Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 10, Number 44, October 26 to November 1 2008

Paradise and Perdition

An Exploration through Narrative Theology
into the Interior of Two Doctrines

By Scott Schuleit

Scott Schuleit received the M.A. in Christianity and Culture (Summa Cum Laude) from Knox Theological Seminary. His poems have appeared in several publications, including: the Mars Hill Review, The Penwood Review, Spring Hill Review and Christianity and Literature. Also, a few of his book reviews have appeared in Tabletalk magazine and several of his articles in The Good Life Newsletter. Scott lives in the Atlanta area and enjoys walking, observing, reflecting and spending time with his dear wife Christina. He may be contacted at:

Most of the Scripture verses were taken from the NASB translation of the Bible:

"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962,
1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by

This small book is dedicated to the blessed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

"And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks
to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever,
the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne,
and will worship Him who lives forever and ever,
and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,
"Worthy are You, our Lord and our God,
to receive glory and honor and power;
for You created all things,
and because of Your will they existed,
and were created."

—Rev. 4:9-11


Dr. John M. Frame

Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy
Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL.

In my own writings, I have often emphasized the importance of the "existential perspective," viewing knowledge as a subjective experience. To really understand something, it is important that we understand, not only the facts about it, but its "look and feel." What is it like to actually see and hear what we are trying to understand, to be in its presence. This is, of course, crucial to the knowledge of God, for to know him is to know him person-to-person, as a servant knows his Lord. The Bible knows this; for it contains, not only propositional content (doctrines, ethical principles, historical facts), but also imagery, metaphor, evocations of human emotion. If you read Rom. 11:33-36, "Oh, the depth of the riches…" in a monotone, you will fail to communicate the content of the passage, for much of that content is emotive. Paul's very excitement is the substance of the revelation in this passage.

So we need writers, dare I say theologians, who will introduce us, not only to the doctrines of Scripture, but to the look and feel of Scriptural truth. What would it be like to experience directly the Fall, or the flood, or the Exodus, or the last Supper, the Cross, the Resurrection, or the New Heavens and New Earth? And beyond the canon as such: What is it like to experience conversion, to deal with besetting sins, or to enter into a fully Christian marriage? This kind of theology requires artistry of a high order: the gifts of a novelist, an artist, a poet.

Scott Schuleit has written here a really gripping narrative indicating what it is like to go to Hell, and to go to Heaven. It is thoroughly biblical, though Scott has invented some specific events to illustrate the general biblical picture. He is a powerful writer. His description of Hell will remind you of Jonathan Edwards' famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Movie horror has nothing on this: the biblical doctrine elevates exponentially the experience of fear and pain. I'm delighted that ThirdMill is publishing it. There ought to be more publishing outlets for this kind of work, and there should be many more pieces like this one. This is a pioneering effort. I'd like to see gifted Christian writers dramatizing all the events in Scripture and human experience in this kind of way. If you feel as I do, encourage Scott, and encourage him to do more.

Blessings in the Lord,

John Frame


Heaven and hell, also known as paradise and perdition, are fascinating subjects yet it's uncommon—whether through prose, preaching or any other form—to see them expressed. This is due, in part, because the church has relegated hell into the realm of the archaic, a harsh and primitive doctrine, and heaven as being formless, vague and insubstantial. Even though these specific words may have not been used, these general atmospheres have been conveyed. In the past, despite their speculative nature, these two doctrines—these two places, were proclaimed. They are indeed mysterious and difficult doctrines to apprehend, but in light of the fact that Scripture places them so prominently within its pages and speaks in graphic, visceral terms about both, should we not strive, when necessary, to passionately, unashamedly proclaim the terrors of the one and beauties of the other? To do so requires serious study as well as the use of the imagination, which leads me to another problem surrounding these two doctrines. When they are expressed, the treatment is often either too abstract or mindlessly extravagant. Why is it so uncommon to see an attempt to weave both incisive thought and well-crafted artistry in our expressions? I'm not quite sure. Certainly indiscipline and a neglect of the imagination could be counted among the culprits, but I suspect these problems—as well as the others addressed in this preface—are merely symptomatic of some deeper philosophical causes. Whatever the reasons, hopefully this small book will serve to help vividly render these doctrines back into the mind of the church, and by way of implication, back into the consciousness of our society.

Scott Schuleit
Smyrna, Georgia
October 11, 2008


"The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up,
and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders
and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man
hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains;
and they said to the mountains and to the rocks,
"Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him
who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;
for the great day of their wrath has come,
and who is able to stand?"

—Revelation 6:14-17

Unaware that he's teetering on the brink of a bottomless abyss he moves through life in a careless, cavalier manner, rarely thinking about the afterlife, and when he does, coming to foolish conclusions driven by his secret desire to suppress certain incisive realities and foster innumerable self-seeking desires. While immersed within the trials and pleasures of the realm of the physical—the region of the intensely temporal—thoughts concerning death and eternity seemed to him like mere morbid speculations, a mindless descent into the frivolous in light of the various duties and activities begging for his attention each day.

During one of those rare times in his life when he had allowed questions concerning the afterlife to arise in his mind, he had concluded—based on his own reasoning—that there was one of two possibilities: that death would simply bring about a cessation of consciousness, or that there really was a god, and this god—whoever he was—would of course consider him a worthy addition to paradise. After all, he decided, haven't I always done my best? I've done many good things for others, and these deeds certainly outweigh the bad things I've done…. He began to compare himself to others, and a little surge of pleasure, of delicious pride concerning his moral goodness flushed through him as he did. Yes, there was little doubt in his mind that if just such a situation would actually occur, he would make it in, he would be immediately ushered into the bliss of heaven unlike his old, decrepit next-door neighbor, who seemed to take delight in being offensive and casting aspersions upon his obvious goodwill.

A certain thought suddenly came to his mind, and though deep down he really didn't believe in the actual existence of hell with its lake of fire and scarlet devils brandishing pitchforks, he imagined himself being welcomed into the felicity of heaven while watching as his hated neighbor was flung down into that blazing inferno forever. He smiled thinking about it. It was a beautiful thought, and he allowed it to take shape in his mind for a little while, relishing its sense of profound justice….

As he drove to his girlfriend's apartment, he began to analyze the history of their relationship, evaluating his brilliant orchestrations, his slow, measured efforts to sow seeds of compromise, taking particular pleasure in noting the slow erosion of her resistance. He then began to wonder if tonight his strategy would finally yield the coveted results, the fruition of his desire. He considered the evidence for a few moments, weighing the possibility…. Yes, tonight will be the night, he decided. All of his striving towards this end would soon be rewarded. Tonight I'm going to sleep with her. This last thought moved through his mind as if an absolute certainty, as if engraved in cold iron, as if nothing could overcome the luxurious pleasure which awaited him. The genius of his plans and skill at their execution made him feel like a king and he unconsciously relaxed his body into the throne of his seat, surveying the vast expanse of his terrain….

He rolled down the car window. The warm, fragrant night air breezed in, soothing him….

He began to imagine some of the details of the evening's forthcoming activities. As he wove a dark web of voluptuous thought, he never imagined that a different scenario might take place. Thoughts of contingencies were completely removed from his thinking. He simply couldn't foresee the possibility of anything interfering with his careful, exquisitely designed plans….

He never even saw the blur of the vehicle for the drunk had his headlights off when he shot through the red light and slammed into his car—shattering glass—the world whirling—tumbling—flashing into a sudden blackness…a soundless dark…before he felt the strange sensation of his soul slipping down from his body, away from the crash, from the crushed metal and shards of glass, descending, moving away from the world where above him he could see his bloody, broken body like some grotesque mannequin there, mangled amidst the twisted wreckage….

What happened? Where am I? That was me up there. That was me…. Did I die?

In a non-material way, somehow his inner man, or soul, held the capacity to engage in actions such as seeing and speaking along with certain other manifestations commonly associated with physicality.

While in his disembodied state, as he began to fall swiftly downwards, he soon became aware that he was descending into hell, and if he held any doubts concerning this, they were immediately eradicated when he glimpsed—for a moment—before plunging down into it, the yawning beneath him of a vast, black pit. It was like a maw, like some great monstrous mouth opening to consume him. In the exact moment he entered, the absolutely purest, most perfect form of darkness suddenly and totally swallowed him. It was a completely lightless abyss, a realm devoid of even the tiniest trace of light. The most minute vestige, the frailest remnant of light from any source within or outside of it, was completely, and totally—forever, absent. It was an almost palpable, visceral blackness. It held an oppressive, smothering weight, as if he were slowly, slowly drowning at the bottom of the deepest cavern in the deepest ocean. If the vibrant, enormous white jaws of some great beast were opening right before his eyes and his visual identification of this would determine his escape from being devoured, he would have no more awareness of it than a blind man. It was this fathomless, unyielding, immutable black, which could be named as his initial experience to the horrors of hell—the terrors of the outer darkness….

His descent ceased, yet in a sense, it would continue forever, and as he hung suspended in the dark, he realized that if all of his deepest fears, his most vivid nightmares were combined and given shape and substance, they would be as nothing, a mere wisp of smoke compared to the towering reality, the unspeakable pain and fear awaiting him, and in response to this, he released an utterly desolate scream of far greater intensity and duration than he would have imagined himself capable of. It wasn't a scream like on earth where screams are often elicited when no real fear exists, or if expressed from out of a legitimate fear emerge supported by a cushion of past experiences, of which, include: some measure of security in the earth's fixed laws, the ability to exert one's strength towards escape, the strong probability that help isn't too far away, that the fear will be over soon, and the possibility that the circumstance might not be all that bad, perhaps even harmless. These kinds of earth-bound screams are almost always diluted with some strong measure of expectancy towards a forthcoming deliverance. His scream was of a somewhat different nature altogether. Though still holding onto a small measure of hope for deliverance, the severity and horror of his situation transcended by far any possible horror that anyone could ever experience on earth. It was from out of the extremity of this kind of circumstance that he issued forth an unbridled scream which resembled the screams of the insane and if manifested on earth, would eventually—even if diminished—cause the hearers themselves to descend into madness.

After a while, he tires of this and begins to weep. As he often did when in a difficult, painful, or oppressive situation, he still retains some measure of hope that through some action of his own or friendly intervention, the circumstance might be lifted, for on earth it often was. Like one shielding a tiny flame flickering amidst the violence of a dark storm, he still clings to the frail hope of this possibility. As he weeps, he thinks that deliverance might somehow be found to facilitate escape from his dark incarceration. He hopes by his weeping to sway the architect of this prison, or at least attract the attention of someone or something to take pity on his poor state. As a child he used to be able to manipulate a variety of authorities through weeping and he now reverts to this method that by some possible chance someone will hear, consider his condition and exhibit mercy. His weeping is of a deep and desolate nature, a begging for release, an impassioned plea for help, for pity, the sound of which, if heard for even an instant by those yet to experience transition into heavenly bliss or hellish woe, would find its voice haunting them when awake or asleep for the rest of their lives.

