Chapter Twenty-four: The Second Coming
"I don't like it," Jeff said to himself, as he sat alone in a lawn chair on the patio.
Nick had flown them to their home in Star City, and it was past midnight. Sandy and the others had fallen asleep rather easily, but not Jeff. He was still waiting for God to explain what He meant about dying to glorify Him. He had worried so much he couldn't sleep.
Jeff prayed for further revelation, but received no answer. Since they came back, God had not talked audibly to Jeff. It felt rather strange, not hearing His voice. Jeff had gotten used to it. "I don't like it," he said again. "Please tell me what you meant."
But there was no answer.
Jeff felt a little ashamed. He knew a true believer shouldn't be afraid of death. On the contrary, he should welcome it. Death ushered in a change of status, leaving the physical body and receiving a new spiritual body. He would go to be with the Lord, in heaven. Paradise. Forever. He should look forward to it. Most of the time he did. Jeff didn't think he could have done ministry the way he had if afraid of death. He'd faced it every day since he became a Christian, and so did his family. He was sure they felt the same way. They lived everyday as lambs waiting to be slaughtered. It was a great adventure.
So he pondered what his problem was, wondering if his faith was drying up. He knew the Bible says God is not pleased with anyone who shrinks back in fear.
Understanding suddenly came to him. Jeff wasn't a coward as far as dying was concerned. He was a coward about suffering. The Lord hadn't told him how he would die. Up until now, most dangerous situations they'd faced held the possibility of instant death--being shot by possessed humans. But he was most worried about dying slowly, in agony.
Thoughts of the cross came to mind. His Lord had died a slow, painful death for his sins. The least he could do is be willing to suffer if God asked him to. But Jeff wished God would somehow deaden his pain receptors; then he would do it gladly. However, it wasn't likely to happen. Compared to how Stephanie had suffered and died though, he felt like such a wimp. But Stephanie had been a willing warrior with years of experience. Jeff didn't think he could personally bear something like his daughter's experience or see his family suffer some similar fate.
Nevertheless, he was ready to obey no matter what, and he felt confident his family would express the same sentiments. That, perhaps more than anything, really bothered him. Since the beginning of history, God's people had always suffered unjustly in the hands of evil, and God had allowed it. Jeff knew he wasn't anyone special to be somehow exempt. Even before the Son of God had been tortured to death, He had warned His followers to expect the same. The servant wasn't any better than the master. Still, if he could ask for one small favor, he would ask for a quick death. Jeff didn't think he'd make a good slow death martyr.
"Don't you know I love you and your family, Jeff?" God said.
It was good to hear it again. It had seemed like such a long time. "Yes, Lord."
"Don't you know I will not allow my children to be tempted beyond what they can bear?"
Jeff was silent, eagerly waiting to hear more.
"You and your family will die quickly and painlessly."
Jeff felt relieved, as the weight of uncertainty lifted off his back, and he began to think more clearly. "Tell me more about tomorrow. When and where will we go? What's going to happen?"
"I will not tell you."
Jeff knew better than to insist. God told him things little bits at a time. He would be overwhelmed otherwise. Not only that, but Jeff knew he would not be living by faith if he understood everything, and God wanted Jeff to trust Him implicitly.
"Go back inside and rest."
"Yes, Lord," Jeff said and went inside. The lights were off and it took several seconds to adjust before he could walk around obstacles and silently tiptoe upstairs. He didn't want to wake anybody else. They didn't know what was going to happen tomorrow and he wanted to give them a good night's sleep.
"Since you left the complex, you have been faithful to do all I have commanded you, as have many others. My witness and warning has been taken to every corner of the earth and many have responded, but there are still a few I desire to have. I am coming back very soon and want to take these ones with me when I arrive. Therefore, I am sending you to the whole world to give one last warning for people to turn from evil and come to me."
"But I can't reach the whole world in one day. It took us months to evangelize a relatively small area. Surely, the whole world would take years!"
"I will supply the means."
"Very well. When will we go."
"When you leave your house, you will go."
