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Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Autumn 1994 -- Volume 7:13


 

 

Grace in the Arts:

THE ALPHA STRATAGEM

An Annotated Work of Fiction

Part 1

FRANK D. CARMICAL

Evangelist

Harvester Ministries, Inc.

Plano, TX

 

Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world…

1 Peter 1:18-20

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.

Ephesians 1:4

And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was…Father, I desire that they also whom You gave me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold my glory which You have given Me; for You loved me before the foundation of the world…

John 17:5, 24

 

Prologue

Having read the biblical passages above, meditate on the phrase before the foundation of the world. Let your imagination take flight back to that time before time.

Imagine what it could have been like after God created the Universe of starry galaxies when all the angelic sons of God sang for joy, but during that fearful day when Lucifer, the anointed cherub, began to lead a rebellion against the Most High. What ingredients went into that fateful decision faced by every angelic being—to choose loyalty to the Creator or disloyalty, forever heading down the path of eternal doom?

Think back to that same era of pre-history when the incarnation of the Son of God and His work on the cross were events in the distant future. Conceive of a time when salvation by grace was only a prophecy, pre-written in Heaven. What awesome preparations were made for our redemption, not only before we were born, but before the Earth itself was born?

Fasten your seatbelts. You are about to embark on a fictional journey down the corridor of time, across the ages of history, and back to eternity past.

 

I

"My twelve very distinguished associates, I’ve come to visit all of you today here in your grand mountain palace to invite you to accompany me on a most interesting and rewarding journey."

Gaia rose to her feet gracefully, her blue-green dress cascading to its full, majestic length. "Sir, you waste your time coming to Olympus. We’ll never join your Rebellion."

"Your highness, queen of planets, did I mention anything about joining? Did I even hint at such a thing as pledging loyalty to my—to our Cause?"

There was a disturbing silence among the twelve angels of Olympus.

The guest continued. "There, you see, your highness, your fears are quite unfounded."

"I don’t fear you," she replied.

"Which is more than I can say for your younger sister Artemis beside you. Look at her blush!"

Artemis looked away, her flawless, ivory-white face now crimson. She reached for her goblet of nectar and nervously took a sip. "You’re widely known to use any means necessary to recruit others to your side."

"No offense, please, my lovely Artemis. The hunt is your prerogative—not mine. Contrary to official propaganda, I recruit no one. I come proclaiming the good news of freedom from bondage. A fundamental tenet of my doctrine is that without total commitment and absolute surrender no one can be saved. For now, all I ask is that you accompany me on this excursion."

Gaia turned to Apollo, her face bathed in the warmth shining from his orb. "Can’t you stop this thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy the eleven satellites of your solar system?"

Apollo stood up from his throne and addressed the visitor. "Doesn’t our Sovereign Lord rightly call you a slanderer?"

"O Great Apollo, bearer of light and truth, is it slander to state the obvious? Doesn’t His own Word say, ‘Speak the truth in love’?"

Apollo surveyed the faces of his planetary council. "Friends, it’s not out of love that this one speaks, nor is it from the truth."

There was mock injury in the visitor’s voice. "You condemn me without a trial. But, hasn’t He Himself said, ‘We can speak nothing against the truth, only for the truth’?"

Unable to contain herself, Gaia cried out. "That’s always your way—like the slithering reptiles that inhabit my world—always twisting every word to suit yourself!"

"And may I remind you," said the visitor, "that even his overlordship, General Michael, won’t dare bring a reviling accusation against me when I someday dispute with him about Moses’ body—how much less should you, the matriarch of planets?

"Is Gaia the only one here with a tongue? If she can’t listen respectfully to one of my rank and position, then I fear she may someday lose her ability to hear your Sovereign Lord Himself. If none of you rebukes her, then don’t you share her culpability?"

Before Gaia could answer, the place was shaken as if by thunder. Zeus jumped to his feet. "I’ve heard enough of you, Gaia! It’s my turn to speak.

"Why not listen to this anointed cherub, if for nothing else out of respect for his office? Perhaps he is an accuser, but if we attack the greatest of all angels, doesn’t that make us just like him?"

Apollo picked up the golden bowl of ambrosia from the white tablecloth and passed it across the table to Zeus. "Don’t be foolish. If you defend him, you’ll sway all the younger planets."

Zeus knocked the bowl from Apollo’s hand. The ambrosia spilled out as the gold clanged against the marble floor. "Are you saying that I, Zeus, the greatest of the planets, would be disloyal?" He raised his thunderbolt in the sign of an oath. "All our visitor asks is that we take this trip with him. Alone, we’re vulnerable, but together, as a tribe, we can withstand him."

Artemis shook her head. "Pride was the beginning of his fall. God resists the proud…"

"And He gives grace to the humble," singsonged the smiling guest.

"Zeus is right," said Chronus, striking the floor with his sickle and taking his place beside his older brother. "There’s no sin in merely traveling with the shining one."

