IF ONLY WE COULD LIVE OUR LIFE OVER AGAIN!
Copyright © 2017 Robert B Thompson. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The following is a fictional story about Hell, and the tormented souls who experience it.
And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind. (Isaiah 66:24)
I was in Boston on a business trip. As I sat on the large bed in my hotel room I began to experience pain in my chest. I had been under a lot of stress, so I decided to get the pain checked out right after a short nap.
I called down to the lobby and asked to be awakened in two hours, then quickly drifted off.
I was half asleep, half awake when the awareness came that the pain in my chest was worsening.
I had noticed, from the window of the taxi, a multistory hospital. The name was Saint somebody or other, I forget. I got up and went outside. I flagged down a taxi and gave the driver the directions to the hospital, as well as I remembered them.
When we arrived at the hospital, I went up to the desk in the waiting room and mentioned that I had chest pains. The lady called a doctor who invited me inside and listened to my heart with his stethoscope. I could tell he was concerned. He immediately got a bed assigned to me, although there were many others waiting. It was on the fifth floor.
A nurse’s assistant, a young man, told me to take off my clothes and put on a hospital gown. He then told me to lay down on the bed, and that I would be taken downstairs to the room with heart monitoring equipment. It felt good lying down, since I usually am in a rush going somewhere and loaded with responsibilities.
Soon two men came into my room and took hold of the bed. They pushed the bed out into the hall.
We were moving along rather swiftly. We made several turns. The hallways were well lighted. I felt comfortable as we went along. There were pictures on the walls. One time we passed a window and I could see the traffic and people going about their business.
We entered an elevator and went down to the third floor. Then more hallways. I noticed that the light was becoming brighter. I began to have a queer feeling that we were not in the hospital any longer. I must have died at this time.
We turned a corner, and there was Christ sitting on a throne. Behind the throne was a multitude of people singing something about a lamb.
There was one bed ahead of me. When the man lying on the hospital bed saw Christ, he gave a shout, sprang out of the bed, and ran toward Christ. Then he joined the multitude behind the throne, lifted up his hands, and began to sing about the Lamb.
Then the bed disappeared.
Now I was face to face with Christ.
I wasn’t too worried. I had sinned a lot in my life, but who doesn’t. I had put fifty cents in the collection plate once.
My latest transgression was to not inform the police concerning what I knew about a murder. A man who had been a friend of mine was accused of committing the murder, and I knew he didn’t do it. But I didn’t think Christ would send me to Hell for not informing the authorities. I had done so many other wrong things I couldn’t see where this latest one was so bad.
I could have told the authorities the truth about the murder, but I was afraid of becoming involved myself.
From my bed I could see on my left, about 20 yards away, the man I had betrayed. He appeared just like he was still in court. He was looking down, no doubt frightened. There were chains on his hands and feet.
The judge read the report from the jury. The bailiff intoned, “All stand.”
The judge said, “You have been found guilty of murder in the first degree.”
You could see the prisoner tremble. He was terrified. Suddenly he lifted his hands and began to sing about the Lamb. The shackles fell from his hands and feet. He went back into the multitude around the throne. His body was still in the courtroom but I could see his spirit.
Christ looked at me. Something like pity flashed across the granite countenance. Then Christ looked straight ahead.
My bed disappeared. I was standing in what looked like black muck. I began to sink slowly. I then noticed that the black muck was human excrement. The smell was horrible beyond belief. I was in an immense toilet.
Christ did not look down at me.
I almost cried for help. Then I thought, When did God ever help me? I had to fight my own way through life. They can keep their churches, their nuns, their choirs. I would tell them where they could put all their religious foolishness. Who needs them.
As I sank into the black filth, I began to think about how hard my heart was toward religion. Many years ago I had been a lad in Sunday school. My parents sent me, but did not go to church themselves.
I remember one Sunday morning when I put some rocksalt in my pockets. I found it on the trolley tracks to melt the ice.
During the class I threw some on the floor. All the kids laughed. The teacher laughed and went on with the lesson.
As I remember, Christ came to me three times in my life. Once was when I was going home after the rocksalt episode. I wondered if maybe I should not have done that and interrupted the teacher at a time when an important idea was being presented.
A second time I was in high school. I got fresh with a girl and asked her to do something nasty. She looked at me scornfully and walked away.
Then Christ stood by me. He said, “That wasn’t very nice.”
I was sullen and ignored Christ. I figured, “More religious talk.”
The third time was not so long ago. I was about 52 years old. Christ came to me and said, “You ought to be thinking about God. You are devoting all your time to making money. One day you will be standing before Me, and I will ask you how you spent the business talent that I have given you.
“Do you remember how the nun came to you from the orphanage and asked for a donation? You had two thousand-dollar bills in your billfold at that time.