Jeff nodded his head and said, "Your will be done." Then he went downstairs, sat at the kitchen table, and told his family everything, from the quick and painless death to the worldwide witness.
"We can do it for God," Nick said. "The next thought we have will be in paradise, and we'll all be together. I can tell you firsthand it's glorious."
Jeff was proud of Nick's courage, but glancing at Valerie and Sandy, he noticed they seemed rather glum. This was supposed to be a joyous time! They were going to see their Lord! Perhaps the adults could learn something from Nick here. Jeff could understand, though. He was nervous too.
He compared the way he felt now with the way he'd felt when he'd first married Valerie. He knew he loved Valerie, was ready for marriage, was looking forward to it with confidence, and yet, he had been nervous. Just human nature, he supposed--that old sinful and insecure human nature which frequently gets nervous over things it shouldn't. Soon the new creation, the new inner man, the real Jeff, would be totally free from the old nature nuisance. Until then, he would crush its fears with his will, and appropriate the courage and faith to complete the task he'd been called to do.
Jeff looked down at the dinner table. The traditional bacon and eggs covered his plate. "I guess I should've waited until we finished breakfast."
There were several seconds of silence before Valerie spoke. "Nonsense. It's just a shock. We need a few seconds to adjust." Valerie nodded her head. "There I think I'm ready."
"Me too," Nick said.
Sandy smiled and took a huge bite of toast.
"That's the spirit!" Jeff said and shoved some egg into his mouth. His head suddenly felt a little dizzy and his arms went tingly-numb. The Spirit of the Lord fell upon him and Jeff started praising God. Everybody joined in. This wasn't going to be so bad after all.
When they were done, Jeff smashed his dishes onto the floor. "I've always wanted to do that," he said. Since they weren't coming back, he didn't see any reason why he shouldn't.
Nick asked where they were going, but Jeff simply directed him to the door. The moment they stepped outside, they found themselves in an entirely foreign location, none of the surroundings of Star City.
"Where are we, dad?" Nick asked.
"I don't know."
They were facing a large fence with barbed wire tracing the top. Inside the fence was a large brown building. A short distance alongside the fence, a human walked with a dog, back and forth, guarding the entrance. Further down, the building itself was guarded by several demons. They no longer bore any resemblance to Balazons, but appeared as grotesque monsters.
The dog started barking and the man turned around. "Hey, what are you doing here? This is a restricted area."
"Tell him I sent you."
"God has sent me," Jeff said. "Please let me in."
The man snarled. "Very well. If you're so foolish as to come here, enter and be welcome."
Jeff didn't know what to make of the man's sinister remark, but it didn't matter. There was no turning back; everybody knew they weren't coming out alive.
The man led them to the building's entrance and told the demon guard what Jeff had said. The dark slimy bulk heaved as he laughed and looked at Jeff. "So, you've brought the whole family to die. Or do you think your God is going to save you?" Huge razor teeth and glowing red eyes returned Jeff's stare.
Jeff was silent. In this instance, whether it intended to or not, the demon was speaking truthfully. The evil spirit led Jeff inside, down a hallway, into a small room, and closed the door. "What is so urgent you felt it necessary to disturb the master? He is very busy ruling the world."
"You mean destroying it."
The demon laughed again. "We've had puny men come here who thought they had heard from God. They all died the same slow deaths you will die."
Jeff felt as if a knife cut him in the chest. His faith started to waver, but he pushed back his fears. "I want to talk to your master, Satan."
The demon cocked his head. "What do you want with him?"
"That doesn't concern you."
"He is too busy. You will either tell me what you want or I will kill you."
"I don't know, but I will know when I speak to him. He may be displeased if you don't let us talk to him."
The inhuman creature's bleeding cracked lips curled up in a snarl, yellowish slime oozing out. "He is busy right now. Wait here." The creature left the room.
"Open the door and go down the hall. At the end you will see a VRT broadcast in the making. I want you to interrupt the speaker and preach the message about my son Jesus Christ. Impress upon everybody that my coming is very near."
Jeff told everybody what God had said.
"Well go on," Valerie insisted. "There's no time to waste."
