“Welcome.” Out of the brightness came a male voice.
“What’s that?” I squinted, seeing a human form moving closer. “Where am I?”
“You’re in heaven.”
I heard the sound of music. “Such an unearthly beautiful song.” I said, my head turning. I expected to see a choir, instead, I saw a meadow with beds of blue and red flowers, swaying in a gentle breeze. The music came from them.
His hand firmly grasped mine. “Come this way.”
I was lifted, and we flew over the next hill to the edge of a narrow river.
“Have I died?”
“No, you have everlasting life.” He set me down on the pebble stone bank, saying, “Jump in.”
“Jump in?” I asked. The white robe I wore fell from my shoulders, and I stood clothed in just a loincloth. Testing the temperature of the water with my toe, I noticed I was years younger, like I was in my twenties, with a full head of thick brown hair.
“It’s fine. Go for a swim.” He urged me.
I swam. The water refreshed me, almost warm, but still cool. It flowed around me, and through me. That’s when I knew this wasn’t a dream.
The bright figure splashed into the deep next to me, his glowing diminishing as he passed underwater. Shafts of his light filtered up through its aquamarine colour. The water around him filled with bubbles as he surfaced.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s safe. You’ve been drinking it for years.”
Floating on my back, I turned to one side and swallowed a mouthful. Immediately, warmth filled my belly, and I laughed. I took another drink. The sensation to laugh increased. Joy, like that, which I rarely tasted of before on earth, surged through my being. Soaking in the river, I continued to giggle. Preoccupied with this new fullness of joy I hadn’t noticed the swiftness of the current, which had moved us to a place where, on the horizon, a walled city came into view.
“How did I die?”
“Your LAV hit a roadside bomb.”
I couldn’t recall hearing an explosion. “The last thing I remember is we were outside the wire on a supply run to a FOB in the Panjwai district, near Kandahar.” I wondered where my usual dress, the desert camouflage fatigues and army boots were. Probably incinerated along with the rest of my kit. That’s what they do when you’re killed in action. “Did the others survive?”
“Corporal Crawford and private Gagnon were seriously injured. Everyone else should make a full recovery. Bumps and bruises, that sort of thing. ”
“Good.” I said. “I mean, it’s good they’ll survive.”
“Continue to drink. You’re wounded spirit’s being healed and prepared for that which is to come.”
“Prepared for what?”
“Your orientation tour.”
“Who is taking me on that?”
“And who are you?”
“I Am, who I Am.”
“The I-Am, who talked to Moses out of the burning bush?”
“Yes, that’s right. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”
“I thought you’d be bigger.” I said, thinking, ‘what a silly thing to say’ but I was at a loss for words. “You must have more important things to do, don’t you? Prayers to answer, wars to stop, famines and plagues to deal with, that sort of thing? Maybe one of your angels could take me around.”
Floating on his back, I-Am put his arms behind his head, and crossed his legs. “I’m in no hurry. I am under no time constraints. I don’t even own a watch or a clock.”
Nearing the city gates, which now loomed majestically before us, I-Am took me by the hand, and again, we flew. As I was lifted, I saw the river we were in passed under the walls of the city and continued to flow. Angels guarding the tops of the walls snapped to attention as we passed overhead. Their armour and weapons looked worn, as if they had recently returned from battle. One side of the river was flanked by a huge garden with rocky outcrops, and patches of old growth deciduous and evergreen woods. A golden road wound along beside the bank on the opposite side. We flew higher. The vastness of the city spread below us. The occupants appeared as insects following a network of roads and lanes. A parade of people congregated on one of the wider streets. They moved forward, toward the entrance of a magnificent castle.
I-Am pointed with his free hand. “Your new home.”
“That’s my new home?”
Loud music and cheering rose from beyond the main gate. Some sort of celebration was underway. As I-Am approached, beams of his light, like the rising sun, spilled across the courtyard, where a great multitude of human and angelic beings danced and shouted. The scent of sweet incense permeated the air.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “Why are they so excited?”
“This joy is for you, my son.”
He took me to a raised, elaborate, platform in the midst of them, and there we stood. The multitude hushed, directing their full attention our way.