Salty tears welled up in Gaia’s eyes. "How can you both capitulate so easily?"

Zeus struck his breastplate and lightning flashed in all directions. "Are you accusing Chronus and me of joining him? Who made you a judge and ruler over us?"

"Stop. All of you." Apollo held up his silver bow and lyre. "There is only one way to settle this peaceably. We will put it to a vote. Do we accept this invitation or not? You know the majority rule—a better than two-thirds vote is needed by the majority to refuse the invitation."

"Then let me be the first," said Gaia, "I, the most honored of worlds, vote

no—tell him we won’t listen to any more of his lies, for he is surely the father of them!"

"And I, Zeus, greatest of the planets, vote yes—let’s go with the angel of light, for the true light will certainly cast out the darkness."

"And I, Chronus, second in magnitude of the planetary brothers, vote yes."

Ouranos, the local incarnation of their celestial home, planet Heaven, spoke cautiously. "If that’s how my two big brothers feel, then I too will say yes." He stood up and walked over to stand with Zeus and Chronus.

With trident in hand, their smaller, but powerful brother of the sea-planet took his place beside Ouranos and the two giants: "And I, Poseidon, add my affirmative to theirs."

After a long silence, dwarfed, dark, and distant Hades whispered, "Yes."

Disappointed, Apollo turned to the younger, closer worlds within his orbit. "And how does Hera vote?"

"I abstain." With dignity, Hera turned her matronly head away from the giant Zeus on her one side and the small, but feisty Ares on the other.

Zeus yelled, his giant vocal chords vibrating like kettle drums. "You can’t abstain! Vote!"

Her peacock quickly hid its head, folding its iridescent tail feathers together like a fan. Hera answered, "I abstain because a vote to go with him is a vote to join him, whether you admit it or not."

Gaia ran to her sister putting her arms around her. "Dear, if you feel this way, then join Apollo, Artemis, and me. It only takes four of us to block the majority!"

Hera shook her head sadly. "Don’t you see? If it’s come to this—that we must vote to defeat the members of our own planetary family—then we’re already finished as a solar system. He doesn’t need to destroy our planets. We’ve destroyed them ourselves."

Hera looked at the visitor with daggers in her eyes. "In a few minutes of insinuations and innuendoes, he’s already succeeded in putting us at each other’s throats. What will happen if we actually go on this ‘stroll’? I abstain."

Zeus raised his thunderbolt as if to throw it at Hera. "I won’t forget this!"

The visitor remained oddly stationary, like a lizard in the moment before it strikes its victim. There was a skewed gleam in his pale violet eyes.

Ares, a muscular, red-faced youth, dressed in glinting copper-colored armor, left the inner circle and stood by Zeus. "I can’t resist an adventure like this! I vote yes!"

Gaia left Hera and turned to her sunward companion. "Aphrodite, join us in outvoting our foolish brothers."

The maiden of love and beauty bowed her head, her chin almost touching the flower garland around her neck. "I can’t, because I’m afraid of what they’ll do to me."

Gaia lifted Aphrodite’s chin with her forefinger. "But if you vote with them, they’ll do worse than if you vote against them!"

"I can’t help it. I vote yes."

Gaia got on her knees. "Hermes, you always face the sun. You’re the smartest and most gifted of all of us. Don’t devote your talents to the evil one, I beg you!"

For once, his winged cap and sandals seemed to droop a little. "I’m sorry to hurt you Gaia, but I, Hermes, cast my ballot with the others."

"Then we’ve won!" cried Zeus, as his brothers began to cheer.

"Not yet!" snapped Gaia. "Apollo and Artemis have yet to vote."

Apollo and Artemis, twin lights in Gaia’s skies, the masculine and greater light, warm and courageously strong, ruling the day, and the feminine and lesser light, cool and beautifully mysterious, ruling the night. Together as sun and moon over earth, they wove their voices like a single note strummed on Apollo’s lyre: "No."
Gaia knelt by Hera’s couch. "Please change your mind. It’s not too late. We’re one vote away from swatting this ‘lord of the flies’."

"My vote counts for nothing."

"But you’re wrong, dear. It counts for everything. When the good do nothing, how can evil help but flourish?"

Zeus reached out his hand to the visitor. "Gaia, you’ve said enough. Hera’s abstention gives us the victory, 8 to 3. You can’t stop us without her vote. Now, let’s listen to what our distinguished guest has to say."

"Thank you, my son," said Lucifer. "The game begins."

 

II

The small band of twelve planetary angels and Lucifer flew faster than the speed of light from their solar system located in an outer arm of the Milky Way galaxy to the area of the Cosmos known as the Northern Skies. Their journey took what to some would seem ages, but to others no time at all.

