in his pajamas, Tony finished brushing his teeth, then slid into
bed. Anna couldn't help but notice that Tony was rather quiet the
entire evening. She wasn't sure if something was
bothering him, or if he just wasn't feeling well.
something wrong?" Anna asked in a soft voice and with heartfelt concern. "You're just
not your usual, talkative self tonight. Either there's something
on your mind, or you're getting sick"
"Maybe both," Tony
responded. "I've been feeling a little off since dinner. I'm
sure it's just gas. Maybe the pizza was just a little too spicy
for me. But I keep thinking about the matter-of-fact way that the
guy at the mall--Joe, I think his name was--outright refused to hear
the Truth about Jesus. He was so sure he already had all of the
answers even though he wasn't even sure of what he believed.
I guess it just bothers me that so many people will consider
anything and everything except the Truth of Jesus. So many people
think they know the truth, and won't find out otherwise until it's too
late. It's frustrating--and frightening."
"Don't let it get to you, Honey," Anna said in a comforting tone, "
I've talked to a lot of people about Jesus, and that seems to be what
usually happens. They just don't want to be bothered with hearing
about it. I think that deep down inside, on some level, people
know that what you're telling them is true, but their pride and
stubbornness make them want to fight it. Maybe they realize that
if they listen, they'll have to actually make a decision to either accept Christ or
reject Him. And, if they do accept what you're telling them, then
they have to make some major decisions and changes in their lives.
I think that, deep down inside, people are convinced that as long as they
don't deal with the whole Jesus thing, they can just keep living
the way they're living."
"But," Tony interjected, "life gets
better after you're saved--I'm not saying easier, but better.
I never realized how little purpose and direction I had in my
life until after I gave my life to Christ. After all these years, I still
remember very clearly how much more direction and purpose I felt after the whole 'born-again' experience."
"Yea, but people don't know that," Anna
continued. "They can't know what life will be like after they belong to Jesus
until after they belong to Jesus. I know it gets frustrating sometimes,
but don't forget that even the Bible says many people will
never listen. Some will listen, some will come around later, but
some will just never listen. It's not our job to convince them, it's only our job to tell
them. As long as you tell people about Jesus, you're doing all
you're expected to do to help them find the Truth. So, don't
worry too much about whether or not people listen, just make sure
you're at least telling them. It's their choice to accept it or
Tony winced as his gas pain got a little more
severe, and he started to get a dull ache in his shoulder. "I
guess it's just been a longer day than I thought. I think
I'm gonna just go to sleep and hopefully feel better in the
morning--physically and emotionally."
"Good night dear."
Anna whispered as she gently and lovingly kissed Tony on the
forehead. Within a minute or two, Tony was fast asleep.
4:00am wake-up call
a heavy sweat, Tony was jolted awake when the gas pain in his chest
suddenly increased. He decided to get a drink of water, wait a minute
or two, and if the pain didn't subside, he would wake up Anna and go to
the hospital. Tony slipped out of bed and walked into the
bathroom. As he reached for the glass next to the sink, the
dull ache in his chest became a heavy squeeze that literally took his
breath away. The pain in his arm became so severe that he
couldn't lift it. The heaviness in his chest grew, the pain
in his arm became unbearable, and a sharp pain shot through his jaw.
He tried with all of his strength to yell out to Anna, but his
body was doubled over in indescribable pain, leaving him unable to
take a deep enough breath to make any sound but a soft, guttural groan.
Tony was relieved when the pain suddenly subsided, but now there
was a loud, annoying ringing in his ears, though to be sure, Tony was very grateful
to have traded all of that gut-wrenching pain for a mere ringing in his ears.
Within a few seconds, the ringing in his
ears diminished to nothing. Tony was stunned to be looking at
himself laying on the bathroom floor. His body had
taken on a bluish hue, leading Tony to conclude that his heart had
stopped. With that thought, the visual image of the bathroom
took on a surrealistic feel. Not quite cartoon, but not quite
real either. As Tony continued to gaze down on his lifeless
body, he was surprised at how pathetic, worthless and dirty his
body now seemed to him. Not physically dirty--maybe "dirty"
wasn't the right word. His body just seemed disgusting in
some way--no, the word "disgusting" didn't fit either. He
didn't really know what word to use to describe how revolting the dead
body on the bathroom floor now appeared to him, but he did know that he
didn't want to look at it any longer. Tony had just completed
that last thought, when he felt the sensation of being very quickly
swept up and out of the bathroom. It was much like the feeling
someone experiences the moment they descend the first hill on a roller
coaster ride. Tony got a very brief glimpse of the outside
of his house when, with a sound like a water fall and rushing wind,
Tony watched the visual image of his house rapidly shrink to nothing
but a dot, and then disappear completely. At that very instant,
Tony found himself in some sort of tunnel, or deep valley. He
couldn't really see it well enough to discern which it was, but he
definitely had the feeling of traveling along at high speed inside
of--something. This experience was so unexpected and inexplicable
that Tony was dumbfounded by the fact that he wasn't feeling any fear.
