Chapter 20: The Great Deception

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Suddenly, standing in front of me was a group of beings. They seemed distinctly feminine, sensually pleasing and more beautiful than I ever imagined anyone could be. I was sure they were angels, although slightly shorter and more slender than those I had previously seen. Before I had a chance to properly assess them, they fell before me in graceful unison onto their faces, saying as one, in the sweetest voices, “We fall at your feet in adoration, our exalted King!”

As this was happening I found myself slowly elevating off the ground. It was unnerving but gradual enough not to be too disturbing. I ended up suspended in mid-air, six or so feet above the ground.

“We exalt you, O mighty one. We bow before you in worship.”

I looked around, sure that God must have been behind me, but unless he was invisible, I was alone. I returned my eyes to stare in utter bewilderment at these amazing beings; puzzling over what wonder was about to unfold. They remained motionless before me, stretched out with their heads on the living carpet. I thought of the angelic throng worshipping in the endless Palace.

Mighty One? Exalted King? With an immense stretch of the imagination, that might possibly be right if, despite their sophisticated appearance, these beings were an inferior species.

But worship me? That can’t be right.

They remained motionless. I noted their long, flowing hair, delicately feminine hands and their pure white, slinky garments. Looking down from my elevated position, I was surprised by the way their backsides stuck up as they bowed.

What should I do?

“Who are you?” I belatedly blurted out, with none of the royal dignity or great wisdom I supposed they expected of me.

“We are the ministering spirits referred to in the holy book of Hebrews.” They spoke in perfect unison. It sounded eerie and yet somehow holy. “We are sent to serve you who will inherit salvation.”

I was familiar with the scripture they were referring to.

“We are here to worship and serve you, O mighty man of valor.”

I knew an angel had used that latter title for Gideon, so I felt a little more comfortable with that part, but what is this about worship?

As if they knew my thoughts they continued in unison, “The Son has confirmed the Scripture, ‘You are gods’.”

I had always puzzled over that passage in John’s Gospel. Now it seemed even more mystifying.

“We have seen your holy victory in the endless Palace,” they continued. “We know your magnificent triumph in keeping your virginity in a corrupt world. We know how you defeated evil and ruled over those powerful angels of darkness. You are the great one we have been waiting for millennia to serve.”

Really? For millennia? I admit I rather liked that thought.

“Whoever is faithful with little will be given much,” they continued. “We are the ‘much’ that is poured out to you for your great faithfulness. We will keep you holy and free from temptation by fulfilling your every desire.”

“Eh?” (It was not my day for sounding regal.)

“You have kept yourself from women. We are your reward.”

Surely not! I hesitated for a moment and finally stammered, “H-how can that be?”

“We cannot defile. To you we will seem physical but we are spirits, not flesh. We are the pure ones. So we will keep you pure. We will keep you from temptation. We will satisfy your every need. You have stood the test and proved yourself a conqueror. By your defiant stand, year after year, you have defeated the lusts of the flesh. We are your reward.”

I wanted to believe it, but . . .

This isn’t that dark planet, I reassured myself. I haven’t seen the tiniest hint of evil in this perfect place. Surely this is Paradise. Surely these gorgeous beings must be of God.

“We can change our appearance however you wish,” they continued. “We are holy, heavenly beings. Our divine mission is to exceed your deepest yearnings so utterly as to make them seem pathetic, while ensuring your mind is fixed on us and not anything defiled. We honor you for your powerful resolve never to corrupt yourself by lusting after humans. Because you have proved yourself over and over, we will satisfy you and spare you any more of that torturous temptation.”

Dumbfounded, I stared at these sensual creatures bowing in worship before me. Then they stood and, taking my shock to new heights, morphed into women. Each differed in skin tone, facial features, hair, height, figures, and so on, and yet somehow each looked more jaw-droppingly beautiful than any woman I have ever seen, even in movies or photoshopped images. Some were adorned modestly but exquisitely. Some looked highly sophisticated in sensual formal gowns. Some were scantily clad. A few were even – After much inner debate, I have decided not to say. It seems better not to risk it playing on your mind. Anyhow, all looked as if they were madly in love with me.

“And that’s just some human possibilities,” they said, with a mischievous twinkle in their eyes.

