I remember going to bed last night but this morning when I awoke I wasn’t in my bedroom. I found myself in a graveyard with hundreds of other people who looked as confused as me. Was I dreaming? I rubbed my eyes but when I opened them again, the scene in front of me was just the same. “If I wasn’t dreaming, I thought, was I dead? A cold wind blew across my face, which made me shiver. My studies of the Bible had given me some insight into the state of the dead so because I, and those around me looked alive, I reasoned I couldn’t be dead either. I tried to make sense of it all by running through my mind all that I had learned as a Bible student. I was well aware there would be two resurrections. The dead in Christ would be raised to eternity,¹ and the unsaved would be raised to be finally cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.² As I thought on this, I turned to look behind me and to my horror I saw a headstone - it read: b. 9 Oct 1947 – d. 28 Mar 2012, Aged 65, Beloved husband of Jean, Daughters and Grandchildren. The shock of seeing this made my head spin. I felt dizzy as my heart pounded in my chest. I staggered forward and sat down on the corner stone of another open grave in front of me. My thoughts were confused. I knew the first resurrection was to be a joyful occasion with angels placing children in their mother’s arms and reuniting loved ones? Here in this graveyard, there wasn’t an angel in sight! If this wasn’t a dream and I wasn’t dead, then could I have been brought from my grave on the other side of the millennium? Even though there were many people around me, the silence was deafening. Like me, their minds must have been working overtime to try and figure out where they were? Just then my eyes caught sight of a group of men standing a short distance away, quietly talking with each other. They were dressed in Second World War German uniforms. I looked closer and could see the one talking was Adolf Hitler, next to him was Herman Goring in his famous white coat and with his back to me I recognised the profile of Heinrich Himmler. I had seen these men many times on TV so it wasn’t difficult to know who they were. I didn’t recognise the others in the group but they were all wearing the same uniforms. I was even more confused. These men had died long before I was born and in a different country, so how could they be in my graveyard? “It has to be a dream? I thought, as I continued trying to make sense of it all. If it wasn’t then their presence confirmed my worst fear - this was indeed the second resurrection of the wicked and a terrible fate awaited me.³ Reflecting back in my mind on the things I had done in life, I began trying to find a reason why God had rejected me? Had I been I like Judas – only a Christian for what I could get out of it? I might even have been hedging my bets through fear of eternal punishment? What was I lacking in my life that made Jesus say: “I don’t know you’? 4 Or was it really the fact that I didn’t know Him? How often had I prayed earnestly to God, not when there were problems in my life, but when times were good? How many times did I sit down and get to know Him, to find out about His life and His sacrifice but most of all His love for me? Did I return that love by giving Him my time, my money and service to others as though I were giving it to Him? Time was short and I didn’t know it! One day I was enjoying a healthy life and within a few seconds my breath left my body and I ceased to exist. Death came like a thief in the night. It was instantaneous. I didn’t have time to put my house in order before I died. I left with short notice and was unable to say like the thief on the cross ‘Remember me Lord when you come into your Kingdom? 5 As the questions were swirling around in my brain, the silence was broken by the sound of people sobbing as they realised what had happened to them. Some began making loud wailing noises whilst others began to grumble and grind their teeth in anger - cursing God. As I moved through the crowds, I could hear many different languages. Groups of people started to gather as they understood each other so I drifted towards those I heard speaking English. “Hello” I said to one man who was standing alone looking at the ground. He lifted his head and I could see tears in his eyes. He gave a grunt of acknowledgement. He looked quite old with a weather beaten face. He was dressed in what seemed to be a piece of sack cloth which had badly cut holes where his head and arms came through. It cascaded over his frumpy body to the top of his knees and the hem looked as though it had been cut with a blunt knife. Around his waste was a piece of rope tied off at the side. His feet were wrapped to his ankles in the same type of cloth tied with a thinner piece of rope. His legs were bare and dirty. “Hello, I said again, my name is Ralph, “What’s yours”. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally replied: “I be Jack,” he said in an accent I recognised as being from the South of England. Because of the way he was dressed, I was curious to know more about him. “How long have you been here?” I asked him. I got the impression he didn’t seem to keen on holding a conversation, but after a lengthy pause he finally replied “Oi aven’t a clue”, he said. As he spoke he looked me up and down and then stared at the ground again. “What year be this? he inquired. “I don’t know, I replied, but my gravestone showed I died in two thousand and twelve. If it is when I think it is, then that must have been over a thousand years ago.” “Two thousand and twelve,” he said, that be a long time after oy, he said, “Oy ‘member it was the year of o’r Lord sexteen oh foyf. Last thing oy knows oy be fighting someone who runs me trew wit’ a sword and everythin’ went dark.” Now I be 'ere, where e’vr 'ere be? Just then there was a great noise like the sound of a great rushing wind coming from the sky above us. “Holy mu’tter, cried Jack. What be that” A cold wind blew and made me shiver again. As I looked up I could see a huge black cloud approaching. As it got closer I could see lots of winged creatures. “These, I thought to myself, must be the angels I had read about in the Bible?” As they settled to the ground they folded their wings behind them, just like eagles coming to rest. They had the appearance of humans but were much taller. My eyes turned to one angel in particular. “This had to be Satan,” I said to Jack, who was now standing silently beside me looking at the breath taking scene in front of us. “Who?, he said, “You know, Lucifer, The Devil, Satan” I replied. “Oh oy ‘eard of ‘im, he affirmed, but thought he be not real?” I followed Satan with my eyes as he paced up and down in the midst of the other angels. I noticed he had a tanned complexion and even though his face looked a little rugged, he was quite handsome. He had no horns or cloven feet as depicted in the many stories and paintings I had heard or seen. There was an air of majesty about him and as he spoke he commanded everyone’s attention. To my surprise, I could understand everything he said. I heard him call the leaders of earth’s military to rally their troops for battle. Along with Jack and others around us, we watched from our vantage point as they planned their strategy on how to overthrow the New Jerusalem when it arrives on the earth. There was no way of judging how long it took to prepare their battle plan. Time seemed to stand still. Suddenly and without warning, a loud cry came from the multitude of people around me, including Jack, who had become animated, waving his arms in the air and shouting allegiance to Satan. Shortly after this spell of excitement, I looked up and saw in the distance a small object approaching from the sky. As it came closer I could see what looked like a large city sitting on a cloud of brilliant white. Still closer and I saw its huge majestic walls and in front and on the sides were massive doors that each looked like the colour of a giant pearl. What I had thought was a cloud holding up the city turned out to be millions of angels. They looked like Satan and his angels in appearance but they emitted a dazzling light, brighter than the noon day Sun on a summers day. As the city approached the earth everyone started to scatter in different directions. Jack went one way and I went the other. That was the last I saw of him. I hadn’t noticed it before, but there was a mountain in front of me. It suddenly began to shake and flatten as the great city moved closer to its resting place. I could only stand in awe as I watched the city silently descend to earth.6 I knew this city was filled with those who had chosen to follow Jesus during their lives and that they had been in heaven with Him for a thousand years, judging both fallen angels and the wicked dead.7 I could not believe I was now one of those who had been judged unworthy to be on the inside. I felt my limbs tremble at the thought of having to face Jesus - the one I thought I knew and who loved me. Slowly and silently the city came to rest upon the earth. As I looked around, everyone had stopped running and were now mesmerised by the sight of this majestic city. You could hear a pin drop! After what seemed a long time, I heard a shout of instruction coming from Satan. “Attack the city and claim it for yourselves”, but almost as soon as the millions of people began to move forward, a bright light appeared from out of the top of the city followed by the figure of a man. I knew this was Jesus. He was just as I imagined him to be. His hair was long and white and his face was like a bronze statue. Light seems to emit from his eyes and all around him. The light was so bright I had to shield my eyes, but I could see he was dressed in a white robe girded at the waste, with a crimson band running around the base. He was holding a book in his hand. Those who had started toward the city stopped in their tracks as his brightness engulfed them. I watched as some fell backwards whilst others crouched forward and dropped to the ground in fear. Jesus then began to speak: “Now the dwelling place of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 8 His voice sounded like a booming trumpet yet at the same time soft and full of melody like that of water in a stream running over rocks. He then opened the book he was holding. I could hear him call out the names of every person - one by one, repeating each sin committed during their life on Earth. Everyone was able to hear their sins and the sins of others. As each person heard his own sins, he fell to his or her knees and bowed in shame before Jesus, contritely acknowledging guilt and God’s justice. As Jesus continued to read I could hear the compassion and sadness in his voice for each of those he named. I hadn’t noticed that Satan and his angels were now back in flight above us. After a short time I heard him shout loudly and curse those who were on their knees, telling them to get up and take the city by force but nobody moved. It was as though everyone was glued to the spot where they fell. Having acknowledged their sins, many begin to cry out loud. Some began to hold their head in their hands and cover their tearful eyes. A group of men and women began cursing their former leaders and preachers, whilst many who had now risen to their feet stood silently nodding their heads in disbelief at their loss of eternity. After a short while, I could see more people spring to their feet and turn on those who in their former life had lied to them. Ministers of religion, politicians and other leaders began to run in fear as they were pursued by some with weapons in the hands, but their efforts to catch them were cut short. Balls of fire came crashing down from the city and from heaven. I heard some who were hit begin screaming in pain. Many cursed God as the flames took hold of their clothes and flesh. It seemed to me that everyone burned differently when the fire hit them. Some burned longer causing the pain to be prolonged, whilst others where quickly consumed to ashes.9 I watched the scene in horror waiting for my turn. Jesus looked down in pity at those writhing in agony. I could see that he had tears in his eyes and an expression of sadness on his face. I remember the Bible said that “God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”10 He then looked directly at me and a smile came on his face. I felt a great feeling of love and at the same time sorrow overwhelmed me. I fell to my knees as he read out my sins, acknowledging my guilt and God’s justice? I looked up and saw a massive bright ball of light heading in my direction? I tried in vain to get to my feet and run from it. I felt paralyzed - unable to move. The ball got bigger and brighter as it headed in my direction. I cried out in anguish, forgive me Lord Jesus; please forgive me? I awoke in a pool of sweat jumped out of my bed and onto my knees in prayer. Ralph E. Jackson 2012. 11 Cororinthians 15:52; 2 Rev 20:11-15; 3 Revelation 20:5; 4 Matthew 7:21-23; 5 Luke 23: 42; .6 Revelation 21:2; 7 1 Corinthians 6: 2-3: 8Revelation 21:3; 9 Malachi 4:1; 10 Ezekiel 33:11. Come to the feet of Jesus, like Mary Magdalene. Bring your oil and heartfelt tears, to anoint Him once again. Sit at His feet and worship him, and give Him all your love. For He will still your fears, with His peace sent from above. Ralph Jackson 2012
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