Chapter 8: Terrifying Pleasure

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The next thing I knew, I was back to that Palace again. My transportation seemed instant. If I had passed out, I was unaware of it. But if I hadn’t lost consciousness this time, why did it happen when first arriving in the forest? Was having previously been in the Palace a factor? The only thing I know is how little I know! I complained. In fact, I guess I don’t even know that! Anyhow, there was no time for more guesswork; an announcement was taking place.

“Thirty sinless earth-years on that sin-infested planet as a baby, a boy, a youth –” marveled a massively-built extraterrestrial.

At least superficially, this seemed like a continuation of the same ceremony whose commencement I had witnessed who knows how long ago. Surely not! I told myself. I had no idea what these superior beings are capable of. To my mind, however, it seemed to border on the preposterous for the same event to have continued uninterrupted for all the time I had been absent. I tried to shelve my internal debate so I could rivet my attention on what was being said.

“Without even the Spirit’s anointing!” added another of the angels, amidst all the rejoicing.

Whatever are they talking about? Then in a burst of panic I asked myself, I am in the Twenty-First Century, aren’t I? In this exotic location, the terrifying possibility of being millions of miles from earth was undeniable. Peculiarly, however, my mind kept bolting like a spooked stallion from the additional possibility of being cut off from home by thousands of years. I had encountered fiction about time travel. Now I was on a crash course as to how shatteringly different from a cozy read it is to face the actual possibility of being marooned not just in a foreign world but a foreign time.

After a while, someone raised his voice, “Could I have a little quiet please?” It sounded like Chebon’s deep, cultured tones. I turned in the direction of the voice and it certainly looked like him. The enormous throng began to quieten. “I have an announcement,” he continued, “To mark this unique occasion, Gabriel has been chosen to distill into words the feelings of all of us.”

Everyone cheered again. I looked on, mystified.

A being who seemed the personification of grandeur came forward. Even among the others, he looked dignified. His voice boomed with authority. “Earth-born observers who think they know Jesus of Nazareth are about to receive the shock of their lives.” The others murmured in agreement.

“They imagine he is one of them.” Some of the throng smiled. Some shook their heads, as if in disbelief.

“Earth has no conception of his humiliation these thirty years.” The rest murmured. Some nodded in what seemed like sad agreement.

“But heaven knows and we will not fail to celebrate his empowering this day.”

The throng went wild.

“At last the Supreme Lord is endowed with the power that Christ-transformed earth dwellers will one day enjoy!”

Locked in that statement were truths so profound as to keep my mind whirling for ages. Even as I write, the implications are ricocheting around my head. I wonder if I’ll ever plumb their depths, much less actually live them. I was glad that another celestial roar gave me a little while to ponder that profound mystery.

“Our glorious Master’s baptism in the Spirit,” he continued when the roar eventually waned, “is one step closer to the restoration of the glory which rightly belongs to the only Son of the Most High, through whom, and for whom, all things in every universe exist. His rightful role is to reign in unlimited splendor over every inhabitant of every world forever and ever.”

The entire realm seemed to explode in thunderous cheers, applause, and a peculiar noise that I had now heard several times before. Eventually the stupendous throng began to quieten and Gabriel continued.

“For thirty earth-years the eternal Lord of Glory has been abased. Only now, at the completion of the Spirit-baptism, is his power equal to the potential of his future followers. But now, supercharged with the Spirit, pulsating with holy power, he is primed to explode into earth-stunning ministry. That planet will never be the same again.”

Again the throng erupted into cheers and that peculiar noise.

“Jesus of Nazareth, ablaze with the Spirit, is a beacon so bright he’ll be seen by every succeeding generation of earth-dwellers, century after century until the termination of planet earth.”

The angels went wild. That perplexing sound some emitted continued to intrigue me. Perhaps it was some kind of angelic equivalent of whistling.

Chebon stepped up to Gabriel and raised his straightened arm at about forty-five degrees. They exchanged that same type of salute I had seen him give Kokbiel. Their hands almost touching, they stood rigidly in silence for a few seconds. Then, military-style, Gabriel about-turned and strode off.

“Arch-angel Uriel from the music corps has been commissioned to compose a song for this great occasion.” announced Chebon. Everyone clapped and cheered. “Let’s see how quickly we can learn this sparkling new song.” More cheers followed. Never before visiting other worlds had I thought of angels getting so excited.