He felt relieved, relaxed and sort of peaceful--but absolutely no fear
One For Heaven
Tony continued to fly along the deep valley in which he now found
himself, he became full of excitement and anticipation. It was
much like watching an exciting movie, anxiously waiting to see what
would happen next. Tony remembered that often, during his childhood,
parents would quote a verse from the Bible--the Lord's
prayer--that said "though I walk through the the valley of
the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." With all that was
him, Tony found that verse to be very comforting.
Maybe this valley--or tunnel--or whatever it is, is
the valley of the shadow of death. The valley itself was so dark
and obscured that he could certainly see that the "shadow" part made
"Why isn't this weird experience scary?"
Tony thought; "I would think that something like this would be
terrifying." But still he felt no fear, no stress, just a
feeling of giddy anticipation.
off in the distance, toward what he assumed to be the other end
of the tunnel, or valley, Tony was able to roughly make out a small dot of white
light. It was like looking up at the darkest night sky he had
ever seen, and seeing the brightest, most brilliantly white star he could
possibly imagine. Even though it was nothing but a small pinpoint
of light, Tony couldn't get over how intensely white and bright it was.
He also couldn't get over the feeling of warmth, love
and--perfection--he was feeling. Although the word perfection seemed so
inadequate, it was the only word that at least came
close to describing the warm feelings that were making his skin and
his senses tingle.
With the same sound of a water fall and rushing wind that Tony had
heard when he was whisked from his house, he saw two human figures
slide up next to him, one on each side. Tony could tell that they
were wearing some sort of white gowns or robes, but they were emitting
a light so white and intense that Tony's eyes were unable to
make out any real detail.
"Are these angels?" Tony wondered to himself; "If these are angels, then I must be dead. I don't feel dead."
The expression "I don't feel dead" struck Tony as
funny and he let
out a barely audible chuckle. Tony couldn't explain it, but
he truly didn't feel dead. To him, the experience
was like going to visit someplace you had never been before.
Like getting on a jet, then with no perception of the passage of
time, stepping off the jet in a new, wondrous place that
anticipation and excitement at what might happen next. Tony began
to regard the dead body he left laying on the bathroom floor as a
home he used to live in before moving to someplace new. The
feelings of peace, comfort and safety
were beginning to make Tony feel almost giggly--like a small child at
Christmas time. He suddenly realized why his dead body seemed
like "a home he used to live in"--this new place was beginning to feel more
more like home than his body or his house ever did.
"Are...are you angels?" Tony managed to ask, "Am I...home?"
With a soft, amused laugh, the entity on Tony's right said "Yes, we are
angels, creations just as you are; but you are not home--not quite
yet. We are sent to you to take you home."
it had now grown noticeably larger, Tony was certain that the
bright light at the other end of the valley was getting closer.
The feeling of warmth, love and perfection he had begun to
feel when first laying eyes on the light, began to fill him. Yes,
fill him. As if something had always been missing from his
very existence and he never knew it until now.
The word "fill" seemed too feeble to describe the sensation,
but Tony could not think of a better way to explain the sensation of
having everything that was ever missing from his soul, slowly
being added back.
"If these beings with me are angels," Tony
thought to himself,
"then that bright light at the end of this valley must be Heaven--or Jesus!"
The thought of meeting Jesus face to face took Tony's level of
excitement and giddiness even higher. Even as a child, Tony had
never felt the overwhelming wash of excitement, hope, anticipation
and wonder that he was feeling right now.
The point of light
continued to grow larger and closer as Tony's eyes became more and more
to the intensity of the light from the end of the valley, as well as
that emanating from his two angel guides. Tony could see
what could be described as wisps, or clouds, of glowing light
pouring out from the point at the end of the
valley, and he could also now see a bit more detail in his angel
They appeared to be in their thirties although, to be honest, the
concept of time was beginning to feel strangely foreign now. The
entities were male, clean-shaven and with shoulder length hair.
Tony couldn't really discern the color of their hair since their
entire being was made up of pure white light rather than
color. Both angels were about his height and had a look of
anticipation which, much like Tony's, grew more obvious the closer
they got to that distant point of light.
waterfall, rushing wind, swishing sound, Tony and the two angels were
suddenly joined by two additional entities. These didn't look
quite the same as the first two angels. They were glowing just as
brightly, but had a less ethereal look to them. Tony was not sure
exactly why, but they seemed familiar to him--then he realized why--"Mom
and Dad?" Amidst joyous laughter from both
angels, there was a resounding "yes" in answer to Tony's question.
He wasn't sure how much more excitement he could take.