“You told her, ‘You religious thieves are always asking for money.’ Do you remember that?”
I thought, Yeah, yeah. That is the way the world is. I am not going to be run over by those who are hustling. I will make my own pile and think about God later.
“That nun was Me in another form.”
How did I get so hard toward religion? I was a happy little boy when I was growing up.
By this time the filth was up to my nose. I should have been terrified. I wasn’t. Everything seemed like it was supposed to be this way.
I wondered how my wife would react to the news of my death. We had no children. I was too busy for that. I knew she would not be very upset. She would be well off financially. She and I had little love for each other. We lived our own lives; pursued our own interests.
Then the waste was over my head and there was nothing but blackness.
My eyes opened. I could see that the black muck filled a very large pool about 100 or more yards in width, 300 hundred yards in length. I don’t imagine all the lost souls were here, the murderers, the rapists, the liars, and so forth; just those who had ignored and refused Christ as I had.
There were people standing around the pool with their hands joined. How many I do not know. The line went out of sight.
They were dancing. Right foot forward. Right foot back. Left foot forward. Left foot back. Then two steps to the right, and the patten was repeated.
After a long struggle I managed to make my way through the black slime until I was at the edge of the pool. I was covered with the filth, as were the dancers. We all were immersed in feces.
Being covered with filth bothered me excessively. I am fastidious about my appearance. I had on a robe that may have been white at one time. It now was filthy black.
One of the dancers reached out his hand. I took hold of it, and he, or she, or it lifted me and made a place next to them in the circle.
I noticed that when a dancer was added, the length and width of the pool increased to compensate.
So I began: right foot forward. Right foot back. Left foot forward. Left foot back. Two steps to the right, and begin again.
No one said anything, but I knew I would be doing this dance for eternity.
If anyone interfered with the dance or refused to participate, they were cast into the black slime. I could see some heads bobbing around as the people attempted to get back and rejoin the dance.
You would think I would be so horror stricken that I would fall down in a faint. But as I said, it all seemed as if everything was the way it was supposed to be. My memory was faint and the future was dim.
I think that after I am here long enough I will have no memory of my past, and no imagination concerning the future. Just right, left, step-step.
It was oppressively warm, about 120 degrees Fahrenheit I would guess. I remembered the story about the rich man in Hell, complaining because of the heat.
There was no night or day, just a continual twilight.
Every once in a while a spasm would go through me. It seemed to be part of the dance.
As I said before, my situation felt normal—like this is how life is supposed to be. There was a sense of security, knowing there would be no changes or threats in the future. That which I feared had already come upon me. There was no dread of what would happen later. The worst already was taking place and I was surviving.
From time to time one of the dancers would scream like a maniac. I guess he or she began to realize there was no hope. They would be dancing around the black muck forever.
Maybe they thought about their family and friends laughing and talking in Heaven.
The smell was what you would imagine. But after a while you didn’t notice it much. There was a drum beat helping us keep time with the dance.
Across from me, about a hundred yards away, I dimly could see the black figures on the other side of the pool. One of these “people” stood up straight and looked around, not doing the dance. A tall robed figure, probably an angel, came up behind him or her. The tall personage put his hands on the shoulders of the rebel, lifted him up, and hurled him into the middle of the pool.
There was no splash, the “soup” was too thick for that, just a “plop.”
After about ten minutes a head appeared, looking around wildly. When he saw the place he had vacated he screamed and began to attempt to swim toward it. But swimming was impossible. The excrement was too thick.
The frantic efforts of this person to regain his former place were so pathetic I could not bear to look any longer.
I blame Christ. He should have done something to keep me from being assigned to this dance of the living-dead. Were we really alive? Probably not.
Why wouldn’t a priest or preacher do something? Why didn’t my mother and father go to church so I could have learned about God?
Right foot forward. Right foot back. Left foot forward. Left foot back. Two steps to the right.
Perhaps the worst feature of being sent to Hell is that we never again will be with our loved ones. We never again can go “home.”
We are wise if we obey Christ when we know what He desires of us.
I heard a ringing. It would not stop. I yelled, “Stop!”
I stopped dancing. The people and the pool began to fade away.
Then I realized I was lying on my back on the large bed in the hotel room.
The telephone on the little end table was ringing. I kept trying to roll over to pick up the receiver, but I was shaking so hard from fear that I couldn’t move in the right direction.
I finally reached the receiver, and promptly dropped it. I fumbled around, located the receiver, and replaced it. The phone had stopped ringing.
I never had been so frightened in my life. I got up off the bed and went into the bathroom and vomited. I came back out and looked at the clock. I had been asleep two hours.
I was too frightened to pray. I kept stammering Je-Je-Je-sus, please help me.
I was crying and shaking and could not stop.
I sat down on the bed.