Then commenced what I can only call music, but the use of an earth term devalues what I heard. It seemed to kiss my ears and then permeate my entire being. My spirit seemed to soar to realms I had never known. I was captivated. I longed for it to continue forever. Then, in an otherworldly voice, so pure, so noble, Uriel began to sing.

    Son of Man, how you’ve longed for this hour.
    Now you’re anointed, empowered from on high.
    Now is your love matched by infinite power;
    You’ll raise the dead and bring heaven nigh.

He ended his verse. The music continued. Then he began again, this time the pitch was a little higher. All the others joined him. They were harmonizing, but producing no words. What shocked me, however, was the vocal range of the voices, with some being lower and some higher than any human voice I’ve ever heard. Their sound was vaguely like humming. Only Uriel was singing words. Somehow there was such power in his performance that even today each word seems indelibly etched on my brain. I’m sure I’ll never forget a syllable.

    Spirit of God, for redemption you’ve come;
    For all earth’s people you pour out your love.
    Power Divine upon God’s only Son,
    You have come like a heavenly dove.

Chebon, looking at Uriel, said, “Magnificent!” He looked toward the seemingly endless audience. “Isn’t it?” Once again the throng erupted in enthusiastic claps and cheers that swept me to heights of excitement and awe that bordered on fear. Some in the throng gave little jumps on the spot. Some made those peculiar sounds.

Turning toward Uriel again, Chebon said, “We’ve picked up the tune now. Have you got the words for us?”

Uriel did something with his hand and from nowhere three dimensional squiggles appeared, each looking as solid as gold, and suspended on nothing.

As Chebon studied the squiggles he emitted a strange sound, but quite different from the angelic “whistle.” “Teeeeeoool! This is good!” he gasped, “Let’s get all heaven singing!”

Uriel turned to the throng. As his body rhythmically twisted in ways that no human would imitate, the seemingly endless throng responded as if he were conducting them with his entire body. On cue, they began to sing.

    Son and Dove, now you’re blended in time.
    You are united, all-powerful and wise.
    Perfect love binds this union divine,
    Filling the love in the Father’s eyes.

    Yet our joy is tempered with awe
    As we dare ponder your mission of pain;
    Trial upon trial as your agonies soar,
    You’ll shed your blood as mankind you reclaim.

    Father God, your heart feels this pain;
    Your Son surrounded by hardship and foe.
    He’ll be abused in body and name,
    As he redeems those who hate him so.

Perhaps you have known the frustration of longing to convey to a friend the beauty of a song when all you could do is e-mail the lyrics. It seems so hollow compared with what you experienced. Obviously, that frustration is gripping me now, though magnified many times over because the music was beyond anything you can even imagine. Even worse: this anguish seizes me over almost every word I write about any aspect of what I saw or heard or felt in this world.

Although what I was privileged to hear was musically astonishing, it sparked within me something far deeper than music can achieve. Elements of the experience seemed to bypass my analytical mind and convey, in an almost subliminal way, insight into the beings producing the music. There was something about how the vast throng blended in song that suggested they had a profound sensitivity to each other’s unique contribution; a respect – almost admiration – for each other’s individuality. I sensed such an off-the-scale love and unity among them that it awakened within me an almost painful nostalgia; a yearning to be part of something much bigger than myself, bursting with love and unity beyond anything I have ever known.

Nostalgia is meant to be a yen for something enjoyed in the past, but this was different. It was the rekindling of a yearning I vaguely recall once having, but it had long since died because it had seemed too unattainable. I cannot identify how I knew, but something convinced me that these beings had attained it. Thankfully, longings that the angelic singing stirred within me were tempered by having been a participant in the musical miracle in the forest. Otherwise, I think what I sensed in these celestials would have tormented me as much as someone dying of hunger forced to see people enjoying a banquet he could never have.

I wanted the song to go on and on and on. I felt if I heard it continuously for a hundred years the words would still be as fresh and captivating as ever. To my acute disappointment it ended, and every creature in sight bowed with his head to the floor in reverent worship. Feeling totally out of place, as the only one standing, I attempted to mimic them. The floor proved to be surprisingly comfortable but after what seemed an exceedingly long time, I grew increasingly fidgety.

The celestials continued, seeming to draw immense satisfaction out of this humiliating posture. I feel forced to employ the word adoration to try to encapsulate the emotional/mental/spiritual ecstatic state they had apparently entered into. My hesitance springs from a sad acknowledgement that I used to imagine I had a vague notion of the meaning of the word. I now know this arrogant presumption is like a Stone Age primitive supposing he understands the vastness of the universe. It was humiliatingly obvious that I was in the presence of beings who had tapped into spiritual depths that were utterly foreign to me. I flooded with a new admiration for these sacred servants.