I confess that anyone taking my pulse right then would have to be good at counting. I was transfixed by I don’t know how many seconds. To this day I am undecided as to whether I was gripped by lust or simply paralyzed by shock and sensory overload. I like to think I was about to regain control of my eyes and look away. Before that could happen, however, my eyes glued to them for a new reason; they began growing taller and becoming more muscular.

They were transforming as I had seen Chebon doing; only I grew increasingly disturbed by what I was seeing. Soon my worries proved fully justified. Before me stood my former master and all his thugs. I crashed back to the ground. The flowering carpet spared me from what could have been an injury.

“Got ya!” gloated the master. His grin shot chills through me. The heinous mob with him gleefully erupted into malicious celebration as if they had pulled off the greatest con job of their disgusting lives. To think I was making the scum of the universe deliriously happy was disturbing indeed. Those spiritual parasites made sewer rats gorging themselves on a stinking carcass and blood-sucking leeches seem noble.

“You’re ours forever, now,” continued their tyrannical leader. You are apostate – utterly unforgivable.” All the others cheered in obvious delight.

“Eh?” That was still the best I could come up. I tried to stagger back onto my feet.

“You can’t act innocent with us. You made yourself God by accepting our worship.”

You worshipped me!” I protested, “I didn’t seek it. It was your doing!”

“Do you think you can fool us? I read minds, remember!”

Can he actually read my mind or is he bluffing?

“Not once did you try to stop us,” he continued. “You and your ego enjoyed every bit of it. Like Lucifer himself, you who were once so spiritually enlightened have cheated God out of the worship God claims belongs to him alone.”

Like Lucifer himself? My insides writhed in horror. Did I really accept their worship? I certainly didn’t stop them. I thought I was just stunned, but God’s standards are so much higher than mine.

My stomach felt like it had been stabbed with a sword-sized hypodermic of toxic guilt. I had never imagined such appalling pangs of remorse could surge through one’s body and soul.

How could I have been so stupid and heartless to have betrayed my Lord like that!

The tortuous guilt continued to rage.

O God! I’m so, so sorry. I beg your forgiveness.

Instead of sensing the slightest hint of forgiveness, the feeling of utter damnation I had presumed had to be already at maximum seemed to ramp up even higher.

God isn’t going to forgive me!

Ghastly feelings kept confirming over and over that I was doomed. I understood, however, how catastrophic – to use a mild word – it would be to allow myself to keep thinking that way. It looked hopeless but somehow I had to scrounge the strength to change my thinking.

My mind shot back to that supernatural monster saying I was utterly unforgivable. How is that even possible? I asked myself. Didn’t Jesus die for the sins of the [entire] world? Surely that has to include every conceivable sin! Doesn’t God’s unbreakable Word pronounce that whosoever believes in Jesus shall have eternal life?

Recalling my experience with the ‘sparklers,’ I bolted a panic-stricken prayer for help to God who seemed a billion lightyears away. Feebly, I tried to claw my way out of the bottomless hell-hole of utter despair.

Lord God, I loathe myself for failing you, so I dare not add to the grief I have caused you by doubting your love and the power of your dear Son’s sacrifice.

No matter how rejected and hopeless and unforgiven I feel, and no matter how deserving I am of eternal torment by these evil beings, I refuse to break your heart even more than I already have by wasting Jesus’ costly sacrifice. He suffered horrifically that I might be purified from all my filth and despicable failures, so for his sake I accept your cleansing and total forgiveness.

Everything within me continued to scream that God was furious with me and that he was unyielding in his determination to punish me forever and ever. The conviction was overwhelmingly strong that I had crossed the line and foolishly gone beyond the reach of Christ’s power to forgive. I clung by a spider’s thread that the condemnation was merely a feeling.

I knew in every fiber of my being that I was utterly unworthy of forgiveness. Remembering my victory when being hit by those ‘sparklers,’ I kept telling myself over and over, Jesus is worthy. He makes me worthy. Jesus is worthy. He makes me worthy.

“You’re doomed!” declared my tormentor.

“God will forgive me,” I retorted, as confidently as I could.

They all erupted into laughter. They kept laughing and laughing until I began to wonder if they would ever stop. Each malicious cackle might as well have been yet another round of bullets shooting down the little confidence I had mustered. I kept slumping to new lows.

