Thursday, January 27, 2005

Five Minutes in Hell--Part I

The man knows that it will not be long now. The disease of his old age has weakened him to the point of death. By human standards he has lived a good life. There have been the usual trials, the normal frustrations, and those long, toilsome hours of early life to build that little empire. He has experienced the joys and frustrations of fatherhood and grandfatherhood. He has experienced the death of an unusually good companion, whom he had considered next to perfect if only she had not been so spiritual and so adoring of Jesus Christ, whom she called Lord. The children and grandchildren had succeeded as well as most folks for these times, some pretty good and others not so good. While readily admitting he did not have the faith of his deceased wife, nor ever feeling the need to have, surely he had not done too badly. With great respect to his wife, he had been baptized into her church a few years ago, and had made somewhat of an effort to follow its prescribed way of life. He had adequately provided for his family, given modest sums of money to the church, and now was leaving a sizable inheritance to the children. He could think of many, even now on his deathbed, who had done worse. So the man lay dying, with a certain assurance that the good he had done far outweighed the bad.

He regretted having to leave this life and everything he had lived and worked for, but he had make up his mind that since death comes to all, he would be strong and face it with pride and dignity. He would face death for what it was—the end—and not lean on the crutch of the simpler and weaker ones who cheered themselves with hope of a resurrection and a better life to come.

He regretted the day his wife had told him she wanted Jesus Christ to be the Lord of her life. Feeling somewhat jealous, he had reluctantly but kindly consented, believing that if this would add to her happiness, he would let her try it. Her new life and faith had indeed inspired him, even to the point of true persuasion, but his pride, self-confidence, and intellect always won out. There were times when it seemed some oppressive force kept him from yielding to a full commitment. His baptism and attachment to the church had done little to increase his faith, but it had given his wife great satisfaction and had stopped her periodic pleadings for him to make Jesus Lord of his life. Surely, though, if a resurrection should come true, that action he had taken would certainly be in his favor.

The doctors, nurses, children, and friends had given him their final assistance and comfort as best they knew how—and now as the hours slowly pass, the man, unconscious of his surroundings, lies waiting for that last final moment. His subconscious mind repeatedly casts away that nagging question—is death really the end?

Suddenly from deep down in his soul he receives a spontaneous urge to live his life over again. While before determined to face death with dignity, now he is completely convinced he does not want to die. Up to now he had been able to control and extinguish unpleasant, sobering thoughts, but now they linger with surmounting persistence. From somewhere within his soul his spirit prays, "Oh, let me live my life over again, or else let me die and remember no more forever!" The man senses the end is very near, and as his souls convulses with fear, he cries, "Wait, wait!"—but the change has been made.

The man is aware that he has left the body, and a new fear stabs his souls as he realizes it is not the end. He senses he is confined to an endless chasm of blackness, and the loneliness of his state increases his anxious fear of what might lie ahead. He has no sense of direction or time—just the awareness of his troubled soul. The misty blackness is most oppressive, and all the emotions of fear, oppression, confusion, loneliness, and insecurity seem to be focusing themselves on the center of his soul.

Suddenly from out of the darkness he sees a light. It gives him momentary relief. Had he not read testimonials of people leaving and returning to their bodies? Had they not described a tunnel of darkness with a light at the end which they assumed would have been their Lord? The man chides himself for being so fearful; everything was going to turn out all right after all. Maybe he too would re-enter his body.

Suddenly, just as the light blazes into full glory, the man does indeed re-enter the body. Amidst mixed emotions of hope and surprise, he finds himself standing at a distance from a massive, dazzling throne of brilliant brightness. He finds himself silently surrounded by a huge sea of resurrected dead as far as eye can see. The vast multitude from all peoples, kindreds, tribes, and tongues stand silently captivated by the awesome grandeur of the majestic throne and of the Being that sat thereon, whose countenance is as brilliant as jasper. Of almost equal interest was the countless number of glorious beings surrounding the throne, whom he correctly guessed to be the angels of God.

The man is still unaware of the movement of time. However, he is acutely surprised at how well he can see and feel. He is much bothered by the strange silence that exists. He senses he is a stranger and prisoner, confined to an ordered spot in the midst of this great ocean of people. Feelings of fear and anxiety creep over him as he realizes some compelling force is urging him and the multitude ahead of him closer to the base of the great white throne. The throne, massive and glorious at a distance, is now absolutely spellbinding as the man sees the angels of God ascending and descending the long, wide stairway leading to the glorious Being at the top of it. That Being, none other than the living God, sits far above and beyond the base of the throne. The multitude of resurrected dead are being ushered up and down the throne.

As the man is absorbed by the activity of the holy angels, the smell of heavenly incense fills his nostrils, a bright presence appears on either side of him, and the firm grip of angel hands clasp him around the arms. The first sound he hears is his own voice, "Wait, I’m not ready!" In spite of his fear and alarm, he is surprised at how clear and fresh his voice sounded. "Come, sir," the angels urge, and the man feels himself propelled forward and upward along the stairway. Up and up the ascend, the man with ever mounting anxiety, the angels with faces sober and silent. Higher and higher they ascend. The man cannot bear to look up. He is overwhelmed at his own reluctance to move on, and he begs the angels to stop, but still the ascend. He is now aware of time, as he realizes his time has run out. "Please let me go!" wails the man, but higher still they ascend. Up, up and up they rise. Higher, higher, higher.

When the final plateau is reached, and the angels relinquish their hold on him, the man slowly opens his terror-closed eyes, He is shocked and delighted with what he sees. Feelings of ecstasy pulsate through him as oceans of heavenly splendor and panoramic beauty bathe his delighted eyes, Before his is the promised land of all promised lands. He can see so far; he can hear so well. The sweetest singing fills his ears; the most pleasant scenes overwhelm his eyes. Stretching before him is a gigantic, staggeringly beautiful city, with a street of pure gold lines with stately, heavenly mansions and springing fountains of living water. The city thrives with multitudes of happy saints and overflows with the sweet singing and praise. The man never dreamed anything could be so lush and pure. He had never imagined anything so fantastic or real. Desire to walk the street of the city is overwhelming. As he surveys one particular part of the great paradise, his gaze is suddenly fixed on one particular saint whose countenance glows with happiness, glory, and splendor. So angelic, pure, and beautiful was she, and yet so familiar. Then he recognized her; it was his loving wife. The man begs the angels to let him enter into the city, but as he does so the city itself slowly vanishes from view, and the man finds himself staring in the face of the living God.


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