In my boredom I gazed at the tiny section of floor beneath my eyes. Set just below the smooth surface of this particular part of the floor were what looked like magnified, exquisitely colored snow crystals but they looked so genuine and priceless; not like some human imitation. The tiny segment of floor before my eyes was fascinating, but not enough to keep me entertained for all the time that these holy entities were devoting to their worship. I recalled other parts of the floor that I had noticed earlier. One part had looked like petrified fire. Another looked as if it contained miniaturized galaxies of stars. Other parts contained jewels. I longed to explore the vast floor, absorbing its beauty, but I knew these superior beings were engaged in something far more profound. I tried not to profane that sacred moment any more than I was already doing.

After I thought I was beginning to understand the meaning of eternity, Chebon finally announced, “Let the celebrations commence!”

I was totally unprepared for the next split second. In an instant these stunningly otherworldly beings exploded from reverent stillness to extravagant celebration. Do creatures ever know how to party! Their unrestrained exuberance made excited children look as somber as mourners. I have never seen anyone have so much fun. Even now, when I feel depressed I recall the sheer delight on their faces and the memory transports me.

I have no idea how to adequately describe their acrobatics, but I can explain it quite simply: the performers were not human. They leapt four or five times higher than any human could reach and they spun several times faster in their aerial somersaults. Sometimes they gyrated so fast that they were just a blur and when they approached top speed they actually changed color. They could bend backwards as fully and easily as forwards. All of them were simultaneously diving into the air, twisting and twirling and somersaulting, each with individual characteristics. The throng had spread out, but I was still amazed there were no mid-air collisions. Whenever two got close, something like lightning flashed between them. The brilliant colors varied according to which angels the spark flashed between.

As they began to somersault, their clothing changed. Some were now bare-chested, exposing their golden, shiny skin, which made them look even more stunning. There was something alien about their flat chests besides their unique skin. I puzzled over what it was until it hit me: they had no nipples. Like the dimmest of memories, something too elusive for me to identify caused this feature of their anatomy to somehow seem fitting, but too much was happening to explore the thought. Although it was harder to be certain – they were clothed from the waist down – it seemed they also had no navels. Their joy was too infectious, however, for me to get caught up in physiology.

If they were a cross between shooting stars and eagles, I was a beached whale. And yet their sheer exuberance pulsated through me. It was like someone’s laughter that sets you giggling and ends up rocking your entire body. Lumbering earthling or not, I found myself doing a little jig, like music can sometimes set your foot tapping without you realizing it.

Then, to my horror, it happened. It was obviously part of the celebrations, but I have no idea what to call them. I’ll have to stick with my previous inadequate and deceptively innocuous term ‘sparklers’ because they were essentially the same as what had previously frazzled my senses, only this time there were so very many more and each one was unique.

I couldn’t contain the intensity of the first ‘sparkler’ cascading through me. Then, at its very peak when it seemed I would drown in the outrageously exquisite pleasure yet another celestial ‘sparkler’ hit me. I involuntarily doubled over as if punched in the stomach. My legs began to buckle. An observer might suppose I was in pain, but my whole body was crumpling under the weight of intolerable pleasure.

To my dismay, the ‘sparklers’ kept coming – relentlessly. Whenever one touched me, I would tingle in the most thrilling way, and each time it was a totally different sensation. It reminded me of when as a child I was held down and tickled and tickled and tickled. Part of me was frantically screaming for this heavenly extravaganza to stop. It seemed beyond human endurance. And yet another part of me wanted it to go on and on forever.

I recalled hearing of men of God granted such powerful spiritual experiences that they cried out to God for it to cease; literally thinking it would kill them. Afterwards some regretted their move, and instead wished they had prayed for a greater capacity to contain the blessing. “Help me bear this!” I shouted to the God I grievously needed. My voice was drowned in the holy commotion, but I somehow knew my cry had reached heaven’s throne. Soon strength was flowing into me. Gradually I gained a little more capacity to handle the torrent of pleasures rippling through me, but then another ‘sparkler’ hit and I was sent floundering even farther beyond my limits.

