Easter is a significant and mysterious period for the Church, as we reflect on the wonders of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Major Mat Badger considers the prophetic and the scientific elements of the Easter story.
I have hanging on my office wall a copy of an Easter-themed painting by Salvador Dali titled Corpus Hypercubus. At first glance, it shows the crucified Christ, however, there is something very different about the cross in this picture: Jesus is not nailed to it, rather he is suspended against it. And the cross itself—while levitating off the ground—is a hyper-cube, or a tesseract, which is a geometric symbol used to help explain the existence of multiple dimensions.
Salvador Dali, a Spanish surrealist artist, utilised his theory of ‘nuclear mysticism’—a fusion of science, mathematics and Catholicism—to create Corpus Hypercubus, which is an unusual interpretation of Christ’s crucifixion. It’s a reminder to me of the sheer scale of the impact that the resurrection had on the interdimensional reality of our universe. It is especially meaningful at Easter.
Daniel in Ancient Babylon
In the Bible, it becomes apparent that we know very little about the mechanics of our universe, which the field of physics is only beginning to discover. For example, in Daniel 9, we read about the famous interrupted prayer. Daniel, aged around 16, had been taken into Babylon as a slave when King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem for the first time (587 BC). Over the next 69 years, God raised Daniel to prominence in Ancient Babylon, culminating in him being second-in-command to the king himself. During these years, Daniel learned that Israel’s captivity had been prophesied over 100 years before it happened, by Isaiah. Captivity was to end in the 70th year, so in his 69th year of captivity, Daniel started to fervently pray because he wanted to know what was to happen in the 70th year as prophesied.
After praying, the angel Gabriel turned up. This heavenly messenger not only interrupted Daniel’s prayer but in response to it, told him about specific events yet to happen—including the exact day that Jesus would ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey in the week leading up to Passover!
Later, Daniel prayed again, seeking direction and guidance from God regarding the 70th year. After 21 days of continual prayer and fasting, another heavenly messenger came to Daniel and said, ‘Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them’ (Daniel 10:12b). These words remind us that prayer itself is also an interdimensional activity. And on this occasion, the messenger also gave an insight into a mysterious realm in which angels and principalities of evil are at war.
Earlier, in chapter 2, Daniel is called on to interpret a dream that disturbed King Nebuchadnezzar. When God revealed the meaning of the dream to Daniel, it turned out to be an outline of world history in advance. This dream revealed the successive rise and fall of the major empires of the world until the time of the end. The Babylonian, Persian-Mede, Greek and Roman Empires all rose to prominence in the way that Daniel predicted. Naysayers of the book of Daniel argue that it must have been written after the historical events took place, as it is far too accurate; however, we know that Daniel was written around the time of the Babylonian Exile, because it was included in the Septuagint (LXX)—the Greek translation of the Old Testament. This depiction of the Old Testament was commissioned by Ptolemy Philadelphus and was translated during 285–247 BC. Because the book of Daniel is included in the Septuagint, it meant that it was already in use by the Hebrew community before many of the events outlined in Daniel’s prophecy happened. It was written before the fact.
The languages of Scripture and time
Prophecy calls into question everything we know about the nature of time. How could the Old Testament prophets write about events yet to happen and be so accurate? How could angels appear and talk about specific future events? How could a king have a dream that revealed the rise and fall of key world empires in advance? How could a heavenly messenger reveal to Daniel exactly the number of days before Jesus would ride into Jerusalem and have the crowd proclaim him as Messiah—an event we now celebrate as Palm Sunday? And as we celebrate Easter, how is it that there are over 200 Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled exactly, when he walked the earth? Maybe a part of the answer to this can be found in the words of Albert Einstein: ‘People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between past, present and future is a stubbornly persistent illusion. True reality is timeless.’
If it is true that time is an illusion, it could explain why so much of the Bible contains pinpoint accurate prophecy—especially relating to the Easter events. It reflects the signature of our God who is outside time and not bound by its constraints.
Einstein also believed that all of history was passing through a singularity. This complements the theological idea we believe that Christ died once for all people throughout all time. The website ‘Universe Today’ writes: ‘Beyond the three visible dimensions, scientists believe that there may be many more. In fact, the theoretical framework of Superstring Theory posits that the universe exists in 10 different dimensions. These different aspects govern the universe, the fundamental forces of nature, and all the elementary particles contained within.’ I like how Stephen Hawking humorously elaborated this idea further: ‘The idea of 10 dimensions might sound exciting, but they will cause real problems if you forget where you parked your car’.
Walking through walls
If it is true that there are at least 10 dimensions in our universe, then why are we limited to four? Some theologians have long believed that humanity was blocked from accessing certain dimensions as a byproduct of the Fall (Genesis 3). And when we think about the resurrected Christ at Easter, it raises more questions than answers. Did Jesus in his resurrected form have access to these other dimensions like the angels that visited Daniel? How else could he have descended into Hades and come back to life? How else could he walk through walls? How else could he disappear in front of people in a locked room? How else could he ascend into the clouds in front of many witnesses? I think the world of physics is beginning to discover the mechanics behind these amazing phenomena.
This Easter, we can marvel at what God achieved through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Salvador Dali’s Corpus Hypercubus is significant as it reminds us of the sheer magnitude of the gospel! The power of the resurrection is awe-inspiring and astonishing! Jesus, the firstborn from the dead, has acted to save the world, and begins the process of bringing the whole of life back under his perfect reign, and healing creation—in all its dimensions.