As he weeps he begins to search the dark in an attempt to ascertain some awareness of the dimensions to his prison and to envision the form that his possible deliverance might take. He blinks…then blinks again, straining to perceive definition…. Nothing, absolutely nothing drifts into his sight from out of the dark sea into which he had sunk. On earth, whenever he found himself in the dark, he was almost always—if he simply waited long enough for his eyes to adjust—able to find some definition in his surroundings. In here, within this starless realm, even though his inner-eyes were dilated to their fullest and he strove to envision a stronger awareness concerning the setting to his suffering, the lineaments of any kind of form failed to arise, not even the faintest glow or deepest shade of gray could be seen emerging from out of this vast obsidian dungeon, from out of the unforgiving, impenetrable black. As a result of this, interspersed amidst his weeping, he cries out some more, the fervency of his pleas for help increasing, cries instantly and irrevocably lost the moment released, swallowed as if embers rising from the blaze of his pain into a cold, vacuous universe….

At this point, he begins to kick and throw himself about within the sphere of his suspension. If his actions could be seen, they would have resembled the thrashing tantrums of an enraged child. He was in a place devoid of the stability and dimension of a fixed firmness, and being terrified by this, wildly thrusts his arms out all around himself in an attempt to clutch onto something solid, balance his bearings and find some tangible touch of comfort. His efforts prove futile, his hands failing to grasp anything of material substance, his fingertips failing to feel the faintest brush of air, nor can he even feel—while temporarily disrobed of physicality—his own face, chest or legs. Some of the elements on earth were of a fixed nature, and many could be seen, felt and held, and he had taken this kind of comforting stability for granted, never giving any thought to the reassuring physical, mental and emotional support such a structured world lent, but now—while lost within the void of hell, within this region of infinite deprivation—he desperately longed for it, and would have, if possible, even relished the chance to scoop up and clench a handful of broken glass in his fist, just to feel the sharpness of its solidity.

In response to his thoughts about sensations during his earthly sojourn, his memory, which was now far stronger than it had been on earth, suddenly yielded vivid evocations from the landscape of his childhood: of fireflies flaring and fading in the night, of the rush and feel of rain and the fragrance of the forest after it, of sunlight filtering through leaves…and the serene flow of a river meandering into the mist of distance…. The freshness of these memories, the suddenness and immediacy of them and sense of immeasurable loss and longing they added to an already overwhelming situation, undid him even further and he began to wail….

Even still, despite the unbearable severity of his situation, he still retained the smallest measure of hope that he might be able to induce—with the appeal of his wailing—pity and mercy from the presiding authority over this darkest of precincts. His wail remotely resembled that of the unabashed wailing of a newborn, where from out of the curled, suspended warmth of the nurturing womb it enters into a fallen world, a world of sin where death shadows life. In like fashion, our sinner emerged from out of the womb of his earthly existence, which included many benefits through God's gracious general benevolence, only to be thrust by natural extension from his sinner's state of living death into a deeper death—a more keen decrepitude, an ever-increasing corruption of infinite duration. His wail was a grotesque sound, a tortured screech of great intensity, but from the context of hell—despite the horrific uniqueness of this demented howl—it was a common lament, a familiar dirge from its denizens who find their searing torments increasing, and after a succession of appeals find the frail hope they've clung to steadily diminishing….

After a while, amidst the mixture of his wails and cries, he begins to think more deliberately, and though still reeling from the shock and pain of his situation, a small amount of acclimation has occurred, not that he's become used to the torment, but an awareness over his predicament has increased so that despite being in agony, he's not overwhelmed to the point where his thoughts are in constant confusion. Consequently, he now bends his thoughts towards the development of a plan in an effort to engender escape. While on earth, when in a bad situation, he was rather skilled at composing plans to eradicate a problem, or at the very least, to either divert or alleviate the intensity of it, and so now, here, abandoned in this dark chasm, he attempts to do just this….

He thinks for some time, assessing his situation, but the only plan that he manages to muster is that of continuing to cry out for help, only rather than uttering a general plea, to be more specific to whom he is addressing. Even now he was hoping that it wouldn't have to come to this, for only at this point, after exhausting all of his alternatives to endeavor escape, he reluctantly allows that name to arise in his mind. It was a name he wished he had called upon a long time ago when there had still been time….

Successive images of some of his friends suddenly flashed in his mind, and every one of them had, in some way, encouraged him down the wide path—the smooth, easy, downward sloping, flower-lined path to hell. One of his friends had been a Christian who had never been bold enough—man enough—to tell him the truth….

An image of his grandmother also arose, and he recalled the time when she, in her comfortable old house, next to that antique grandfather clock, had presented him with an opportunity to call on that name. He remembered his concern about what his friends might think, and also, trying to persuade her—to no avail—that he was already a Christian because he went to church and even repeated a prayer for salvation once. Of course, he had done it at the time for the sole purpose of keeping his girlfriend from breaking up with him, but now, here in hell, he realizes that he is quite sincere in his belief….

Help me, I believe—I believe—Jesus save me…he fervently cries out. Jesus save me—save me from my sins…. As if entombed at the center of an ocean of iron, his cries died instantly…. He continues crying out with even greater fervency, but despite the energy of his efforts there's a certain insincerity to his cries, for even though he believes, he can't truly repent from his sins, for—besides the impossibility of such an action beyond the terrestrial plane—his motivation was purely for personal relief. Not one soul is in denial or delusion in that land, everybody within that somber, smothering region thoroughly believes, indeed, even every demon believes. Heaven, hell and the lake of fire are regions of uttermost reality. The residents of heaven desire only reality. The damned in hell have no desire for reality but will not be able to escape from it. Those who will be thrown into the lake of fire after the forthcoming judgment will not be able to run away from reality either. The luxuries of illusions, drunkenness, hallucinations, perverse fantasies, drug-induced reveries and even that of madness, is solely the sad province—for a season—to those on earth.

While on earth, though he had hidden his rage, sometimes even fooling himself, he had at the very core of his being hated God and been passionate in his subtlety to sway others to rebel against Him, and now, here, lost in this abyss, with the smiling mask of his civility ripped away, the ultimate direction of his loathing was made manifest. All the pretense and repressed wickedness of his desires began to gush to the surface as he became more aware than ever of how much he despised God. He was also aware that it was God Who had placed him in hell and was holding him there, and that His will had been rendered, and it was irrevocable. He also knew that the judgment was just, but despite this knowledge, his rage only increased, for he was incapable of real repentance or responding in any way except that which was evil. At this point, any shred of hope still left in his soul immediately dissipated and he suddenly stopped crying out to God for help and began to fervently curse Him, the force of his fierce words dying within the everlasting dark of that place, his curses like pebbles thrown in a vain attempt to topple a mountain. The machinations of his heart, the violent sea of monstrosities he had been suppressing, the depths of his darkest feelings—broke from their submerged channels and burst forth. He vented his fury against God, and when his outward cursing grew too intense for articulate expression, he gnashed his teeth….

In his wrath, he ground his teeth, venting out his hatred with such insane fury that he was completely unable to enunciate coherent blasphemies, but instead, hissed through, seethed and scraped his teeth in livid, unbridled, chaotic rage. His whole being fumed, shook and convulsed; he was a living, but dead soul of pure bitterness, despising God and man. He not only hated God but also loathed himself. In a kind of perverse passion, the only thing he loved was death. We've all encountered bitter individuals, people who have trained themselves for years to see things only in so far as it affects them, souls yielding to their flesh with impassioned perseverance, their mindset becoming so habitual that one day they pass the point of being able to see outside of their atrocious attitude, to analyze it in a detached way, and unwind their way back to a more proper frame of mind. They aren't even aware of their long descent into selfishness because of how deeply interwoven the habit has become within them. Our sinner, having been cast into this sad realm of reality and handed over to his own devices, is actually quite aware of his attitude, and though he realizes it's abominable and will intensify his suffering, he can't stop sinning; he absolutely cannot abate the boiling putrescence of his hatred. He rigorously obeys even the faintest hiss of desire from deep within him. Those in hell, and to some extent, most on earth, are exquisite slaves, the most perfect slaves imaginable, tragic automatons to their base nature, hideous puppets, their bodies jerking about to the whims of their depraved being, the most subtle play of the attached strings….

He then, suddenly, heard a great cry of command as the blast of a trumpet resounded throughout the heavens and a huge rift of light opened up above him, thundering wide in a flash, and he saw, as did every eye—even the eyes of those who pierced Him—Jesus Christ revealed with His mighty angels in flaming fire—the King of kings and Lord of lords—coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. His saints were also with Him, the dead in Christ rising first, reuniting with their now perfected physical forms, the rest on earth instantly transformed and caught up to meet Him in the air, souls now glorified, their bodies made perfect, shining with splendor. With a thunderous roar, the heavens passed away, and the elements—after seething with an intense heat—dissolved. Most on earth had been asleep, unprepared for the sudden vengeance against those who didn't know God, against those who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, souls consumed with the cares of this world, drunk on its various pleasures, wandering in the dark, stumbling, blind and oblivious to the gleam of Heaven's sword poised just above them, a sword of keen sharpness angled towards the softness (yet stiffness) of their necks, now falling with a flash. Jesus slew the lawless one with the breath of His mouth, bringing an end to him with the appearance of His coming, and with His sword He struck down the nations and then He cast the beast and the false prophet alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur….

That scene, swift and terrible, wondrous to some, horrifying to others, that our sinner took in, that awesome sight briefly glimpsed into the most catastrophic event in history, filled him with more dread, more undying terror than all of his other experiences in the netherworld combined.

He then felt his soul pulled upwards, withdrawing back up out of hell, rising from the black caverns of that abyss, flying back to the One Who created him and Who sustains him. As he was being drawn up, the darkness gave way, blending into a murky twilight…then a grayness…then a soft-white color…at which point, he noticed that he was only one amidst millions and millions of ascending disembodied souls. He also noticed, far above, a great swarm of tiny black specks. It appeared to be a plague of locusts. With some dismay, he became aware that the huge dark cloud was descending and would soon converge with the course of their ascension. Within the next few moments, it swallowed the souls much higher in their ascent than the rest. As the cloud moved towards them, the innumerable specks composing it became small shapes. The small shapes then gradually grew into more defined, larger and larger shapes until he could perceive that each one of the various, countless, unclothed forms resembled either that of a man or a woman. It looked as if a huge portion of humanity had all taken one great massive suicidal leap. Suddenly they were engulfed in a torrential downpour of lifeless bodies. Our sinner—like a blood-darkened dagger thrust back into its scabbard—shot straight into one of the male forms, and with astonishment, realized that it was the body he had used on earth, only reconstructed.