Jeff tried the door and it opened. He was surprised because he thought the demon would've locked it. Actually, the door had probably been locked. How foolish. God could easily open it.
Jeff led his group down the hall as ordered. At the end, they turned left into a wide studio space. Satan was sitting at a desk and talking into a camera. The devil was a hideous monstrosity, at least 3 or 4 times the size of a large man, with the face and body of a dragon, and large reptile wings folded behind his back. He dripped slimy ooze and had scales for skin like some ancient dinosaur.
"...all over the world," Satan finished his sentence. "We must act quickly if we are to save the earth." Jeff hadn't heard much of the speech, but soon caught the gist of it. "Our enemies are planning an assault. Christ is coming to try to take control of the earth. You must rally your forces, all your nuclear and conventional weapons, and hit Him with everything. We will fight with you as well. If you have to destroy this entire world, do so willingly. Anything is better than being enslaved by Him. We can yet win."
Jeff knew the truth. Satan wouldn't win, even though he was determined to try. He would use whatever means he could, but it would be to no avail. This broadcast must be beaming into every VRT in the world, and this was also the opportunity God had given him.
"You guys cover me!" Jeff said and ran for the camera. The others followed, taking up positions behind Jeff but in front of Satan. The human cameramen and studio technicians were momentarily startled, and so was the devil.
"People of earth," Jeff said as he stared into the camera, "don't listen to this liar."
Satan snarled, "Kill these fools!" Immediately, several humans and demons ran at them.
"Back!" Sandy said as she raised her arms and would-be attackers flew across the room. Satan shouted for the transmission to be cut, but the human cameramen and essential technicians had temporarily lost control of their bodies; God was forcing them to continue.
Satan snarled again and pointed in Jeff's direction. Instantly, columns of fire leapt from the devil's scaly claws like a flame thrower.
Valerie and Nick held out their hands and the flames bounced off. Then they commanded everyone to be still, instantly paralyzing all except technicians and cameramen.
Jeff glanced around the room, especially noting Satan's angry expression. The devil was struggling to get free, but couldn't move; even his voice was silenced.
"Fellow humans," Jeff said as he looked into the camera again. "Satan is not going to win, but the one true God has sent me to warn you one last time of this fact. Soon, very soon now, God's Son will be coming back to execute final judgment upon the earth. If you do not want to be banished to hell forever, along with Satan and his demons, you must repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. If you do not, He will not spare you at His coming. Do not doubt He has the power to do it. He can do it as easily as He has paralyzed the evil ones in this room."
Jeff panned his hands over the room. The camera followed, and revealed immobile demons and humans alike. "Do not worry about your life on earth, for soon it will be gone, one way or another. The devil's cohorts may kill you if you choose God, but they cannot destroy your soul. Do not be deceived any longer. If you do not turn to Him now, you will not get another chance."
Jeff heard a noise behind him and glanced at a human who was moving. Apparently, Jeff had said most of what God had wanted him to, for the paralysis was lifting. Soon, another human could move, but the demons were still immobile.
One human grabbed a handgun from a desk drawer, ran over to Sandy, and shot her in the head. Jeff felt as if the bullet had entered his own skull. He breathed in stiffly as his friend fell to the floor. "That's my family being shot," he said loudly, as he turned once again to the camera. "But I'm not concerned for their safety because I know God will raise them from the dead and they will be with Him forever in heaven. You can have this assurance too."
Jeff paused, as he sensed the Holy Spirit pushing back demonic forces all over the world. Millions of minds were being partially set free. However, in this moment of decision for the people, he could also feel the Holy Spirit mourning, as Jeff sensed many people were hopelessly lost and needed a special miracle in order to repent and believe in Jesus.
Jeff felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see his son come alongside him. "I feel it too, dad. God tells me this is why I came back. I can help them." Nick closed his eyes and began to glow, the glow quickly increasing in intensity to become dazzling light. Then Nick broke into seemingly millions of marble sized bits of brilliant light, and the tiny globes shot out of the studio in every direction.