At the same time, every fiber of my being was ravaged by the conviction that Satan’s vomit has as much right to be in the holy of holies as I had to be here. I somehow had to get the focus off me or, like a desert ant burnt to a puff of smoke under a magnifying glass, I would die of shame. I emphatically identified with the Apostle Paul calling his righteousness dung. How could even he survive here? I wondered. Then in a burst of revelation I recalled him saying in that very passage that he wanted no righteousness that could be called his own but only that which comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Yes! That’s it!

Remembering my spiritual union with Christ, I cried in desperation, “Jesus is worthy! Jesus is worthy!” But the words felt devastatingly hollow when trying to apply them to myself. At that moment no one in the universe could feel more unworthy than me.

I had not thought it possible, but the superhumans twirled and corkscrewed with ever-increasing complexity. The next ‘sparkler’ was like an exquisite massage penetrating my very soul. No wonder the angels were diving into the air. I, too, longed to turn cartwheels in sheer delight, but in the midst of such sensory overload my human body was unable even to stagger.

The ‘sparklers’ seemed to erupt as powerful explosions but instead of bangs they made the most amazing sounds, and instead of the stench of explosives, each emitted an exquisite and different aroma, and even a taste. The force of some would surely have knocked me over had I somehow managed to be upright at the time, yet some were as gentle as mist. Each eruption was a different color and the colors transcended so far beyond anything I have ever seen that I wondered if I had somehow gained the ability to see a wider spectrum of colors than is normally possible for human eyes. Or was it the different atmosphere? Like so much else, I was at a loss to explain it, and I was too emotionally swept off my feet to really care.

I was the vilest trespasser. I knew I should flee. Instead, frantically trying to prolong my stay, I cried, “On the cross, Jesus and I swapped destinies!” The next ‘sparkler’ sent pleasure rumbling through me like thunder, reaching depths within me I never knew existed. Is it possible for one’s internal organs to dance?

Using earthly language to describe the ethereal fireworks exploding within me is like being forced to call an ocean a big bath. Nevertheless, if you will bear with my madness I will attempt to describe the indescribable. You could think of the sensations induced by one ‘sparkler’ as like the most invigorating mountain spa, sending what seemed like a billion microscopic bubbles spiraling inside of me. As that was finally beginning to subside, another hit. The impact bore similarities to satin on bare skin, but a thousand times more rapturous. I shuddered in delight. The best I can do in describing the next is to say it felt outrageously soapy and unimaginably soothing. Whenever I was sure I could contain no more, yet another ‘sparkler’ would hit. The feelings were so intense it was as if I were experiencing reality for the first time.

I was a maggot-infested wound in the body of the Christ. I made all heaven impure. I ruined everything. “Jesus makes me worthy! Jesus makes me worthy!” I screamed in anguish. Another ‘sparkler’ caused me to sort of sneeze repeatedly and with each sneeze the most thrilling sensations raged through me.

I shouldn’t be experiencing such heavenly treats. I was stealing the rewards of the holy and pure. I drew a deep breath, “Jesus and I are one. I claim the privileges of the holy Son.” Oh, the audacity of it! A sadistic rapist passing himself off as the purest virgin would be less outrageous. “My colossal debt to justice has been paid in full! I don’t care how beyond belief it seems, Jesus was punished for me!” I cried out loud, recklessly determined to hold on to that claim, even if it killed me.

A ‘sparkler’ brushed my head and instantly my hair came to life. That part of me that on earth had been so devoid of feeling that it could even be cut without the slightest discomfort was now pulsating with matchless feelings. My body wanted me to squeal with delight like a little child, abandoning myself to an otherworldly euphoria. Yet my mind was clouded with the gravest of matters. Each new pleasure intensified the agony, like a starving man savoring the aromas and sights of a banquet he is forbidden on pain of death to taste; like a moth drawn to the fire that will kill it.

“Jesus is in me!” I cried.

The celestial throng continued to celebrate, oblivious to my anguish.

Another ‘sparkler’ felt unbelievably exhilarating. I nearly lost consciousness. Every circuit in my body was ready to blow. I’ll die!

No! flashed the thought. Why should I die? Jesus died for me!

The next ‘sparkler’ was like a beautiful, lazy drowsiness – marred only, of course, by my tortured conscience.

I have no right to this. I’m being plain stubborn and selfish by not scurrying from heavenly pleasures like a cockroach into a hole.

This time I had no comeback. It was so horribly true. Here I was trying to get away with stubbornness and selfishness in the very heart of – whatever this place was.

