Suddenly Pride thought back to the funeral. Of course in more normal circumstances his soul would have long departed, but thanks to Death's shenanigans, the soul hung around for the funeral just so Pride could see firsthand, how... well... how prideful he had been. After all a soul in possession of a dead body isn't something to brag about!
Scene 3 - Act (A lot - at the funeral)
The funeral went well! Pride, living up to his name had planned it all! The obituary in the Daily Journal was lengthy. Pride had been on nearly every charity board, had many prestigious jobs, had served honorably in Viet-nam in the Air Force, was on the school board and was a Sunday School teacher at his church. Pride was thoughtful enough that he had written his obituary in advance, not wanting anything to be missed, and he even paid extra for the two full columns! He had thought "I did much good! I want everyone to know how much I loved the community!" Pride had forgotten an important point! He had heard this in Sunday School as a kid and filed it under "irrelevant":
Isaiah 64:6 "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags..."God couldn't mean that! Surely God recognized and honored all the good things he'd done! His obituary pointed it out. How cheated Pride felt when he thought of this! He did remember something the preacher hammered on a lot. It was "grace". "I always believed that funny!" he thought. Grace is my wife's name! The word "grace" seemed, well... canned. It was the jargon of a preacher and outside of being a joke on Grace, grace meant little. "What was that verse? he tried to recall?
Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God..."Too late now. This refrain kept repeating itself in his mind:
" Grace, grace, God's grace,He had heard it all his life, but never listened to it! Only if he had! (That tune will saturate his mind forever and ever and each time, he'll hate himself because he heard, but failed to hear!)
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin! "
Having a moment now... an eternal moment, Pride remembered his funeral. He picked good people for his eulogy and sermon. His family and friends were to make it a celebration service. "Oh, only if it was!" he thought.
Jackson, his golfing buddy read the obituary... nodding in solemn agreement. Pride knew himself well. He had been comprehensive. The crowd nodded as his accomplishments were read. Many cried into small white hankies and snorted their sorrow without shame. "Truly a good man had died!" Pride's daughter, Mimic (not her real name) had been dad's favorite. She idolized the man! Now he's gone and a hole will be where her dad, Pride, had once been. She screamed loudly, not because he was dead, but because now she's alone!
Jackson went on and on. He knew Pride well! He told a few off-color stories about Pride. They were funny and people laughed. "We all do silly things at times." was the corporate thought. "Pride was just one of the boys!"
The preacher was next. He did a good job honoring Pride. It was easy for Pride was honorable! He told of Pride's support for the church, charities, his teaching and the 'love' that he showed for everybody. "Surely", he said, "if anyone is in heaven right now, it's Pride!"
I think often at funerals: "Did the preacher even know this guy?" I remembered a bumper sticker, "Become a Christian so the preacher won't have to lie at your funeral!" That's so true at times. We each only know our own heart. The preacher knows only what he sees, and after all, how many people sin their worst when they are with the preacher?
Pride saw everybody come by and look into the casket. Some were crying, others smiling and "some" he thought, "were laughing inside!" Poetic justice has come for those who he had crossed! Eyes were swelled with tears and Mimic cried loudly. His son, Rebel (again, not his real name) just stared listlessly as he moved by. "Little will change for me!", he thought. "What a grand day!" he remembered. .
"I'm nothing others had thought me to be! "If only..." Pride kept right on thinking.
Scene 4 - No Act (Hell)
Pride came to his senses, well not the five senses, but the sense the soul has in its doom. He shuddered (caught in my VIG and displayed on my video monitor). For what he was born he was now! "Born to die!" he had seen on motorcycle jackets... and now his goal was met. "It's scary!" His soul vibrated as a cosmic scream wailed out. The demons screamed with him and taunted "Sinner... sinner... sinner... boo hoo!" "Sinner... sinner... sinner... boo hoo!" "Who are you, who are you... sinner, sinner, sinner boo hoo!"
As he cried out in agony he fell through an abyss. As he did it got hotter and hotter and the derision became more frequent and taunting. Suddenly it was as if he'd hit a glass wall. The chasm stopped him short. A big demon came forth. His black wings were wide spread, his gate rapid and his breath of rotten meat. "Who sent you here?" asked the entry demon? Pride stammered "God did!" The demon wailed with laughter! "That's what they all say! Ha! Ha! Ha!" "Can't you even understand the filth you teach Mr. Pride? Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.""You read that many times! My fellow demons saw you teach that to the kids, but you failed to hear yourself! Pride was silent as the demon went on "We laughed and spat at you when you failed to heed what you were spewing to others!" "You, Pride, made the choice and you chose Death!"