Things just kept getting better and better. Seeing his
parents again, after they had been killed in a car accident over twenty
years ago, began to overwhelm Tony. He hollered out in joy; no
real words, just a loud, joyous yell as he and his parents joined in
"Thank you both for
raising me to love Jesus!" Tony said, choking back tears. "I
don't know where to begin to thank you for making sure I would be
safe for eternity!"
"Tony," his mother
responded, "you sure don't have to thank us for that. It was our
job as parents to raise you as best we could."
"And if we hadn't raised you to love and worship Jesus," Tony's
father added, " then some other Christian would eventually have been
sent to tell you about Him. You listened right away when you were
told the Truth as a child, but you would have also recognized the Truth
as a teen or as an adult. You heard the Truth, and you quickly knew it to be Truth"
mother continued, "There is so
much that we can hardly wait to show you. Wait until you see,
until you see! It's so beautiful, There's light,
laughter and warmth. And LOVE--oh Tony, just wait until you feel
how much you are truly loved by your Creator! Everything is
magnificent, glowing and wondrous. You'll hardly know where to
start. We'll meet you there and join you at the
celebration." Tony started to ask them what celebration they were
talking about, but with another swishing sound, his mother and
father were gone, even though the love he had felt from them remained.
now, the point of light
was so much closer that Tony could plainly see that it was much more
than just a point of light. It appeared to be a gate of some
sort--a huge gate. It was smooth, shiny and glowing with light.
It looked as though someone had taken a gigantic, perfect jewel
and carved it into a giant gate. The image was detailed and pure in a way that the eyes of his human
body would never have been able to perceive. As Tony continued to
admire the beauty of the gate, he noticed a human figure standing in
front it. As Tony drew closer, he could see that the
figure was very, very tall--maybe ten feet or more. The figure
was glowing with the same pure, white light that Tony observed in his
guides and his parents. The warmth, love and acceptance that
Tony felt earlier was now so intense, that he actually shed a tear.
A single tear of pure, intense joy.
"That must be Jesus," Tony thought, "that huge,
person has got to be Jesus Himself!" Without even the slightest
perception of acceleration, Tony could somehow sense that they were picking
up speed as they approached the gate. So much speed, in
fact, that within seconds he found himself standing before the
towering figure. The figure glowed with an indescribably intense
light. A light so warm and bright that Tony knew
that the mortal eyes he once had would have been burned beyond use.
In every way that Tony could see, the figure looked to be the
perfect specimen of a human form. Well, not human. It was
very plain to see that this towering, glowing, perfect being was
certainly not human. But to Tony's perception, all of the being's
human traits were perfect. The being had shoulder length hair as
did the two angels Tony had already met; beautiful, wide, piercing eyes
which glowed too brightly for Tony to discern eye color; and a smooth,
soft, loving face displaying the most heartwarming smile
that Tony had ever seen--a smile that warmed Tony to the very depths of his being.
Looking into the face of this magnificent being, Tony suddenly
felt dirty and unworthy. He had always thought himself to
be a good person, but in the presence of this shining, perfect entity,
Tony felt less than worthless. He immediately fell to his
knees, covered his face, began to beg forgiveness for the times he has
come short of God's perfect standard, and bowed his head in an act of
contrition and worship.
"Look up!" an
authoritative but not overly loud voice commanded. The being held
his hands down and slightly out to his sides with his palms facing forward.
Tony was surprised, though by now he probably shouldn't have
been, to see that even the hands of this entity glowed with pure white
light. "Stand to your feet!" the being commanded.
"No Lord," Tony responded with a somewhat weak and trembling
voice, "I can't--I know I'm not worthy to stand in the presence of my Lord and
"STAND NOW!" the voice
commanded so loudly and forcefully that Tony immediately sprang to his feet. "I am
not He--I am not the Son of God--I am not the Christ--I am but a
servant as are you. DO NOT WORSHIP ME! I am just an angel,
the keeper of the gate, the Lord's watchman if you will. I
am merely here to allow you to pass through His gate and into His
glorious Heaven--Come!" The angel turned and faced the gate
which opened to allow Tony and the three accompanying angels to
enter into Heaven. Honestly, Tony could only assume
that the gate
opened. He never actually saw it open, he just felt a quick but
intense acceleration, saw a brief white light that, for just a moment,
blinded him with its brightness, and then suddenly
found himself and the gate-keeper standing on the other side of
the gate. The two angels Tony had first met were now gone.
Welcome To Eternity
inside, a light much like the one he saw while passing through the gate, so bright that it washed out all visual
images, forced Tony to close his eyes as he instantaneously became
aware of music. He couldn't help but notice
the music since it was coming from all directions and seemed to be
flowing around and
through everything including Tony himself. Although the musical
style was one that Tony had never heard before, and couldn't have
described, it was the most incredibly beautiful music he had ever
heard. It captured his soul, made him forget about everything
else, and was like hearing music for the first time--like hearing
pure, perfect music--as if all of the music Tony had ever heard before
was nothing more than a cheap approximation and this is
what music was really supposed to be--incredibly, inexplicably
beautiful! Actually, the word "beautiful" didn't come close
to describing it, but Tony was finding it more and more difficult to put into human
words any of what he was experiencing. The melody, harmony
and tones of the music were absolutely flawless and magnificent.
