LIVING AN ILLUSION

BRAND NEW! This is a new short story called, “Living an illusion – embracing the default ignoring the divine.” A fictional account of what could possibly happen to many people after they die and cross over to the other side. A very interesting dialogue between a man named John and a spiritual messenger named Cassiel sets the tone for a chilling story about the difference between what people think and what God requires. I hope that everyone will consider the thoughts and possibilities of this very serious subject. Seeking out our own salvation with fear and trembling are words of wisdom and warning. This is not for the faint of heart and should cause all of us to think deeply about our life.

lIVING AN ILLUSION REAL 2

LIVING AN ILLUSION

EMBRACING THE DEFAULT – IGNORING THE DIVINE

By William F. Holland Jr.

Published 10/16/2017

We’ve heard and been taught that every person which has ever lived will someday stand before God and have a discussion about the life they lived. Many will argue and deny this is a summary of the meaning of life, but for the most part, the majority will agree this is true to some extent. The default life is an existence that requires no spiritual discipline, sacrifice, or yielding of the will. This is a worldview that does not have to do anything but relax and be perfectly content to float down the river so to speak, to enjoy all that life has to offer and take a dangerous chance about God and the next dimension. On the other hand, the Christian life is about searching and learning what God requires and being willing to accept the call to become a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ. This life-changing decision has everything to do with yielding our mind, body, and soul to the Creator of heaven and earth. We also may agree this is definitely worth considering since He has promised with all certainty that He is The way, The truth, and The life. Many Bible scholars are convinced there are two divisions of judgments and both are directly associated with whether the individual falls into the categories of saved and lost. Even though there are many different levels of good and bad, the basic concept describes a certain number of souls who are spiritually born-again and are declared as being a child of the Most High or on the other side of the fence where we have those who reject the invitation to become a member of God’s family and thus are referred to as spiritually blind. The deeds that were committed or omitted in both camps are related to how everyone will be judged and are all connected to the final decisions that only God has the perfect wisdom to address.

With many years of listening and observing not only to the world but also within my own life, I have arrived at the conclusion that I am just as much of a philosopher as I am a minister. I see myself as a seeker and a messenger but also feel intimidated to not only wade into the deeper waters of reason and purpose but to teach and lead others into the way of Christ. I am a sinner and live according to the promise of God’s Word which invites me to embrace Him by faith and allow His grace to save me. I am grateful, to say that He looked beyond my fault and saw my need. Besides the Bible, I have also read the thoughts of many leaders and noticed that individuals who are committed to their calling are serious-minded, bold, and disciplined, yet at the same time filled with sorrow over a fallen humanity. I believe that Jesus was filled with compassion and mercy while also being honestly blunt and the huge difference is that He was not a hypocrite as humans tend to be. I do not desire to be remembered as someone who could talk about God but could not live for Him. What do you want to be remembered for? I have made terrible mistakes and taken some hard falls and it’s only with humility that is given by His endless mercy and that I can live and move and have my being. I proclaim my righteousness is as a filthy rag and if I have accomplished anything in my life that has eternal value, it was manifested through me by the one and only holy Almighty Father. What is my message? To cry from the housetops and stand in the middle of a busy highway if need be to warn a captive world being held in bondage about how Christ loves them and desires to set them free. To plead with all whom God will arrange with divine appointments about the dangers of accepting the default life and becoming satisfied to trade seventy or eighty years on earth for an eternity of terrible disappointment. The red devil with a pitchfork is not a joke and neither is the holiness of God who has always demanded honor, reverence, and respect. His offer for all to embrace His divine blueprint is the greatest gesture of compassion the world has ever known.

It is no secret that seekers of truth have lots of difficult questions. I guess the most important question at the end of life is how much truth did the seeker find and how much of it did they comprehend? It has been said that knowledge is merely the accumulation of informational facts but wisdom is the understanding of knowledge. Again, we use the idea of levels to describe just how far and how deep we will venture in our quest to know the mysteries and secrets about the meaning of our existence. The passion to discover these revelations seem to only matter to a small amount of the population and that is peculiar in itself, but nevertheless, we can agree as the fictional X-file agent Mulder used to say, “the truth IS out there.” Speaking of truth, with the help of technology we can receive a constant flow of communication from the world at the push of a button and most consider this as a blessing. However, what the masses do not realize is that all events are mixed with opinionated commentary that conforms our understanding from our own personal perspective. In this light, things are not always the way they seem, thus the critical need for spiritual discernment. By the way, it appears that humans love to learn the dirt about others and then proceed to judge and counsel them according to their way of thinking, but are not willing to examine their own heart and accept their own advice. It’s much easier to tell everyone else what to do instead of dealing with our own denial and embracing the sacrifice of self-discipline. Charles Spurgeon is quoted, “Beware I pray thee, of presuming that thou art saved. If there be no vital change, no inward godliness; if there be no love to God, no prayer, no work of the Holy Spirit, then proclaiming I am saved is but thine own assertion, and it may delude, but it will not deliver thee.”