“Bring the ring.” I-Am signalled with his hand.
Two cherubs, who were waiting nearby, carried a white robe and a purple satchel. They flew to where they hovered above us. The white robe was lowered. I instinctively lifted my arms as it came down, and I was clothed. Thousands of angels overhead watched the proceedings, the rustling of their wings, like distant rolling thunder.
“You have proven yourself faithful in character, a courageous king and priest among men, and have walked in my blood covenant.” I-Am removed the ring from the purple satchel and placed it on my finger. “Well done. Welcome to the kingdom of God.”
At that moment the great multitude shouted praise to I-Am. Trumpets, drums, and stringed instruments burst into song. I-Am embraced me, holding me close enough to feel his heart beat. Peace flooded my being.
The crowd was loud, so I had to shout above it to be heard. “This is my kingdom?” I asked.
“Yes. Now it is.”
“I told you, you would become kings and priests.”
“So, what do I do now?”
“Here, it is not so much about doing, as it is about being.”
“How can I be a king?”
“You’ve been learning to reign on earth your whole life.” The light emanating from I-Am’s face dimmed slightly. Fire remained in his eyes. “Since I am in you, you share in my glory. We are one, me in you and you in me. This is a great mystery, a miracle only made possible because of my love.”
“I had to be careful, not to lavish you with my goodness on earth. I could’ve, yet you still chose to love me, to surrender yourself. Through the good times, and the bad, you stayed faithful. You chose to love me.”
“I did.” I thought out loud, agreeing with him. “Yes.”
“… and I wasn’t twisting your arm.”
“No. I wanted to be with you. You are love. You are light. All the words you speak are truth and life.”
The cheering of the crowd faded when we turned, and I-Am led me inside the castle. We passed intricate, tapestried walls, crossing, precious stone floors. Several cherubs flew before us, opening doors so I could glance into the numerous furnished rooms.
“I did some of the carpentry work myself on that poster bed and dresser.” I-Am pointed to the next room with a tall arching doorway where the door remained closed. “That’s the banqueting hall. We’ll be returning there later to meet guests.” He turned after passing the kitchen and headed outside. “Come and see the garden.”
“Has anyone ever lived here before me?” I asked.
“No. You’re its first occupant.”
Standing on a flag stone patio outside, I gazed across the expansive backyard, with its manicured hedgerows, and beds of flowers, including every type imaginable. Near the back. I spotted a pool beneath a natural waterfall. “Well, everything looks so mature. The shrubs, the fruit trees…”
“I created the world mature, so why not your part of heaven.”
In our bare feet we walked on the cool grass to where we were under, one of three, blooming apple trees. Two doves, and numerous blue butterflies, stirred to flight from the branches as we approached.
“Earlier you asked about time. It takes about a months worth of earth time for the fruit on these trees to ripen.” I-Am touched an apple blossom. Light bursts from his hands, shooting across the network of branches, and suddenly the whole tree was ready for picking. A ripe apple settled into the palm of his hand.
I took a step back, in awe. “Wow.”
“But as you can see, time here is so easily manipulated.” He gently turned a leaf over using two fingers. It vibrated, with low, pulsing, musical chords. “The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.”
We ended our garden stroll on the patio, seated across from each other at a round iron table. Several platters of cakes and sandwiches were arranged on it next to a pot of coffee with two mugs.
“I know, you take yours with two cream. I like a little sugar in mine.” I-Am served the coffee, stirring cream into mine with a golden teaspoon.
This was by far the best coffee I had ever tasted. “It’s so peaceful here. I finally feel like I’ve come home.” I said.
“I know, you felt like a stranger on earth, while all around you people were trying to build their own piece of heaven.” I-Am lifted his mug to his lips.
“I did. For most of my life, I felt like an alien.” I took a bite of sandwich and a sip of the coffee. “There were times when I was with you, in prayer, and with your people in fellowship that I did have a sense of community or family, but even then, I could still sense the rebellion, the selfishness and pride in myself, and in the church. ” I bit into one of the dessert squares. It tasted of fine wheat and honey. “But I don’t have any sense of that rebellion now.”