Pride remembered Death. Death had just ended his life a few long minutes to ago. "Ten minutes down... infinity to go!" was the taunt as the demon laughed at his thoughts! Pride had chosen Death and Death never disappoints. He's always there at the door ready to open it to any who has chosen him. Death is sure. We can always depend on him!
Pride thought of the gifts he's received when he lived. He'd never refused any... except one. God had offered him eternal life, but Pride rejected it. "Oh, to have it offered again!" Pride reminisced!
Finally, Pride admitted to the demon, not out of honesty, but that he had no other place to go "I got myself in this mess!" and as the demon screeched a loud bovine bellow and the acrid smell of rotten meat filled the air, the demon opened the window of the chasm. Pride entered into spiritual death. Once through the chasm, hell became worse, but "not as bad as the 'lake of fire' will be", the demon screamed harshly as Pride meekly entered
There was a tour guide for those in their first day in hell. He called himself "Evil". Evil read the rules and said "Do you finally understand? Is this getting real to you?" Pride tried to put truth from his mind. He no longer needed it here. "This aint real!" he lied and smirked at Evil. Truth doesn't exist in hell anyway. Pride was beginning to see why he was so easily deceived in life. He only wanted to hear what he wanted to hear!
God's rules are few: love him and love others! The rules here were stringent. Twenty-three hours each day Pride was to remain in his own personal chasm. On three walls were a constant replay of his sins. He would view them in isolation today, tomorrow and forever. He got the "gift" on "retrospect" as Evil handed him his certificate from Satan himself. "Master Satan wants you to relive this forever and ever!" snorted Evil with a wicked laugh!
Evil went on. "On the 4th wall is the door to the chasm. It remains locked at all times. You can't get out unless we unlock it, but you will be able to see your friends and relatives in the world. You will rejoice when they do evil", as Evil laughed at the double entendre! "You will hate those you loved every day for eternity.You will despise your children and your wife." It was clear that Pride would never see what's pleasant ever again. Neither will he experience love. Hate is the watch word! Pride will be isolated and by himself except for "hate-hour" each day!
2 Thessalonians 1:9 "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power..."Pride will be 100% isolated from "the presence of the Lord". Pride never again will have hope. God will not help him now! Death ends mercy. There is no rewind button on death. What's more Pride will be isolated "from the glory of his power". Any good, because God is good, will be out of reach for Pride. Pride will be isolated from any joy, hope, friendship, love or anything else of God! Loneliness for eternity will be his existence.
Pride thought (pridefully I might add), "But I have friends here!" "So you do! So you do!" said Evil. "Let's go meet them now! That's what hate hour is all about!"
As Pride and Evil approached a river bubbling with steam, the wails of the inhabitants were deafening. This is the river Styks. It runs into the "lake of fire". Pride wasn't to the lake yet, but he could see the blue flames licked by yellow banners. He could smell the acrid smoke of sulfur even from this distance:
Revelation 21:8 "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.""You're not allowed to swim in the lake yet!" said Evil, "but when God judges, you will die again and you will be cast into this fiery lake along with Master Satan. This infernal heat will be your death, but you'll never die! As your flesh burns, stinks and disintegrates in the heat, you'll get a new layer, and the torture will be repeated. Your repeated death by fire will go on forever! You'll burn, but never be consumed!"
"Phhhyzzzz... phhhyzzz.... phutttt..." My high-temperature optical sensors, although designed for extreme temperatures, were beginning to show the effects of the extreme heat. Fortunately, I could change this lens by remote control. I'll lose a little of the tour, but not much. "There. That's better! A new lens now and we'll resume!" Pride asked "What happened there?" Evil said "The heat is too hot for host's camera lenses." "How hot is it here, Evil?" Pride asked. This ugly little demon had the audacity to quote scripture!
Daniel 3:19 'Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated."Evil said "It is seven times hotter than fire! Ha!" Pride was feeling up to the challenge as was his nature when he quipped "But that refers to the fiery furnace of Shadrack and his brothers!' Evil replied "You fool! God didn't write that for nothing! The fiery furnace was symbolic of what a real hell is."
Pride still argued. That was his M.O. "Then why didn't they burn up?" Evil mumbled something about that awful impostor Jesus who was in the heat with them and then went on with his tour. Evil was told never ever to credit God with anything and he's afraid now that Master Satan will make him stoke the fires of hell. It's much worse than tour guide for newbies!