When they reached their destination, all felt a sense of awe—even Lucifer, now jaded by sin’s deleterious effects. There in the north sky, a giant triple star—the only one of its kind in the Universe—ruled the greatest of all solar systems. Here was the heart and mind and soul of the Universe, the political, economic, commercial, cultural, artistic, social, and most of all, spiritual center of the Cosmos. The third planet of this system was called Heaven.

Seeing the effect of this place on his guests, Lucifer quickly began. "Now that we’ve arrived, I must ask a favor of all of you. Try to control your feelings about this place. Do your best to think clearly. We’re going to visit some locations where most of you have never been before and you mustn’t let a mere emotional response rob you of your objectivity."

Gaia spoke up. "What Lucifer is saying is that when you’re overwhelmed by the magnificence of Heaven, stifle your impulse to worship the One who created it!"

The thirteen flew to the largest continent on the planet, then to the largest region on that land mass, and finally to its largest city. They soared in formation above a long boulevard lined on either side with trees of knowledge, one of which would one day be planted in the earthly garden of Eden.

At last they arrived at the public library, a building so cavernous that all the planets ruled by these angels could be chopped into blocks and stacked inside with room to spare. The doors were always open, since this library never closed.

Inside, Lucifer escorted the twelve past the check-out desk and catalog files while a rather frazzle-haired angel looked at them over his spectacles. As they flew up to "the stacks," Lucifer commented, "Of course, the whole thing is virtually empty now. Someday, it will be filled with many volumes, things all of you will surely desire to look into. What I propose today is to give you a preview of what those shelves will contain.

"You understand that our vantage point, both now and forever, is that of outsiders looking in. This place will house knowledge mostly about a different order of beings than us angels."

The group began to fly up the shaft of the library’s central tower. The catalog labels clearly indicated that most of this tower was devoted to those who would one day inhabit Gaia’s world.

In wonder, as they passed trillions of empty shelves, Gaia muttered, "No wonder John will say someday that my world couldn’t contain the books that would be written about the Son!"

The group flew past huge "video" viewing rooms—amphitheaters actually—where all events from earth’s future history would one day be available for viewing. Someday, visitors to this library would be able to see actual events, like the Flood, or Babel, or Sodom, just as they happened, not in simulation, but in real-time

four-dimensional performances using the very light and sound waves of the original occurrence.

Up, up, ever upward the thirteen rocketed, passing shelves devoted to the life of each individual who would ever walk the face of the earth. The complete genealogy of every family, clan, tribe, and nation was ready to be plotted and graphed as it would occur. Volumes were reserved to record every prayer that would ever be prayed. Statistical information, such as the number of hairs on every head and the number of days in every life, would one day be found in the reference section.

There was even a section which must be left for perusal to some other eon, but can briefly be described as the "what-ifs." Here in countless sets of books yet to be compiled from divine omniscience, would be the specifications of what might have happened, not only to each individual, but to each of their actions and decisions—tracing the logical ramifications and natural outworkings of each alternative course, plan, and pathway into eternity.

The librarians claimed that in eternity future, any visitor, taking even a casual glance at one volume of his or her own life would fall prostrate in adoration before the Almighty, seeing what might have happened or what would have happened apart from the grace of God.

The angels in Lucifer’s group felt this weight of glory and knowledge pressing them from all sides—yet the library was almost empty. What would be the effect someday when the library was full?

Sensing the tide, or better, the tidal wave of reverence and worship that could engulf them from too much exposure to these surroundings, Lucifer spoke hastily. "We’re here to see one Book only—let’s hurry."

At last, they arrived at the pinnacle of the tower, the summit of the "non-fiction" area, the place to which all other roads in this fund of knowledge, both angelic and human, would ever lead. There in front of them, etched on clear gold prisms, rainbows of light streaming from every word, was the greatest of all books by the greatest of all authors—the written Word of God by the Living Word of God inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. The best loved, most read book that many would live and die for in future history—the Holy Bible.

Lucifer desecrated the beauty of the scene. "Happily, our tedious visit here will be brief. I present for your study and dissection exhibit A in my case against the almost Almighty. I realize most of you have never read or even seen this thing before…"

"I have…" interrupted Gaia.

"And so have I." added Apollo.

Lucifer resumed his speech, "As I was saying, this Book is the foundation of my case. Let me remind you of the contents of this uneven literary work. In reality, it is a loose compendium of conflicting literary genres from poetry and prose to that most detestable of all inartistic diatribes, "prophesy"—especially the apocalyptic ones, Daniel and Revelation!"

"Now that you mention them," asked Gaia, "why don’t we read from some of those very prophecies in Daniel and Revelation that predict what’s going to happen to you and your followers?"

Fortunately for Lucifer, Gaia was interrupted by a fallen angel who had just walked up. There was an annoying pitch to his voice, "Sir, may I explain to them my higher-critical technique of demythologization. It really puts the whole patchwork quilt in an enlightening and educated frame of reference."