Jeff turned back to the camera. "Some of you need special aid to respond. My son is coming to help you win the battle for your minds. The rest of you, if you want to live forever in heaven when you die, repent of your sins now and invite Jesus into your heart as your Lord and savior." Jeff paused to let the words sink in.
"With sincerity, pray after me and you will be saved." Before leading the viewers in a model prayer, the Holy Spirit convicted Jeff to add something. "Mere words won't save you, but a true prayer of faith and repentance will, for God knows the condition of your heart."
Another shot rang out and Jeff heard a loud thud behind him.
Then Jeff heard footsteps quickly approaching him from behind, and he quickened his pace. "Lord Jesus, I repent of all my sins and of all my evil and for following Satan in this world. I put my faith and trust in you, and your death on the cross as payment in full for all my sins. I ask you to come into my heart by the power of your Holy Spirit and to wash me clean of all my wickedness. I thank you for loving me enough to die for me, and for showing me mercy even in this last hour. Help me to change my life, and live for you in what little time I have left on this earth. By faith, I receive you now as both savior and Lord, and I look forward to a life with you beyond this world."
Jeff felt someone directly behind him, but he kept his focus on the camera. "Don't fear those who can only destroy the body. Fear Him who can cast both body and soul into hell." Then he felt cold steel against the back of his neck. "Though you die, you will live."
He was surrounded by a circle of angels, who were fighting demons trying to attack him. One angel, standing with Jeff inside the circle, said, "We must go. Satan doesn't like us in his territory. Especially after the way you defeated him and glorified God."
Jeff looked below and saw Satan staring at him in anger, daggers for eyes. "Can he see us?"
Satan leapt off the ground and transformed in the air, becoming huge, towering over all of them, shinning with a beautiful radiance and wearing robes of purest white. Apparently, no humans on the physical plane could see him anymore because they wondered where he had disappeared to.
Jeff was shocked.
"Not what you were expecting, Jeff?" Satan said. "Perhaps this would be more to your liking." He suddenly transformed into the traditional depiction--red, with horns, tail, and a pitchfork. "Some humans think I actually look like this." He laughed and thrust his pitchfork through Jeff's angelic circle of protection, throwing them aside like flies.
The angel beside Jeff drew his sword and stood between him and Satan.
"You don't actually believe you can defeat me, do you?" Satan asked.
The angel stood there, staring the devil straight in his eyes. Satan laughed again, raised his giant pitchfork, and thrust with all his might, enough to cut through both angel and Jeff. But before it reached its target, it was parried by another sword, as huge as Satan's pitchfork.
"Michael!" the angel cried out with relief. Satan thrust again with wild fury at the Archangel Michael.
"Come," Jeff's angel said. "We must escape while we can."
The angel led him upwards through a tunnel of light. They were ascending quickly, but Jeff glanced down, the two large combatants now tiny toy figures.
Soon, Jeff found himself outside the gates of an immense and beautiful city. The city was surrounded by a high wall composed of solid gold, and a bright light was spilling over the walls, which were shining with white brilliance.
"What's that light?" he asked.
"That's God himself, illuminating all of heaven."
Jeff was ecstatic with joy and expectancy. "Can I go see Him?"
"No. You are to wait out here with the rest." The angel pointed to the left, a huge open space where thousands upon thousands of people waited, sitting upon white horses with wings, swords drawn.
The angel led Jeff to his horse near the front where he met Sandy and the rest of his family. Only Nick was missing. After a brief reunion the angel said, "These people are your peers, resurrected humans. They are all waiting for the last martyrs to be killed. Then the king Himself, Jesus Christ, will mount His horse and lead the procession to earth, conquer it, and start His millennial reign."
Jeff saw the horse the angel was referring to. It was larger than any others and adorned with beautiful jewels. Jeff mounted his own horse as a different angel came up to them with another person.
"There's only two left," the second angel said.
"Good," Jeff's angel said. "Excuse me. I have some final preparations to make."
"Wait a minute," Jeff said. "Do you mean we're only waiting for two more before we go?"
"But there are hundreds of horses without riders. What about them?"
"Not all the saints are to accompany us to earth. There will still be some alive when we get there. Those horses will be filled then."