This fictional dialogue between a man named John and a spiritual being named Cassiel is not meant to be condemning but rather as something to seriously consider. The doctrine that we are held accountable for our actions is not a strange or unreasonable idea but actually one of the basic fundamental pillars of the Christian faith. We can only speculate what happens after we die or what types of conversations we might encounter, but whatever the case, we do imagine we will have access to someone in this transition. It could be that angels escort the saved and fallen angels are sent to escort the lost, but we are not sure. We also have a brief example in Matthew chapter seven and verses 22 and 23 where Jesus describes how people will someday try to convince Him of all the good religious things they have done and He concludes bluntly that He was not impressed. In fact, “depart from Me, I never knew you” indicates there are many who are confused about the difference between religion and relationship. We are not redeemed because we scored a certain amount of points or were a generally good person. It is a sad and sobering reality that many seemingly decent and somewhat religious people are in hell. With a world of reasons and excuses, we can know that mankind has never taken Jesus seriously and only a few have been willing to surrender their will completely to Him. The full gospel of Christ is offensive to our human nature and if presented any other way, it is being distorted. The modern gospel has been remodeled to please the masses and has softened the burden for lost souls. Shame on the Christian that is more interested in the comforts and pleasures of this world while millions of lost souls are falling into hell.

So, will we really have a chance to sit down with a spiritual being and have a friendly chat immediately after we die? Sorry, but again we do not really know. There are a number of people who have had near-death experiences that contained some interesting adventures but maybe they were dreams or hallucinations. Others have claimed to come back from the dead, but most scholars will agree that once a person crosses over into the next life, they cannot return. Of course, we have the mystics who can channel spirit guides through the portals and dimensions of the netherworld and psychics who believe in reincarnation and use crystal balls and seances to summon the deceased that have not yet crossed over, however, Hebrews Chapter 9 and verse 27 says that it is appointed unto humans ONCE to die and then the judgment. If anyone has been granted the opportunity to cycle multiple times they would have to die more than once and according to the Bible this is impossible. In this light, we can know that any familiar spirits which can be conjured are actually familiar spirits (demons – fallen angels) posing as someone from the grave in order to deceive. Luke chapter 16 states that souls cannot pass from Hades to paradise because a great gulf or barrier prevents them from intermingling. I personally believe there is a similar gulf that does not allow a soul to come back to earth after they are deceased UNLESS there is a specific reason that God would allow. On an interesting note, we read where the rich man that was in Hades could see into the realm of paradise but Lazarus could not see him. This causes speculation about whether the lost can possibly see into the earth and be reminded (and tormented) of how they neglected the opportunity to be ransomed by God’s love and give their life to Christ. May the Holy Spirit speak to our heart as we sit back and listen to this conversation.

“Where am I?” John seemed to be in a daze, looking around like he has just awakened from a dream. “What is happening…who are you?” “Hello John, my name is Cassiel and I’m a messenger. You’re spirit separated from your body and now you are going through the process of discovering who you are and where you are going.” John could recognize that his senses were more increased than when he lived in his old body back on earth. It seemed he could hear in all directions what was being said before Cassiel could even say it. The sounds within this environment reminded him of ocean waves gently rolling up on the shore and he could see trails of colors he had never imagined. Everything was like transparent, but highly detailed, layers of depth but more advanced and complete. He could literally see the wind as the air was wavy like the heat coming off a hot pavement. In the distance, he could make out what appeared to be layers of light and streams of rainbows that were so vividly bright and clean. The only thing he could relate this to is the feeling of being underwater except engulfed and saturated with an overwhelming brilliance of wonderment, beauty, and awe. “I remember you…I saw you right before I…left. You were reaching out your hand and I took hold and the next thing I knew, I was going through the ceiling. I looked down and could see my body and then as I lifted my head, I was flying so fast, like at the speed of light. It felt like I was falling forward through the universe…past the sun and the stars…then I heard what sounded like loud claps of thunder that was vibrating the air along with the echoes of many voices. Eventually, I could see a tiny light far away and I knew I was being drawn toward an opening, like the end of a tunnel that was a million years away.” John stopped for a moment and with quivering lips and mumbled…“I died.” With a long pause, “I’m dead.” Cassiel had heard all of this so many times before yet calmly but firmly replied, “Yes, John, you did pass away, and now you have crossed over into eternity.”

John had considered himself an average person and with all due respect, this was a sad but accurate description of his life. He never really accomplished anything exciting, significant or notable but rather lived a melancholy, laid-back style that was shy, quiet and low-key. His normal routine was going to his mundane place of employment which he hated, coming home, eating dinner, watching TV until he could not hold his eyes open and then going to bed. He was very enthusiastic about his sports teams and his hobbies and were unashamedly high on his list of true loves. His fate had allowed him to grow up in the twentieth century in the United States where he had the opportunity to be educated, land a decent job, have a loving wife and raise two children, but he never realized what a blessing this was. To categorize his social status, you could say he was raised middle-class and had maintained this mediocre level of success. He mowed his lawn, kept his vehicles washed and seemed to get along with most everyone. On the outside, you could say that he was a decent fellow. He had been a rebellious teen but finally settled down and became satisfied with going through the motions like most everyone else he knew. With much help from a hard-working wife, they raised their three children and then he retired after 40 years in the insurance business. He went to the doctor regularly but did not embrace the idea of eating healthy and exercising seriously. Cheeseburgers and milkshakes were his idea of heaven on earth. When he was in his early sixties, it was discovered he had stage four cancer and after some aggressive surgery and chemo treatments, he lived a couple more years in a weakened state and then, to everyone’s surprise, he had a massive heart-attack and died suddenly. A few people came to the funeral and the minister did the best he could to create a legacy of integrity and admiration. Several times it was affirmed how much he loved his family and how he would give anyone in need the shirt off his back. They laughed about how he loved to eat and what a devoted sports fan he was. Of course, it was mentioned that he was now standing in line at the all you can eat buffet in heaven and what a great time he was having with those who had gone on before. The usual prayer and sad song concluded the service and after a short presentation at the grave to say their final farewells, everyone went to the vehicles and drove away. It is sad but true but after the initial shock of the death of a loved one, we all discover the painful reality that the world keeps spinning and life goes on. We are born and we die but it’s what goes on in-between these two events that will make a difference in the next life.

When it came to his spiritual life, I guess you could say this was another part of his life that was average. He believed in God and had gone to church many times in his life, but never really felt the desire to pray, learn more about the Bible or become involved with serving the Lord. He was taught that if a person believed in God, they had nothing to worry about and everything would be alright in the end. In fact, he had read somewhere that maybe everyone would go to heaven because God is love and did not want anyone to be lost. He always figured that everyone who was a morally decent human being would be given a certain amount of points or some type of credit especially if they were nice and tried to help others that God would surely take all of these things into consideration. “So, if you are a messenger, I assume you are an angel?” Cassiel stood before him and replied, “is that what you think I am?” John was noticing how peculiar this being really was. He could not even tell if it was a he or she, but rather the impression was a striking image like a marble statue that spoke wisely and could move gracefully yet more strange than anything he could have dreamed. “I am probably not what you think I am. Not all “angels” are the same.” Cassiel stood at attention like a soldier as John kept staring. Procel also knew that John had many questions. John finally spoke up, “So, what happens next? Where are the streets of gold, the cities and rivers and God’s throne?” Cassiel looked at him and then glanced out into the distance without any change in facial expression. His voice broke the anticipation, “The heaven you have heard about is real and will be unveiled in the future but it is reserved for a very small remnant of saints. You are presently in a holding place that some languages on earth refer to as Sheol. This is where all souls which have crossed over are gathered to wait until the final judgment. Sheol is divided into two separate places. God’s children are led into paradise while those who are lost are sent to Hades. There are levels and degrees of punishment for those who are in Hades just as there are levels and degrees of reward for those who are in paradise. Eventually, the saints will stand before The Lord of Lords at the judgment seat of Christ where all of their deeds will be considered and the lost will stand before Him at the Great White Throne judgment to be sentenced.” All at once, John did not really have a very good feeling about this. He could feel himself becoming tense and a strong sensation of dread washed over him like an emotional tsunami. “Now wait a minute, you seem to be giving me some negative vibes here. Since there are only two eternal destinations…which one will I be a part of?” Cassiel once again stood motionless and the silence was uncomfortable, to say the least. “I’m afraid I have bad news…I’m sorry. I’ve been instructed to escort you to Hades.” The words seemed to freeze in the air and then drop like a stack of china plates. It was as if someone had punched him hard in the gut and knocked the breath out of him. He was paralyzed, not knowing what to say, he could not think or move. A tear rolled down his cheek, his voice cracking as he could barely utter the words, “there must be some type of mistake.” Cassiel’s answer was steady and confident, “there is no mistake.”

Stunned beyond belief, John somehow managed to gain some composure and sheepishly wondered out loud why he had not received any type of consideration for the good things he had done. He finally spoke out, “I believe in God…I was a decent person…I never killed anyone or committed any heinous crime or hurt a child. How can this be happening? Surely some of my good deeds are worth something, I helped people, I went to church a few times, I even gave money!” Cassiel looked around as if waiting for someone and then hesitantly responded, “John, I’ve watched you since you were born, and you’re right, you’ve been an average decent person, but it has always been true that being decent has nothing to do with going to heaven. The Bible carefully explains about taking up your cross and following the Lamb but you refused to embrace any level of dedication to have a personal relationship with God. You willingly allowed your mind to be deceived as it was easy and pleasurable to live according to what you wanted to do and now you are facing the consequences. I must tell you the truth…it’s too late for you. You will spend eternity without God’s presence because you did not love Him on earth. Your final destination will be filled with regret and you will be reminded of your selfishness and rebellion while you suffer in a place of darkness and pain. Only those who choose to surrender their will on earth and sacrifice their life because they love God and desire to know Him personally are invited to live in heaven with God forever. Only those who have been washed in the blood of Jesus and have been truly born-again are rewarded with eternal life. You never allowed yourself to be convicted with fear and trembling about what true salvation really meant. You never had a fervent passion to develop a spiritual intimacy with Jesus. You never wanted to learn how to pray or worship in Spirit and truth or had a desire to know what the Bible required for you to do. The Holy Spirit tried to warn you hundreds of times that without self-discipline and a determination to have God as the highest priority, a person cannot walk in God’s Spirit or live in His presence. There are masses of people who are socially and traditionally religious but sadly, there is only a small group of people that will go to heaven.” Out of desperation, John felt like he was on trial and needed to present some type of critical evidence which could overturn this magnificent presentation but he could not think of anything that could justify his earthly life of lukewarmness and overturn this depressing verdict. “What about mercy?” John pleaded, “What about God’s love and compassion?” Cassiel continued, “The grace of God sent Jesus to the cross to save whosoever will, however, this grace does not mean that mankind can live however they want. Grace is the opportunity to be forgiven of sin and welcomes the individual to become accountable by inviting Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Master. This means inviting Christ to sit on the throne of their heart and freely giving Him control over everything they think and do and unfortunately also explains why hardly no one will agree to these terms. Everyone wants a Savior but only a few want a Lord and will completely lay down their life for Him. Yes, God loves everyone and His mercy endures forever but how many will sincerely love Him? He proved His love on the cross, but how many will prove their love for Him with absolute obedience?”

Again, the silence was deafening. They slowly began to walk together and to John it felt like a condemned convict being led toward his cell on death row. He gritted his teeth and winced as if he was in excruciating pain as he was already recalling his old life and how he turned over his decision-making process to his carnal nature. He could have tried harder to follow Jesus but he just didn’t want to. He could have been as close to God as he wanted but he loved the flesh much more. He could have turned away from the temptations of the world and cried out to the Lord, but he just did not want to do it! And now…no do-overs, no second chances…he was going to hell. He is now reaping exactly what he had planted. If he could only go back and warn everyone. If he could only have a chance to explain that being a Christian is not what everyone thinks it is. He would stand on the street corner and beg people to repent. He would fall on his knees and pray day and night if only he had another chance. He began to weep and cry out as he grabbed Cassiel by the arm. It was no use, everything was settled, nothing added and nothing taken away. Cassiel pulled him loose and said they needed to keep going. Continuing further down the corridor, the atmosphere began to change as it was becoming darker and more difficult to see up ahead. The air was transforming from what was a fresh aroma of roses to now more of a stench that smelled like something burning. It wasn’t long before John realized this offensive stench smelled like charcoal and the misty fog was actually a growing density of smoke. The temperature was also noticeably becoming warmer which made him feel nauseous and fearful. Cassiel slowed to a stop and politely stated this is where they would separate. John’s breaths were ragged and had increased like he had been jogging, “Where are you going? with a sense of panic.” Cassiel turned and looked directly at him, “I must return to earth for there are many more souls getting ready to cross over. I’m going to help them and be with them just like I was with you. Continue in this direction and you will eventually be greeted by another guide named Procel who will lead you the rest of the way. “Goodbye John.” “Wait, do not leave me!” Please, I’m afraid, it’s becoming darker and the smoke is taking my breath. In the distance, John could now faintly hear what sounded like people crying and screaming in agony. Louder he called out, “Oh No…please…I beg you to please help me!” Cassiel walked away and quickly disappeared in the smoke. John was now all alone surrounded in a cloud of gasses and vapors that reeked of brimstone as it seemed like he was standing at the edge of a volcano. Everything was quiet except for the crying voices which seemed to be coming from all directions. His thoughts painted a horrible picture of people burning and suffering but yet not being able to die. He remembered the scripture that mentioned the rich man who lifted up his eyes being tormented in the flames of hell and how he begged Abraham to send Lazarus the beggar back to earth to warn his five brothers. Abraham told the rich man if the world will not listen to God’s Word they would not listen to someone who comes back from the dead.