"Not now, Bultmann. Go work with Tillich some more!"

"Oh, all right." The demon stomped off sulkily.

Lucifer continued. "Let me remind you that this book pre-records everything I’m about to show you. This is not slander or false accusation. It is a matter of public record for all to see. Remember, I didn’t say all this. Your Master has said it: ‘Forever…Your word is settled in Heaven’."

As the angels filed out in bewildered silence, Lucifer murmured to himself, "Black king takes white King’s pawn."

 

 

III

The second stop on this most unusual excursion was to visit the Museum of Universal History. This was not a typical museum. None of the usual obj�ts d’art, antiques, or relics could be found here.

Like the library, this vast complex of galleries, exhibits, and dioramas was virtually empty now, awaiting a day when it would be filled with the most priceless treasures in the Cosmos. Those valuables were not there yet, nor would they be for countless millennia, but so sure was their fulfillment that each had a display case reserved in the museum, its copy plaque already written in past tense. A few of those priceless museum artifacts included:

A shepherd’s rod that changed into a snake, devouring other "rod snakes," and then changed back into a rod again.

Two stone tablets, written on both sides, broken in pieces, but reassembled with angelic glue.

An almond rod—budded, blossomed, and burdened with ripe fruit.

A bronze pot filled with manna, as fresh as the day it fell from Heaven like dewdrops.

A wooden ark, overlaid with gold, and a mercy seat lid with two golden cherubim (along with six other pieces of the original Tabernacle furniture).

A blood-stained, seamless robe without a rip or tear.

A simple, but elegant chalice—the Holy Grail.

The original, wooden, blood-stained cross from Calvary, no splinters missing!

And in one of the grand galleries of the museum, an entire diorama was waiting for the ark of gopher wood, the best loved boat in human history by children of all ages. This space was reserved for the ark that would stand the test of torrential rains, Mount Araratian glaciers, and caustic critics—all three hundred cubits of it!

A thought came back to Gaia, words someone said long ago, "In the economy of God, nothing will ever be lost. Nothing, except men and angels."

The centerpiece of the museum and the focal point of its displays was a series of cases reserved for the original manuscripts of all the inspired Scriptures, including the original cut and burned copy of Jeremiah’s scroll that would be painstakingly restored by angelic museum curators through a method of "unburning"—changing the ashes, smoke, and dissipated energy back into matter.

And of course, admission to this museum would always be absolutely free.

Lucifer broke the spell as the other angels once again were overwhelmed by a mere building on this planet built by God. "I bring you here to make one point only. According to this museum, everything is supposedly fixed. He has decreed that whatever is to happen will happen.

"His own Word says, ‘Who has resisted His will?’ Now I ask you, is that justice? Fairness? Where is freedom? Dignity? Self-actualization?"

Gaia raised her hand politely. "May I speak? Unless, of course, you feel threatened by me."

"I fear no one!"

Gaia continued. "May I point out that our Sovereign Lord has determined that such things as freedom, choices, decisions, and prayers are also part of that decree."

"Dear lady, don’t mire us down in this old debate. Let’s put the options simply. First, God has predestined all things; therefore, we aren’t free or responsible for our actions; and thus He is a tyrant.

"Or else, second, God hasn’t determined all things; and we are truly free. This seems to be confirmed every time I say ‘no.’ Thus He is a liar and really isn’t the omni-good being His state-controlled press spins in its PR packages."

Gaia waited patiently to speak. "May I point out there’s a third position? It’s possible that God both decrees all things and yet we are still free. His decree is not dependent on our actions, but neither is it oblivious to them. Both are co-extensive from eternity."

"I grant you, lady, your right to a third option—which, though comforting, is nonetheless nonsense. Yes, people are always entitled to opinions that make no sense at all!"

Zeus roared with laughter and Gaia blushed.

Lucifer continued. "And, if your position is true, then it makes our situation all the more dire. If He is neither a despot nor a demon, then He is demented and the Universe needs to be turned over to someone who can govern it sanely."

"A dilemma I’m sure you’d be more than happy to solve for us!"

Lucifer bowed. "Let’s go. We have more places to go. Black king takes white king’s bishop."

 

IV

The thirteen angelic companions took public transportation—celestial metros are always fast, safe, and free—to a site far from the Arts District of the library and museum. After exiting their metro car, the angels walked through an industrial district and came to the edge of a canyon so wide and deep that it would make the "Grand Canyon" of Earth’s North American continent look like a hairline crack in the pavement.

Here were quarries where great slabs of crystal-clear gold were carved by chisels of pure light from mountains that resembled translucent ice. Precious gems of twelve varieties—jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprase, jacinth, and amethyst—were mined from the bedrock below. And in the depths of the sea at the bottom of this gorge were giant oysters producing translucent pearls the size of boulders.