Scene 5 - No Act (The Hate Hour)
Evil said "see that roped off area there? That's all your so-called .friends, ha! ha! ha! from the world who faced Death before you. All your cohorts are here, but we never use the word "friend" except on Day 1. It gets messy explaining all the time that evil never has true friends." Evil vaguely remembered his list of those he hated were mostly earthly 'friends'"
Evil said "We're there now. Do you recognize anybody yet?" Pride say "There's my girlfriend! I see her!" as he waved with both hands, but he felt nothing toward her now except hate! Lust (not her real name) flashed an obscene gesture and Pride spit toward her as he ducked. He remembered that she was the one! Oh, how he hated her! She had worked in his office, casually flirted and before you know it, Grace, his wife, was forgotten in the moment of passion. He had felt guilty, but guilt wasn't powerful enough to stop the pleasure. Now he hated that memory. "Why can't you undo breach of trust?" thought Pride, but Evil stepped forward and sprayed sulfur in his eyes! "You can't feel remorse here. You can only feel anger! That's a rule and never break it again."
Many in the roped off area now glimpsed Pride. They yelled epithets at the newbie, cursed him and spit as far as they could. Pride recognized many people he had worked with and several from church. All were blaspheming God and cursing each other. As Pride approached the vehemence escalated. Screams, as if they were in pain, came form the mouths of these acquaintances form the past. His long dead son, "Druggy" yelled out to him "It's your fault I'm here you $$$#####@@@$$$ blank. I hate you &&&%%%%$$### guts! You were always about yourself!"
Pride puffed up really big. "How dare him! I bought him all that he ever wanted. The ungrateful %%$$#####@@@!!!" Druggy replied "It only took time and love! Now it's too late. I hate you and you're dung between the devils toes!"
Apologies are seldom made on earth and don't exist in hell. Pride could only fend for himself. Druggy said "Are you worshiping your God still? The God of Self? Pride knew that he was, but pride still had him in chains!
I thought I saw on the VIG screen, a tear come to the eye of Pride, but that never was and never can be. There are no tears of sorrow in hell and hell is "never having to say your sorry"! It was merely the burn of sulfur in the eyes of this damned person. There is no vestige of sorrow in hell.
Hate hour continued on and on. Hundreds who knew Pride on earth spat sulfuric vomit at him and cursed profanely. Above the roped off area was the sign "Hate Always Succeeds". That seemed strange to Pride because he had memorized as a child:
1 Corinthians 13 "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. ..."I remember now, the slogan was "Love Never Fails"! thought Pride, but Pride never understood love. He did good, but it was for him. Evil said "We've arranged for that slogan to be repeated over and over in your chasm booth! You'll hear that for ever and ever and angry and hateful you will be!"
It was difficult for Pride to understand! Why was Evil having "love" slogans played in the hate hour? It didn't make sense until he realized that "love" had never been more than a slogan to him. "As Jesus said" he remembered:
John 14:15 "If ye love me, keep my commandments."Pride had never kept any of the commandments. Uninspired preachers had told him that The Ten Commandments are "works" and he no longer had to follow them. He was never told that was the saved person's way to show God love. Hence, "love" was merely a slogan!
Satan had rewritten that scripture and posted it as he did on the invisible wall of deceit on earth:
Satan 14:15 "If ye love Satan, forget God's commandments."Pride remembered how he'd tried at first, but alas, he listened to the majority. What the crowd said became the new "truth". Truth was relative in his circle and it was flexible. Pride just now realized that he is in hell because of trickery. The good-natured prankster himself had been "out-pranked" and now he hates them all! Hate! Hate! Hate! is all Pride was now capable of feeling and he loved that here!
Pride said "I thought 'hate hour' is for an hour!" Evil smirked and said, "That was a lie! Hate goes on forever. You're disgusting and those in the hate area thrive on hating yo:u. They resent how you compromised them in life and hate you for it. Hate is eternal and punishment is infernal!"
Scene 6- Act Up (The Awakening)
Pride felt something. Someone got his attention. His skin wasn't burning and he was lying down. "What's happening Evil? he asked in confusion. Evil failed to speak, but he heard a sweet voice. Grace said "Are you ready for bed?" Pride, (real name - John) was awake now. He had been dreaming! "John and Grace... John and Grace..." he kept thinking until it began to show significance "John and 'grace'... John and 'grace'...".
John had been given a warning. He had not died, but dreamed that he did. God does that! He allows us to live out future events as a warning to change the future! God is graceful. John's not dead and he can change. His belief can be made faith. His doubt can become trust. His works can show his love. John is forewarned by a realistic dream. Yes, it's fiction, but life's a fiction anyway. Today's fiction can become tomorrow's reality.
It took a dream for John. The dream took away his Pride. He is now receptive, remorseful, accepting and faithful. His name shall be in "The Book of Life" and as long as the silver cord remains unbroken, he can change. John will know he's a Christian when change occurs. He shall become a new person in Christ and Pride shall be no more!
Perhaps this story will make someone consider Death. He is real and he happens twice for the person who fails to be born-again. We fear Death, but when he comes the second time, it shall be horrible. Rational people know that this can be. Saved people have hope that it's not!