For we must all appear before the tribunal of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or worthless.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.
I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.
A tsunami of awe drove me to my knees when I saw Jesus above me on His throne. A bright white light shone from the throne, but it paled compared to Jesus in His white robe. He was more dazzling than the sun when it had existed. Not having any discomfort while looking at Him amazed me, even though I had only caught a brief glimpse.
During my life, I believed in Jesus, but was that enough? Would it make up for the way I treated my family for so many years? My faith was a pitiful thing next to the glory radiating from Jesus on His throne in full splendor.
I could only force my eyes high enough to see the bottom of His robe. A foot, with a hole through it, slid from under the robe. I trembled from Jesus' purity and couldn't lift myself from my hands and knees. Wait a minute! I had hands? I had knees? How had that happened? I had been a bodiless spirit for so long I'd almost forgotten what knees were. I touched my legs, my chest, and my head. I put my fingers in my mouth which hung open. I pushed it closed. I'd been given a new body.
Jesus spoke from the throne, "Yes, you have your new body which is much like my resurrected body. You will have plenty of time to discover its capabilities later. Right now, you and I have a lot to discuss."
I quickly scanned all around. The only thing besides blackness was the Great White Throne and Jesus. I blinked my new eyes because, before being here, I had been among a vast number of other souls. We had all witnessed something I could never have imagined. Prior to being before Jesus' throne, God had gathered all the souls in Heaven and said, "YOU ARE ABOUT TO WITNESS AN EVENT THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE."
God then enabled all of us in Old Heaven to see the entire universe laid out before us, which was far larger than I had expected with billions of solar systems. I instinctively knew which system held Earth. I focused my thoughts, and the planet flew toward me, disorienting my sense of place and scale, but I quickly adjusted. The Earth was clearly visible and resembled a blue and white marble.
Our spirits floated within the universe but were not a part of it. We were in a spiritual plan watching the physical universe. God's unseen presence was at the center.
"WHAT WAS CORRUPTED IS ABOUT TO BE MADE NEW," He said.
Before my eyes, the Earth and the entire universe dissolved with a thunderous explosion into pure light. I don't fully understand what happened, but all physical matter seemed to return to pure energy in the twinkling of an eye. I also didn't understand how I could hear anything in space. But I wasn't in space. I was in a spiritual dimension. How did I hear anything here?
In my previous life, I had worked at an ammunitions plant alongside my father in Chattanooga, TN. I'd seen hundreds of explosions, but this made the largest one there a damp, ladyfinger firecracker.
All the energy from the old universe, in the form of light, moved toward a central point, flowing to form a massive sphere. Nothing existed any longer to compare against, so I couldn't determine its size, but it had to be larger than millions of stars combined. The sphere pulsed with a light brighter than anything I could have imagined, and yet, I could look directly at it.
Other than the ball of energy, we floated in complete darkness. We weren't in space without any planets or stars but something different because there was no longer a universe or space.
Millions of new souls appeared near me. These new souls must be the people who died with the destruction of Earth. They looked around in confusion and awe, like me when I'd just died. I was about to greet some of the new arrivals when God spoke again.
"THE DAY HAS ARRIVED."
Jesus appeared on a white throne out of the darkness, floating above all the souls. He was brighter than the sphere containing all the energy of the universe, but it was a different kind of light. Those near me looked at each other with anticipation. Others, farther away, screamed and tried to hide, but there was nowhere to go. Jesus raised His right hand. He put that hand on top of a large book and put His left hand on a pile of books. Each hand had a hole in it. Instantly, I was alone in the presence of Jesus. Everyone else was gone. That was how I found myself bowing before the Great White Throne in a new body.
When I was able to speak, I said, "Lord, Jesus, you are the only one worthy to sit upon that throne."
He smiled. (Yes, I knew He smiled even though I was on my hands and knees and couldn't see His face. This is another example of the limitations of this form of communication.)
Emboldened by His smile, I lifted my eyes enough to watch Jesus' hand open the topmost book on the pile at His left. He said, "Time to give an account of your life."
I checked that no one was around to hear what I thought was about to happen. Where had everyone gone?
"You wonder where everyone went. Each soul is judged alone: in private."
Billions of souls needed to be judged. How long would that take? I couldn't be first, could I?
"I am judging everyone now. You will all finish at the same time." Jesus answered my thoughts again.
I'd done mountains of horrible things during my life on Earth. How could my anthill of faith make up for that?
"You can look at me," Jesus said. "That was one reason I came to Earth."
When I lifted my eyes to His face, His holiness overwhelmed me, but I resisted the urge to lower my eyes.
He opened the book in His left hand and started reviewing my life. Each time Jesus covered something, He would point to a spot in the book, but He described the event without looking as if the book was for my benefit, not His. None of the events were unknown to me, and I had no desire to deny any of them. However, others might not feel the same, and that may be when that book was used.
There's no way I could cover a fraction of all the things he mentioned because the book of my life was enormous. After some events, He would say, "I liked that." However, after far too many others, He asked, "How do you justify that?" Thoughts of what I had used to rationalize my actions at the time came to mind, but they were pitiful things to throw at Jesus as I bowed before the Great White Throne. I was never able to answer that question. Not once.
The torrent was relentless. I was an emotional Yo-Yo, being praised for giving someone the benefit of the doubt one instant to being asked to justify a deplorable act the next. It humbled me how quickly I went from doing something virtuous to thinking something vicious. Jesus asked me to account for every idle word I had spoken in anger or from hate. I was surprised at things He praised me for that I hadn't noticed in my life and shocked at how many nasty things I'd done that I never knew about.
I won't share all the details because this work is not about all the things I did in my life. Also, Jesus told me this judgment was private and only to be shared as I saw fit. However, I will share a couple of examples to help you understand how far Jesus delved into my life. The first was a time I fell short.
Jesus flipped through the book at His left and pointed to a spot. "In the sixth month of seventh grade, you emptied a tube of toothpaste into your younger brother Joseph's favorite TINKERTOY set because you were upset with him. How do you justify that action?"
I, of course, had no reasonable response. I knew I had a stomach again because butterflies filled it. I had believed in Jesus during my life. I thought I'd be free of fear at Judgment.
"Your fear is from within you, not from me," Jesus said. "Your level of faith determines your level of fear. If you had achieved perfect faith, you would have no fear at this time." He smiled at me again. "Do not be too hard on yourself. No one reached that goal."
That made sense, but the butterflies didn't seem to believe it, which made me continue to wonder if my small faith would be enough.
Another time, He smiled and said, "In the summer between the eighth and ninth grades, your next-door neighbor, the newly widowed Mrs. Simmons, was pulling weeds in the garden in her backyard. Your father suggested you go help her, and you did. That brought me joy."
I remembered doing that. My heart hurt for the widow, but I mainly helped her to make my father proud of me. Also, because I'd recently become been confirmed into the church, and I was supposed to do that kind of stuff.
Jesus laughed. "Of course, selfishness was involved. No good deed by a human was done with pure motives. Isaiah wrote truth when he said his good works were as unclean as menstrual rags. Only God is pure of heart and has pure motives in all He does. You did well to obey your father and help a neighbor."
A warmth filled my soul at those words. Some butterflies in my stomach landed and took rest on a growing bud of hope.
Time didn't seem to exist in this place, but the barrage had to have lasted almost as long as I'd actually lived. By the time Jesus got to when I died, I was buried under the guilt from all the terrible things I had done knowingly and unknowingly during my lifetime. The writer of Amazing Grace had it right. I was a worm. The small bud of hope remained, but my guilt towered over it.
I crawled to the foot of the throne, not daring to touch such holiness, and cried, "I'm so sorry, Lord. I'm so unworthy! I deserve whatever punishment you give me. I don't deserve to be in Heaven."
"You are correct," He said. "You do not deserve to be in Heaven. At least, not on the merit of the life you lived."
My bud of hope started shrinking. I fell flat. "Yes, Lord. You are right. I did so many horrible things."
"We can only allow those who are perfect and without sin to enter Heaven."
I fell far, far short of perfection. The butterflies had taken flight and were flapping like crazy in my stomach.
I heard a noise and raised my head to see Him open the book at His right hand. Hope grew within me again.
"I will have mercy on your sins, my child, because your name is written in the Book of Life. I have paid for your sins. Thomas, I declare you righteous."
Immediately, a white glow shone from me that resembled the one coming from Jesus but not as bright. I was robed in white light. I now had songbirds in my stomach. I felt. … I'd never felt this way before. A baby would feel like this if she could understand sin and that she was innocent of it. I was completely clean, but more than that, my regrets, my guilt, and my fears had all been sucked out of me. However, the renewal went deeper than merely having those things taken away. I had an overwhelming sense of thankfulness for Jesus saving me from the consequences of those sins.
My joy at that moment can't be described even in the Heavenly language. I knew I would be expressing my thankfulness for this blessing throughout eternity. I struggled to get out, "Thank You! Thank You!" over and over until Jesus reached down with His hand and raised me to my feet.
The judgment process had been hard to endure, but I appreciated having gone through it because now I understood the price Jesus paid for me to enter Heaven. "I'm so thankful for what you've done for me," I said in a feeble attempt to show my gratitude.
I wanted everyone to feel as good as I did right now, but I knew everyone wouldn't. People I had loved dearly came to mind. "What will happen to those who didn't put their faith in you?"
A sadness came over Jesus, such as I'd never seen in anyone. I sensed the love coming from Him for those I had asked about. He wiped a tear from His face. Why didn't I have tears for them? I knew they would suffer a horrible fate, but somehow, I was not saddened by that.
"No one in a sinful state can enter Heaven," He said. "They must be cast from the presence of God forever, nothing impure that would cause anyone to be tempted is allowed to ensure eternal holiness."
"I read that in the Bible, but now that the time has come … Is there no other way? Can't they have one more chance to declare their faith in you?"
"The time for faith has passed." He slowly shook his head. "No one requires faith to believe any longer. There is no denying me now. Every knee has bent to me, but most from fear, not love."
The pain Jesus felt for these poor souls was clearly visible. "Well, do they have to suffer for eternity? Can't you make them cease to be?"
Tears dripped from His chin. "If only We could. Even with God, not everything is possible. Just as God cannot lie, He also cannot destroy what He created. Their souls cannot be unmade."
I was confused. "But I watched Him destroy the universe He created."
Jesus wiped more tears away and gave a brief smile. "God did not destroy the universe. He merely reshaped the energy used to create it. He did that to purify everything from the taint of sin. That universe is not gone, as you shall soon see."
I considered what He'd said. "You're saying souls are eternal, and not even God can change that? However, physical things, like the universe, can be reshaped?"
"That is exactly what I am saying." Love filled His eyes. "I am sorry to say that those who chose not to put their faith in me must continue to exist separated from our presence. We spared you from watching them be cast into the lake of fire. No one should have to witness that."
He smiled at me. "I have taken your sadness from you because you have won your crown of life. Well done, Thomas. Come and share in my happiness."
Those words filled me with even more joy and thankfulness. I had pleased my savior, and He had removed my sorrow! Nothing was better than that. "Thank You. Thank You," flowed from my lips as I fell to my knees again.
Hearing the words, "Well done, Thomas," reminded me of two events from my old life. The year was 1951, and I was in seventh grade.
The first was when my father took my younger brother Joseph and me to a Chattanooga Lookouts game. We arrived at Engel stadium about thirty minutes before the game started, as we usually did. My father, Reginald, loved the Lookouts even though they were a minor league team. My father had played on a team in high school but didn't make the cut for his college team. Even though he was now middle-aged and starting to lose some of his hair, he'd never lose his love for the game.
"Thomas, do you know why they are called the Lookouts?" Daddy asked.
My younger brother turned to me, expectantly.
I pointed at the mountain sticking up over the stadium. "Isn't it because of Lookout Mountain? In school this week, they told us that Chattanooga means Lookout Mountain in the language of the Creek Indian tribe. So, wouldn't that mean this team is really named the Lookout Mountain Lookouts?"
Daddy laughed. "Well, done. You are correct, son. Not many people realize that." He smiled at Joseph. "Your big brother has real potential."
Warmth and joy grew in me from my father being happy with me even though it came from such a small accomplishment.
"Daddy, can I ask you something?"
"Sure, son, you can ask me anything."
"Why do you enjoy a minor league team so much? Most people like the major leagues."
Daddy nodded. "That's an intelligent question." He looked around the field at the Lookouts warming up. "The reason I enjoy the minors is that you can see the greats before they are great. Never know who will come through this team."
Daddy pointed to a man throwing the ball around. "That fellow there. That's Dietzel. He has real potential. A lot of talent flows through the Lookouts, and we get to see them first."
"Where do they go if they are good?" Joseph asked.
"From here, they go play for the Washington Senators. A great major league team in D.C."
The players exited the field to get ready to start the game.
"Some talented athletes have played here in Chattanooga. Did I tell you about when the Babe and the Iron Horse played right here in Chattanooga?" Daddy asked.
"Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig played here?" Joseph asked, with wonder filling his eyes.
Daddy chuckled. "Worst embarrassment they ever had."
My eyebrows scrunched together. "How were they embarrassed?"
"Great story," Daddy said. "They used to allow women to play baseball."
My brother and I laughed.
Daddy held up his hand. "No. I'm serious. Happened back in the thirties. We had a female pitcher who struck them out back to back."
Joseph's and my eyes shot open.
"Struck them out?" I asked.
Daddy nodded as he laughed. "Made the Babe so angry he threw down his bat and stormed off the field."
"Amazing," Joseph said. "Did she go to the majors if she was that good?"
Daddy barked out a laugh. "No. Babe was so angry he had her contract voided within days. They stopped allowing women to play at all shortly after that. So, no, she did not go to the majors."
"Was that because she didn't know her place?" I asked. "You tell us all the time people need to know their place in life."
"Good insight, son. People are happier if they do not try to do things they should not be doing. Baseball is a man's game." He looked at me appraisingly. "Think you are ready for more. Have a book you should read. It is very popular and has some good insights, but the author gets some things wrong. Wondering if you are smart enough to know where he is wrong."
The feeling of joy I'd had earlier grew larger. My father didn't offer praise easily.
The second event I was reminded of happened not long after that ballgame, but shortly before the TINKERTOY incident Jesus had referenced during Judgment. Because of my insight into the female pitcher, my father asked me to read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. For weeks, every spare minute had been devoted to reading the book. I'd written deep insights in the margins. Several pages held questions I'd written to ask my father to show that I not only understood the material but that I had a desire to gain even more wisdom from him. I had worn out my huge five-pound dictionary from looking up words I didn't understand. During the last few days before finishing, I couldn't keep my leg from bouncing up and down or my foot from tapping whenever I read the book.
After I finished reading the last page, I could barely eat dinner as I waited for my father to get home from the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant (VAAP), which was usually well after dinner. When he finally got home, I met him at the door, book in hand. "Daddy, I finished the book."
He glanced down at me and at the book in my hand. "If it took you that long to read it, you will always be behind the grind. Your little brother volunteered to read the book after seeing you reading. Joseph finished last week, and he's only in the fifth grade. Had insightful questions for me too. Like 'If we aren't supposed to criticize people, how will we help them improve?' Very bright boy, there. I would not be the man I am today without my father constantly criticizing me." He stood straighter, then sighed and looked back down at me.
My mouth opened to respond, but all my words ran around my head and bumped into each other, so none made it out. My brother, Joseph, had asked father the first question I planned to ask him almost word for word. I knew he hadn't copied from me because the book and I had been inseparable. I had even slept with it because I fell asleep while reading every night.
Father let out a long breath. "We can discuss it later. Hopefully, you understood things better than your little brother. I want to eat and read the paper right now."
I never discussed the book with him. It also led to my sinful act against my brother's favorite toy.
Late in my life, I discovered I had a condition called dyslexia. That condition made reading challenging for me. This was not well known when I was young. So, as a child, I never knew the real reason I struggled with the simple act of reading. Of course, I no longer have that, or any other problem.
The How to Win Friends incident was the start of a shift in the relationship with my father. He pushed me further in that direction one Sunday morning not long after as Mother and I were heading out for church.
My father stepped into the foyer as I was putting on my coat and grabbing my Bible. He looked around before saying, "Hey, son."
"Yes, sir?" I asked.
"You can go to church with your mother and all, but be careful they don't get into your head too much."
I paused putting on my coat. "Why, Father? I like Jesus and the Bible."
He waved his hands in the air. "Sure, they are nice. The Bible even has some good advice, but most does not apply to our modern age. We have moved past those ancient ways, and that stuff did not help ma when she got sick."
Mother walked up and glared at Father. She seemed to have heard him.
"Ready to go, Thomas?" She asked.
Later, in the car, she said, "Your father means well, but he has not embraced the concept of grace. He will one day. I am working on him. I pray every day that he will come to faith."
"I understand, Momma."
"You must respect and obey your father, as the Bible says, but remember God is your ultimate father. You must obey him above all others. Balancing them can be difficult."
"I will do my best, Momma, but it's hard sometimes."
A tear snuck from her eye and slid down her cheek. "I know, son. Very hard."
"Thomas." Jesus calling my name snapped my mind back.
"Now that your fate has been declared, I would like to inform you of the rewards you have earned."
"Lord, I am thankful to be here. I don't deserve rewards."
Jesus laughed. "You are right. You do not deserve them, but I am thrilled to give them to you. We will start with when you helped the widow next door in the garden …"
New Heavens and New Earth
But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.
2 Peter 3:13
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. 2I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.
Gratitude was still erupting from me because of the forgiveness and rewards Jesus had lavished upon me when I once again found myself floating among other souls. We turned one direction then another, looking at each other's new bodies with wide eyes. White light shone from each of us. No one spoke, but everyone had smiles on their youthful, beautiful faces. Far fewer of us remained than were here before the Judgment, and no one tried to hide.
"We have overcome," Jesus said. "We have been victorious over death." He held up His hands and looked up. "Father, my work is done. I give back all the authority you entrusted to me to accomplish this work."
"SON, I AM WELL PLEASED WITH ALL YOU HAVE DONE." God's voice boomed. "OVERCOMERS, YOU HAVE WITNESSED THE END OF YOUR TEMPORARY UNIVERSE. NOW WITNESS THE CREATION OF YOUR ETERNAL HOME. YOU WILL NO LONGER BE FOREIGNERS AND TEMPORARY RESIDENTS. THIS CREATION IS YOURS."
Other beings appeared among us. They varied in shape, size, and appearance, but they all glowed and were clearly not the same as the other souls around me. These were not deceased humans but some other type of creature. They must be angels!
The book of Job spoke of the angels being present when God created the first universe. This would be their second time watching a creation, but this time we would be with them.
Jesus called, "You will learn to do this yourselves in time, but for now, I will transform you so you may watch what is about to occur. Do not be alarmed. You will get your new bodies back at the proper time."
Something changed. I was only a spirit again, which would have confused me had Jesus not warned us. I missed my new body but trusted it would be back.
I didn't have long to think about this because our attention became locked on the ball of light that had formed when the universe had been destroyed. The sphere started expanding. God must be adding to that energy. I can't tell you how long we watched because time had no meaning. Minutes, hours, years, millennia were indistinguishable. When the flow of energy stopped, the sphere was much larger than before.