The end product of all this industry was the stockpiling of building materials for the day when the Son of God Himself would supervise the construction of dwelling places for those who had been called His own from eternity past. Here among the blueprints for the Tabernacle of Moses, the Temple of Solomon, and the Temple of Ezekiel was the greatest blueprint of all—detailed sketches and layouts for the city to be made without hands. Here was the construction site of the New Jerusalem itself!

Lucifer spoke with mock admiration. "Here we see a side to the divine nature that is rarely glimpsed. Note the lavishness of the preparations to build one city for one group of feeble folk exceeding small in number—the future Earth-dwellers!

"But alas, this city will not even be for all of them. Citizenship will be granted only to those who will agree with Him. Cost estimates I’ve seen are off the charts. Even the streets of this city will be paved with transparent gold!

"The saddest part of this tragic waste is that His whole plan hinges on them—not us. In a short while, I’ll take you to the place He’s prepared for us."
Gaia motioned and Lucifer nodded to her. "What you say is simply not true. We angels are included in His plans, from beginning to end."

"O yes, as loyal watchdogs, faithful nursemaids, and back-breaking slaves of this race who will inherit the earth. Isn’t it true that though He makes them only a little lower than us, their eventual rank will far outstrip us?"

"And if He does, is that any of our business?"

"Say no more. His own words say it better: ‘Shall the thing formed say to him who made it, "Why did you make me thus?"’ Not only are we reduced to subhuman dimensions, we are on an equal with pottery as well!"

Aphrodite spoke up, her voice uncharacteristically shrill. "I never knew these things!"

Lucifer smiled. "Follow me, my dear, and you will learn many more!"

As the group left the building site, Lucifer said quietly, "Black king takes another white pawn."

 

V

This time the angels flew to the sacred Mount of Election. None but Gaia had ever seen it. Not even she could have described it adequately. How could anyone?

Here was an entire mountain, clear as crystal, devoted to one thing—the name of every person elected by sovereign grace was etched in this great monument.

Lucifer began. "Of all the things on this planet beyond my comprehension it is this mountain. First, let me explain to you that all of this election business is tied up with His system of government: a rule by grace, where everyone is equally a beggar, reduced to groveling in the dirt and reaching up in childlike faith to receive a crust of dry bread from His magnanimous hand!

"Who ever heard of running a Universe on such things as grace and love? It’s weak, absurdly impractical, and unworkable! It breeds ingratitude, insubordination, and presumption. And worst of all, it’s unfair.

"My system is the one with true justice. I see everything as a business contract—none of this covenant nonsense. What we need is a system of total merit, based on individual achievement, social progress, and self-realization that encourages internal motivation—not this predestination stuff!

"My servants Marx and Jefferson have said it better: ‘From each according to his ability; to each according to his need’ and ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ I say, treat others like they treat you, while His system gives all to those who least deserve it and gives nothing to those who merit it most!

"I propose a Universe of true equality. Equal rights for all. Freedom to do whatever you want. Each person does what is right in his own eyes. The individual is supreme. None of His ‘corporate good’ stuff—how dreary to always put ‘His kingdom’ first.

"His universe is such a waste—trillions of angels maintaining worlds—custodians in a museum of lifeless art, undertakers in a mausoleum filled with dead worshipers, all for His eternal glory! No thanks!"

Lucifer’s eyes flashed violet fire even as his mouth poured out venom. "Wait and hear me out! He loves them more than He loves us and they don’t even exist yet! And what will they do when He does create them?

"Those wretched creatures will join me. Someday, they’ll become rebels like me. They will disobey Him. Hate Him. Betray Him. Blaspheme Him. And He knows all this, yet He loves them anyway, has chosen them in spite of all this, planned to create them, prepared to redeem them, forgive them, and hold them to His bosom forever! That’s His grace for you!"

Zeus charged forward to Lucifer’s side. "We are His friends and yet He treats us like enemies."

Lucifer continued, "Now you understand. They will be His enemies and He will treat them like friends, like family, like His only begotten Son!"

Zeus looked around at the other angels with hatred in his eyes. "I think we should vote now to join Lucifer’s side."

Ares joined Zeus. "I agree. I’ve heard enough."

Gaia rushed forward too, looking up fearlessly at the towering Zeus and the taunting Ares. "And I’d heard enough of his pompous lies before he even opened his mouth! May I remind you, Zeus, that we agreed only to travel with this scoundrel. You’ve changed the rules because you’ve already joined him!

"Listen," Gaia continued, "if Lucifer’s cause is so just and right, then he doesn’t need your help. Let him sway our brothers and sisters himself. What did he just say—‘freedom to do whatever you want’? If you’re going to join him, fine. Just give the rest of us a chance to hear him out and decide for ourselves!"

Zeus sniffed loudly. "Very well."

Apollo raised his bow. "Lucifer, how many more of these stops must we make with you before this infernal excursion is over?"

Lucifer nodded graciously. "Only one more here in Heaven and two more on Earth. Then I will never bother you again."

Gaia asked, "May I call for a break?"

Lucifer nodded. "Very well. Let’s reconvene outside the Royal Palace in one hour."

As Gaia and the others left, Zeus stayed behind with his new master. Lucifer said triumphantly, "Black king takes white king’s rook!"

 

VI

Gaia flew past the temple to the pinnacle of the Mount of Glory in Heaven. She landed outside the throne room and fell prostrate on the clear marble steps leading up to the entryway.

Gaia could not speak, but her mind cried out in anguish. She extended her hand upward in a plaintive gesture of appeal. Gently, another hand took hers and a voice said gently: "Don’t be afraid, for you are loved."

Instantly, Gaia knew who it was. "Gabriel, I’m so glad you’re here. I don’t know what to do. Lucifer is slowly winning the planets of our system to his side. He already has Zeus and Ares."

Gabriel’s voice was firm, but kind.

"Resist him, but when he attacks, you must submit whatever the cost."

"Even if he ruins the plans of our Sovereign Lord and King?"

Gabriel smiled. "My dear, Lucifer will do his worst to defy that plan, but the more he resists, the more he locks himself into it."

Gabriel helped Gaia to her feet.

He continued: "Fear God. Don’t fear what the evil one can do to you."

Gaia straightened her dress and held her head high. "Then, so be it. If my world must perish, it must perish."

Gabriel stepped back and turned to go. Then he added, "Remember the principle that the Son will one day give: ‘If you hold on to your life, you’ll never keep it. If you let go of your life, you’ll never lose it.’ Farewell!"

Before she could answer, Gabriel had disappeared into the throngs within the throne room. Before returning to join the others, Gaia lingered just a moment to listen. Inside she could hear the booming voices of the four living creatures, who never rest day or night, saying,

"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,

Who was and is and is to come!"

In perfect harmony, but clearly distinguishable, was the chorus of the twenty-four elders who fall down and worship Him who sits on the throne and who cast their crowns before Him, calling:

"You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power;

For You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created."

And in astounding unison, as though one voice, reverberated into eternity, were the voices of many angels, their number being 10,000 times 10,000 and thousands of thousands, shouting:

"Blessing and honor and glory and power be

To Him who sits on the throne,

And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"

VII

Alone with Lucifer, Zeus changed his tone to that of an inferior. "Master, there’s something I don’t understand."

His new master replied. "I already know what you’re going to ask. What’s the use of rebelling if He’s going to win?"

Zeus seemed embarrassed. "Isn’t it a good question?"

"Yes, but I can only answer with an illustration. Have you every played multi-dimensional chess with a real master?"

"I’ve played the game with you, sir."

"Quite true. How do you play if all the odds are against you, if you know your opponent will inevitably beat you?"

"I do my best."

"What if your best isn’t good enough?"

"I resign or try for a stalemate."

"No! You’re giving up too easily. Does the Almighty still intimidate you so much? You’re going to have to come out of that way of thinking quickly!

"If you’re against a pro, then you keep playing to the end game, no matter how slim your chances, no matter what His advantages are, on the chance, however remote, that the ‘Master’ will make a tiny mistake that gives you the advantage and enables you to win."

"But God doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t have any disadvantages."

"Oh no? That’s another piece of PR you’ve been duped into believing. The Universe is no longer operating as a perpetual motion machine. By the time I’m through, I’ll have saved at least one third of His slave labor force. With them free to do my commands, the Universe will someday degenerate and run down to nothing.

"And more important, I have jeopardized His reputation. Without His glory, He’s as good as finished right now. The battle is always won or lost in the mind and in the opinions of others. Therefore, the real contest is who can wage the best public relations campaign.

"Yes, I have a chance of winning. He’s already made some pretty big blunders. For one, He’s put us all in this game and then subjected Himself to the very same rules. His deliberate self-limitation means that we can beat Him if we’re smart enough.

"And He made His biggest error of all when He made me." There was a note of sadness in Lucifer’s voice that Zeus couldn’t comprehend. "The moment He made me, His defeat became a reality."

"Don’t you have any doubts?" Zeus asked. "He is omnipotent! How can you be so sure of this whole stratagem of yours? What will you do if He wins anyway?"

"I’ll do the only thing possible–get even."

"How?"

"By killing Him."

"Deicide?"

"Yes, my student Altizer is working on a pseudo-clever theological fad that will one day be called ‘Death of God Theology.’ Too bad it’ll be short-lived! But I speak of far more.

"There is only one answer to the universal problem that we find ourselves in. He’s insane and I must do away with Him in order to save the Universe. Indeed, I am its savior and He will be the sacrificial Lamb—the King of Glory Himself!

"Only by such a supreme sacrifice can the Cosmos ever be cleansed. Fitting, isn’t it, that He who created the Universe, He who permitted it to become the chaos that it is, should die to save it! What supreme irony! What poetic justice on an Olympian scale! A cosmic dilemma demands a cosmic sacrifice. Better for one God to die than the whole Universe perish!

"Is it possible?"

"Yes, read His Word. He will send his Son to Gaia’s sphere—to earth. When He does, I’ll be waiting. I’ll already be there with Herod’s swords, with stones, with storms, with scourges, and with pain that will break all of nature’s laws. I’ll be there holding death in one hand and the grave in the other!

"He is the Master of this game, but I will play my stratagem. He’ll lose a third of His pawns. Soon He’ll lose Gaia, His queen. All He’ll have left will be His beloved Son, His King."

And then for the first and only time, Lucifer addressed God Himself.

"Check. Your move!"

To Be Concluded in the Next Issue

Endnotes

1 All Scripture references are taken from the New King James Version, Copyright � 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville.

2Let no reader suppose that the author believes in gods, goddesses, or the Earth-worshipping, New Age, radical feminist claptrap of the "Gaia" cult (see "When God Was a Woman", Time, May 6, 1991). In classical Greek, ge generally meant "the earth or world; the land in contrast to the water…In ancient Gk. mythology, ge and ouranos, sky, are among the oldest deities." ("Earth, Land, World", The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Colin Brown, General Editor (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 517. In this story, Gaia, Ouranos, and the other characters named after the Greek deities are the angels assigned to govern and control the planets of their same name or characteristic. For example, here Gaia is the planetary angel of earth, third planet from the sun.

Also note that this author does not believe in male or female angels, as clearly taught by Jesus Christ in Matt 22:30. However, although angels consistently were spoken of in the masculine and took on the human form of men (Gen 19:1-5; Judg 13:1-21; Mk 16:5), at least one passage leaves open the possibility that angels could also be viewed as feminine (Zech 5:9-11). Thus, for fiction, The Alpha Stratagem posits unfallen, masculine and feminine angelic beings portrayed by the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, who decide in the story to join or not to join Lucifer’s rebellion.

For the classic theological treatise on this subject of angels and their relationship to physical matter, see The Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952), 1:269-377.

For the classic fictional presentation of planetary angels as well as the idea of masculine and feminine angelic beings, the author highly recommends C.S. Lewis’s "Space Trilogy:" Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength (all published in paperback in New York by Macmillan Publishing Co.). In the author’s opinion, this trilogy is among the most creative fiction ever written.

For the classic work on these gods and goddesses in Greek mythology, see Edith Hamilton’s Mythology (New York: Penguin Books, 1940), 24-46.

3Artemis, also known as Diana (see Acts 19) daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo. In this fictional piece (and contrary to Greek mythology), Artemis is the planetary angel controlling the Moon, satellite of our planet earth.

4Phoebus Apollo, son of Zeus and twin brother of Artemis. Because of his brilliance and light, Apollo was often mistaken for Helios, the traditional sun-god. That notion is carried over into The Alpha Stratagem, identifying Apollo as the angel assigned to control the physical functions of our sun in the sky.

5Zeus, also known as Jupiter, is the planetary angel over the fifth and largest of the planets in our solar system.

6Chronus, also known as Saturn, was one of the great Titans, not one of the gods of Olympus. He has been included here as a fictional angel of the famous ringed sphere beyond Jupiter, and sixth planet from the sun.

7Ouranos, spelled Uranus in English, is the planetary angel over the seventh planet in our solar system. See footnote 2 above.

8Poseidon, also called Neptune, second brother of Zeus and planetary angel over our eighth planetary body.

9Hades, also called Pluto, third brother of Zeus and planetary angel over our ninth planet.

10Hera, also known as Juno, wife (and sister) of Zeus. Here she plays the role of the planetary angel over the world destroyed to produce the band of asteroids between the planets Mars and Jupiter.

11Ares, also known as Mars, son of Zeus and Hera, and angel over the fourth planet from the sun.

12Aphrodite, also known as Venus, daughter of Zeus, serving as the planetary angel over the second planet from the sun.

13Hermes, known in Roman mythology as Mercury, son of Zeus, and angel over the first planet from the sun.

14Biblical interpreters are divided over the identity of "Lucifer" in Is 14:12-15. Most dispensational, premillennial commentators have held that this personage in the book of Isaiah looks beyond the historical king of Babylon and refers ultimately to Satan. (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 2:44-50; Arno C. Gabelein, The Annotated Bible (n.p.: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1970), 2: 120-21; William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, Old Testament Edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), 951-52; Alfred and John Martin, Isaiah: The Glory of the Messiah (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983), 72-74; and The New Scofield Study Bible, New King James Version, edited by C. I. Scofield; editorial revision committee E. Schuyler English et al, 1967; consulting editor Arthur L. Farstad, 1989 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 795. Geoffrey W. Grogan’s comments are helpful in a balanced presentation of this view: "When Satan works his malign through rulers of this world, he reproduces his own wicked qualities in them, so that they become virtual shadows of which he is the substance." From "Isaiah" in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 6:105.

15For this unique idea of Heaven as "a real and a material planet like the earth—not an invisible, intangible place or some spiritual state, into which men go," see Finis Jennings Dake, Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible (Atlanta: Dake Bible Sales, Inc., 1963), 211.

For a refreshing and thought-provoking study of C.S. Lewis’s argument for the existence of God based on Heaven, see Peter Kreeft’s Heaven: the Heart’s Deepest Longing (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 174.

161 Pet 1:12.

17John 21:25.

18Let no reader suppose that this writer is unaware of the history and development of chess. Only the simplest descriptions are used here for those unfamiliar with the game. The pieces are mere "conventions," or standardized symbols, like those used in any literature. See C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature (Indianapolis: The Odyssey Press, 1972), 123.

19The idea for this museum is from a charming piece by A.E. Whitham in The Discipline and Culture of the Spiritual Life (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1938), 40.

20This is the scroll burned by Jehoiakim (Jer 36:20-32).

21See Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), 230-35, and Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986), 310-17.

22See Rev 21:18-20.

23See Rev 21:21.

24The irony of Lucifer’s speech is matched only by the tragedy of all those down through the centuries who have bought into any system of works. If Lucifer (or any of us) was treated by God solely on the basis of merit, then God would have justly sent us to hell from the utterance of our first rebellious word. That Lucifer or any scoffer can even utter such a complaint is a compliment to God’s grace extended to the sinning creature.

25Rev 4:8.

26Rev 4:11.

27Rev 5:13.

28What implications from eternity past are captured in Jesus’ cryptic words about Satan in John 8:44—"He was a murderer from the beginning…"?

29Thomas Altizer, The Gospel of Christian Atheism (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966).

30Of the purposes of God in the permission of evil in eternity past and the solution to that problem through the cross of Christ, few have written as eloquently as Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder and first president of Dallas Theological Seminary, Systematic Theology, Vol 2: 371-73:

"The Scriptures thus predict a glorious, universal divine triumph which is yet to be—a triumph on the plane of infinity and including the disposition of sin as a principle. Even a feeble analysis, such as a finite mind might undertake, must disclose the fact that, concealed in this aspect of the sin question, is the most important reason the human mind has ever discovered why sin was permitted to enter this universe with its injury to creation and its measureless imposition of sacrifice upon the Son of God. It is true that the grace of God cannot be manifested except as there are fallen creatures in existence who, because of the corruption of sin, are objects of grace, and that the demonstration of divine grace, the inestimable glory of which is observable not in time but in eternity (Eph 2:7), constitutes an obvious reason for the permission of sin; but more far-reaching and all-inclusive is the fact that the principle of evil, as opposed to good, is brought out of that abstract form in which it existed before creation, and, upon the ground of its concrete fruitage in and through creation, is subject to divine judgment and to be dismissed forever. Incomprehensible, indeed, is the triumph of God when, through the cross of Christ, one lost soul is redeemed and by His saving power is so transformed as to appear in heaven conformed to the image of His son; and every victory over sin in any of its forms must redound to His everlasting praise. Yet how exceeding in its infinite glory is the judgment and banishment of sin itself!…Of all the marvels of divine achievement, none could surpass in glory the on-coming, sin-free universe in which righteousness is seen, not contending and suffering as now, nor even reigning as in the yet future earthly kingdom, but dwelling throughout the whole vast field of God’s creation…

"A key to the understanding of God’s ways in the ages of time is the fact that He is pleased to put every challenge to an experimental test…It is reasonable to believe that evil in its abstract form and as an opposing principle, at whatever time it began to exist, was itself a challenge to God and that, on the largest conceivable scale, its claims are being subjected to a demonstration which will not only set forth the holy character of God—a revelation of surpassing import—and the exceeding grace of God. To this end it was necessary to permit sin to assume concrete form and run its course to its end. Under the permissive will of God, sin has wrought measureless injury within angelic spheres. It has wrought the complete ruin of the human race, apart from redeeming grace. But sin’s incomputable cost is the blood of the Son of God which alone could provide a righteous ground for the judgments of God against evil in all its aspects, establish forever His holy character, and secure an accomplished redemption for those whom He had chosen before the foundation of the world, through whom, also, He might show forth the unsearchable riches of His grace. Little, indeed, did the eyewitnesses of the death of Christ realize the stupendous thing that was transpiring before their vision. The cross was the complete verdict against sin for the individual believer; it reaches to Israel, to the Gentiles, to creation, to things in heaven, to angelic spheres, and to the very root of evil itself in its unlikeness to God. The triumph of God will be perfect and eternal.

‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.’"

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