"And what about this thing." Jeff pulled out the long sword strapped to the side of his horse. "Am I supposed to fight with this?"
"No. It's symbolic. Christ Himself will single-handedly sweep aside His enemies and take control of the earth. You're just along for the ride."
"Oh," Jeff said. The angel excused himself again and went away.
Jeff nervously talked with his family and several others around him. He was surprised, as he thought nervousness was only a human emotion. It should be different here. Then he realized he felt more anticipation than anything. Jeff couldn't wait to see his Lord face to face.
He realized he couldn't really call them his family anymore, either. Valerie, and Stephanie didn't look quite female anymore. There were some similarities to their former human bodies, but they had a kind of neutral look about them, same with Sandy. When he questioned them about this, they commented he too looked different. They were all children now, with God as their Father.
"Why isn't Nick here yet?" Jeff asked but none of his family could answer until an angel came up and explained it to him.
"God gave Nick the ability to simultaneously enter millions of minds and suffer for them in love," the angel said. "He has helped inspire millions to trust in Christ for salvation. Would you all like to see what is happening over earth right now?"
"Yes!" Jeff said and all his family shouted an affirmative.
"We're not allowed to leave heaven yet," the angel said. "But you can open a channel in your spirit and witness what is happening, sort of like tuning your mind into an old earth TV signal. You're new and don't know yet how to use all of your abilities. Here, let me show you."
The angel merged part of his essence into each of them and showed them how to remote view in the spirit. Jeff had his eyes closed and was concentrating, but he felt as though he was floating over the earth without a body.
Jeff witnessed Nick hovering several miles above their old home state of Louisiana, shining like the sun, sword drawn and staring down a blockade headed by Satan and billions of demons.
"We're not afraid of you anymore, Satan!" Nick said. Spirits of dead people were rising from the earth and gathering around Nick, smiling and shouting for joy, likewise shining radiant like the sun. "When the last one dies and joins us, we're going to show you we've learned who it is we should rebel and fight against."
Satan laughed. "You talk so confidently, like you think you know so much. My demon, Stro-kar, has really done a number on your head. You're outnumbered and out powered. I warned you not to take this assignment. Now I'm going to make you pay big time!"
Jeff was awed as millions of lights from all over the earth continued to flow to Nick's gathering spot, forming into likenesses of people, with swords drawn and ready to battle at Nick's signal.
Jeff could witness what was happening both in outer space and on the earth at the same time. The spirits were being violently liberated from their physical bodies, as Satan's human followers were killing them in gruesome fashion, but all over the earth, while in flesh form, the new Christians were simultaneously singing songs of praise and thanksgiving to God's graciousness and forgiveness.
Jeff focused in on a downtown street in Nashville, Tennessee and witnessed a young woman being brutally gangraped by thirteen men, but she was full of joy and sang the same song that reverberated throughout all the newly redeemed from earth, full of faith and confidence at her soon joyous welcome into heaven.
She sang, "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see!"
The brutal, unfeeling animals that appeared human then slit her throat and her spirit rose to join Nick's group.
Jeff focused next on a battle scarred street in Moscow, Russia. A gang of Satanic thugs was beating a man to death as he continued the worldwide chorus.
"Twas grace that taught my heart to fear. And grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed!"
The man took one final blow to the head with a baseball bat before his spirit also joined the rest.
A middle aged man in London, England was being held down by several thugs while his limbs were being sawed off with hacksaws by four demon possessed men.
"When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun! We've no less days to sing God's praise, than when we'd first begun!"
A man in Beijing, China was chained to a fence and being torn apart by vicious dogs that beast-men had unleashed on him.
Then the worldwide chorus changed to a new song, How Great Thou Art.
"O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made. I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder. Thy power throughout the universe displayed!"
A young woman in Tehran, Iran had just had her arms handcuffed behind her back to a telephone pole. Then she was doused with gasoline and set on fire.
"And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in. That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
"Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee: How great Thou art, how great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee: How great Thou art, how great Thou art!"