He heard complex harmonies playing off of
the melody, but it all blended together so perfectly that it almost
seemed as if the melody and harmonies were all one sound instead
of separate components of the song. Tony couldn't be
but there did seem to be some kind of instrumentation accompanying the
music; although, to be honest, whatever instrumentation there might
have been was also melding seamlessly with the rest of the composition
and becoming one with it. Tony wasn't really sure if he was
hearing the music, feeling the music, or perhaps both. He was
certain, at first, that he was hearing the music with his ears, but the
more of it he heard, the more he began to realize that he was also
"hearing" it with his emotions. There really wasn't any good way
to describe the sensation except that he seemed to be melding with
the music, or that the music seemed to be
becoming part of him--a vital part of his own body and spirit--his very being longing to express itself by joining in.
Tony had been so lost in the breathtaking melody, that he didn't realize at
first that there were words being sung as well. A
sudden, giddy smile of joy and satisfaction came over Tony's
face when he became aware that the lyrics were in some language he
didn't even recognize, yet he was still able to understand each and
every word being sung. He heard songs of worship, songs of
adoration, songs of praise, and songs of gratitude for Christ's
sacrifice for His children. The words of yet another song thanked
God for gathering His children into this glorious place. Even if
Heaven had nothing more to offer than what Tony was experiencing right
at this moment, he still would be content for
Tony was amazed to realize that,
as he listened to the various songs, somewhere
inside him, he knew the words to every single one of
them as though the desire to praise, worship and adore were woven
through the fabric of his spirit and built right into
his essence. As Tony began to first hum, then softly sing
he realized that he had been so lost in the music, that he
didn't realize that his eyes were still closed. Upon this
realization, he opened
his eyes for his first glimpse of Heaven.
Tony understood the source of the bright light that had temporarily
forced him to close his eyes. His eyes were now fully adjusted to
the radiantly pure, white light that seemed to shine right
through him, and he could clearly see a man standing in front of
man emitting a pure, white, warming, loving light. At least Tony
thought it was light that the man was emitting. It was impossible for Tony to differentiate the
visible light from what he was feeling. Tony was engulfed in
a feeling of--perfection--or maybe more like royal magnificence--no, it
was perfection, but not just perfection. It was perfection
and--Holiness! Was this Jesus? Before Tony could
even complete this thought, the man held his hands down, a little out to each side, and slightly in
front of himself--then, turned his palms outward. A somewhat
rough-edged scar was clearly visible in the middle of each
of the man's palms. There was no doubt this time. Tony
could feel it to his core. The man, in whose presence Tony now
stood, was Jesus Christ. Tony now understood why
gatekeeper angel held out his hands when Tony mistook him for Jesus.
It was to show Tony that there were no nail scars from Jesus'
death on the cross.
a fraction of a second, Tony
went from the complete elation he had been feeling, to being
overwhelmed with how dirty and disgusting he felt. Looking into
the face of this glorious Man, Tony suddenly realized how foul and
disgusting he truly was. Tony had always thought of himself
as a nice guy and a good, caring person; someone who always
tried to do good in the world and follow the teachings of Christ.
Someone who could
be proud of who, and what, he had become. But not now. Not
here in the presence of this magnificent, holy Being. Tony was only
human. He couldn't help making mistakes throughout his life; nonetheless, he was now painfully aware of every single
time he had come short of the example Christ provided in
the Bible. Tony felt deathly sick to his stomach. The
gripping pain felt similar to what he had experienced during the
heart attack that initially launched him on this ethereal journey, but
considerably more intense.
quickly, the feeling of worthlessness gripped Tony tightly. Tears
poured from his eyes and he began to sob in a deep, heartfelt way that he
wouldn't have thought possible. He closed his eyes
tightly, dropped to his knees, then fell
face down at the feet of Jesus. Tony didn't feel worthy
to move, let alone get
back up or even look up. Even if he had wanted to get back up,
the visceral sobbing welling up from deep within would have made it
impossible to gather enough strength to stand.
was inundated by a barrage of memories of times during his life that he
had the opportunity to tell people the Truth of Christ, but didn't for
fear that they would make fun of, or reject him. He remembered
times when careless words slipped from his lips, hurting or
offending not only people he didn't know, but occasionally even
people Tony claimed to care for. He pondered
the many times he had become unfairly angry or indignant, and failed to
properly represent the Man at whose feet he now lay. Memories of
every lie, every curse, every vile thought, every indiscretion came
flooding into his thoughts. All of the things in his life
had thought were done in private, came back to him in vivid
detail. For the first time, he truly understood how the sin in
his life had separated him from the God who loved him like a precious
child--sin that separated him from God's Son who was sent to die an
to pay for
every sin Tony had ever committed. If he had truly
understood how precious he was to God, Tony would have made much more
eliminate sin from his
life. Well, not eliminate it.
Tony understood that all
men are sinful and any sin separates us from the loving, forgiving
warmth that surrounded Tony at this very moment; but surely he could
have kept much of
the wrong he had done in his life from ever happening.
At that moment, Tony
realized how silly it was to think that he, by himself, could have
significantly removed sin from his own life. He knew that
all of the good he had done in his life meant
nothing when it
came to being acceptable to the Man Tony was now afraid to even look
If not for the torture and bloodshed of Christ's death on
the cross, Tony knew that a vile, disgusting, sinful, creature
such as himself would be rightfully done away with. He was so
filthy and so unworthy that he felt like just laying there at Jesus'
feet until Jesus realized the things Tony now realized, and cast Tony
out of His sight forever. Tony felt certain that he couldn't take
this emotional pain much longer.
Surely, his heart would soon explode from the crushing grief and
regret it was was enduring at this moment. As best he could manage through
his deep sobbing, Tony weakly uttered the words "My Lord--my
sorry--I'm so sorry--please, Lord--please forgive me."
Immediately, there was a soft warm touch on Tony's shoulder accompanied by the words "Tony,
I already have. All of those things that just went
through your mind were paid for. My precious child, why do you think I died
for you? You are loved, you are forgiven, and you are forever my child.
Stand up and enter into the glorious reward the Father has
prepared for those who belong to Me"
At the very moment that Jesus finished speaking,
Tony felt a wash of love, life, forgiveness, perfection and purity wash
around and then through him starting at his head, and pouring right
down to his toes. In that instant, Tony was made perfect and
worthy. Tony now even felt
perfect and worthy. Tony thought of the expression "Jesus will
wash away our sins." Now, Tony truly understood what that meant.
Tony now realized that, while on Earth, he had never truly
understood what that expression meant...no one did. Tony was
helped to his
feet. He opened his eyes and looked again into the face of
Jesus--this time, feeling worthy. From several angels who were
now gathered around, Tony
heard the words "Behold, the Lamb of God. Behold the Son.
Behold the Sacrifice. Behold the risen One." Tony
wasn't quite sure if those words were being spoken or sung, but it
didn't matter. He could plainly see that Jesus was all of those
things and so much more. Flowing from Jesus was a sense of
intense, caring love comparable to what a loving parent would feel for
their child, but so much deeper. In an instant, Tony knew that he
was now totally
forgiven, as if each and every one of the memories that had just
pummeled his thoughts were rendered meaningless. With a half
smile mixed with a look of awe, Tony gazed into Jesus' eyes.
Jesus' hand moved slowly to Tony's face, and with a soft, almost
imperceptible touch, Tony's tears and sobbing were gone--replaced with
feelings of love, warmth, acceptance and forgiveness. Then, was
it only a feeling, wishful
thinking or was it actually happening--Yes, it was actually happening.
Tony felt the arms of Jesus wrap around him and pull him into a
close, warm, loving, comforting embrace. Emanating from Jesus,
was such a feeling of acceptance
and love, that for the first time, Tony began to truly, in every way,
understand how deeply loved he actually was.
Not the kind of love that he had ever known while on Earth, but
an all-encompassing love that felt as though it extended from
this moment back to before he was ever even born. Tony
couldn't have fully described it, but he most assuredly felt and
understood it. Tony now knew, without a single doubt,
that he was indeed one of God's own children. Tony closed
his eyes, wrapped
his arms around Christ, clung to Him tightly, and hoped this moment
So Much More
Tony felt the Lord release the embrace, he instinctively
did the same. When Tony opened his eyes, Jesus was gone; but, even though Jesus was no longer
standing right there with him, Tony still had all of the same feelings,
making it plain, in every way, that Jesus was somehow actually still
there with him. In fact, it was clear to Tony that the warm,
loving light washing over and through everything, was emanating directly from God the Father and Jesus the Son.
Tony heard a canorous eruption of singing and laughter from behind
him. He turned around to see several people, including his
parents, accompanied by more angels than Tony could count, all
singing and dancing in a celebration the likes of which Tony had never
seen. Tony couldn't help but wonder what the occasion was and
whether or not he would be permitted to join in. He no sooner
finished that thought, when both of his parents yelled out, "Join in,
this celebration is for you!"