Pleasure-wise, I presume the ‘sparklers’ made heroin seem like water, but I had been so anxious to get my fill of these transcendent wonders that I wanted it even if by getting my wish I threatened the existence of the entire universe! I was so unspeakably selfish that my exquisite pleasure had meant more to me than the survival of every creature in the universe. What an appalling self-discovery! I, who had prided myself in being a cut above the average do-gooder, made Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and psychopathic serial rapists look angelic. Jesus Christ not only relinquished all this pleasure, he embraced humiliation and torture to bless someone as evil as me. And here I was, the antithesis of everything good, clawing after the highest sensations; so pleasure-crazed that my own enjoyment meant more to me than the very survival of the universe.

For virtually my entire life I had accepted as a doctrine that without Christ every human is depraved. Now it was no longer a theory; it was devastating reality. Morally, I was a slug needing to be stepped on and my splattered remains ground into the dirt.

I was finally forced to give up and banish myself to hell, my rightful home forever.

Sinful ‘pleasures’ I thought I had enjoyed on earth streaked through my mind in naked shame. Each now seemed as repulsive as if I were forced to keep eating delicious chocolate even though I was already vomiting up chocolate. I’m disgusting! How could I have been so stupid, so vile, so perverse? I was sickened to recall that I had once considered myself to be living an exemplary life. I am so loathsome that without Jesus trading places with me I couldn’t face the truth about me and still live with myself. Surely hell needs just one accurate mirror for the torment to be unbearable.

“Help me, Lord Jesus!” I cried in agony.

In my mind’s eye I saw myself charging into a burning building to rescue someone I loved more than life itself. Every movement began to slow down. Shielding her body, I suffer horrific burns to carry her to safety, where I collapse, writhing in agony. But it is worth every throb of pain because the love of my life is untouched by the fire. All that matters is that she’s unharmed. Seeing my wounds she says, “I don’t deserve such love!” I look on in horror as she then runs back into the fire and kills herself; breaking my heart by her death and rendering all my suffering an utter waste.

I had been on the brink of treating my heroic Savior like that. How dare I let Jesus’ agony be wasted! If I beat myself up, Jesus was beaten for nothing. He suffered horrifically to give me the right of access to all God’s riches. For his sake, I must refuse to throw aside such a costly sacrifice. For some reason – sheer love I guess – he considered me worth it. I won’t let him down. My feelings are of no consequence. I’ll seize the maximum for his sake. “FOR HIS SAKE!” I yelled. At last I found peace. “Yes, for Jesus’ sake!” I shouted in joyous relief, “For the sake of the One who died for me!”

By thinking of myself as unworthy, I was seeing myself as I truly would be had Jesus never hung upon the cross for me. But he had been crucified for me. He was tortured to death to swap my sin for his sinlessness. He took my guilt and gave me his innocence. And here I was on the brink of throwing it all away and reducing to a senseless waste his agonizing death for me.

The next ‘sparkler’ was like a burst of love. Another seemed almost intoxicating. Some stirred emotions I had never known on earth. ‘Immense satisfaction,’ is my best attempt to describe one such emotion, but those words seem so inferior to what I felt that it hardly seems worth the effort of groping for words. Another was a little like awe and wonder but went far beyond the boundaries of those words. Another was too outrageous to find the slightest comparison.

The only way to bear the ecstasy was to forget myself and enjoy every blessing for Jesus’ sake, delighting him by reveling in all that his torment had purchased for me. Anything from him is a priceless gift. No matter how enormous or how tiny, I arrogantly judge any of his gifts to be, I dare not push away a single one because it had cost him everything to make me worthy to receive it.

Each ‘sparkler’ seemed to put something in the air that I could actually taste with each breath. One was a little like honey, another more like apples, the next totally incomparable with anything on earth. The variety seemed endless.

No earthly experience could compete with the smallest of these pleasures. It was suddenly obvious that for a Christian, there is no such thing as sacrifice. Exchanging the greatest of earthly pleasures for this, is no sacrifice. A lifetime of agony would be a small price to pay for a few moments of these celebrations. Then from deep within me boomed a voice, Even now you have no conception of the ecstasies of those counted worthy to gaze upon the face of Almighty God. These are mere trinkets. You have only caught the reflected glory of mere angels. Basking in the glory of the presence of the King of kings outclasses what you are presently experiencing, as the midday summer sun outshines the stars when seen from the planet of your birth.

I gasped. The thought of anything more rapturous was beyond comprehension. Another ‘sparkler’ hit. This time, it was too much.


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