The light pulsed for a while, and then faster than a camera flash, the ball shrank to a point and exploded out in an expanding sphere with a noise louder than anything I'd ever heard even when the old universe had exploded. I didn't understand how I was able to withstand all this, or why I wasn't affected when that expanding energy passed by me. As when the universe had been destroyed, I was able to concentrate and adjust my perspective of the scene playing out before me. I zoomed out, and the energy was expanding faster than I could adjust. Darkness filled the expanding sphere with the only light being at the expanding edges.
The bright light of the expanding energy was clearly visible, but inside that expanding sphere, darker forms of energy were at work. Dark energies combined to produce larger clusters. I could sense energy continually flowing into this system. God was actively feeding energy into this new universe. Would that continue?
Eventually, glowing balls of energy formed from the collections of dark energy inside the sphere that was still expanding. Spheres of varying sizes and colors surrounded me. More than I could count. I zoomed farther and farther out to see the whole thing. Its size was beyond my comprehension.
I stopped trying to adjust and watched what was happening before me. The lights were beautiful. The colors and groupings mesmerized me. Transfixed, I admired what God was doing.
The whole thing was impossible to watch at once, so I zoomed back in on one enormous ball of energy. Smaller spheres were spread throughout. It was hard to know what I was looking at.
Zooming in on one of the smaller spheres near the center, even smaller balls of energy encircled it. As I watched, the center grew brighter while the smaller encircling balls grew darker and formed solid, spherical masses. Some of these darker spheres were several times larger than others. Each had a unique collection of colors spread across its surface. These spheres circled the large bright ball, which did not dim. They circled at different speeds and varying distances from the central orb of energy. I was watching a solar system form!
Zooming far out again revealed thousands of these solar systems contained in a more extensive collection, which must be a galaxy. I zoomed further out and saw millions of these galaxies, if not billions. I couldn't tell. The new universe God was creating was massive beyond what I could imagine. Why was He making all this?
The old universe ending in such a massive explosion and the new one starting with another one, made me think of how I'd thought mankind was so powerful with the explosives we manufactured at the VAAP. I laughed at how tiny those were compared to what I'd seen God do. That memory reminded me of one day at the plant.
I had gone to my father that morning in his office. "Can you come to the detonation testing chamber with me, sir?" I worked hard to keep the smile from my face but failed.
Father's mouth tightened as he looked up from the papers on his desk. "Can come in a few minutes, but settle down, boy. As I always tell you, business is no place for emotion. Apply your mind, not your heart in all you do if you want to be successful. Running a business on emotion is like running a car with sulfuric acid. It will destroy it from the inside out."
I exhaled slowly while forcing my mouth into a neutral position. "Yes, sir. I remember. I'll wait for you at the chamber."
"Oh, son," Father called as I started to turn.
"Been meaning to tell you. You will take out Chantelle on Friday evening."
Sighing inwardly, I maintained my composure as best I could. My father was always setting up dates with various aristocrat's daughters.
"Father, I keep telling you that I'm capable of—"
Father laughed. "If I let you pick your wife, you would marry a low-class hussy. No, my sons will marry nice, respectable women."
From many failed attempts, I'd learned it was easier to suffer through another evening with a girl who didn't want to be with me as much as I didn't want to be with her than to try to change my parent's minds. Maybe I would meet the one upper-class woman who wasn't a snob. If she existed.
I stopped spinning my pen in my fingers when Father arrived at the blasting chamber and put it back in my pocket. "I think you'll be pleased with the increased yield, sir."
He nodded at me, and we entered the small building, which was set apart from the others.
Inside that building was a round chamber about fifteen feet in diameter. A section of the surrounding wall, two-feet high and three-feet wide, was thick glass. We stood looking through that glass. On the floor, in the center of the inner chamber, sat two round hunks of lead, each twenty centimeters in diameter and height. They were standard explosive testing devices called Trauzl blocks. Wires ran into the blocks that connected to explosives inside, which were covered with sand.
