© Jeff Jackson (September 2021)
When the fog cleared in my head, I realized that I was standing in a line to enter the building where all must eventually pass through. Over the loudspeaker came the message:
“Welcome to the afterlife hub where you will be transported to your new existence”.
Some reacted with excitement by the announcement; others seemed uninterested as they were focused on their mobile devices or lost in their own thoughts; while others looked quite upset or unsettled as their turn neared. I looked around and there were people of all ages, races, religions, genders, and anything else you might use to differentiate one human from another.
From the outside, the building was not an architectural wonder, it was of simple design but well lit. Very slowly people made their way into the lobby; we had only one way to go; which was into a tunnel-like passageway.
The sign above the passageway entrance read:
Only the Clean will Rise
“Only the clean will rise” I repeated to myself. “What does that mean? Shouldn’t it say ‘Only the good will rise’?”
Surprisingly as I stepped into the passageway there were video highlights on the walls showing moments from my life.
One showed me when I was a child and I had taken a friend’s bike without permission for a ride. I took it back to his yard later that night but not before accidentally damaging it. I never confessed that I did it; although I saw how upset he was about the incident the next day.
I saw a moment when I was a teen and I helped an old woman with her groceries. She gave me a few dollars which was what I was hoping to receive.
I saw when I was in college and a fellow student I really liked shared with me about Jesus. At first I was interested because I was in a tough spot at the time and feeling quite vulnerable; plus she was such a lovely creature. I went to church with her and said I was a Christian but I was never sure I was one. We got married after college.
There were highlights of my married life and my daughter. My marriage only lasted 10 years. I put making money first and enjoyed the pleasures offered to those in that exciting fast paced life. My wife pleaded with me to do something else and put God and the family first but I did not listen; I had too much to gain and would not stop now. She came to realize my profession of being a Christian was hollow and it broke her heart. My marriage ended and I lost connection with my daughter because I just did not make time for either of them. Occasionally I felt a bit of regret about how things turned out; but not enough to seek forgiveness or really want to change.
I definitely did not make time for religion or God.
Another showed me enjoying a great meal at a fancy restaurant after hostilely taking over another company and firing a number of the employees so that higher profits could be achieved.
These replays brought back a flood of emotions into my mind. I started to feel empty and unsettled but I did not know why. My life has been better than most I thought.
As I neared the end of the passageway I heard gasps and exclamations of all kinds ahead of me. I wondered what was causing it. When I came out of the passageway, the room was clean, brightly lit but empty except for a massive transparent tube. A man in a strange white outfit stood near the opening to the tube. The tube was not very wide but it stretched up into the sky further than the eye could see. I was amazed and perplexed because you could not see this tube from outside the building; yet it definitely was taller than anything else imaginable.
If you were uninterested before, your attention was now completely centered on the tube. Where did it go?
I looked ahead with keen interest wondering what exactly was happening. There were four people ahead of me in the line for the tube.
Currently at the front of the line was an elderly woman. She looked very peaceful. She was neatly dressed and looked like she was middle class. The attendant at the door instructed her to place all of her belongings into the garbage chute on the left before heading to the tube. She moved to obey. I noticed the last thing she had was a picture in her hand, which she kissed gently and said “My love, I will see you soon”. After dropping it into the chute she was helped by the attendant up the steps into the tube. I could hear the attendant reassuringly say to her, “Now Victoria this won’t hurt a bit and the Master is waiting”. She smiled widely and her eyes twinkled as the door to the tube closed.
Just then a buzzing sound began. It was some sort of scan like something out of a Sci-Fi movie. It started at the woman’s feet and started to rise. We could see there was a gauge to the right of the tube that measured the occupant’s cleanliness. At what would be 9 o’clock was the word “Unclean”. The arrow pointed to it. At 3 o’clock was the word “Clean”. As the scan continued up, the arrow started to move clockwise. When the scan reached the top of her head, it shot to the right and stopped at “Clean”.
Suddenly her appearance changed and she was wearing a bright white garment and looking far younger than before. A noise like a swoosh began to grow and then she started to rise, accelerating as she went until she was well out of sight.
“Wow!” I thought, “I can’t wait for my turn”.
The next person was a man and he had a leather briefcase and a large suitcase too. He was dressed in an expensive tailored suit which must have cost a poor man’s yearly salary. Despite his impressive wardrobe he looked rather agitated. The attendant instructed him to drop his belongings into the chute.
The man rather belligerently retorted, “I can’t do that! These are my important valuables” lifting his suitcase to show the attendant.
“This briefcase contains my vast fortune in unmarked bearer’s bonds. I have to take these things with me; I worked my whole life to obtain this wealth. Plus it will help pay my way to paradise.”
The attendant shook his head but the man stood firm. The attendant did not argue further and pointed the man to the tube. The man beamed, thinking he had won the argument. The door on the tube closed and the scan began to rise. To my astonishment the arrow on the gauge stayed on “Unclean” and did not move at all. As the beam reached the suitcase and briefcase both turned into what appeared to be dust. The man began to bluster in anguish as his life’s works vanished before his eyes.
I too was alarmed. How was he to pay his way without his wealth?
Far more startling than that was the next thing that happened. As the scan concluded, instead of a swooshing sound there was a loud snap as the floor beneath the man’s feet flew open and he started to fall; screaming as he fell. Suddenly the floor snapped shut again and we could no longer hear him.
I was horrified! Never before had I given much thought to the afterlife; I was so concerned about living my life my way. I had convinced myself that the afterlife was something I would deal with when I was old. Unfortunately here I was at the age of 45 about to enter the afterlife.
I began to sweat and it wasn’t even hot inside this place. Was I clean enough to pass the scan? I had showered that morning and my clothes were fresh from the dry cleaners; was that enough?
The third person heading to the tube was a very dirty fellow. His clothes were filthy, torn and worn. He almost seemed relieved to push his shopping cart into the chute.
I thought to myself “this man has no chance. I can smell him from here.”
The attendant reached out and shook his hand.
“Welcome home Harry, your mansion is ready.”
I was flabbergasted “MANSION!! HIM!!!. How can that be?” I exclaimed.
The man stepped up into the tube and the door closed. The scan started but this time the arrow did not move. It started right on unclean. Up and up the scan went and still the arrow did not budge.
“Ok maybe this is starting to make sense but what about his mansion?” I pondered.
As the scan reached the top of Harry’s head the arrow jerked right and landed on clean with a thud. The swoosh noise started again and I noticed that Harry’s clothes transformed from filthy rags into bright white and super clean ones. I could hear him exclaim “Thank you Lord!”; then up he started to rise; smiling like a boy in a candy store.
This is happening too fast. Could I take a time-out and regroup. I needed to evaluate my chances. None of this was making sense.
“Lord? Master?” Who was this person these people were talking about? Obviously I was missing some crucial information and I had prided myself on my vast network of contacts. Would not that pompous rich man who was declared unclean and fell to his doom have said he had a great network of contacts. Yet he obviously was not prepared for what happened today.
In my mind I could remember my wife’s voice saying “Please give Jesus a chance, I know God can fix our troubles and bring real peace to our family.” I always ignored her or said I would look at doing that soon but it never happened. Now I was entering the afterlife and I did not feel peace. I wondered if she was right. I began to feel dread, panic and fear like I had never previously experienced.
The only person left, before it was my turn, was a young woman. She had a small bag of things.
The attendant said “Throw them away, you won’t need them where you are going”.
She hesitantly put the bag into the chute. I heard her say to the attendant. “I went to church and Bible camp growing up. I attended a youth group and sang in a gospel choir. I volunteered at a women’s shelter and gave money when I could to charities. That will be enough to let me rise – wont’ it?” she asked.
The attendant replied, “only those declared clean will rise.”
She looked worried. “I was told that if I did enough good I would make it into Heaven”.
“There is only one way to find out.” stated the attendant.
I was sure she would be going up. If anyone deserved it, it was her. She was obviously such a good person having done all of those good things. She was practically Mother Teresa I reasoned.
She definitely had accomplished more good deeds than I had which made me start to lick my lips and shake a bit. If she makes it then maybe there is a chance for me I sighed.
She slowly made her way up to the tube and stepped in. As the door closed and the scan started, the arrow floated up to 12 o’clock. It continued to move clockwise towards 3 o’clock. I could see the apprehension on her face as she waited. Her apprehension was nothing compared to the fear that now gripped me.
“Come on arrow! Make it to Clean” I pleaded.
Just as the scan reached the top of her head; the arrow flipped back to the left, landing on “Unclean”. My heart sank as the floor dropped open and the young woman gave a erry shriek as she fell through the hole.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up as I realized my time was up.
I was dumbfounded, all of those good works were not enough for her to earn her a trip to Heaven.
The homeless man did not mention any good works he had done. Was it even possible for him to do any good deeds given his circumstances?
The elderly woman did not mention any of her good deeds either; yet both seemed so certain they were going to rise.
The rich man couldn’t buy his way.
The young woman could not earn her way.
I was wondering what was the way? How did a person get clean enough to pass the scan?
Now it was my turn and I did not want to step up. My feet felt like cement shoes and my heart was racing. I wish my wife were here, she would know what to do. I asked the attendant, “May I please make a call to my ex-wife. I need to speak to her quickly.”
“Sorry sir” replied the attendant. “It is too late to make calls, your opportunities are now gone. Please step up into the tube. It is your turn for a ride.”
I stepped up into the tube but it was a ride I did not want to take because I was not certain which direction I would go.
The scan started and the words above the passageway flashed into my mind.
Only the Clean will Rise
If I could live one more day I could make sure I was clean enough but now I don’t have that chance. I would also tell those still living that they should make sure they are truly clean before it is too late.
The scan reached my head and then the floor flew open and I yelled: “NOOO!!!!”
Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? (Proverbs 20:9 NKJV)
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth [as] a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (Romans 3:21-26 NKJV)
FACT: All have sinned but God will declare you perfectly clean (righteous) by your faith in Jesus Christ.
What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Robert Lowry (1826-1899)
Oh, perfect redemption, the purchase of blood,
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice;
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice;
Oh, come to the Father, through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory; great things He hath done.
Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) and William H. Doane (1832-1915)