“No, not here, not after the great rebellion. Before the creation of the earth, and time, angel armies were formed in the heavenly realms. A host of thousands upon thousands fought in that first battle, when Lucifer was cast from heaven along with his rebel hordes.” I-Am paused to take another sip of his coffee. “I’m sure your familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, and the phrase ‘Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ well there were armies in heaven long before there were any on earth. Where do you think the idea came from?” I-Am said this more as an aside. He got back to the original point he was trying to make. “I had a plan, you see, and you were part of it, even way back then. I created you in my own image and likeness, placing you on the earth, knowing that final victory would be won over Lucifer through the seed of mankind.”
“So my chosen profession to be a soldier wasn’t out of line.”
“No, not at all. I put that desire to be a warrior inside of you. But as you’ll soon see, it has far greater implications.” I-Am picked up a honey wafer dessert and took a bite. “I remember when you were eighteen, on your way to England on that British Airways, Boeing 747, to study overseas – all alone. You were so scared. You left your family and friends, everything that made you feel comfortable, taking a real step of faith. You believed that I was with you, and I was. That took courage.”
“I know. You proved yourself to me then. I learned about your healing power, and experienced my first victories in spiritual warfare.”
Flashes of memories came to me as I-Am told my life’s story. It sounded so much more interesting from his perspective. I never realised how much work went into setting up divine appointments, especially in cities with millions of people, like London, England, or Cairo, Egypt. The details to take care of were enormous. It involved changing weather patterns, creating traffic jams, waking up people at odd hours of the day, even my appetites for certain foods. The wicked, the righteous, he miraculously used them all to fulfil his purposes in my life.
“But my purpose for you wasn’t just earthly. That was just the start, the character building phase.” I-Am swallowed the last mouthful of his coffee. “My purposes for you have always been eternal. I want you to reign with me.” He stood to his feet, saying, “I-Am the Lord of Hosts.” And as he spoke the ground trembled, light pulsed from his being; the brightness so strong I had to close my eyes. When I heard what sounded like rolls of thunder, I opened them again. A procession of angels, clad in armour, filled the skies around us. A host, beyond what I could number, flew, some in chariots of fire, pulled by white stallions, others, using their wings. The wind stirred up by the great angelic host caused the branches of the trees in the garden to sway.
“This is but a few legions of our angelic army.” I-Am raised his arm.
I scanned the army of mighty warring angels, thinking of how some of them must have watched over me during my life on earth. Their attention was fixed on I-Am. When he motioned with his hand they turned, and departed as quickly as they came. The stillness that followed was broken by I-Am’s voice. “So, do you have any questions?”
“Yes.” I had been wondering this since my arrival. “Is Eddie here?”
“Eddie, the young man from your platoon?”
“Yes. Eddie died ‘bout two months before me, in a roadside bombing.”
“Yes. He is here.”
“But in another region. You’ll soon meet many of your old friends.”
“Let’s go. I still have so much more to show you.” He said, taking my hand, and lifting me into the air.
We flew over the vast city to the countryside, eventually coming to a lake at the foot of a mountain; the peak obscured by clouds. I felt that I had seen it somewhere before, maybe in my dreams while on earth. Built on the very top was a temple with a golden sheen reflecting the colour of the clouds. Birds of various sorts, and angels joined us in flight, like a flock, we turned in unison to land on the ramp leading up to the main gateway. Humans, singing and dancing with tumbrels and drums, paraded along on foot. Many of them had followed a narrow road that snaked up the steep mountain face to the temple’s outer court.
“This is my Holy Mountain.” I-Am said, setting me down in the midst of the sojourners.
“Thank you Lord! Thank you!” I sang out, joining in with the rest of them. “Holy is the Lamb! Worthy is the Lamb!” I tried to dance but was so clumsy I kept bumping into others as we passed under the grand gateway to the outer court. People didn’t seem to mind. Smiling, they urged me to continue my efforts.