A middle-aged man rolled up to us in a wheelchair. "Everything's ready, sir." His right leg was gone from the upper thigh down.
"Thanks, Jerry," I said. "How are things today?"
Jerry laughed. "As I always say, any day I roll out of bed and don't step on a landmine is a blessed day." He rolled back to the other side of the chamber.
I signaled Jerry, and he pressed a button on the wall. We heard a muffled thud followed by smoke filling the chamber. Jerry flipped a switch, and the smoke rose through the top of the chamber. I heard the faint whir of the fan above.
After the smoke cleared, one of the lead cylinders lay on its side. Jerry rolled into the chamber and turned the other cylinder onto its side. Then he sprayed water into them, spilling water and the remaining sand, onto the floor, which ran down a drain in the center of the room. He sat both blocks back up and filled them until the water reached the top. After pouring the water from each cylinder into two vials, Jerry placed them on his lap and rolled out to us. "I think we did even better this time, sir."
Father held both vials up to the light. One held ten ounces while the other held about eleven and a half.
"As usual, both cylinders were drilled the same before the experiment, sir," I said.
"There is a substantial difference," Father said.
"The new mixture was over fifteen percent stronger, sir," Jerry said. "Impressive, if I do say so. Them boys are doing good work."
Father handed the vials back to Jerry and waved him away. Jerry rolled back to the other side of the building.
Father shrugged. "Too bad it will not keep the plant open."
"What do you mean it won't keep the plant open? Are they shutting us down? Are you sure, sir?"
He nodded as his mouth tightened.
"Are you kidd'n me?" I asked. "The International Control Commission recently told us that North and South Vietnam are not abiding by the armistice they signed in fifty-four. Anyone can see where this is headed. They're going to need this plant. The government doesn't know what it's doing. This is crazy."
"Sir," Father said and waited.
I blinked and looked at Jerry, who was a good forty feet from us. "This is crazy, sir."
He slowly lowered and raised his head a few inches. "Maybe, but we do not know yet. This situation is unstable, but the role we will play in that conflict is unclear. On the one hand, hope it will be no role at all. On the other, it would be good for business."
My gaze darted to Jerry and back to Father. "Who will be affected?"
Father looked at Jerry. "Oh, he will be one of the first to go. Can only keep those we need to maintain the facilities. There will be no production. I am building the list today. Right now, I plan on having you and me, along with about a dozen others, remain to keep the place in standby condition."
I slowly exhaled. My family would be fine. My brother had a stable job at the Coca-Cola bottling plant. Jerry was rinsing the vials and putting them back where they were stored. People like him would be hit hard. I hoped they could keep their homes.
God called to us, snapping me back from my memories. Galaxies were still forming on the outer edges of the energy expansion, but the inner areas had become mostly stable. "WE HAVE PREPARED OUR PRIMARY DWELLING PLACE. BECUAUSE YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DO THIS, I WILL TAKE YOU TO NEW EARTH."
All of us were instantly surrounding a massive planet that was glowing with yellow fire and was about three times the size of Old Earth. The planet's orbit was humongous, circling an enormous sun, and was the only planet in this solar system. We watched as mountains, valleys, deserts, and lakes formed on the planet as it cooled. A large square area that was perfectly smooth lay between colossal mountains. That was odd because exciting features filled the rest of the planet.
Zooming in on the planet, I watched a lake form. Everything was happening so quickly. I wanted to see more detail. A thought came to me. If I could zoom in and out for the size of things, maybe I could do the same with time. I willed what I was watching to slow down. A tree that had been shooting out of the ground next to the lake stopped racing toward the sky. Well, it didn't stop but slowed to the point where I couldn't see it growing any longer.
This was incredible. I could adjust the speed at which I perceived things. I needed to find something that changed more quickly than a tree. Moving around the earth, I found a patch of small stems with a bulb at the top protruding from the ground. They looked like the start of flowers. I focused on those and they slowly got taller and thicker. The bulb grew and cracks formed. Things were moving too slowly. I slightly adjusted my time perspective, and the bulb burst open.
