Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ramparts of God's House, by John Melhuish Strudwick

This is an unusual picture from the Victorian era.

There are lots of paintings of the resurrection of the dead, but there are very few artistic attempts to portray heaven.

What is most obvious about the picture is that there is no sign of Christ (or St. Peter as tradition usually holds), only lots of angels. I am not entirely comfortable with artistic depictions of our Lord, so I suppose showing only angels is okay. It certainly is true that there are multitudes of angels in heaven (Hebrews 12:22, Rev 5:11). Nevertheless, it seems a little unhealthy to portray heaven without any sign of our Lord Jesus Christ. As glorious as heaven is, the most wonderful feature of it will be the fact that Jesus Christ will be there. It will be great to see angels in heaven, but being in the company of the Son of God will be far more delightful. This picture cannot in a full sense be said to be a Christian vision.

This picture would appear to depict the state of Christian's after death, not the resurrection. It is true that Christians are going to heaven to be with the Lord in between death and the resurrection:

2 Corinthians 5
1 For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

3 if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

6 ¶ Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

Philippians 5
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

However, the real hope of the Christian is not death (though sadly some hymns give this impression) but the coming of Christ when the believer will be glorified and transfigured. Then the believer will ever be with the Lord, sharing in His glory and experiencing that glory in the flesh. The faithful Christian shall then receive her reward and inheritance. The problem with paintings like this is that they distract from the Christian's central hope in the coming of the Lord.

One thing I do like about the picture is the simple, unrealistic style in which the moon and stars are portrayed beneath the ramparts. The artist seems to be implying that God's heaven is more 'real' or more glorious than the moon or stars.

No comments: