Once I went to a church in the world of spirits. Many people had gathered there. Before the service, they were debating back and forth about redemption.
The church was a square building. It had no windows in the walls, but there was a large opening overhead in the center of the roof. Light from heaven came in through that opening and provided more illumination inside than would have been supplied by windows in the walls.
As the people were talking back and forth about redemption, all of a sudden a pitch-black cloud sailing in from the north covered the opening. It became so dark inside that the people could not see each other at all and could scarcely see their own hands. While they were standing there stunned by this, the black cloud split down the middle. Through the gap the people saw angels coming down from heaven.
The angels drove away the clouds on either side so that it became light again in the church. Then the angels sent one of their own down to the church. At the request of the other angels, that angel asked the people what topic they were arguing about that so dark a cloud should come over them, taking away their light and plunging them in darkness.
They answered that the topic was redemption: “We were saying that the Son of God redeemed us all by suffering on the cross. By suffering he ritually purged and freed the human race from damnation and eternal death.”
The angel who had been sent down said, “Why by the suffering on the cross? Explain why that was redemptive.”
At that point the priest came in and said, “I will lay out in sequence the things we know and believe. God the Father was angry at the human race. He damned it, excluded it from his mercy, declared us all detestable and accursed, and assigned us all to hell. He wanted his Son to take that damnation on himself. The Son agreed. For this purpose the Son came down, took on a human manifestation, and let himself be crucified, thereby transferring the damnation of the human race to himself. For we read, ‘Accursed is everyone who hangs on the wood of the cross’ [Deuteronomy 21:22–23; Galatians 3:13]. By interceding and mediating like this, the Son appeased the Father. Then, moved with love for the Son and affected by the wretched state he saw him in on the wood of the cross, the Father proclaimed that he would give pardons, ‘But only,’ he said, ‘for those to whom I attribute your justice. These children born of anger and a curse I will turn into children born of grace and a blessing. I will justify them and save them. The rest remain, as I proclaimed them before, children born of anger.’ This is our faith; and that is the justice, added by God the Father to our faith, that enables this faith alone to justify us and save us.”
After the angel heard this he was silent for a long time; he could not help feeling stunned. Eventually he broke his silence and said the following:
“How can the Christian world be that insane? How can it wander that far from sound reason toward derangement? How can it base its fundamental dogma of salvation on paradoxes of this kind?
“Surely anyone can see that those ideas are totally opposite to the divine essence, meaning the Lord’s divine love and divine wisdom, as well as his omnipotence and omnipresence. No decent master could treat his servants that way. Not even a wild animal would treat its offspring or its young that way. That’s horrible!
“To stop calling out to every member of the human race would go against the divine essence. It would go against the divine essence to change the divine design that has been established from eternity—the principle that all are judged by their own lives. It would go against the divine essence to take love or mercy away from anyone, let alone from the whole human race. It would go against the divine essence for the Father to be brought back to mercy by seeing the Son feeling wretched. Wouldn’t that be the same as the Father’s being brought back to his own essence, since mercy is the very essence of God? It is horrendous to think that he ever left it. From eternity to eternity, he is mercy.
“Surely it is also impossible to transfer the justice of redemption to any entity (as you believe). This justice belongs to divine omnipotence. It is impossible to attribute and assign this justice to people, and pronounce them just, pure, and holy in the absence of any other means. It is impossible to forgive people’s sins and renew, regenerate, and save people just by giving them credit they do not deserve.
“Is it that easy to turn injustice into justice or a curse into a blessing? Couldn’t God in that case turn hell into heaven and heaven into hell? Couldn’t he turn the dragon into Michael and Michael into the dragon to break up their fight? What else would he need to do then but take away the faith that had been credited to one person and credit it to another? If that were possible, we in heaven would spend eternity shaking with fear!
“It is not consistent with justice or judgment for anyone who committed a crime to become guiltless, or for the crime to be wiped away, by someone else’s taking it on. Surely this goes against all justice, both divine and human.
“The Christian world is still ignorant that the divine design exists. It is especially ignorant of the design that God built into the world at creation. God cannot go against that design—that would be going against himself, for God is the divine design itself.”
The priest understood what the angel had said, because the angels above were pouring down light from heaven. The priest groaned and said, “What can we do? Everyone today preaches this, prays it, believes it. All mouths are saying, ‘Good Father, have mercy on us and forgive us our sins for the sake of the blood that your Son shed on the cross for us.’ To Christ they all say, ‘Lord, intercede for us.’ We priests add, ‘Send us the Holy Spirit.’”
The angel said, “I have watched priests make salves from a shallow understanding of the Word and smear those salves on eyes that have been blinded by their faith. Either that or from the same source they make medicated bandages to put on the wounds inflicted by their own dogmas; but the wounds don’t heal. They are chronic.
“Therefore go to the person who is standing there”—and he pointed to me with his finger. “On behalf of the Lord he will teach you that the suffering on the cross was not redemption. It was the uniting of the Lord’s humanity with the Father’s divinity. Redemption, on the other hand, was gaining control over the hells and restructuring the heavens. Without these achievements, carried out while the Lord was in the world, no one on earth or in heaven would have attained salvation. That man will also tell you the divine design that was set up at creation for people to follow in their lives in order to be saved. Those who live by that design are numbered among the redeemed and are called the chosen.”
After the angel said that, windows formed on the sides of the church. Light flowed in through them from the four directions of that world. Angel guardians appeared, flying in a brilliant light. The angel was taken up to his companion angels above the opening in the roof; and we left feeling happy.
from True Christianity, Volume 1, Section 134