After the planet stabilized, God spoke again. "THIS IS NEW EARTH. WATCH! I AM MAKING EVERYTHING NEW. I SHALL TAKE YOU THERE."
Immediately, I stood on top of a tall mountain once again in my new body. Movement pulled my gaze up into a perfectly blue, partially cloudy sky. A gigantic object was descending from the sky, which appeared to be a cube-shaped moon because it was so massive. Various colors sparkled from it as spots reflected the sun like crystals. The light was from the star I'd seen earlier, which was yellower and larger than the old sun. I knew from the Apostle John's description in Revelation that this was New Jerusalem. The city was exactly as he had described, given the limitations of human language.
I had thought Isadora, my wife, was the most beautiful thing that could exist when I first saw her. This had her beat. I thought the glory of the city had taken my breath away, but I realized I had not taken a single breath since receiving my new body. I guess I didn't need to breathe here. That seemed important, but my thoughts were too focused on New Jerusalem to dwell on anything else.
Now that the city was closer, I knew I'd underestimated the enormity of it. Each side had to be at least a thousand miles long and just as tall. The wind from its rapid descent blew my hair straight back. When reaching the same level as the clouds, it began slowing, and thousands of angels appeared, floating in the air below the clouds, encircling the city. The moon-sized object decreased in speed until about fifty feet from the ground where it continued at a constant rate so slow it barely moved.
The sparkling city settled onto New Earth with a gentle voomp at the flat spot I'd seen earlier. Then I heard a loud, clear voice announce:
Look! God's dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away.
New Jerusalem sat in the middle of a vast valley between massive mountains. When the city stopped moving, I noticed points of light up and down the mountain I stood on. Looking at the lights closest to me, I realized these were other souls who had also watched the city descend. My gaze swept across the surrounding mountains, and each one shone with thousands of points of light.
Even though I stood near the top of a tall mountain, the city towered far above me extending farther than I could see in all directions except down where it met the ground. Only one side of New Jerusalem was visible to me, and only a small part. Except for Old Earth and New Earth, the city was by far the largest thing I'd seen up close. Possibly being as large as the old earth's moon. I looked up. There hadn't been a moon when New Earth formed, and I still hadn't seen one.
The city's foundation consisted of twelve layers, each on top of the other. Each resembled a gemstone of a different color. Together they created a rainbow. On top of that foundation, around the outermost edge, was a tall, thick wall that was red and almost transparent. The back of the wall connected to the side of the golden city, which rose out of sight.
A round white area was embedded in the wall with a tunnel running into it. The opening was near the bottom and met a semicircular ramp leading up from a vast plain of grass. The white section was a little taller than the wall. This must be one of the twelve gates the Apostle John wrote about. For the gate to be visible from this distance, it had to be massive: five hundred feet in diameter, at least. Yet, it seemed tiny in relation to the city itself. Below the gate, the twelve layers of the foundation protruded from the city at an angle to form the ramp. You could walk up the ramp from any direction to reach the gate. The ramp seemed about twice as wide as the gate itself. Except for the ramp, the foundation was straight and flush with the wall.
Light flared into a brilliant ball at the center of New Jerusalem. It was visible because the golden walls of the city were partially translucent. The light made the city cast a golden glow. There also seemed to be other colors mixed in. The ball of light started pulsing at various spots with no rhythm I could determine. Love radiated from that light. It wasn't merely a light. It was God Himself. Up until now, I'd only heard His voice. I was finally seeing God! I fell to my hands and knees in praise.
That's when the singing started, floating down from the angels. The words were crisp, and I heard beautiful instruments mixed in. Even without hearing this song before, I was able to sing along in perfect harmony. The words and the notes came to me just as I needed them. A part of my mind wondered how that could be, but the rest of me was too caught up in praising God to care. All the souls around me were doing what I was doing. The most beautiful music I'd ever heard filled my soul. I turned my focus back to God's light and sang for all I was worth. I put all the thanks I could into my song.