At that moment, all of the people at the celebration, along with the throng of
angels, burst into a song as beautiful as those Tony had heard
when he first got here. Although still in a language he had
never heard before, Tony understood every word. The song was about
welcoming one of God's children home. Home. That was
exactly how it felt. Tony had never felt more "home" in his
entire life. All of the memories of his life on Earth were now
relegated to the farthest reaches of his mind. He could still
remember everything, but it was as though none of what happened
before coming to Heaven was real. It was a different
place and a different life. At this point, Tony's life on Earth was
beginning to feel as though it never had really been his life. This was his life. This was
life. Tony found it difficult to fathom how shallow and wanting
his life on Earth had really been, regardless of how happy he thought
he was and how full his life on Earth had seemed. Into Tony's
mind flowed another verse from the Bible: "I come that you may have
life and have it more abundantly." It was at that moment that
Tony realized that his own thoughts were beginning to mingle with words
that Jesus has spoken while on Earth. Though some of Jesus'
Tony remembered reading from the Bible, there were some he did not.
Clearly, some thoughts of God the Father and Jesus the Son
were being revealed to Tony for the first time now that he was here in
Heaven. He continued to feel the same love, warmth and
acceptance he had felt while in the arms of Jesus; and continued to
in the pure light that was ever flowing through the deepest level of
Tony's being. Tony
was beginning to share some of God's very thoughts and, for the
truly understood what the Bible meant about becoming "one with the
was pulled from his deep thought by suddenly
finding himself surrounded by his welcome-home celebration. He
freely sang, danced and laughed in an unencumbered way that would have
been impossible on Earth, all the while amazed that he could possibly
mean this much to anyone--let alone to the Creator of the entire
universe. Tony had been laughing and dancing for what seemed like
hours when he noticed a young man standing in front of him.
Immediately, inexplicably, Tony knew who the young man was.
Twenty years before Tony's death--no, twenty years before the
death of his body, Tony had served as a leader in his church youth
group. Once per week, the teenagers from the neighborhood would
get together for fun, games and a quick lesson about forgiveness through Christ. Tony did
his best, during that time, to care for and guide each and every teen
in the youth group. He made sure that every teen who ever came to
a youth group meeting, even once, heard about the love and salvation of
Jesus Christ. Now, so many years later, with a warm, friendly
smile on his face, here stood one of those teens, though no longer a
teen. Tony was just wishing to himself that he could remember the
young man's name, when it immediately came to him--Bobby. Well,
actually it was Robert, but everyone called him Bobby. Tony was
amazed that he was able to remember Bobby's name after so many years.
"Good to see you brother," Bobby said to Tony in a sincere, enthusiastic tone, "and thank you."
"For what?" Tony.asked.
you told me all about having a relationship with Christ. I was a
pretty rebellious kid back in the old church youth group days, so I didn't
listen to you. I did hear you, I just didn't listen.
Well, as the years passed, I started feeling like I was searching
for something in my life. I knew something was missing, but I
didn't know what. I tried girls, sports, weird New Age religions,
alcohol--well, just about everything. Then one day, all of the
things you taught me in youth group came back to me. That was
when I figured out what had been missing all that time--my
relationship with the One who created me. I broke down in tears,
prayed to God and Jesus to forgive me, take over my life, and help me
to live for Jesus. All those times you talked to me in youth
group were not wasted, Tony. It all came together years later
when I said that prayer right there..."
Tony quickly interrupted
"Right there in your little one-room apartment after being laid off
from your job clear on the other side of the country from where you
lived as a child!" Tony was stunned. He suddenly realized
that he knew all about Bobby. Who he was, how his life on Earth
had turned out and how he came to give his life to Christ. After
hugging Bobby as if he were a long lost brother,
Tony looked around in wonder realizing that he now knew everyone around
him with the same amount of detail. Laughing in sheer joy, Tony
ran from person to person telling them things about themselves and
embracing each person as a true brother or sister. Some of them,
Tony had met during his life on Earth; but some were people Tony never
knew while on Earth, yet knew them now just as well as he knew Bobby.
"We truly are one in Christ," Tony kept repeating to himself out
had barely completed that thought, when a beautiful young woman
walked up to him, smiled, and gave him a warm. loving hug of gratitude.
Tony immediately recognized that the young woman was the one who had sat
down on a bench in the mall to talk to Dave about Christ.
overheard you tell that man in the mall to at least consider what Dave
had to say. That got me thinking that there wouldn't be any
harm in just listening, but as Dave told me more and
Christ, what he was saying started making sense to me. For a long
I had felt as though something was missing in my life, and Dave helped
me to understand that what I was missing was a relationship with my
Creator. Good thing too--I died in a really bad car accident a
short time after I pulled out of the mall parking lot. A big
truck destroyed the car in front of me, then ran right into, and
completely crushed, mine.
hadn't told that man to at least consider Dave's words--well, I sure
wouldn't be here right now. Thanks Tony. You were helping
to spread the Truth of Christ and didn't even realize it."
welcome, Courtney, " Tony replied as the young lady smiled and continued
on her way. "One in Christ," Tony thought to himself. "I never
truly understood what that meant until now--one in Christ..."
beautiful young woman walked up to Tony with the same knowing smile on
her face that he had on his. Looking right into Tony's eyes
and in a soft but confident voice, the girl said "Thanks, Tony."
very welcome Zawadi," Tony immediately responded in a gentle, loving,
knowing voice. No discussion was necessary. He knew
all about Zawadi. He had never met or spoken to her in his entire
life, but he
now knew all about her. During his life on Earth, Tony
occasionally gave small amounts of money, whenever he could afford it, to a
church-sponsored, Christian missionary organization that sent doctors
and medical supplies to poverty-stricken countries around the world.