While on earth, the whole person of our sinner had been highly susceptible to pain, and while in hell, his inner man, though far more receptive to torment than his previous state on earth, had still been far less sensitive to affliction than that of his current condition of being contained within a resurrected body.

His resurrected body held mysterious new properties suitable to the atmosphere of the netherworld. It was now capable of undergoing a form of decay while remaining durable throughout eternity. It was also prepared to receive the exact intensity of punishment corresponding to the precise proportion and severity of his sins. The severity of each single sin would be weighed by God in light of numerous factors, including the kind of sin, motivation behind it, the amount of benefits or deficits that were given or allowed within and outside the entire life of the offender, and the extent of the destructive consequences wrought by the sinful act. To the degree he accrued wrath, to that degree his body held the capacity to receive that amount of suffering. His punishment was everlasting but the various places, measures and methods whereby it would be meted out would be dictated solely by the kind, magnitude, amount and through which members, material or immaterial—though all of his actions, since these spheres are mysteriously united, involved a combination of both his body and soul—the sins occurred, sins soon to be weighed in the balances by God.

The pooling of a radiant light above him—shafts of vivid whiteness emanating from its center—began to emerge, growing soon into a blinding intensity as he felt himself rush through it into a realm of purest light, into illumination of a boundless variation and immensity of whiteness—into a pure unending space of perfect brilliance…. Though unbearably bright, its brilliance was far less in strength than the source from which it was derived, the source of Whom was God, and before Whom, our sinner—having been among those placed on the left by mighty angels—found himself standing. He stood completely naked, body and soul, before the presence of the Father seated on the splendor of His immense, glorious throne, and Jesus Christ at His right hand seated on the magnificence of a great white throne, the right hand of power, and before the presence of the Holy Spirit. He stood amidst a vast sea of the dead, great and small—and fallen angels who had arisen from pits of nether gloom—to await judgment, each to stand alone and hear the revelation of their sins and the sentence to be rendered, each transparent before the gaze of God, trembling within the blazing, timeless purity of that hushed and holy atmosphere. He stood before the tremendous majesty of the One Who created the universe—before whose presence the earth and sky fled away—before the One for Whom and by Whom all things exist, and despite his bitter hatred of Him, found himself falling, as did all the others, in prostration and proclaiming passionately that He was Lord. The saints did this willingly but the others did not, and though such an action was contrary to the desires of the unrepentant, as creatures present before the unveiled glory of their Creator, they had no more power to resist these actions than darkness had the will to resist being repelled by the light.

In time, they were all allowed to rise into a standing position to await judgment. It lashed our sinner deeply to behold, beyond an impassable gulf, the righteous awaiting their reward (or chastisement for misusing the gifts and talents given to them)—the crowd of blessed ones there—in the shining beauty of their glorified state, rejoicing on the right side of God, worshipping Him with great gratitude for being saved from the lake of fire while he stood with the vast, dark multitude of the lost to His left. The hope of being received into a heavenly habitation had been thoroughly snuffed while he had been in hell, but there was a large number with him—some of whom had never descended into that black chasm—quite convinced that they would most assuredly join the saints in heaven, and among these, many who kept reassuring themselves of this with the memories they had of prophesying, casting out demons, and doing many mighty works in the Lord's name.

When it was time for our sinner to be judged, radiant angels—beings of incredible stature, opened books, and every single sin, every vile action, and the most secret of his thoughts and deeds no matter how deep it lurked within the darkness of his soul, was uncovered, and brought forth before the light. These abysmal acts were heralded before all. The consequences of every single sin and combination thereof, small or large—the vastness of the web of his wicked deeds—the destructive ramifications wrought by his life as well as the immense potential influence for good that God would have rendered through him had he become a Christian and lived his life in obedience before the Lord, was also revealed. While overwhelmed with dread, he waited as another book was opened, and then, after a moment of time—which seemed to him like a century—an angel, with a mighty voice, proclaimed that his name was not found written in the book of life. He was an unregenerate man. His greatest sin was rejecting the gift of grace—the forgiveness of sins—that gift whereby sins are forgiven and replaced with perfect righteousness—that great salvation appropriated solely through faith in Jesus Christ, through faith in the One Who had fulfilled all righteousness, suffered horribly on the cross, died, buried and was resurrected (and Who ascended) for the elect—therefore, since he had neglected the only Way of escape, all of his sins, including what he thought had been good works, were accounted as worthy of nothing but added fuel to the blaze of his suffering.

And then he heard those words. The resounding thunderclap of those words, those words uttered by Him, the indomitable force of that sentence spoken by Jesus Christ—by the almighty, sovereign, holy Lord—seemed to cut him in half, indeed it seemed to split all of creation asunder, words falling and flashing like lightning, blazing deep into the very core of his being; "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." And then all gave way beneath him and he dropped down, down, down, screaming, his body and soul screaming, ripped away from the Source of all good, of all light and comfort, screaming as if every single element within him—no matter how infinitesimal—awoke, and became aware of the sentence, the finality of it, the astonishment—the absolute horror of it….

Swiftly he fell towards the lake of fire, the second death, into a place—if it could be imagined—far worse than the one where he had been held to await judgment. The rigors of eternal suffering would assail him once again only their scorching poisons would be even more painful now due to the nature of his final place of punishment and the acquisition of a resurrected body and also because of the brief sojourn he had just experienced within the land of light. Having been close to Him—the Fountain of everlasting light—and denied even a tiny taste of His goodness filled him completely with bitter, undying remorse. As he tumbled, the magnificent refulgence far above him flashed in his sight. It was the glorious, fiery brilliance of the Creator's light, a light inseparable from His very being, shooting out from Him like a million coursing rivers, brighter than a billion suns, this light, a touch of which, was easily capable of illuminating every single galaxy ever created, withdrew, rapidly receding from the accursed one as he fell. Wildly he reached out, grasping, clawing at the darkening air, gnashing his teeth in a sound of pure viciousness and desolation, totally bereft of any hope, shocked by the pronouncement, startled by the sentence and his final descent into the abode of the dead, the lake of fire….

He was cast into the lake of fire, into a place holding many of the tortures of his previous prison along with other torments more hideous. His first experience was that of being immediately set aflame and slowly being crushed amidst a crowd of demons and naked souls. The place was a roaring, blazing inferno. They were all crazed with pain, screeching blasphemies, gnashing their teeth—and like worms agitated by caustic grit—writhing in agony. Like separate, violent waves, each one of the damned, served to form the seething vastness of an infernal sea. It contained billions of lost souls….

The damned were greatly constricted and used what little mobility they had to twist spasmodically or fight amongst themselves, using their appendages to rip, claw, and grapple while straining their sinewy necks to gnaw and bite each other. The memory of space—the room to roam around in—a luxury for most on earth, a freedom assumed, viciously mocked them, for now, from their vantage point, an extra inch of space would feel like a vast, limitless expanse. With the knowledge they currently possessed, any one of them would have willingly consented to live—during their entire earthly existence—in the foulest of circumstances, the most vile, repugnant, strict and suffocating containment a man could face for just one extra millimeter of movement in the lake of fire. Despite the unbearable closeness they were to each other, not one kind word would ever be uttered, nor would there ever be any desire to ease the pain or establish some kind of friendship among their fellow sufferers. Rather, they all hated, raged against, and desired to inflict more pain upon each other. Those who happened to be next to someone who had been a close friend or even a beloved spouse while on earth, gnashed at their former friends and lovers in the most livid, wrathful manner imaginable.

The lake of fire—that immense, blazing receptacle—wasn't even fashioned for humanity, and those who are flung therein, are in a sense, more like human remains than that of a human being. Though they will always retain, at the very least, the husk of their humanity, the level of their humanness will slowly diminish as they eternally recede, becoming less and less human and more and more like a fading, shrinking shadow, pale and insubstantial. They become like phantoms embodied within the shell—the ruins of their old bodies, and though essentially dead, remain, paradoxically, alive. This perpetual process of developing, of growing in their death, sadly, also prepares them to become increasingly affected by the various pains piercing them.

One woman—wailing in deep pain and desolation—next to our sinner, had been an active church member her whole life. She had performed many good deeds, but in one sense, the deeds were not good, and were actually motivated by pride, and though they may have helped others, she had been doing them, deep down, in an attempt to establish her own righteousness because she had refused to submit to the righteousness of God. How much more of a benefit, a lasting benefit could she have been if she had become a genuine believer? She had been trusting in herself, in her own efforts to achieve salvation, and in doing so, rejected Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life—the Light of the world—the only Way to salvation, the only Mediator between God and men. If she could have made it to heaven through works—through good deeds, (which are the natural results after salvation) church attendance, worship, or even the sacraments of water baptism and the Lord's supper, though these are high and special activities that believers are commanded to perform—Christ would never have had to fulfill all righteousness by living a life of perfect obedience before the Father, and after having done so, dying for the world, even to the extent of being crucified for the world, undergoing the most excruciating death imaginable, whereby, after being stripped, whipped, mocked and beaten, He was finally nailed to a cross and lifted up, like a bridge—in-between heaven and earth—to the Father, His blood-covered form horribly marred and disfigured as He poured out His life for a world that despised Him, experiencing the full wrath of the Father that others—though justly deserving that wrath—might not experience it. In light of His life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, and the grace He offers through these works, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

After receiving his reconstructed body, our sinner's sense of touch became greatly heightened, and one of the sharpest and most dreadful of barbs piercing him within that region of his senses, though not limited to afflicting him solely within that vicinity, was the sting of fire. Most of us can recall having been burned before, perhaps from the glowing orange coils on a stove, wincing from the pain as a red mark on our flesh appears, swelling up into a boil; let us see that as the distant shadow of a warning regarding the substance of that infernal fire, heated to an astonishing degree, awaiting the unrepentant.