The sweet scent of incense wafted through the air, growing thicker as we made our way through the inner court to the temple. Thousands were inside worshipping, some blowing on trumpets. Though no one appeared to be leading, the music was harmonious. The only light inside came from the front. At first, the crowd blocked my view. But as we moved forward I saw its source was the golden throne. I-Am sat upon it, bathed in glorious light, holding a sceptre. A tall angel swung a smoking censer over the altar before him. Multi-eyed, flying, creatures floated near the ceiling above the throne. We continued to dance and sing. The atmosphere became electric with love, joy and peace. I recognised some of the faces; Christian mentors I had known on earth while I was a student, other people I had met in my travels, and in the Canadian Armed Forces. We acknowledged one another with a wave or an embrace, as it was too loud for any sort of conversation.
I was delighted to see those who had made it here, surprised even by some of them. These were the ones who had argued with me, and mocked my faith when I knew them on earth. Something I said must have stuck with them since no words inspired by the Holy Spirit are wasted. I didn’t see Eddie there.
The sense of unity we experienced as we praised I-Am built to a level of spiritual ecstasy. At one point, a hush fell upon us all. We stayed silent, soaking in the eternal bliss of I-Am’s presence. He left his throne, passing the golden alter, and walked amongst us. Most people kneeled forward, or collapsed as he approached, unable to stand the glory. I-Am laid hands on the heads of a few, who still stood, and they quickly fell back, caught by cherubs before hitting the floor.
I don’t know how long I lay there, but when I-Am came to lift me up, the others were gone, and I felt hungry.
“Let’s go to the banquet. Eddie will be there. He has returned from battle and has a great announcement to make.”
A long table spread with sumptuous roasts and an array of vegetable dishes was set before us. Here, in my banqueting hall, God and man sat down, feasting with golden utensils. There was no shortage of drink. When our cups neared being empty, a cherub would fly over and fill it to the brim. My friends, relatives, and mentors who had proceeded me to heaven were there, seated with I-Am and I. Even Eddie had joined us. Looking half the age he did when I last saw him on earth. He was burly, clothed in a white gown much like my own, only his had golden trim. I-Am must have known that I wanted to speak with Eddie because he was led to the empty seat to my right when he arrived. I stood to hug him. He gave me the same smirky look that he used to give at times while we were out on patrol in the Punjwaii. He could get the whole platoon laughing with the weird faces he made.
“Padre!” Eddie messed up my hair with his hand. “I almost didn’t recognise you with all that.”
He patted me on the back. “Thanks man. Thanks for telling me the truth. Everything you said was true.”
I turned to I-Am to offer an explanation. “Most of the platoon called me the Padre, even though I was their Sargent.”
Eddie sat down. “Sarge was always there to give us a word of encouragement. You know whenever we became fearful he’d have some Psalm or scripture from the New Testament to share.”
I noticed the vixen tattoo was missing from Eddie’s left forearm.
“So, what’ve you been up to?”
“I’ve fought in two heavenly battles since I got here. We helped crush a legion of demons… sent them back to the abyss.”
“What was that like?”
“Not as hands on as it used to be. I’m definitely not a foot soldier. My role’s more administrative, like a high-ranking officer, a General. Only they don’t call them that here...”
“No, kings and priests - motivated by faith - lead this army. It could be the simple faith of a child on earth who’s believing for a miracle.”
“A child can lead them?”
“Sure, anyone on earth with true faith can. Those who humble themselves and pray - who have a broken and contrite heart. These are the true Kings and Priests of the angelic army.”
“How are you used?”
“I advise the angelic army because I lived on earth I know what it is to be a slave to sin. I know what it is to be blinded by a proud and rebellious spirit. I also monitor the scales of intercession and advise the angels when enough faithful prayer has accumulated for them to intervene.”
“Scales of intercession?”
“He hasn’t shown you to them yet?”
I-Am, listening in on our conversation turned to us. “You’ve been there before Eddie, why don’t you take him. And haven’t you got an announcement to make?”
“Yes…” Eddie stood, motioning for the rest of the table to stop talking. “I have good news to share. Faithful intercession has opened the heavens over western Canada, allowing for greater angelic activity on Vancouver Island. Revival is about to break out.”
