Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
I’m a little bit of a sci-fi nerd, and sometimes I want to talk about sci-fi stuff. Luckily, God is a good sport and the Holy Spirit kindly provides some supporting Scripture so that I can write about topics like Godzilla or Star Trek. One concept that comes up both in science and science fiction is the idea of multiple universes. The concept lies in the conclusion that time and space are things that exist within the confines of our universe. Therefore, outside our universe, things must be different. What is outside of the universe? That is the question. Some speculate that our existence is a single bubble in an infinite void (no time/space zone). Others speculate that there are other universes, likely infinite in number; all bubbles of time, space and life floating together in the void. Today I want to look at some possibilities and where the Lord would fit into such systems. God didn’t give me any solid answers on this topic, as I didn’t ask (nor do I really need to know). This is just a fun romp through the multiverse with the Holy Spirit providing relevant Bible verses for consideration. So if you came here to learn something, I’d recommend reading another article.
Alright, let’s start with some assumptions. If there is a God, then his Word is presumably correct; even if the Bible in other universes is different than our own. After all, Scripture says,
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
This means that the Bible is the Word of God and that it develops along with the universe where it is (or universes, I guess). This seems like a good home base; because (1) this article will be relying on Scripture throughout, and (2) things are about to get weird.
Let’s first look at a true multiverse; that is to say, infinite universes with infinite possibilities. In this version there are also infinite versions of heaven and hell. “You” could be anyone, anything, nonexistent, or exist as multiple entities. Heaven and Hell would also take on different forms for each distinct universe, as concepts of “good place” and “bad place” would differ; so eternal reward/damnation would have to as well. Your salvation would only matter in the universe in which you inhabit; or as God puts it in Ezekiel 18:4, “For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.” In this set up, there is only one consistent: God. We can make this assumption because the Lord actually told us, “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Malachi 3:6). God stands as a consistent being always outside of whatever sort of reality a multiverse may have. Jesus, likewise will be essentially the same; for it is written, “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). This means that at the very least, Christ’s character, divine nature and purpose will would the same. Though, depending on the world he enters into, his appearance and style may differ a bit. Also, although the Bible will be different (since history will differ between universes) the laws of the Lord should be roughly the same. I’m talking about the kind of stuff Jesus talked about in Luke 18:20, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’” Since God doesn’t change, neither would his decrees and thoughts on sin; therefore such things would be handed down in any version of his Word.
A true multiverse leaves things very open. Instead, let’s consider a multiverse setting with a single heaven. We’ve already established that Jesus should be a universal constant; as God is a singular element across the multiverse. We know also from John 1:1-3 that Jesus is God; for it is written,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
This universal set up (with a singular heaven and hell) actually helps Matthew 25:31-33; which reads,
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
In this situation, although your friend might not be a believer in this universe, he is saved in another and you can hang out in heaven. Though, things probably won’t be the same, since your friend has had different experiences than the version you knew…so maybe you wouldn’t hang out. But, since your salvation in this setup is specific only to a specific universe, the odds are high that you’ll be able to hang out with yourself (from another universe) in heaven- what with all possibilities being infinite and all.
Ok, let’s consider parallel universes. Parallel universes are universes that for the most part follow along the same path. “You” probably exist in every one of them, though you may be a little different in each. Generally, major events happen across the board but with different versions of said events (like WWII happens, but the Nazis win). This is how the Star Trek franchise treats the multiverse (there’s an evil universe, but Kirk is still the captain and in the alternate universe movies they still meet Khan, etc.). Since these more-or-less run along the same path, presumably heaven is still singular as our combined endpoint. Or, as Solomon put it,
I also thought, “As for men, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 4:18-21)
So for this setup, we all run along essentially the same path with some deviations but our finish line remains the same.