Fires on earth can be used to warm, enchant, and emanate light, but always have a limited duration and only burn up to a certain intensity of temperature before eventually declining and disappearing. Also, a blaze on earth will only consume certain physical materials, and for how long and to what extent is dependent on certain factors, such as the combustible nature of the object being besieged, size and type of fire, intensity, interior locality of the object within the fire and exterior conditions surrounding the action taking place. With regard to the properties listed, the lake of fire is at great variance. The element of fire within this burning, sulfurous lake holds certain unique properties designed to play its part in exacting the full measure of punishment due its object. One obvious, terrifying quality is that of its unquenchable nature; having been fashioned to burn for all eternity, it ever-hungers for more. These fires, rather than simply annihilating the damned, will slowly consume them throughout eternity. These fires also burn with a uniform consistency throughout, and only vary in severity for each individual's singular situation. The level of fierceness in flame for each is partly maintained by the blazing malefactors about them, for each soul in the lake of fire, to some degree—just as immoral company can engender corruption—is helping to keep the blaze stoked and sustained to the sufficient degree for those surrounding him.

Though parched and cracked and ever-hungering for food and thirsting for water, the resurrected body of our sinner is denied sustenance, not even the scantiest morsel, the tiniest drop will be offered, yet despite this deprivation, his body will remain preserved during the duration of his everlasting condemnation. His cracked, hollow belly is now fed with fire and dry swollen tongue with waters from the lake of fire. Every single aspect concerning his person: soul, nerve, cell, sinew and organ was ablaze. The inner person is more sensitive than the outer person, yet within each respective sphere, certain members are more sensitive than others. The more sensitive it is the more receptive it is to pain, and those members which had participated in the indulgence of various sinful pleasures to a greater degree than others, now reap greater suffering in the sinner. His soul was a roaring, raging, open furnace, eternally consuming his being. The bubbling, molten lava of his blood flowed through the network of his veins. His bones, muscles, brain, kidneys, heart, arteries and eyes—all were in the ferment of a boiling turmoil. He screamed and screamed, the horrifying sounds from the piercing intensity of his pain mixing with the huge sound of the lake of fire's varied, tortured, undying voice….

With the acquisition of his resurrected body, his sense of sight increased, and he was now able to see a short distance into the once insoluble dark. Rather than producing some measure of relief, this new capacity only proved to be a greater curse than his inability to see had been before for it only intensified his torment, searing and re-searing his mind and memory with scalding images. Some of these images included furious fits of rage and pain by other souls and also by demons, of whom, though less hideous in form than the sight of the humans, just the sight of one, even for a second, and that of the least of them, would be enough to perpetually haunt, whether awake or asleep, most on earth. How much worse would it be for the restless, unsleeping damned to have these terrifying creatures (as well as each other) for company, not for a second, but throughout all eternity? When they had been allowed some capacity to roam, these beings had brimmed with vicious malice, but now, subjected to the judgment of greater constraint and pain, there is a corresponding increase in the great intensity of their spite. They convulse and flail in a vain attempt to free themselves from their condemnation, the fiery redness of their eyes seething with infernal fury, the webbed blackness of their wings forced in a furled position, struggling to beat, shuddering, the scaled, sinewy muscles of their twisted forms rippling with intense agonies, the curved sharpness of their fangs—the rows of their voracious, dripping, dagger-like teeth—gnashing together, scraping in a grinding screech….

Just as that which burns on earth gives off a smell, so in the lake of fire there is a stench released and contained within its darkness. By way of a remote and feeble comparison, the stench inhaled by our sinner would be like that attacking a man buried within the center of the filthiest, roach and rat, maggot and fly infested garbage dump on earth—a place where not only garbage was deposited but excrement and liquid waste as well—only this immense heap of offal was ablaze and billowing with fumes so thick and so rank that in time they would congeal and cover like some putrid jelly over a man on earth. Now imagine the ever-thickening stench from this rotting, heaping mass of refuse becoming more and more noxious within the choking containment of that prison not for a week, or a year, but forever. The vilest odor that could possibly assail one's sense of smell on earth would be as the sweetest scented, most richly fragrant flower, in comparison to the unbearable thickness and quality of the stench permeating the atmosphere of the lake of fire. And once again, memories plague our sinner, adding by way of remembrance, its own peculiar form of punishment. He remembers the scents—when he had taken the time to inhale them—from gardens, spices, and feasts, each searing him by way of contrast to the dense scum, the effluvious decay he's forced to breathe during the eternal term of his agonies.

This smoke of their torment which goes up forever and ever, afflicts, along with other foul substances, not only the damned in their sense of smell, but also in their sense of taste. These gross, fetid fumes, besides covering the damned, are inhaled, coating the mouth, lips, tongue, and the insides with the sickness of their decay. The filth of this corruption is of a far more repulsive and rotten nature than anything that could be found or devised on earth. If one were to drink a large draught of some of the most repugnant substances known to man, a mixture including things like yellowish pus and pungent vomit, it would taste, in comparison to those substances swallowed in the lake of fire, as if one were tasting the richest, sweetest, creamiest nectar, some rare elixir men on earth would earnestly fight for and kill to acquire.

In his new abode, another painful aspect differing from his previous place of captivity was that of certain sounds—the pummeling sounds of the damned—of men and demons vomiting the filth of their pain on each other, flinging the excrement of their fury, howling out jeers and blasphemies and execrations of mockery towards God and their fellow sufferers. Previously, any sounds had primarily come from him, but now, sunk within this surging, heaving, twisting fiery sea, new noxious waves of noise constantly assaulted his ears. His ears, after their reconstruction, would now never become slowly numb to ongoing noise as they had on earth, but rather, receive the full cutting effect rendered by the horrid cacophony of the lake of fire. His memory tormented him by reminding him of certain sounds he had heard on earth, sounds he had—being more consumed with worldly pursuits—often overlooked or with jaded disinterest passed by, sounds such as the roll of distant thunder through the heavens, wind whirling through trees, crackle and hiss of a winter fire, percussion of a swift stream and the laughter of his little niece….

The memory of silence assaults him as well. He recalled his concern with being busy. He was one for background noise, whether it was the television, radio, or a public place because—he realized now—that he didn't like to be alone with his thoughts, sitting there in silence where the voice of his conscience was sharper and there was nothing to do but think about life. He realized that he had gone through life trying to drown his conscience and higher thoughts, and slowly his plan had worked, it's voice gradually turning into a whisper, fading, softer and softer over time until, for the most part, it's voice was almost mute save for the increasingly rare occasion when it shouted in an attempt to rouse him into awareness. He loathed himself all the more for what he had done. The motivation behind his lifestyle had been due to how much more exciting it seemed to simply feel and respond rather than to feel and think—to plunge into a pool of sensations—yet the main reasons, deep, deep down, at the corrupt, moldering roots of his being, reasons he had known on earth, and now far more intensely here, had been to furnish illusions to drown the searing throb of his guilt and cushion the sharpness of convicting truths, and ultimately to run away from God—to escape from His holy presence and the threat of judgment. How he longed for a drop of silence here, just one moment of silence from the ceaseless roar, the piercing anguish, the howls, wails and weeping—the perpetual deafening dissonance, how only one second of pure silence would seem to him like a symphony, like listening to a gorgeous symphony, or like cool water drunk from a mountain stream, flowing down the flame of his cracked throat….

In the lake of fire, our sinner, besides being assaulted within the physical sphere of his person or outer man, will also undergo various afflictions—as occasionally detailed—within his spiritual nature or inner man. These two general components regarding the whole person of man, are, in a sense, mysteriously united, and work in tandem, along with being, in another sense, separate. With regards to the uniqueness of this fusion and division, judgment will not be rendered in a general way but allocated in measured degrees, and the finest shades of gradation for every single aspect of the individual—in relation to the complexity of his sins—will be taken into account when punishment is ascribed. Being that the immaterial faculties are of a more complex and sensitive nature, they are more susceptible to suffering and pleasure, and also—if quickened—hold greater potential to glorify God than those of the corporeal, and consequently, when abused, reap greater consequences of retribution than the degradation of the lower faculties.

One of these spiritual tortures is that of the piercing reminders brought about by the conscience which in the lake of fire is not capable of being silenced or muted in any way. The sinful devices of the damned to benumb it—unlike on earth when some measure of softening and sometimes silencing of its continual sharpness could be achieved—will utterly fail. The consciences of those in the lake of fire, as directed by God, will fully and completely, continually render a precise account of their sins, past and present. Through the cutting insistence of the conscience our sinner is reminded of all the sinful pleasures he willfully engaged in as well as those sins being constantly committed. Every indulgence of the flesh—every sin, which is the only kind of action the unregenerate soul can perform, is brought before his mind with remarkable incisiveness and clarity: his disrespect towards his parents, that coarse joke, distortion of truth, corrupt action, arrogant motivation, manipulation, hasty word spoken, unjust act of aggression, every blasphemy, and every sexual sin in thought, word or deed was remembered and each added, to some degree, to his punishment. The avenging shadows of millions of sins, many long forgotten, now revisit our sinner with unflagging, vicious persistence to eat his flesh like fire. Truly the worm of their sins, new or old, will never die, but will actually accumulate, always gnawing and burrowing painfully afresh into their souls, accusing them and devouring them with immutable intensity and ferocity. The pain the conscience produces in the lake of fire is so great, that if such a thing was possible, the damned would most willingly claw through their flesh and bash open their skull to extract it.

God will also explicitly impart a measure of awareness, well beyond what they already know, concerning the consequences to others and themselves, temporally and eternally, their sins produced. One sin, (or a genuinely good deed) like a bolt of light shot into the prism of time, multiplies, shooting shafts of varied hues into infinity, and only God knows all the effects, the myriad of rippling consequences—the ever-expanding, far-reaching network of repercussions produced by every single large or seemingly small action. The impartation of this realization to the lost will resound through them like the booming toll of some immense, eternal bell, trembling their souls, always reminding them afresh, as do the other torments, of the doom of their damnation as well as the added punishment apportioned to them due to the extreme folly of their actions. Due to the intense awareness that the reality of the lake of fire induces, any one of its inhabitants, if it were possible, would have—while they had been on earth—offered, with extreme willingness: every single possession, all the pleasures experienced, and every conceivable element of comfort, if only the weight, the grievous burden of their many sins, could have been counted just one less at the judgment bar of God.

The memories that arise in the mind of our sinner, emerging with incredible clarity regarding various circumstances of his existence on earth, in hell and in the lake of fire, slash and lacerate him deeply with their ongoing sharpness. While on earth—fostered by a vast array of internal and external influences—a dense fog of dark illusions had suffused him, but now, here in the lake of fire, the fog is gone and with vividness of sight he beholds his error. His retrospective vision smites him for now he sees all of his memories, whether good or bad, as having involved sin, and thus, all of his actions, no matter how they appeared on the surface, as being extremely foolish and depraved, and to have added extra kindling to the eternal pyre of his pain. Memories once thought to be precious became repulsive, and bad memories, such as the times when he had rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the memory of God sentencing him to the lake of fire, became far worse, the scorching acid of these remembrances running through him like yet another bitter river from a black ocean of agony. What man or angel can comprehend the searing, undying regret of the lost soul in the lake of fire? Truly, truly, it would have been better—infinitely better—for every single soul in the lake of fire to have never been born. Also, the pain of these memories will never be softened by any means but will accumulate and continually besiege him with a barrage of dreadful immediacy, scorching and re-scorching him again and again, moment by moment, without a pause, forever….

The brief vision of heaven he had glimpsed during his judgment brings to bear an overwhelming sense of loss. His great desire to be in that region of joy conflicted with his extraordinary hatred of God, and though filled with unspeakable anger towards Him, he was deeply aware that the loss of God was the most severe loss to which he was being subjected. In one sense, the presence of the Almighty was his pain, and in another sense, the absence of Him his greatest pain. Never will he behold the Beatific Vision. He will never see the light, love, goodness and splendor of the perfect, eternal God of beauty, but only that side of Him relating to His righteous, holy, wrath. Our sinner, having been created by God to glorify Him, (and who does, even in the lake of fire, though unwillingly, glorify Him) and who is upheld by the Word of His power, will never experience even the smallest shade of fulfillment within God—only infinite misery apart from Him. He will never experience the great love of God, only the terror of His wrath, for God is there in the lake of fire, and the foolish sinner who had spent his whole life trying to hide from Him will become even more aware that such a task was outrageously futile from the start. Who can flee from His presence? Even in the lake of fire, He is there, administering His wrath and fury. Just as saints experience the Beatific Vision, so the damned experience the Horrific Vision for the manifestation of His wrath is so exceedingly awful—for He is a consuming fire—that the poor lost soul in the lake of fire longs for the merest moment of relief from the intolerable pain, from the terrible fierceness of His wrath, yet His mighty hand will not be stayed, not for a moment, and after millions of years His posture of wrath towards the sinner will not be diminished or diluted in any way. Who can know the infinite anger of One Who is infinite and Who has been infinitely offended? The briefest interlude of God's wrath like the deafening boom of a lightning flash—the violence of its fury scorching the dark atmosphere of the sinner's body and soul—would be terrifying enough, but what man or angel can imagine the state of the poor, pitiful soul undergoing the wrath of the Creator for not one second, but for countless millennia? Surely this is the fiercest of agonies directly affecting our sinner, and the absence of truly knowing Him, of experiencing the loving favor of God, the most severe torment indirectly—or by way of negation—afflicting him.

In the lake of fire, there are also certain curious phenomena related to the intensity of pain experienced by the damned. Unlike on earth, where pain or pleasure is often tempered or softened and sometimes heightened by the means of other pains and pleasures, in the lake of fire, the pains assailing the damned will never decrease the force of other pains afflicting them, but will always augment the singular and corporate capacity of these torments to torture. Each separate, peculiar pain will somehow heighten the others, increasing the volatile nature of their torments just as certain caustic chemicals become explosive when mixed. Also, the intensity of their pain is expanded by the very fact that the torments assailing the damned are already in their pure form. They sink within the lake of fire, within the very epicenter of pain, at the very heart of its intensity rather than at a remoter region of existence such as on earth—that fallen realm—where, though pain still occurs, they only feel its tremors, which are strong enough, rather than the fury of the quake. Earth, also, of course, feels the tremors of joy and peace from heaven, the epicenter of pleasure. These tremors of pleasure rippling out from heaven, though they reach earth and may reach the farthest star, will never—due to the very nature of the composition of the lake of fire—reach that desolate realm. In addition to this, it is a sad factor that the damned are unable to adapt in any way to the tortures they are forced to undergo. The ability to adapt to pain or other experiences, a given on earth, where certain experiences become—through various means and the power of habit—softened and commonplace in the person's life, is a capacity unknown by those in the lake of fire.

In the lake of fire there is a shrinking inward, and in a sense, an expansion outward. The shrinking involves a drowning deeper within the corruption of oneself. As on earth, the sinful man increases in selfishness, so in the lake of fire, this becomes part of his torments. The deeper he descends internally, the greater the sense of loneliness and isolation, a process in the lake of fire, whereby the sinner ripens into greater and greater corruption—a deeper and deeper death, the inception of which, occurs at conception, and its maturation, throughout eternity. The expansion outward involves the growing awareness by the damned regarding the nature, extent and eternal duration of the vast divergence of torments surrounding them. This knowledge will slowly increase, and thus, gradually expand the already great intensity of their agony, forever. In particular, thoughts on eternity often emerge in their minds, the vastness of an eternity in the lake of fire, its horrifying awesomeness, looms ever-larger and larger in their thoughts, ever-expanding outward into infinity. This continually growing awareness is somewhat similar to the way the Holy Spirit, during the process of sanctification, plumbs the depths, slowly illuminating and transforming as He unveils the ever-unfolding horror, the vast, pervasive decay—the dark labyrinth—of the Christian's heart.

Though it's difficult to fathom the conundrum—the fantastic construct of time, it's far more difficult to apprehend the rigors, the grandness and mystery of eternity, of that concept which astounds and overwhelms the soul. Eternity…. What is it? One can only offer a pitiable portion of awareness regarding the sobering force of its reality. As finite entities—as created beings, mankind will never experience eternity in the way God does, but will experience it, whether in heaven, hell, or the lake of fire, as an extension of time that will be unending, as a series of consecutive moments that will proceed, one after another, forever.

One could, perhaps, endure any conceivable amount of torment if only he knew that it would quickly end, but what if he knew some severe pain would have to last several minutes or hours, days or months? Even if the future cessation of the intensive pain were determined, it would still be extremely strenuous to go through. Now, what if the pain had to be suffered for years, or centuries? Even within this situation, it could possibly—to some degree—be tolerated since the end of the suffering could be conceived and the pain would eventually cease. It might be possible to endure any kind of suffering if divorced from the framework of infinity. Even the pain of a splinter or an itch, if it had to be endured for all eternity, would produce immeasurable suffering, and become intolerable. Our sinner will not have to bear merely a tiny touch of pain or discomfort, but a manifold of unspeakable tortures apportioned out in extreme measures for all eternity, any single torture of which, would be enough to produce boundless agony in the lake of fire.

Perhaps by way of analogy a miniscule measure of the reality of an eternity in the lake of fire can be apprehended. It might take a man on a walking journey one day to cross the city in which he lives, a year or so to cross an entire continent, and if possible, while walking the pathless darkness of space, a couple decades to reach the moon, and several centuries the nearest planet, and perhaps several hundred million years to reach the nearest star, and one hundred billion years to walk to a star in the middle of our galaxy, and let's say, one hundred trillion years to reach the farthest star at the remotest edge of our galaxy. Now imagine the time it would take for this man to have to walk across another galaxy of similar length, and then another. Now imagine the expenditure of time required to do this across the trillions of galaxies contained within the vastness of the entire universe. And now, if we multiplied the time required to achieve this monumental task by several hundred billion, and then multiplied it again by the total sum of all the molecules in every single element contained within the entire dimension of physical reality, by the time we were through it would be an incredibly immense frame of time, yet it would still be a number with a determined end. The time our sinner has to spend in the lake of fire is without end. His descent through the fiery dark sepulcher of the lake of fire will be endless. After millions of millennia have passed by, a lessening of his sentence will not have occurred, it will not have been diminished in the least. Our sinner can barely apprehend this. Throughout all eternity the sharp, terrifying reality of this will slowly increase and stab him over and over again.

One reason, which could be included as a possibility among the diverse reasons why the damned must go on suffering for all eternity, involves the reality, after death, of their ongoing, unrepentant, sinful, and antagonistic posture before the Lord. Whether in hell (awaiting judgment) or within the lake of fire, the unregenerate man—having been delivered over to his own devices—passionately persists in his war against God. Though all of his sins during the time of his trial were judged, he continually incurs, during the state of his punishment, the addition of a new sin debt, and then another, and another, and so on and so on, and consequently, more punishment through his increasingly pernicious actions against God, which naturally gush from out of the pervasive corruption of his depraved nature. Every single moment brings forth the pollution of, at the very least, one more sin—for the filthy will still do what is filthy—the action of which, fails to procure even the tiniest portion of pleasure, but rather, brings the burden of more torment upon him. Through this perplexing, self-defeating process, he perpetually adds more and more sins to his already infinite sin debt. Another reason involves the fact that our actions encourage others in one of two directions—either heaven or the lake of fire—forever. Some of the sins of the damned have been influential towards the leading of others into eternal conscious torment which is an ongoing consequence demanding an ongoing punishment. Also their suffering is eternal because of their rejection of Jesus Christ—the only One Who could pay their sin debt for them. Their own efforts and suffering, even within the context of infinity, would hold as much efficacy towards the removal of just one of their sins—and the slightest one at that—as one using a broom to try and sweep away the darkness in the universe. Just as their own efforts to acquire salvation on earth were completely futile, so any efforts to work off their sin debt in the lake of fire—even if they had the desire to do so—would be equally futile. As fallen, finite and sinful creatures they completely lack the nature, will, ability and capacity to remove even one of their sins. Only a perfect, holy, eternal Being—the Creator—could work off the sin debt of sinful creatures and it's something He's already done. It is finished! Christ already worked and suffered through His life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension, freely providing the gift of grace—the forgiveness of sins to be received by faith—to those individuals willing to repent from their sins and place their trust in Christ alone to the saving of their souls.

God created the places of hell and the lake of fire and the greatest expression of them is contained within the sweep of His Word—the Bible—and any attempt by man to express its force could only uncover the most distant of echoes, the faintest scent of its stench, the briefest interstice of a blurred glimpse. If a gathering of the greatest poets, theologians, philosophers and the greatest of orators throughout history, combined their talents and skills in an attempt to offer an expression concerning the nature of hell and the lake of fire, it would be as the most dim, feeble, flickering shadow in contrast to the fathomless magnitude, the hideous substance of what they truly are. Even the perfect, incomparably greater expressions of hell and the lake of fire within the Word of the living God are as it were, wind-driven whispers from its leaves, warning of the endless, seething black tempest which awaits, whirling—beyond the gray of evening—to engulf the ungodly.


"You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever."

—Psalms 16:11

The clouds were partially dispersed, and the rain, except for a faint mizzling of mist, was gone. The moon, the ghost of its shell, could now be seen, and stars, like grains of sand reflecting its light, were slowly emerging, glinting and softly glowing, here and there, from out of a vast lavender-gray shore of twilight. Low ribbons of color still threaded the horizon, fading as one watched, dissipating into dusk….

Far beneath the darkening sky, the constellation of the city began to awake, its inhabitants emerging from the slumber of their workweek to engage in Friday night's revelry. At its nerve center, the city was already becoming like a maelstrom, a swirling mass of desire thronged with thousands of souls. There was also—amidst this lust for activity, within a trash-littered, neon-slicked alleyway, an old Christian woman, lying on her back within a cardboard contraption. She was clothed in rags, her gray hair in dirty wet clumps and tangles, mouth toothless and trembling, eyes shining, beyond drowsy lids, with a clear blue light. She brought her cold, bony hand slowly up to her face, brushing the hair away from her eyes before dropping it, exhausted. Through an opening in the roof of her shelter, she stared up at the deepening sky…. As one might hold the hand of a loved one while dying, in one gnarled hand she held her tattered Bible. Verses she had read over the years and shared with others, ones that had strengthened and comforted her through various abuses and many other trials moved through her mind….

As she drew closer to the portal of death, a certain calm began to envelop her, and her breathing became faint, almost imperceptible, so faint it would fail to tremble the form of a flower. The cancer that had been gradually devouring her for years was now almost finished with its work. She was almost there, at the end of her journey, and the beginning….

The sound of passing cars and pedestrians grew dim, receding into one vague, distant murmur of sound. The stars, already slightly hazy from the falling mist, began to pulse and gently splinter diffuse shards of light from their center, shards slowly expanding, darkening and blurring in her sight…. As she began to pass away, the atmosphere of earth, that dark veil, that fabric of mourning, began to gradually dissipate like mist before the molten sun. It became like an illusion, a mirage, a shadow before the greater reality of the light that was burgeoning beyond it with a glorious splendor….

The feeble efforts by the old bellows of her lungs to perpetuate the smoldering glow of her vitals gently sunk, collapsing into stillness…bearing no more breath, and her eyes, amidst the fading luster of their serenity, became fixed, centered without sight on the brightening stars, the unfurling heavens….

The veil disappeared.

A great saint, unknown by the world and the church, died….

The world continued to wheel, the nightlife of the city, cars flashing by the narrow alleyway, shadowy forms striding past, figures swarming the sidewalks, taverns and clubs in their search for excitement—for new and old sensations in an attempt to resurrect or bury the deadness they often sensed deep inside themselves.

The body of our saint, like a robe, slipped away as she ascended into another dimension, and like a child on Christmas day acquiring the shining gift of its hearts deepest desire her face lit up, eyes bedazzled, as she rose into heaven's fabulous light….

The shadow of earth had dissolved like wood-smoke in wind, a mist of breath against glass or like that of a raindrop dripping from a leaf after a midday storm, dropping into the upturned eye, blurring one's vision until blinked away to behold with clarity—through a space in the leaves—mountains of cloud, edged and luminous with the sun. Earth, for all of its beauties and terrors, pitfalls and pinnacles, dark valleys and golden peaks and its ability to offer dim, flickering interludes into heaven as well as hell, became to the righteous after all those years somewhat similar to that of a dream, the wonderful chrysalis of a dream, from out of which one awakens, breaking free to flutter sunward into the deeper reality beyond the nebulous vision of what was dreamt.

Expressions of sheer, unfettered joy burst from her as she moved through the intense vibrancy—the pure beauty of perfect illumination, and already, the brief moment experienced in heaven, was far more real than the combination of all the most visceral experiences she had ever acquired on earth; this realness, the tangibility of its vivid actuality, the transition from earth to the place of heaven, could be compared to the experience of a daydream or a mythic tale dissolving before the embodiment of something far beyond it, of which, the myth only whispered of. It was remotely similar to that experienced by one who after hearing about an exotic locale, the words of it conjuring up vague images and sensations, makes the journey and arrives, engulfed by its beauty, immersed within its richness. She was home; she had arrived at the place where she truly belonged…. For much of her life on earth she had been homeless, a stranger—an exile, a wanderer in a thorn-rich land and now she was finally home, arriving after a long sojourn through harsh, hostile country. She had been translated from the streets of an earthly city—an alleyway—to the city of the living God. Earth was now like a phantom, a fading memory, a pleasant dream in comparison to the reality, the spiritual solidity—the immutable firmness of heaven. And she was only at the beginning of her never-ending journey. In one sense, it would always have the freshness of beginning for her, yet in another sense, she would always be learning, maturing into the fullness of everlasting life. Her ascent had only just begun; ever-expanding worlds throughout all eternity awaited her discovery. She would never exhaust them all, for each imparted some measure of awareness, some facet among the infinite facets regarding the perfect, peerless, resplendent jewel of the triune God's holy nature and character.

The supernatural light in heaven is of a far superior order from the kind of light derived from any natural element in the universe. If every single source of illumination in the natural order, including that of stars, suns, lightning, supernovas and nebulae were gathered and its intensity combined into a vast corporate brightness, it wouldn't even compare to the tiniest speck of light from heaven, it would be as the deepest, darkest hue of blackness, a tiny shadow of insignificance in contrast to the strength, the glory, the immensity, the power and perfect purity contained in that single speck of heaven's light. It was a touch of this kind of luminosity that enveloped our saint. It permeated her. This light illumined her whole being, not just a portion of her inner person. Its streams suffused her soul. Laughing with joy, it engulfed her. A flicker from one fleck of this kind of light was easily capable of quickening into radiant life millions and millions of galaxies frozen in icy death, for the direct source of this light is the Creator, the Eternal One—this same God who had called the worlds from out of nothingness, from out of the dark void, commanding them to arise into existence, to emerge into being.

The joy that she now had was quite unlike the type of joy we experience on earth, which could be regarded as merely a foretaste, a tiny sip—if even that, of the kind of joy experienced in heaven. Within heaven, rather than being merely a moment or a prolonged period, joy was just one part, among many aspects, regarding the overall state of existence there and immune to dissolution in any way, a state impervious, except in relation to the particular capacity granted to each for that of growth. There were moments on earth when joy pierced her and seasons when it was a fairly steady state despite difficult circumstances, but here it was as if she had plunged into a perpetual pool of joy, its waters filling her, welling up from the Spirit of the living God inside of her, brimming into streams to join with other streams moving through other souls blending into a mighty confluence—the immensity of an unending and ever-growing river of joy flowing throughout the region of heaven.

The degree to which each of the redeemed receives this fullness of joy, this particular aspect of their eternal reward, is derived from several factors, including the fact that God fashions each jar for a diversity of purposes and in a vast multiplicity of sizes. Each jar holds oil, but for different purposes and in different measures. Some of the jars are magnificent, others less so, but all beautiful in their way. The reasons behind their ability to fulfill, to whatever degree, their God-given capacity, is dependent on the measure of various external and internal graces given to each of the elect and that degree to which they had died to their own desires (and took up their cross to follow Him) by abiding in Christ to the increase of sanctification with its corresponding effects, including the wise stewardship of talents, ministration of good deeds and maturation of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

A crowd of souls, shining in their disembodied state, accompanied by angels of mighty stature rushed, with great joy, to meet her. Somehow, instinctively, with enlarged understanding, she knew each of them. This was a knowing far beyond anything she had experienced on earth. Christian relationships on earth had been like the hull, this was the golden kernel, various circumstances on earth the acorn, the experiences here a lofty sun-crowned oak. The most casual acquaintance on earth, even if it had only been an extremely brief exchange, if met in heaven, became known, in a spiritual way, far more intimately than the two closest individuals on earth could possibly know each other. This sense of unity was transcendent and rich and full. Relationships on earth had always been darkened by sin, plagued with many problems causing divisions and occluding genuine interaction, and when wonderful, had only offered a glimpse and a very distant one at that, into the heavenly kind of communion, but now, here in heaven, our saint, with perfect (though limited) knowledge was communicating precisely the right things through a perfect manner of expression to render the fullest measure of edification possible to perfectly receptive participants to the highest glory of God possible. Also, communication in heaven, to some degree, isn't limited by distances or by the number of people engaged in the discussion. Communication to one or several souls, if desired, even if they were all separated by astronomical distances, would be as equally unimpeded as a conversation occurring face to face. These conversations aren't mechanical in any way, but rather, flow freely—and with a myriad of distinctive mannerisms from as many unique personalities—from out of the perfected natures of a diverse body of individuals. Each person in heaven somehow reflected the glory of God in a similar but different way than the other, a way particular to the unique manner in which each was fashioned. Rivers of Christ's light coursed through each one of them, rivers of sheer joy, love, delight and revelation, their wills completely and joyfully aligned with the will of their Lord.

She was now pure, perfectly pure, without a hint of evil, without the burden of wicked inclinations—the shadow of pernicious motivations, and she became more aware by the moment that her motivations on earth had always been a mixture of good and evil, that her most magnanimous gestures and thoughts had been, to some extent, corrupted by the flesh, by the deceitful desires of the old man. With the growing realization of this truth, she came to a deeper gratitude and wonder at God's goodness and grace, a gratitude and wonder which would gradually increase during the everlasting summer of heaven. In relation to her perfect purity, she could now receive a greater amount of love as well as a greater measure of abundance from every one of the ever-ripening fruits of the Spirit, and this love that she was now experiencing for her Lord and for others was perfect, pure and completely unmarred by any fleshly motivations. She had been delivered from her body of death and soon would receive her glorified body with the addition of its various benefits. The immutable, inexhaustible source—the fountainhead, of this love, was God himself, for He is love, and it could not help but flow out, moving through His people as if each one were a branching tributary, a channel to express the love of God, the understanding of which—the heights, depth and breadth of it—would continually grow within them as they progressed in their journey throughout eternity. This love was a humble, unmixed, bountiful extravagance, vast, vibrant and sincere, expanding in spaciousness throughout the eternal adventure, a love that would remain undimmed and would only grow in greatness through our saint's life as she continually strode higher and higher up the ever-ascending steeps of paradise.

One of the individuals from the crowd was a woman who had lived on the streets for a season, during the time of which, our saint had led to the Lord. Back on earth this woman had been filthy, diseased and disheveled, but now she was perfect, pure and wonderfully radiant, beaming with childlike exuberance and unfettered joy. They embraced and much was exchanged through the efficiency of the heavenly mode of communication. Others embraced and surrounded our saint, individuals who had been on the receiving end of various kindnesses from her, some who cited her as seeding their desire to hear more about Christianity, and others who had received great encouragement to continue in their Christian walk by witnessing the astonishing perseverance of her faith and hope despite the severe difficulty of her many trials. There were also individuals there, of whom, though she had actually never known on earth, had received something beneficial from her. These were souls who had received blessings from those she had blessed, and there were also those who had received blessings from others who were the recipients of benefits showered on them from others still, who had bestowed these benefits due to direct contact with our saint. All this was just one leaf within the fragrant forest of her good works, only a small portion of the ever-branching, blossoming, arboreal splendor of her righteous deeds. As the crowd welcomed our saint, cheering in their love and respect for her, more people began arriving, moving towards this one who had, at times, unwittingly, ministered to so many.

After a while, our saint, and the crowds surrounding her began to move up towards the city, and as they did, she became more aware that she felt light in limb and step, her movements tireless, restful yet animated, effortless and brimming with energy for she was in a state of profound alertness where she would never again grow tired nor fall asleep; compared to the energy she was currently feeling and would go on to feel in an ever-increasing measure, her most active, energized days on earth were as days of radical exhaustion, of stumbling about in a bone-weary stupor. She was now perfect, and thus, perfectly at rest, while at the same time perfectly energized, in Him.

And then, suddenly, amidst their journey, the day had come, the hour, the moment had arrived, for Christ to return like a thief in the night and the kingdom of heaven to more fully manifest itself on earth. She heard the blast of a trumpet, the peal of which, reverberated throughout the heavens as she found herself shooting down to earth with millions and millions of saints and angels in a triumphal escort for the King—the King of kings and Lord of lords—as He descended with the clouds of heaven, His eyes blazing with blinding holiness, sword unsheathed and bathed in righteousness, shining with justice as He fell upon His enemies, on the unregenerate, on those who thought their sins would never find them out, sins harbored away deep in the darkness of their hearts—in the twisted labyrinth therein—sins decaying, covered with the dusts of time, souls that had gorged on the temporal, denying that such a moment would ever occur, a moment when the sky would split open from east to west and their souls like the flinging open of gilded coffins would be revealed, souls laid bare, adversaries consumed by the glory of Christ.

Those who had already died, including our saint, were the first to receive their glorified bodies, the rest of the saints on earth following, instantly changed, suddenly transformed, rising into the air. She slipped into her glorified body perfectly and she had this sense of completeness, that for the first time in her life she was totally complete—absolutely perfect—glorified, flawless in her uniqueness, a state that she was immediately accustomed to yet would forever enjoy in an ever-increasing measure. With her new body, pleasures and sensations awoke which had previously lain dormant, wondrous impressions impossible to imagine erupted before her, engulfing her, as joy burst from out of her glorified heart. The church was finally perfect! All of its members were completely unified, without any divisions whatsoever! All the divisions plaguing the true church on earth had dissolved in the flicker of a moment.

The surface of the earth was burned away, scoured clean before its renewal, its transfiguration, the world seething, the heavens boiling, receding, sounding like a million earthquakes combined into one mighty rumbling of fury. Nothing like this had ever been seen before, not even in the days of the flood. And then the heavens and the earth started to change, transforming, becoming transfigured, the earth flourishing and blossoming with astonishing swiftness and splendor, flowers pluming and trees towering into the air and creeks shimmering and flowing through hills and valleys larger and steeper than anything ever seen on the previous earth. Mountains rose to staggering heights, purple and blue, their tops rising dozens and dozens of miles into the richness of a newly forming sky, a world surging up into such greatness and abundance that one fleck of its color would immeasurably enliven the old earth. The sight was staggering to the saints and angels. The new earth was teeming with many kinds of creatures, some prehistoric, others new and never seen since the birth of time. A vast myriad of intricate, beautiful living minutiae—things of wonder and delight—emerged, creatures to be understood and communicated with, for now in her glorified state she was capable of communicating with and understanding all of the creatures from the tiniest to the most colossal. Plains were now populous with herds as deer went bounding about fertile hills and gazelles leapt a hundred feet into the air beneath swarms of birds moving through the everlasting sky, from pterodactyls to sparrows and many other kinds sweeping and playing with each other without a hint of estrangement amongst themselves, for in the new heavens and new earth, never again would animals kill or rend each other nor harm man. The wolf could dwell with the lamb and a child could handle the asp. The celestial universe was also transformed, its planets swirling and dancing, some celestial bodies more immense than ever, moving, spinning, yielding kaleidoscopic colors throughout the beauty, the elegance of space. Comets blazed about, nebulae leapt as if suddenly budding from out of the dark seedbed of the universe, beautifully enflamed with hues of emerald, sapphire and crimson. Supernovas burned brilliantly yet would never burn out. New constellations arose, vivid and resplendent, trembling with excitement at their birth, the new heavens and the new earth erupting with boundless beauty into a perfectly orchestrated explosion, a slowly unfurling cosmic explosion of light and color and substance.

And like a gorgeous bride prepared for her husband, the new Jerusalem, the holy city, which was now complete—every one of its lavishly adorned rooms furnished—descended, lowering amidst the wonders of the new heavens down to the new earth, its massive, resplendent opulence casting brilliancies of light, new spectrums of color and luminosity, dimensions derived from the boundless reservoir of His radiance, the immeasurable loveliness of the blessed Trinity….

In her glorified body, our saint, became more fully human than she had ever been before. She was now truly, gloriously and wonderfully human, more full in her humanity and individual personality than previously, and it would grow—she would ever-ripen into a deeper fullness of her humanity throughout the embrace of eternity. She now held a higher capacity to receive the glorious impressions surrounding her than in her previously joyful, yet disembodied existence. The pleasures of heaven became far more intense than before. She was in heaven, the focal point of pleasure, and each experience among the infinite variety, conveyed in various measures different kinds of pleasure, each augmenting the capacities of the others so that each singular experience along with the whole became heightened in a perpetually increasing sweetness of pleasure. Not only did she see beauty, but also felt as if she were entering into it, into the pleasure itself, becoming immersed within it along with other pleasures in a kind of fullness particular to the capacity she had been given. One of the best metaphors would be that of the blessing of the sexual union experienced by a man and a woman within the marital covenant. The richness of the oneness experienced therein, would be as a faint, faint, flicker of a shadow in contrast to what she was currently experiencing. It was a sensation that sprung completely from being in Christ, for through the joy of that mystical union she felt engulfed by the universe He created in an astonishing, wonderful, glorious way.

She also became aware that with her new body she held the capacity to travel from one place to another at a pace far exceeding that of light. The universe, to some degree, under God's allowance, became her playground. Worlds upon worlds and worlds within worlds awaited her exploration, from iridescent valleys to massive mountains to clouds to nebulae to planets, comets and supernovae. That old dream of flying, of soaring through the air, that universal myth imbedded deep within the consciousness of man for centuries, awoke into reality here, only the symbol—as symbols always are, was feeble compared to the far higher, staggering substance of the reality to which it pointed. The greatest journeys undertaken and dreams of flight imagined by man, if all taken together, were as a tiny leap into the air, a momentary sensation of flight compared to her growing ability to shoot through the heavens at astonishing speeds and span immeasurable distances in a single moment….

In time, our saint was gathered back to the crowd she had been with before and they resumed their grand procession to the city, continuing their journey with even more joy and astonishment, taking in the even greater wonders and splendor of the new heavens and the new earth. They began to move down streets consisting of a pure unique kind of gold. This gold was completely transparent, pulsing with the glory of God…. By way of a sudden, spontaneous impulse, she stooped to touch the gold, and it seemed to respond, imparting a wholly desirable sensation. The sky was a continual wonder, as was everything there, its brilliant, blazing colorful expanse a vast, sunless engulfment of pure illumination, its brightness far beyond what the brightest day on earth had ever been, though without any discomfort of any kind. The perfected souls she fellowshipped with were profoundly fascinating, each expressing some measure of awareness regarding the character of God, friends she would be spending an eternity getting to know. Angels moved over the land and sometimes leapt into the air, their wings resounding with a thunderous rush as they went to fulfill various tasks. One of the larger angels stood close by, literally as tall as a towering tree, its wings unfurled like the arcs in a cathedral, white robe rippling, luminous, the golden hilt of its sword gleaming, form beaming with light, face fierce and gentle.

She was beginning to become slightly more aware of the perfect simplicity yet complexity of the designs surrounding her, of the patterns intermeshed within the ever-unfolding vastness—the stunning richness and grandness of the overarching design of paradise. Each particle—down to the most minute—was woven perfectly within the harmonious whole and imprinted with some semblance, some facet regarding the essence of the master design. Nothing in paradise was unnecessary; everything served a function or a multiplicity of functions as well as expressing, to the degree it was granted, some aspect of beauty relating to the whole, of which, perpetually expressed more and more aspects of its Creator.

One of the more simple things in heaven, such as a leaf, unfurled before her, revealing, to some degree, its essence and external elements in an unfolding array, a slow, precise revelation of texture and form, imparting a kaleidoscopic awareness for not only her sense of touch and sight were being stirred but all her senses at once and something deeper within, something far beyond them, as if she were beginning to truly know the leaf. It was an overwhelming experience, the likes of which, would overload ones system on earth. It would be the impartation of too much reality. The ecstasy of colors and textures in fine, fine shades and nuances, in a thousand details which would have remained unperceived by the most trained artistic eye on earth, awoke before her, revealing an undying tapestry of delight and wonder to her whole person. A thousand hues from the intense colors in the sky engulfed her. Stars revealed some of their most concealed secrets. Trees unfurled previously shrouded mysteries regarding their vivid actuality. She envisioned, for a few moments, the rainbow-iridescence of a tiny beetle crawling over the vibrant, fragrant grass of this new world, and that brief experience loomed far more intensely and powerfully than all the combined aesthetic pleasures from nature she had ever experienced on earth.

Her sense of hearing was now so sensitive that she could hear faint sounds from an extraordinarily far distance without any pain at all; on the contrary, it was profoundly delightful. A whole world of sounds, once dormant, awoke, sounds such as birdsong from miles away, a song she could understand and enter into, relishing—beneath its seeming simplicity—the hidden complexities of its music. She could hear a distant waterfall as if it was nearby, its thunderous joy, its rhythmic drumming beating down against rocks. The strange, wondrous sound of clouds coalescing together was heard. Even the faint sounds from the inching of a snail and the movements of its feelers were perceived, unfurling a unique resonance, a kind of music. She could also hear a deep undercurrent of praise emerging from every element in creation, each offering a song that was peculiar to each aspect, a song pulsing at the very core of their respective natures, and though each voice held its own precious peculiarity, they all blended into a perfect song regarding the greatness, holiness and splendor of their Creator—of the greatness of the One Who reigns from everlasting to everlasting. If it were possible to hear a tiny fraction of that heavenly chorus—that glorious song sung, it would render vulgar the various melodies of nature heard on earth, for it was music of an almost entirely different order and would greatly exceed our capacities to take in, and the little touch that was received would gloriously engulf with thunders and waterfalls of euphonious ecstasy. It was incredibly complex, yet intermeshed and crystallized into a river of the profoundest and richest harmony.