When they at last regained a little composure their leader declared, “By accepting worship you are now one of us. Do you think God forgives Lucifer or any of us?”

I prayed frantically. Nothing but cold silence greeted me.

“And do you seek God’s forgiveness?” I was surprised I had thought of that.

They looked uncomfortable.

“I thought not!” I replied, “Well I do! I ask God’s forgiveness right now and he forgives me because of Jesus.”

“You’re obviously an idiot,” snarled the leader, “but we’re not. We know more about God’s law than you could grasp in a thousand lifetimes. You who once knew God have committed the ultimate blasphemy of accepting worship that supposedly belongs to God alone. You’re apostate – a Judas. You are beyond God’s forgiveness.”

To my consternation, all of the others murmured in agreement.

Again I tried praying. Again I felt nothing but hopelessness and horrific guilt.

“Nothing is unforgivable!” I eventually managed to spit out, feverishly hoping I was right. “Jesus died for the sins of the whole world – all humanity. That has to include any sin any human could ever commit.”

“You’re deluding yourself,” came the dreaded reply. “You know that the Son himself spoke about the unforgivable sin.”

The horror I felt defies description. I again tried a pitiful prayer for wisdom and felt nothing but mortifying condemnation.

For Jesus’ sake I accept forgiveness. For Jesus’ sake . . . for the one who died for me.

I robotically recited what I had studied years ago, “When speaking of the unpardonable sin, Jesus was referring to believing he is not the Savior of the world but is of the devil. No one would seek God’s forgiveness through someone they believe is anti-God. But once anyone sees through that deception and discovers that Jesus truly is the Source of divine forgiveness, he can then seek and receive full forgiveness through Jesus, no matter how atrocious his sins have been.”

Then I decided to go for it. “In the mighty name of Jesus who shed his blood for me and through the cross and his triumphant resurrection defeated all evil, I command you to leave!”

Nothing happened.

“Don’t try to dupe me!” He was angry. “You know Hebrews 10: ‘For if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but only a terrifying prospect of judgment and fiery indignation that will consume God’s enemies.’ ”

I was distraught. He was still there, bolder than ever, and quoting Scripture to affirm his right to ignore me. Bereft of any other option, however, I just had to keep shooting off quick prayers, draw upon previous Bible study, and press on as if I knew what I were talking about.

“I’m not like the Hebrew Christians that Scripture was addressed to,” I pronounced. “They needed that warning because they were tempted to abandon sole faith in Jesus’ sacrifice and revert to Judaism and its sacrifices. That’s the whole thrust of the epistle. Unlike them, I know there is no other sacrifice because Jesus died for all of humanity’s sin. Jesus is all I need and my faith is not misplaced by hoping in other sacrifices or rituals. My faith is in his sacrifice alone.”

“By wanting sex with us, you made yourself spiritually one with evil.”

Was he changing the subject? Was he trying to conceal that he was conceding defeat on this point or was he simply trying to further twist the knife in my soul?

“I never had sex with any of you,” I said smugly.

“Don’t give me that garbage. You know you lusted after us. You know the Son says that to lust after someone is to commit adultery with the person.”

Had I truly lusted after them or was I just tempted? If only lust were easier to define! I’m not made of granite but I’m not meant to be, am I?

He was relentless. “The thought is just as damming as the action. In God’s eyes you made yourself spiritually one with us. You know how Corinthians says even casual sex with a prostitute has such spiritual implications that it is taking what belongs to Christ and making it one with the devil.”

I had a rough idea of how toward the end of chapter six of both First and Second Corinthians could be combined to say something like that. What struck me, however, was how every word he spoke rang so true. Every part of me seemed compelled to acknowledge the power of his assertions and nod in reluctant agreement.

“In God’s eyes,” he continued triumphantly, “you have made yourself spiritually one with us. And this is binding forever. You know how Malachi says God hates divorce, so he could never agree to you divorcing us.”

Is this true? He might as well have used his massive fist to punch me in the stomach. I staggered at the power of his arguments. I could never outwit him. Here I was in a world of divine perfection, and evil was about to totally enslave me.

“You are ours! You have engaged in the ultimate perversion and it is irreversible. By the mystical power of sexual union that my colleagues have duped earthlings into knowing so little about, you have superglued yourself to us. And you will be tormented by the consequences for all eternity.”