A man in Vancouver, Canada had just been chained to the workbench in a lumber mill and was being sawed in half.
"When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, my God, how great Thou art!"
Soon, the last of the lights joined the group, and Jeff instinctively knew the exact number by Nick's side, an amazing 11,872,312 spirits made perfect in death.
Jeff opened his eyes and was back in heaven again. "We need to help them or something!" he said to the angel beside him. "How are they going to get through that blockade?"
"Don't worry, Jeff," the angel said. "God knows what He is doing."
Jeff watched as a large mass of glowing white energy rose from above the walls of the city of heaven. It flashed brightly and shot off in the direction of earth.
"There, see," the angel said. "Help is on the way."
Jeff went into his mind again just in time to witness the white energy mass from heaven splash into the newly redeemed spirits hovering above the earth, dazzling them with brilliance and power. They charged the demonic blockade, Nick taking up personal sword battle with Satan himself. The rest of the lights pushed a hole through billions of black figures. When the last light had pushed through, Nick thrust Satan aside and said, "You're not worth my effort anymore. The Lord will deal with you."
Satan roared with rage, and Nick calmly moved through the opening, none of the black figures even bothering to try and stop him.
Jeff opened his eyes and next witnessed Nick leading the mass of lights towards heaven, singing a new song he had never heard before, in a language he had never heard but understood nevertheless.
Nick approached his family and embraced them all one by one. When he got to Stephanie, he said, "You were right, Steph. There's no way I could have done that if I had known for sure whether or not we had preexisted as fallen angels. I understand now how even God's mysteriousness is good as the grappling and struggle makes us stronger and able to do the things He requires of us. That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and I'm glad things turned out well for so many, but I also know I just couldn't do it again."
"You'll never have to," Stephanie said. "We should merge and share memory of it so I can understand better."
"I did pretty much the same as you did for me," Nick said. "Except the Lord gave me the ability to do it simultaneously in the minds of millions at one time. I'd love to merge and share it. Then I can also learn what you know about preexistence. Before my mission, you seemed to imply that the Lord had revealed the truth to you on this matter."
"We'll share later. It looks like we're almost ready to go."
The last two spirits arrived and took their mount. The gates of the city opened, and Jeff saw a part of the city light moving. His anticipation increased. Any moment now he would see His face.
A figure appeared at the entrance, bathed in white light. Jeff marveled at how the light expanded, enveloping Nick, who closed his eyes and seemed to start having a conversation with the light surrounding him. "Please forgive them Lord," he was saying. "Yes, I know they're Your enemies, but I have it on good authority one should love their enemies and forgive them...I agree there are limits and You have a right to define them...but I was your enemy too...yes, I changed with Your help, and I understand why most choose not to...you're right, I agree they've sinned against You and You have every right to do as You please with your wayward creation...if you say so, I trust the lake of fire is just and necessary but..."
Suddenly, the light enveloped Jeff as well, blinding him from seeing people, angels, or the city. He closed his eyes and powerfully sensed the presence of God all around him.
"What's happening? Where are you, Lord?"
"You also have burning questions in your spirit."
"I don't understand what you mean," Jeff said, but realized the Lord was right. God knew him better than he knew himself. He had repressed it, perhaps thinking it not proper to question. But he had questions about God's ways, just as sure as Nick did.
"Ask me, and I shall answer."
Jeff paused. "I'd like to know why, if You could have won this battle at any time, did you put us through all of this? Why did you allow evil in the first place? Why did so many have to suffer and die?"
The scene changed.
Jeff saw the beginning of time, when God decided He wanted to have the companionship of intelligent creatures who could, of their own free will, love and worship Him. He created the angels. Jeff felt as if he were in a VRT room, for everything was happening around him as if he were right there. He witnessed God create three powerful and beautiful Archangels--Lucifer, Michael, and Gabriel--and give them each authority over one-third of the angelic host.
God then initiated the Big Bang, which started the physical world into existence. He showed the angels how to mold matter into galaxies, stars and planets, and they all worked together for many eons to perfect the vision God had in His mind of what kind of universe He wanted. Next, He showed them how to form living cells and how to fit the cells together to make complex living organisms, telling them that He would also one day create many different intelligent physical creatures. He, along with His spiritual helpers, would serve them by comprising the Kingdom of God and supplying all their needs and governing their affairs.