I do not remember taking off my clothes and getting in bed, but evidently I had. I thought, “I need to go to a hospital. I am having a nervous breakdown.”
I got up from the bed and put my clothes on hastily. I went to the elevator and pushed the button for the lobby.
I noticed people staring at me.
I ran through the lobby and hailed a taxi. The man took a look at me. He must have figured I was drunk.
He asked, “Where to?”
I answered, “The nearest hospital.”
He said, “Saint Luke.”
I got in the back and laid back, still shaking.
Saint Luke was only a couple of miles from the hotel, so we were there almost immediately.
I recognized the hospital of my nightmare. Nevertheless I opened the door of the cab, jumped out, and started running toward the entrance.
“Hey,” the driver yelled.
I ran back. Reached for my billfold, and pulled out the first bill I got hold of. It was a twenty.
I threw it at the driver, turned, and started to run again toward the entrance to the hospital.
I heard the driver say something about change, but that was not of interest to me at that point.
I pulled the door open and went to the front desk.
The elderly volunteer said, “Hello. How can I help you?”
I know I looked drunk, with my shirttail out, no tie, hair uncombed, and shaking.
I said, “Something terrible happened and I need to speak with a doctor.”
He glance at me again, and rang for a nurse.
The nurse asked, “How can I help you?”
She was very pretty. In better times I would have struck up a conversation.
I said, “I need to talk to a doctor. I’ve had a horrible nightmare or something.”
She considered my answer for a moment, and then said, “Please come with me.”
She led me into a large, comfortable room. She pointed to a sofa and said, “Please sit there and I will tell Doctor Goldstein you are waiting. He is a staff psychiatrist.”
I sat trembling, trying to push the dream out of my mind.
After about five minutes, Doctor Goldstein entered.
I was so frightened I gasped!
Doctor Goldstein pulled up a chair, smiled, and said, “What’s the problem?”
I said, “You look exactly like Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Goldstein had hair down to his shoulders, and a beard.
He laughed at that. “I have been called many names, but never the Christ.”
He laughed again uproariously, and had to wipe away tears with his handkerchief.
I suppose that laugh is part of his bag of tricks, because it sure helped me. It was so hearty and genuine, I began to think I might actually live again as a sane person.
I recounted the dream, stopping every few minutes to get control of myself.
Dr. Goldstein said, “I can understand why you are terrified. That indeed was a horrible experience.”
His laughter, plus that last comment, helped me a great deal. I actually stopped shaking.
Then I remembered I had a dinner engagement, and then the seven o’clock meeting.
I said, “Look man, you…” then I remembered to whom I was speaking. I started again, “Sir, you have helped me more than I thought possible. I don’t mean to be rude, but I do have a dinner appointment and then a business meeting.” It then was about five o’clock in the afternoon. (I felt like eating just as much as I felt like swimming across the Nile River.)
“Perhaps the hospital has a special need and I can contribute some money out of appreciation for your kind help?”
Dr. Goldstein said, “The fact is, we are thinking of adding a children’s wing; and so a couple of hundred dollars would be helpful, if you find you can spare it.”
I took out my checkbook, took out a check and handed it to him.
My hands are shaking so I cannot make out this check. “Would you be so kind? Make it out for five thousand dollars and I will sign it.”
Then, looking at Dr. Goldstein, I remebered Christ in the form of the nun asking for a donation to an orphanage.
Dr. Goldstein said, “That is a lot of money. Perhaps you should think it over first.”
He handed the check back to me and I tore it up.
I took out another check and handed it to Dr. Goldstein. “Make it out for a hundred thousand dollars.”
Dr. Goldstein said, “I will put it in the hospital safe. We will keep it until you call and tell us this is what you really want to give.”
I said, “Don’t be concerned. I have over two million dollars in the bank. I won’t even feel a hundred thousand.”
I signed the check, shook the doctor’s hand, and then walked out of the hospital.
I figured I would walk the short distance to the hotel.
My head felt light and clear. I tucked in my shirttail and buttoned my shirt.
What an absolute miracle that my feelings were so different from a few minutes ago.
I looked up to Heaven. I prayed, “Jesus. I am so ashamed of myself. I could have been of help to so many people, and wasted on myself my God-given talent for business.
“I thank you for the dream of the dance of the living dead. As terrifying as it was, it helped me to turn my thinking around.
“I think tomorrow I will visit that orphanage and see what fifty thousand dollars can do for them.”
My dream took place more than three years ago. To this day, when I think of it I start trembling.
What if Christ had not “awakened” me?
Today I would be staring at the pool of filth. I would be putting my right foot out, and then my left foot, and then stepping sideways—the drumbeat, the spasms, the oppressive heat! I would have no hope of doing anything else for eternity.
Thank you, Lord Jesus.
(“If Only We Could Live Our Life Over Again!”, 4309-2)