As with the infinite multiverse, there are two ways to consider parallel universes. It is speculated that every decision that is made causes new parallel universes to form; so when you decide to wear black socks to work today, another you wears blue, and maybe a third wears white. This produces an infinite number of parallel realities; perhaps even some where your parents decide not to have you. If you aren’t a follower of Christ, this works to your favor because even if you never embrace Jesus and live an entirely self-centered life in this universe; likely you in another universe had done all of the heavy lifting. Jesus taught,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20).
In a parallel universe, a less scrupulous version of you wouldn’t have to worry about it, since almost certainly one of “you” would have already amassed a huge reward in heaven. So the mirror universe version of your “evil-est” version of you would be able to completely focus his efforts on worldly wealth and then be able to enjoy the fruits of better yous in heaven.
The new Star Trek movies (specifically the comic adaptation of the first movie) introduced the concept of a “self-healing” multiverse. This is a parallel universe model but with a twist: although changes in decisions produce differences, over time such differences get ironed out. So the “you” spread across the multiverse is essentially the same as you are now, and your experiences are more-or-less the same – just with some minor details being different. In this model, if one version of you gives his life to Christ Jesus, eventually the others will too. With this Paul’s, “If only for this life we have Hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than men” (1 Corinthians 15:19) has a greater meaning, as being devout would be profitable not only for you alone in heaven, but would enrich all variants of you as well. This model also helps make sense of the doctrine of election. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13 Paul wrote,
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying word of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
Being “chosen” makes sense because if you chose God in one universe, the rest of them are affected; so that even the worst version of you is now “chosen” and cannot escape the Lord’s grace and love. And the Lord, being able to see all of creation before him, would have known this and started effecting each version of your surroundings to guide you on the path to heaven. Think about Paul. In our Bible he started off as the most vitriolic of Jesus-haters; and yet suddenly is transformed by the grace of God and the Holy Spirit into the uber apostle we know. He wrote about this in Galatians 1:13-17:
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.
Even in his own account, Paul seems unable to give any reason for his conversion beyond being “chosen.” Humorously, this would mean that our Paul was probably one of the “bad” ones that got caught up in the faith of better Pauls across the multiverse. Jesus taught, “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3). It stands to reason that Christ (being God) knows who will ultimately be saved and who won’t, so even if someone is very far from God; when the call is sent out, they’ll respond (as some version is saved). We see this in our own lives even today as the people who seem the farthest away from the Lord often end up being the strongest Christians later on (does this mean we’re the evil universe when compared to others?). This setup also gives some credence to Jesus’ “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible” (Matthew 24:24). Less righteous variants of you would be easily deceived by evil forces, but the election from your own salvation would prevent your ultimate destruction. Therefore, by coming to Jesus yourself in our universe you could be setting a multiverse of yourselves on a path of salvation. Suddenly salvation seems much more heroic. Paul explains,
…That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).
I hope that you one day give your life to Christ and trust in the Lord with all your heart; no matter what our universal model may be.
Finally, we have our last model: a single, finite universe. In this model we have personal free will, but God shapes our circumstances. Or, as it is written in Lamentations 3:37-39,
Who can speak and have it happen
If the Lord has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
That both calamities and good things come?
Why should any living man complain
When punished for his sins?
Here God controls the world, but allows us to make decisions and then he acts accordingly. This is similar to the parallel universe with finite possibilities, except that salvation is even more important because you’ve only got one life to give to God. It is written, “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). In this universal scenario, not giving your life to Christ is both stupid and destructive. There is no safety net for you and what you believe and do affect your final destination. In the single universe model, this earth is your one and only chance. Because without Christ in your life, only hell awaits; for it is written, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
So that’s what we’re looking at in terms of our faith in various multiple universe scenarios. What is the lesson? I guess Solomon put it best:
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun – all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).
Give glory to God as you live out your days here and accept Jesus’ Lordship and forgiveness over your life (which is represented by the white clothes in the passage). We don’t know what our universal setup is, so live as though this is your one chance to get it right; and only opportunity to make it to heaven.