He Came Down from Heaven
by Rich Maffeo
He came down from heaven
by the power of the Holy Spirit
When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon's great wisdom, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the (burnt offerings) he offered in the temple of the Lord, she was breathless (1 Kings 10:4-5).
Never had the queen heard such wisdom as when Solomon spoke. Never had she witnessed the opulence and splendor she found in the Temple and in his palace. "The report I heard in my country about your deeds and your wisdom is true," she said to him. "Though I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes, I have discovered that they were not telling me the half" (I Kings 10:6-7).
We can learn something of heaven from the queen's experience in Jerusalem.
The writers of Scripture made valiant attempts to describe heaven. Daniel saw the Lord dressed in snow bright clothing, His throne like fire (Daniel 7:9-10). St. John witnessed a golden city, clear as glass. Its gates are huge pearls; the foundations decorated with precious stones like jasper, sapphire, emerald, topaz, and amethyst. The city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God gives it light (Revelation 21:10-23). Isaiah saw a place where wolves and lambs graze together and lions eat straw like oxen; and "none shall hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord" (Isaiah 65:25).
Despite her royalty and wealth, the queen of Sheba couldn't imagine what awaited her in Jerusalem. How much less can we understand what awaits us in the place Christ is still preparing for His children (John 14:1-3)? Human language can never capture heaven's fullness. Echoing the queen of Sheba's breathless remark, St. Paul wrote: "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Like trying to describe the melodies and crescendos of a symphony to a person born deaf, or a sunset shimmering with shades of yellow and violet to a person born blind, how can we understand heaven when all we know is earth? And how can we comprehend what Jesus experienced when He left Glory to enter humanity?
But, there's more. The Lord Jesus did not only leave heaven behind. Before His incarnation, Jesus dwelt within the Holy Trinity in a way we can never understand. When the Second Person of the Trinity clothed Himself with flesh, He somehow separated from that eternal, ineffable relationship within the Triune Godhead.
And He did it willingly - for us and for our salvation.
When Christ came from heaven to earth, He emptied Himself of His glory and clothed Himself - forever - in human form (Philippians 2:5-8; Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 659, 663).
Why did the Godhead transform their eternal triune relationship? Why did Christ leave that state of unknowable splendor to feel hunger and thirst, weariness and pain, to enclose Himself in human form? Knowing that so many would reject Him, mock and blaspheme Him - even 2000 years later - why did He come?
Because He loves us.
Say the Creed quickly, and that profoundly personal truth loses something fundamentally sacred. Mull it over in context with what we know of heaven and Calvary, and John 3:16 soars to new heights of meaning: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."
"He came down from heaven." Think of it! He who was rich beyond imagination became poor for our sakes, that we might share his eternal wealth (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Oh, Hallelujah! What a Savior.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I owed a debt I could never pay. You left Glory to pay a debt You never owed. Because of Your payment, I am now free. Thank You, dear Lord. Thank You. Amen.
Next time: By the power of the Holy Spirit
These meditations are compiled in Richard Maffeo's book, "We Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed." The book is available through bookstores and his website
E-mail this article to a friend