Suddenly, he could hear footsteps, and out of the fog, there appeared an image of a disturbing creature walking toward him. This must be the escort Cassiel was talking about. John could sense a dark presence as the demon stood in front of him. With eyes boring a hole through him, he was motionless except for a penetrating and arrogant sinister smile. John was shaking in fear as the creature was more fearful than any horror movie he could imagine. It had four faces of different animal-like characteristics and the face staring at him reminded had the features of a chimpanzee. as it was tall and dressed in battle gear that included leather overlaid with chains and a large belt of iron plates around the waist. The fallen warrior was very hairy with tall boots with many buckles and had large calloused hands. With an angry and irritating voice, he spoke with authority and harshness that John imagined a cruel prison guard would sound like. “Come…NOW!” With a terrifying explosion of laughter, Procel bellowed, “It only gets worse from here!” He took a couple of steps into the darkening decent then turned and aggressively motioned for John to come along. John could not move as his legs were stiff and his mind was racing. He thought about running away, but where would he go? In the blink of an eye, the hideous creature reached out with force and took hold of his arm and began to pull him. John began to scream as loud as he could, “Help me, somebody…please help me! Noooooo…please…Jesus help me…please.” Soon they both disappeared from sight and for a few moments you could still faintly make out John’s hysterical cries but after a while, it blended in with all the other voices. Cassiel was already back on earth and was now patiently standing in the corner of a dilapidated nursing home waiting for the last breath of an elderly lady named Pat. A nurse was busy with the routine monitoring as one of the staff stepped in the doorway. “I believe we should call the family and the chaplain.” As the young orderly was heading out into the hall, she turned around and asked, “Have you ever seen an angel in the room of someone dying?” While writing on the chart and without looking up, “In over 30 years, I’ve seen some very strange things. It’s very common for someone in the dying process, even if they in a deep coma, to reach out toward a corner of the ceiling like they see something. I believe the death angels do come for us when it’s our time.” The young girl paused for a second and then quietly slipped out. Pat had taken a turn for the worse overnight and she was rapidly deteriorating as there was no doubt the end was very near.

Very similar to John, Pat also considered herself to be an average person that had lived a normal life. She had married, had a couple of kids, cooked and cleaned and all those things a regular wife and mother does. She had gone to church several times in her life but had never really thought that much about spiritual things and honestly felt that what she believed was no one’s business. She saw herself as being decent, clean, well mannered, and a homebody that kept to herself. She never felt the necessity to read the Bible or pray and received everything she felt she needed to know from the news. Her husband had passed away a few years earlier, and her own health issues had multiplied after experiencing several debilitating strokes. Sure, she had heard about Jesus and the story about Him being on the cross and all that but never really entertained the idea of being a fanatic or even overly concerned about it. Her honest conclusions were to be cautious around extreme religious people because they were kooks. Besides most religious people were hypocrites and probably more dangerous than anyone else. She had created her own views and thought that if there is a God, He will do whatever He wants in the end so why should she worry about it? She used to tell her friends that living and dying was like playing the lottery as some will win and some will lose. Instead of researching the Bible, she built her own persuasions and convictions which included always trusting her tuition and depending on her own common sense. She had taught her kids to be strong and independent but neglected to guide them to Jesus. The same was true about missing a wonderful opportunity to teach her grandchildren about God but it’s only logical if God is not a part of our life, we will not tell others. As her breathing was becoming shallower, one of her last fading thoughts was recalling a recent magazine article which declared that everyone could be happy whatever situation they were facing. It mentioned that if we could just think good thoughts that we could live in peace and contentment. The heart of what was deemed an inspirational message was that everything will work out in the end. “It’s all going to be alright” sounded wonderful to her at the time and now with the same sense of emotional security and the chance to be lucky, she closed her eyes and hoped for the best.