed enthusiasm of the TV scientists that they are convinced they have discovered something new.
But the idea of parallel universes is not a new one. Those familiar with science fiction and fantasy literature, as well as TV like ‘Star Trek’, have seen this idea used time and again to generate many kinds of stories. Remember C.S. Lewis’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’? The children crawl into a big wardrobe and discover a portal to a parallel universe, a place called Narnia, where strange creatures live and where the children embark on amazing adventures. And in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, ‘Middle Earth’ certainly qualifies as an alternate reality.
Now the claim is being made that this is not science fiction any longer, but a valid model of reality. A valid model? An actual new idea? If you think about it you realize that it’s not really a recent idea. It’s actually a very old idea. And yes, it is a valid model. In the text of the Bible the actual words ‘parallel universe’ or ‘alternate reality’ do not appear, but the concept has been there for over three thousand years.
Parallel universes and alternate realities appear in the Bible in the familiar story of the birth of Jesus, which Christians observe on Christmas, December 25th. Christmas can be said to be a celebration of the interaction between alternate realities. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but consider this – alternate realities appear in the accounts of the birth, life, and ascension of Jesus. Let’s look at a few passages. The angel Gabriel appeared to a man named Zechariah and then later to a young teenage girl named Mary. Gabriel is talking to Zechariah, but Zechariah seems to doubt him. Luke 1:19, Gabriel says, almost as if to authenticate himself: “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God. I have been sent to speak to you.” ‘Sent’? From where? Outer space? Did he land nearby in a flying saucer? Hardly. The Biblical text suggests that Gabriel had traveled through a portal, a passage or doorway from the ‘throne of God’ to our Earth. And when he had delivered his messages he stepped back through that portal to take his place again in the presence of God, to be ready for his next assignment.
In another passage angels appear to shepherds, in a brilliant show of glory and sound, something like I-MAX to the 3D-MAX. Where did they come from? Outer space? No. They also had come through a portal that connected the heavenly realms to our Earth, specifically to a sheep pasture in Israel, near the little town of Bethlehem. They delivered their message, sang their songs, and then returned into heaven. We even have an old Christmas carol that describes this event – Angels from the Realms of Glory. “Realm of Glory” is another term for an alternate reality, a parallel (or ‘transcendent’) universe, if you will.
And then, the Son of God (the ‘Word’) came himself. In John chapter 1 we read: ‘And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.’ He had entered into our reality as a babe, through an act of the Spirit of God. And Jesus stayed with us for 33 years or so. After his death and resurrection, he appeared and disappeared at will, as if he could step in and out of alternate realities. Eventually Jesus ascended into heaven as recorded in the first chapter of the book of Acts. Where did he actually go? Up in the sky, past the clouds, into space, past the moon, past the planets, into the void between the stars? No, Jesus moved through a portal, a doorway into another realm or reality, and he’s now, temporarily, ‘at the right hand of the Father’, as per the Biblical phrase.
There are many other accounts in the Bible about alternate realities, especially in the books of Daniel and Revelation. Even Paul the apostle had a brief excursion into an alternate reality. Also, Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am there you may be also.” That “place” is very likely not in this universe, but is in an alternate reality, i.e., a place parallel, or concentric with, or superseding, or transcendent over our reality. Someday God will make a new heaven and a new Earth, including a ‘new Jerusalem’. What universe will those places be in? We don’t know yet, but it’s going to be exciting to find out.
What do all these visitations from other realms reveal about God? It means this: God is very aware of us and cares about us. He has not left us stranded in our place in the cosmos. He has come to us, both by his own appearance and by sending his angels. Without his interventions we would have no hope for salvation and our eternal destiny would be anyone’s guess. We would literally be ‘lost in space’. But in the last few decades, through books and television, scientists who are also Christians have communicated to the Christian community how God took great care in making our universe and our little planet. God endowed our particular world with the amazing property of being ‘just right’ for the existence and survival of life – life like us, and all the animals and plants around us.
Our universe itself appears to be ‘calibrated’, as if a cosmic engineer was sitting at a long row of dials, adjusting each one to a precise value to permit the existence and flourishing of the life we see around us. Apparently, God places great value on human life, and interacts directly with us to accomplish our redemption, part of his grand cosmic plan. And after creating us, he didn’t just abandon us and go on holiday somewhere like the Deists claim, but he actually became one of us and continues to selectively interact with us on an individual basis.
So in conclusion, if you decide to watch any TV programs on parallel universes, you are free to yawn and take a ‘been there, done that’ sort of attitude. Why? Because you’ve been reading your Bible. So you know something about the alternate realities that the scientific community is only now discovering. And the destination of every one of us is in one (perhaps several) of God’s many alternate realities – a very good situation if you are a Christian. By his awesome power and love, on full display during the Christmas season (and again at Easter), the believer’s future can be a bright one indeed.
What is the golden nugget in this discussion? What can we take away and embrace? Simply this; the realization that the transcendent multidimensional creator of the universes has crafted a space/time continuum where carbon-based life (that’s you and me, the animals, the plants, etc.) can flourish. And that this creator God cares about you, me and every human being. Proof? His willingness to interact with us, where we live – this proves his love, his provision, and his promise. He came himself in the form of a babe, born in lowly estate on that holiest of nights. As the song goes, the hopes and fears of all the years were met in little Bethlehem. And after he departed our world he sent his Spirit to abide with us. And sometimes he sends his angels to stand in the fiery furnaces with us, to guard us, and help defend us against those evil and malevolent principalities and powers mentioned in the 6th chapter of Paul the apostle’s letter to the Ephesians. And when we die, it is said that the Lord sends his angels to escort us through a ‘passageway’ into his presence. God is in total control of the doorways and portals between the alternate realities.
Here’s a second golden nugget. We need to get our little minds around the awesome concept that the very Lord of the Universes allows little us to come boldly before him with our prayers of repentance, worship, praise, adoration, thanksgiving, confession, intercession, and supplications. And our little prayers travel through ‘thought-space’, through the portals and across the boundaries of alternate realities and parallel universes – straight to the heart of God. Amazing!