It was a way for him to help others, and spread the Truth of
Jesus Christ at the same time. Local people in those parts of the world would sometimes travel for
days to be
able to see a doctor for the first, and possibly the only, time in
their lives. Upon arrival at the church's makeshift clinic, the people were given vaccinations,
vitamins, and whatever treatments the doctors could provide for the
myriad of medical conditions that had driven so many people to make
such a long, difficult journey to the clinic.
waiting for a turn to see the doctor, every person who
came to the clinic was told the Truth of Jesus Christ; Zawadi was
one of those people. She had immediately felt that what she was
about the love and forgiveness of Christ was the Truth, and she
it with all her heart. Several of the Christian volunteers at
the clinic prayed with Zawadi, gave her a Bible and the contact
information for some people who could answer any future questions she
have about God and Jesus. She took her newfound relationship with
Jesus back to her village in Africa and told others. During
Zawadi led forty seven other people to give their lives to Jesus.
Eventually, Zawadi died of an infection that could have been
successfully treated with more antibiotics, but none were to be found
in her little village. By the time local Christian missionaries
got word of it, it was too late for Zawadi. Not that she cared
anymore--Zawadi wouldn't want to go back to Earth now if she could.
And Tony instinctively knew all of this and more by just looking
into her eyes. Tony didn't realized it until now, but a portion of
the little money Tony was able to give to the clinic endeavor, was what
paid for the very bottle of antibiotics Zawadi herself received that
day at the
clinic--medicine that ultimately saved Zawadi from a very serious
respiratory infection that otherwise would have killed her
within weeks. Tony could hardly wait to eventually meet the
people Zawadi had led to a relationship with Jesus. Again, to
himself, Tony thought "those of us here, truly are one in
"We truly are," Zawadi responded, somehow aware of Tony's thought.
hand, his mother said "Come with us, Tony, your father and I have so
much more we want to show you."
It was a strange and difficult-to-describe realization, but
it suddenly occurred to Tony that his mother and father were not really
his mother and father--at least they weren't now. In every way,
Tony's mother and father were now his sister and brother. He
couldn't quite explain it, but it was clear that they were all God's
precious children and were therefore, here in this place, all brothers and sisters.
Hand-in-hand, Tony, his mother
and his father wandered away from the celebration and began taking a
leisurely walk through Heaven. Just the thought of that made Tony
laugh out loud. "I'm going for a walk in Heaven--in Heaven!"
He still had a little trouble believing that all of these
wonderful things were really happening to him.
Tony and his parents walked, he looked around, realizing immediately
that he had been so overwhelmed and enthralled with the few things that
had already happened since arriving, that he never even took the time
for even a fleeting glance at Heaven around him. It felt
rather silly to Tony that he could be so distracted that he didn't even
think to take at least a quick look around him, but then again,
the experiences of the music, meeting Jesus face to face, the
celebration and just the all-encompassing feeling of warmth and love,
were all so far beyond words and human experience, that Tony's senses
were already taking in all they could. But now, he was taking
the time to just look around at his new surroundings.
Looking down at his feet, Tony
could see that the pavement, if one could call it that, was made of a
very thin layer of pure gold--no, it was more like a shining, glowing
sheet of impossibly thin, gold-colored glass--no, that wasn't right
either. Maybe it was a very thin sheet made from a single jewel
so large that all of the streets of heaven could be carved from it in
one continuous piece. Tony quickly gave up his attempt at
describing the pavement in Heaven. "How wonderful and glorious,"
Tony thought, "that even something as simple and lowly as pavement, is
beyond description here!"
Looking around, Tony saw buildings lining
the streets. The style of most reminded Tony of pictures of Old Jerusalem he had seen in the back
pages of his Bible; yet others had a more
roundish look to them--like there should be corners and angles to the
building, but there were none. These additional buildings weren't
actually round or dome shaped, but they also weren't square or
rectangular either. It was as if they were made in some
oddly beautiful geometric shape that would have been impossible on
Earth. All of the buildings seemed white and were somewhat
translucent. It was difficult to call them white since the colors
of Heaven were so vibrant and varied that Tony didn't
even have names or descriptions for most of them. He could only describe
the colors in Heaven as looking like the music sounded. He knew
that didn't make much sense, but it was the best he could do
with human words. The buildings were pure, clean and infused
with the same light that permeated everything in this glorious place.