I was too distraught to wonder how he knew about human technology (superglue).

Is this as catastrophic as he claims? Or is he playing a malevolent mind game? How can I tell?

Just when I was sure the agony of my guilt made it impossible for me to feel any worse, he added, “You were so easy to deceive because you wanted to believe it.”

I crumpled to a low I had never thought existed.

“You’re one of us, now and forever – except that you’re still a puny earthling who will have to spend eternity squirming like a grub at our feet as you serve us all. Get on your knees, slave!”

I was trembling so uncontrollably that I could barely stand anyhow. Nevertheless, I tried to keep on my feet as long as I could.

“Jesus came to defeat the devil and to set humanity free from every spiritual bondage.” My voice had shriveled into a squeak. So much for trying to sound brave . . .

“Jesus died for the sins of the world!” I managed to spit out. “That has to include the vilest sins that any human is capable of committing.” I had already said that, but things were growing graver by the second. Then I thought of something else. “I will not insult the holiness of God by suggesting that to him there is any such thing as a small sin. Every sin is horrific in his eyes. Salvation is available not because of the smallness of one’s sin but because of the greatness of God’s love and the unlimited power of Christ’s sacrifice. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ That’s the eternal Word of God no matter what devious arguments you invent.” Hey! That sounded rather good!

“We are here in fulfillment of the holy Word of God that cannot be broken,” came the crushing reply. “I was cast out and, as the Son declared in the gospels, I have returned with even more demons to repossess you because you are empty, swept clean and in order. Yes, we are back because you are empty. You are not filled with Spirit of God.”

Oh, no! I certainly felt empty and I had not had any special sign of the Spirit’s infilling. I was almost frozen with horror. Like someone with hypothermia wanting to sleep even though it meant certain death, I wanted to cave in and admit it was futile to keep trying to resist the indisputable truth of his words. Alarmingly, however, what I was facing was infinitely worse than a Christian’s death. I complained bitterly, Where is God when I need him?

With the grace and intelligence of a man plummeting to death frantically flapping his arms in hope of slowing his fall, I tried a quick prayer yet again. I decided to put on my game face and stagger on for a few more moments before my inevitable, irreversible defeat.

“You’re a liar!” What are these bold words coming from my lips? Is God truly with me despite the guilt and abandonment I feel? “You’re back only because you’re hoping to bluff me into not exercising my Christ-bought authority over you. And I’m not falling for it!”

“Ha! You’ve already commanded me to leave in Jesus’ name and I’m still here. Doesn’t James say, ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’? Have I fled?”

“I don’t care how long it takes: you will flee!”

They all laughed. That was not a good sign.

“Are we scared?” Their leader, the fiercest, biggest one, continued as their spokesperson. “You’re the one who is shaking in terror! If you had a fraction of the faith required to be rid of us you wouldn’t be trembling. You’re shaking so much you put a jackhammer to shame and that’s because you know I’m right and that you are doomed!” They laughed again. I hated that sound. And I was in no mood to wonder how they knew about jackhammers.

“On, your knees!” he raged in an ear-splitting shriek. I had no idea whether it was terror or the sheer volume of his words that shook my body like a boom box.

The vivid memory recurred of the tortured screams of that powerful angel as he cowered before the same being who was now ordering me. I shot off another tiny prayer, prepared for more pain than I have ever known, and did my best to remain upright.

“Faith is not about feelings!” I had hurled back the statement faster than I could think it through.

“Your own conscience confirms that you have totally blown it,” came the unwanted reply. “You feel riddled with guilt and banished from God.”

“Yes, I feel utterly condemned and without hope but what I feel is irrelevant. Christians are called to live by faith, not feelings.” I didn’t know how those words came out of my mouth but as I heard myself utter them it was like a revelation. I was sure they were the truth and I resolved to cling to those words as if my life depended upon them – which it probably did.

The ferocious superhuman glared at me with blood-curdling hate. I stared back, as defiantly as a shaking lump of jello could muster.

“I’ll be back!” he snapped.

“And I’ll be waiting to give you the boot!” I retorted, hoping I sounded much more confident than I felt.

Then they vanished.

I flopped to the ground, a quivering wreck. Will they really be back again? What diabolical tricks when I least expect it will they use next time?


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