The guests cheered, giving a victorious shout, causing the timbers of the banqueting hall to vibrate.
Feasting continued until we were all satisfied with food and drink. I renewed my friendships with the other guests, hearing the stories of their glorious translations to heaven. Many of them made the same comment, saying ‘the beautiful things on earth were just a mere shadow of that, which was to come.’ I had to agree with them. It was hard to put into words, the freedom, the perfection, and the completeness we were all enjoying. Since we were no longer under the curse, our heavenly bodies felt no tiredness or strain.
We parted company after the banquet knowing that, as friends forever, with each other and I-Am, we would be united again soon. Eddie stayed behind, and showed me to where two white stallions, saddled with full tacking gear, were kept in a stable on the castle grounds.
Eddie waited on his horse until I had my feet into the stirrups. The moment I took up the reins the stallions bolted for the gate, and galloped out into the street. It seemed, at times, like we were flying as we quickly left the city and headed over rolling green meadows. After several kilometres we came to an evergreen forest. The trees had trunks that were massive. Some of them, at their thickest point, I imagined, it would take at least seventy men joining hands to fully surround.
Eddie halted his horse and waited for me to catch up. “C’mon, the scales of intercession are through there.” He pointed to a narrow trail, indicated by exposed bedrock and hoof imprints on the soil. The path led under a canopy of firtree branches and steeply turned out of sight.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’ve gone this way before.”
“But, It’s so narrow.”
“By ground, this is the only way.”
From this point on the stallions moved at a slow gait. Eddie said, the path was like this to serve as a reminder for us of how on earth true intercession could only be made through Jesus Christ, that it took effort, and was, at times, difficult.
We reached a vast plateau where, numerous, equilibrium scales, of various sizes, were constructed out of cedar, with metal fulcrums. It reminded me of the first time, on earth, I saw the Alberta, prairies, scattered with oilrigs. The most prominent scales were massive, as tall as the tallest trees we passed on the way up there. Each facet was fastened to the balances with three golden chains. At some of the scales, Angels poured out bowls of a powdery substance, causing the balances to slightly change.
“What is that?” I asked.
“That’s incense, the prayers of the saints.”
“Where did it come from?”
“From the golden alter, before the throne.”
“Why are the scales different sizes?”
“Each scale represents a different region of the world. See that one,” Eddie gestured toward the largest balance. “That’s for China.”
I noticed a scale far off in the distance that appeared to be perfectly balanced. “So what about that one?”
“That’s why we’re here. That’s what I-Am wanted me to show you.” Eddie’s horse bolted forward into a trot. “C’mon!” he shouted.
My stallion kept stride with his. We quickly cantered to the foot of the balanced scale. “What’s so important about this one?” I asked.
“See there. When there’s enough intercession made, it brings the scales into balance. The heaven’s open. Guess what region of the world this is for?”
“I don’t know. Where?”
“Canada. Our homeland while we were on earth.”
Suddenly, I felt the bliss of I-Am’s presence. The scent of incense was in the wind. After a flash of light, He appeared, next to us. “I must show you something.” I-Am said, holding out his hands, cupping them like a bowl. A globe of the earth, in detailed colour, spun like a hologram above his palm. “Look closer.” He said.
I leaned forward. The earth stopped spinning, and stilled with Canada at the centre.
“Watch, and see what will soon take place.” I-Am opened his hands wider. The globe morphed into a rectangular screen and began to play a live action preview. It showed: warring angels, battling demonic entities; youth, tossing their drugs and drug paraphernalia into a bonfire; church altars and stadiums packed with souls, repenting for their sins. There was a pause and then a close up on the face of a rough looking young man. “This is Ben Muncton, a chosen vessel of mine. Presently, he’s the biggest drug dealer on Vancouver Island. He’s been in prison twice and is possessed with twelve demons that have been there for fifteen years. I’m going to use him mightily in this upcoming revival. I need you to advise the angels on the best way to reach him.” I-Am put his hands together.
I looked up at him perplexed.
I-Am smiled. “Well, give it some thought. I know you’ll come up with something.”