The material from which the buildings were built, whatever it
was, reminded Tony of the material of the huge gate he had passed through
to get into Heaven just a few hours earlier. Of course, he
could only guess that it was hours, since the concept of
time was all but completely meaningless to him by this point.
As far as
Tony could see, there were rolling hills lush with soft, plush,
carpet-like grass; and magnificent verdant bushes, trees and other
vegetation. All of the flora here was lush, perfect,
soothing to behold, and not like any growing things Tony had ever seen
on Earth. It was as if God had created plants with a light,
energy, warmth and glory similar to His own. Tony suddenly
realized there were people--everywhere. People walking along the
streets, across the grass, in and out of the buildings. Tony
couldn't believe he didn't notice them when he was looking at the
streets, the buildings and the foliage. "How wonderful Heaven is,"
Tony pondered. "Each and every thing, no matter how basic,
is so magnificent that it draws and holds one's full attention to
exclusion of all else. No wonder there are no detailed
descriptions of Heaven in the Bible--any attempt to do so in human
words would be cheap, inadequate, and an injustice to the actual glory
of this place."
Many of the people were walking purposefully, not
urgently or in a hurry, but purposefully, as if headed somewhere
important. Some of the people seemed to completely vanish at will, while others appeared
from seemingly nowhere. Although many of the people Tony saw
seemed to be headed somewhere, he also saw many people sitting in the
grass talking and laughing, many greeting others with a hug, and some
just singing glorious praises to the Creator at the tops of their voices.
Now Tony understood why the music he had heard earlier seemed to
be coming from all around him--it was! Each and
every person was joyful and obviously completely, spiritually
fulfilled. As if everything their soul ever wanted or needed was suddenly
provided for them. As if every joy that a human was capable of
experiencing, was suddenly made an actual part of their being.
"What are all of these people doing that's bringing them
so much joy? Where are they headed? What is their purpose?"
The instant Tony asked the question in his mind, he found an answer in
Jesus' thoughts still perfectly meshed with his own: "There are
many glorious and joyful endeavors in Heaven. Everyone has some
kind of job to do, some kind of assignment that fulfills them to the
depths of their souls. In many different ways, everyone is doing
the exact same thing--glorifying their Heavenly Father and praising the
Son by doing exactly what each of them was created to do."
Tony continued on his awe-inspiring walk through Heaven, a woman,
sporting the biggest, most satisfied smile that Tony had ever
seen, came running across the lush, green, velvet-soft grass
straight toward him. Tony's spirit was jolted by
the realization of who this woman was. It was Anna, his wife!
Well, at least she was his wife back on Earth. Now, she was
more his sister--yes, his sister in Christ. The love that he had
felt for her as his wife was now magnified by an unfathomable amount.
It was the love of Christ flowing between them. Love that
flowed between brother and sister. Love that flowed between
children of God. A love that made what he felt when he
was her husband back on Earth, almost meaningless. Back on Earth, Tony only
thought he knew what love was--now, he actually knew!
Tony uttered in a tender, soft, loving tone, "What happened? How
are you here so soon? I wouldn't have expected you to follow me
in death for years." Tony then asked, "You died only a few hours after I did?"
"Tony," Anna said with an air of amusement
in her voice, "I lived another fifteen years after you died. I
just got here a short while ago myself. There was a big
celebration for me and then they sent me here to find you."
years? "Tony mumbled in disbelief. "I've been here for
fifteen years? I thought I had only been here a few hours at
most! Fifteen years?"
"Well," Anna said with a chuckle, "This is eternity--and now, while we've been talking, it's actually been quite a bit longer than fifteen years."
that same sense of familiarity Tony had developed with the others he
had already met here in Heaven, washed over him and he immediately knew
all there was to know about Anna. Just as quickly, it
became clear to him that this truly was eternity. Time meant
nothing. Living here in Heaven, surrounded by the warmth and
love of his Creator, and his brothers and sisters in Christ, was
forever. All of the amazing things that Tony now had, would never
be lost or taken
He would have all of it forever. What Tony thought was life
living on Earth, barely qualified as such. Living here, in
Heaven, permeated by the love of God, Jesus, and every brother and
sister in Christ, Tony realized that this truly was life the way God
had always intended it to be for His children. In every sense of
the word, Tony had truly gained eternal life just as Jesus had always
promised to those who accept His forgiveness.
"Hey Tony, "Anna
said with almost childlike excitement in her voice, "I want to worship
God Himself right in front of His Holy Throne. I want to
see Jesus seated at God's right hand just the way the Bible
said it would
be. What do you say?"
"Of course," Tony
responded almost before Anna could finish asking; "I've been so
overwhelmed--and overjoyed--that I haven't even thought that far ahead
Tony and Anna joined hands, took half a step, and
disappeared from where they stood; to instantly reappear before the very
throne of God...