The scents that blessed her were so magnificent that the sweetest scented flowers on earth exuded only a phantom, a faint dream of their pervasive extravagance. There were many kinds of flowers in the new heavens, some as high as a tree, carpeting whole landscapes, others tiny, and the rest a diversity of shapes and sizes in-between. She noticed a cluster of flowers near her that rose to her height. They had translucent, leafy emerald stems feeding huge raindrop-shaped lavender and blue petals and succulent gold stamens at their center standing amidst silken pistils, their fine filaments trembling in a heavenly breeze. The scent released from these fascinating flowers induced visions of deep beauty, revelations of that country—places unveiling other aspects of their Lord—which could only be seen through the visions evoked by their scent.

In heaven, a revelation from some aspect of creation into God's character, augmented, to a much greater degree than on earth, her understanding of every other facet regarding Him, and though the sight of the redeemed was perfect and pure, there was an everlasting increase in their ability to see more and more of Him, for the more one experienced, the more one saw, and the more one saw, the more each singular experience deepened the other experiences gathered. Though each aspect of creation retained its special nature and individual qualities, they were all in harmony and united in their ability to impart their knowledge to the increase of the knowledge of the whole of creation, which indirectly unveiled treasures regarding the Creator of it. In relation to this, in one sense, the saints saw God in His unveiled beauty, but in another sense, there was an infinite amount of veils to be shed, each one clarifying their previous experiences and knowledge from all the veils that had already been lifted. The saints were engulfed within a wondrous, joyful growth in their ability to see further and further, a process lasting throughout the perpetual pleasures of paradise—throughout their eternal ascent higher and higher up the spice-laden mountains.

Our saint also began to taste the pleasures of the various fruits in paradise. The variety and richness of her initial discoveries in tasting the fatness of that land were almost indescribable. On earth, it is common to generally label foods as being sour, sweet, salty or spicy, among other classifications, but here, whole new categories awoke, new dimensions of taste. The taste of one of its fruits—instead of being creamy and sweet, might encompass a vast range in levels of sweetness and creaminess far beyond earthly pleasures, (and heightening the partakers perceptions) so that each taste became not only a bodily experience but also one that was nourishing and delicious to the whole person. Also, a second taste was not dimmed by the fact that it followed the first as things generally go on earth, but each taste brought on an increase in its wild pleasure, its profound extravagance.

Despite all the diverse grandeur of paradise, there was a kind of simplicity in the life that the inhabitants lived there; it was simple in the sense that the saints simply lived in bounty, it was natural to be immersed within prodigious pleasures, it was part of the very nature of the place, an aspect interwoven within its very fabric. Though there was a variety of things to experience and do, there wasn't a separation into modes of living, of work and play, for all experiences were joyous, carrying with it, in varying degrees, the sweetness of pleasure, of simply living in the land of overwhelming abundance.

Memories rose within her and blessed her, even the seemingly bad ones. The bad memories were transfigured, for now—from the vantage point of heaven—she could see more clearly that God's sovereign providential hand had ordained all of her circumstances, even allowing difficult things to occur in her life. The flickers of her past understanding regarding why these circumstances had occurred, the sparks of it, grew into a blaze of revelation here. She passionately thanked God for the grace to respond to the various trials and the occasions of His loving chastisement in a godly fashion for they had produced great perseverance and deep holiness in her life, allowing her to more powerfully influence the lives around her to the expansion of God's kingdom and the glory of His holy name. She also discovered that her treasure house in heaven was increased due to these trials, treasures not temporal but eternal, stored up where neither moth nor rust could consume, treasures waiting to be used throughout a thousand forevers. Her good memories became greater, such as the day when as a young girl the Lord—solely through His grace—resurrected her dead spirit into newness of life, regenerating her and giving her the faith and desire to become a Christian. On that day, some faithful old minister in an out-of-the-way Baptist church in New York preached with passion to the congregation and she responded to the call of the gospel, the call to repent and ask Jesus Christ forgiveness for her sins and to place her trust in Him alone, in Christ, the Son of the living God—rather than in anyone or anything else—to the salvation of her soul.

One of the greatest blessings of heaven was simply the overwhelming fact of its eternality. She would be with her Lord for more than a billion eons, far more. An eternity…. The reality of this, a joy of this magnitude, even for the glorified saint, can only be taken in (like all the other joys in paradise) gradually throughout infinity. The awesomeness of this truth will dawn upon her again and again. Eternity! Such a thought was difficult to apprehend. Like one moving over endlessly sloping hills blending into ever-rising mountains she would journey through eternity, ascending to greater blessings and revelations, her feet stirring the fathomless enchantment of those eternal hills, the immensity of mountains brimming with beauties on the way. Rather than feeling cold or experiencing fatigue during this climb, the higher she climbed, the greater the measure of energy and joy she would receive and further she would be able to see, engendering the desire to climb higher to see even further.

And there it was, in the distance, shining with great splendor, the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city, the fulfillment of its promise filling our saint with incomprehensible wonder. Who can imagine the feelings, the thoughts wheeling in the minds of the saints before such a sight? She stood in awe at its blinding incandescence and size, at the sheer, staggering magnitude of it. It was simply immense, reaching hundreds and hundreds of miles in length, width and height. The most massive megalopolis on earth appeared as a tiny toy city in comparison. She was overcome by how incredible and gorgeous it was. It was simply the most amazing city ever raised, gloriously constructed by her great and sovereign God. It was like an enormous, flawlessly cut diamond, radiant and clear, illuminated from within and blazing with colors of light, shining out the wonder of its boundless beauty.

The excited procession, in the swift manner available to them, emerged into the vast, teeming center of the city—into its vaulted spaciousness—where access to the throne of God was unimpeded, its clear walls releasing stunning profusions of light—a limitless ocean of ineffable resplendency—wholly derived from the presence of the almighty, triune God: from the presence of the Father on His throne, the Son at His right hand and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Around the throne there was a rainbow colored like a brilliant emerald and from the throne came flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of great thunder. And flowing down through the middle of the street of that majestic city there was a river, the river of the water of life, resplendent like sparkling crystal, pure, bright and beautiful. On either side of the river, the tree of life was also there, a tree with twelve kinds of glorious fruit, yielding its fruit each month, its leaves for the healing of the nations. And night was banished, vanquished, and nothing accursed or that which defiles, in any shape or form would ever be allowed within. Millions upon millions of the redeemed were there in the grand diversity of their uniqueness, worshipping the Ancient of Days—the God of the living, exuberantly praising and worshipping Him with their whole being. It was an innumerable multitude, a great host of souls from every nation, tongue and tribe standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in the radiance of white robes and waving palm branches while crying out with a loud voice "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!" The four living creatures were also there, their six wings full of eyes all around and within, each of them rendering their service to the king, never ceasing to say, day or night,

"Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God, the Almighty,
Who was and Who is
and Who is to come."

The beatific vision…the beholding of the unveiled glory of God, that eternal longing, that ultimate desire within the obedient saint whereby all other desires were mere shadows of that hunger, that deep thirst for the reality of Him—the sight of Whom, no one was allowed to see without perfect purity—that Person at the center of the saints desires, that great hope, of which, was now finally, fully fulfilled…. Truly, no eye has seen, nor ear has heard, what God has prepared for those that love Him. In light of beholding Him face to face, our saint now became more profoundly aware that the most severe of trials, most difficult of circumstances and savage of persecutions against the saints were truly as a momentary light affliction, one single sigh of sorrow amidst the refreshment of an eternally gusting wind. Every trial could now be seen in a fuller light, each circumstance taking on the hue of heaven, appearing beautiful for they had produced great benefit in her life and in the life of the true church, to the glory of God. All of the promises of God truly find their yes in Christ! In heaven there was no more sorrow, pain, or death! The weight of glory in heaven was great, tangible, spiritual, eternal and enormous, looming in comparison to the virtually weightless, ephemeral mote of sufferings experienced on earth. She stood before the boundless glory of His presence. Nothing could compare to this….

At the judgment, our saint had been given much in the way of crowns and other awards, which she had gladly, passionately thrown at the feet of her Lord and Savior, but the greatest moment for her during judgment, the most wondrous moment, had simply been the hearing of the pronouncement: "Well done good and faithful servant." The voice had been thunder-strong yet tender, mixed with merriment. They were words every saint longs to hear, words of which, only faint echoes reach us on earth. As a little girl she had striven for approval from her peers but had rarely received it; more often she had received rejection and a torrent of abuse, but at the hearing of those words, she had realized, far more intensely than ever before, that ultimately, throughout her life, she had really longed to receive approval from Him—from her Creator, from the only One Who knew her completely, from the One Who had predestined her before the foundation of the world, knitting her fearfully and wonderfully in her mother's womb, weaving her with intricate care—and that longing had been finally fulfilled. Now perfect and in paradise, (and completely devoid of any kind of shame or guilt) she was capable of receiving the fullness of the Father's love and acceptance—an acceptance based solely on what His Son did for her—relishing for all eternity His divine favor, relishing with unfettered delight forever and ever at being in the presence of the Lover of her soul….

Select Bibliography

The following sources were profoundly influential to the text:

Gerstner, John H., Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell, (Pennsylvania: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998). Baker Book House first published this book in 1980. The Soli Deo Gloria edition was copyrighted in 1998 by Edna Gerstner.Gerstner, an excellent theologian and philosopher in his own right, was also, perhaps, the finest scholar on America's greatest philosopher and theologian.

Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994) A superb and clear introduction to doctrine.

Joyce, James, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, (New York: Dover, 1994), 85-95. The Dover edition, first published in 1994, contains the unabridged text of the book as published by B. W. Huebsch, New York, 1916. The Note and footnotes were prepared for the Dover edition. One of the characters in Joyce's modern classic delivers a sermon of astonishing power, precision and depth. In my opinion, this sermon, penned by one who was probably an atheist at the time, is one of the greatest ever written on the topic of hell.

Lewis, C.S., The Great Divorce, (New York: Macmillan, 1946). A masterpiece, which has been very helpful towards the strengthening and formation of my Christian worldview.

Thomas, John, That Hideous Doctrine, (Moody, September 1985). My brother Nick gave me a copy of this haunting and well-written article many years ago and at the time it served to partially compose a seed in my thinking, which eventually flourished into the Perdition text.

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