But Lucifer became enamored with his beauty and power and rebelled against God, galled at the idea of becoming a servant to lower sentient physical creatures. He questioned the Lord's sovereign right to be King over all creation, to decide what is right and wrong, what should be done, or to demand obedience. He decided he didn't want to submit to God or His laws, but claimed complete moral independence. Lucifer became Satan, the devil, and succeeded in turning the angels in his charge against their Creator also, following a new path, a new philosophy of living called evil.
Then a great war ensued, lasting millions of years and devastating most of the partially finished universe. God's faithful angels eventually succeeded in capturing all of Satan's followers and the Lord pronounced judgment upon them. He created hell and was about to cast the devil and his angels into it when Satan accused God of being unjust and cruel, raising doubt in the remaining holy angels' minds about the correctness of His ways, and His sovereign right as Creator to do whatever He deemed proper. The Lord didn't want His remaining faithful to fear Him or to question His character, so He proposed a challenge to Satan.
God recreated the surface of planet Earth, a casualty of the war which had seen most of the dinosaurs abruptly destroyed. He made intelligent creatures called man and woman, named them Adam and Eve, and set them in a beautiful garden named Eden. The test was this: if the devil could cause all humans to follow the path of evil, then the Lord agreed to abdicate His throne and let Satan rule the universe, but if even one mere limited human being could love God and be perfectly faithful to Him in all things, it would prove He is worthy of such devotion and the Lord would judge the devil and his angels.
Adam and Eve failed, but the Lord promised One would be born who would defeat Satan. Throughout the ages, the devil succeeded in turning many away from their Creator, but there was always a small remnant that tried their best to remain faithful to Him. However, because of inherent imperfections due to the fall of man, humans needed another Adam to accomplish what the first could not--live a perfect life and never sin.
One day, a member of the Godhead took on human form as the man named Jesus, who obeyed the Lord completely under all trials and temptations, and because of His sacrificial life and death, God won. On the cross, Jesus also chose to bear all of God's wrath for rebellious humans, thereby winning the right to forgive whoever He wanted and grant them eternal life. In this way, He showed His worthiness to be King by demonstrating His great love for His creatures--suffering for them, bearing their sin, shame, and punishment. The devil knew he was defeated but continued to fight on, hatred driving him to try to drag as many down to hell with him as he could.
After Jesus' triumphant resurrection, God could have ended the test and started rebuilding His Kingdom, but He allowed human history to be played out completely, to stand as a testimony for all time of the utter hopelessness of evil. The pain and heartache of human history would be an eternal example for all God's creatures to come that His way was better than any other. Not a single person's suffering went without notice or eternal purpose and meaning; each life proved God's side of the issue, and the Lord's servants were rewarded thousands of times over in the next life. Their suffering also served another purpose: it perfected their characters so they would be fitting rulers with God in His new Kingdom.
Now the scene changed to a vision of the future.
Jeff saw a new universe governed by God and His perfect government made up of resurrected humans and angels. The trials and temptations humans had faced in their lifetimes gave them a perfect and complete understanding of why good was better than evil; consequently, they were able to rule justly in the new order. God gave His saints powerful new spiritual bodies like the angels', and gave them authority over everything He had made. Together, they completed the cosmos, filling it with innumerable life forms, covering every planet in every galaxy. God's Kingdom kept growing and growing until the physical universe could no longer hold it. Then the Lord widened all of creation and His kingdom continued to grow. There was no end.
Abruptly, the spectacular vision ended.
"But you haven't shown me where the spirits came from that lived the human experience," Jeff said. "Is Nick right? Did all humans preexist as fallen spirits before coming to earth, and you've now simply removed memory of it from our consciousness?"
"Ask Nick. I've explained this mystery to him."
Again, God stood at the gate of the heavenly city, bathed in white light. This time Jeff could see His face.
He was beautiful, was all Jeff could think.