In The Land of Beginning Again
A Parable of the Kingdom
1 - The dead shall live again
"I have finished Sheila's awakening robe!"
Absorbed in his painting, he did not reply immediately. As his brush completed the last few deft strokes his eyes left the canvas and looked out across the trim lawn with its borders of attractive flowers. His lips framed a question.
"How shall we explain her mother's absence to her?"
His companion had risen and was draping the beautifully embroidered blue robe over her deck chair. It lay there, shimmering in the afternoon sun as though waiting for its destined wearer to slip straight into it.
"I do not know, John. This is a new experience for us, to await the awakening of one whose mother has gone to be with the Lord in the heavens. We ourselves have not been back long enough to know just how her mother will commune with her. But I am sure of one thing." She picked up a basket of coloured silks and turned to go into the house. "It is written 'He opens his hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.' Sheila's happiness will not be complete if she fails to be re-united with her mother. Others whose loved ones have been translated to reign with the Lord Jesus tell us, they have talked with them although we have not been able to understand their explanations. Perhaps when Sheila awakens we shall see for ourselves and understand what we now see only as through a glass, darkly. She was twenty-five when she died, John, thin and wasted by disease. Now she will take up life where she left it, healthy in body and mind, ready to hear the message of the Gospel and make her decision for Jesus."
John followed his sister into the house, carrying his easel and canvas. Two kittens gambolled happily on the lawn. Inside, the two knelt in prayer. The man's deep voice came faintly through the open window.
"O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, look down from your habitation on high and behold the preparation we have made for one whose friendship was dear to us in days gone by. We believe and are sure that you can bring her back, that the young life so soon cut short in all the bloom of youth can be revived and rejoice in this your wonderful Earth, and that with gladness she will come into harmony with the laws of your righteous kingdom. Bring her back to us, that we may tend her as one of your little ones, we ask you, in the holy Name of our Master and our King, Jesus." Two voices united in a softly reverent "Amen".
The kittens had ceased their play and were lying still, as though waiting. The hum of bees and insects took on a lower note, waned and died away altogether. The singing of the birds in the trees faded into quietness. A strange peace seemed to have closed in upon that sheltered garden. The sun slid behind a fleecy cloud, a solitary cricket chirped once, and then all was still.
A soft whisper in the tree-tops, a gentle breeze sweeping down, stirring the quiet air, billowing through that blue robe lying in the deck chair, giving it almost the appearance of reality, a graceful reality that moved slightly, rhythmically, as though breathing... the sun shone out warmly and birds and insects burst out together in triumphant chorus. The girl in the deck chair lay, dreamy eyes half open, puzzled wonderment slowly dawning as she sought to take in the details of the scene before her. She turned her head slightly and followed the course of a butterfly over the flower tops. Her gaze fell upon one slender hand and she raised it hesitatingly, almost as though she expected the movement to be accompanied by pain. The blue sleeve slid back, revealing a delicately moulded arm without flaw or blemish. A little frown of perplexity puckered her forehead and she closed her eyes as memory began to return.
The thin, wasted arm; the white bedclothes; the grave-faced doctor just over there; the tearful face of her mother; the fast gathering greyness coming down before her eyes and blotting out everything from sight; the slow fading of sound into silence, and now, this! She opened her eyes and looked at the golden mass of mimosa blooming where the doctor had been standing only a moment ago. Realization came, swift and sudden. "Oh mother, you were right, after all. This is the kingdom you used to tell me about, and I have been dead and have come back. Mother, where are you?". Her arms were outstretched, beseeching. A soft voice spoke behind her.
"I am here, Sheila."
There was something in the timbre of that voice which checked the girl's first impulse to turn round toward the speaker. "It is true then? I have come back, fit and well, and never to suffer again?"
"Never again, my child. The tears are all over now."
"And you? Did you attain.., your hope, mother?"
"Yes, dear. It was hard to let you go, but I knew my Lord had you in His safekeeping. And in His own due time He took me also, and brought me into the glorious assembly of the Church of the First-born in Heaven."
"It sounds like old times to hear you talk like that." The girl's eyes were shining. "I want to turn round and see if you are really there, and yet I feel quite content to lie here and listen to your voice. I don't understand it at all; it is all wonderful to me."
"You will come to understand, Sheila. We shall be able to meet and talk with each other often, even although the old relationship has passed away. We have each entered into a greater family, I in Heaven and you on Earth, and in those families we shall find new companionships and friendships, and spheres of service for the Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus. And you will learn in time to talk with me even when we are not together, for distance will no longer be a barrier to our communion with each other."
Sheila's eyes were serious. "Your life will be spent in the heavens, and mine on the earth, and yet I can always have you to myself when I want you?"
"That is so, dear."
She sighed happily. "Then there is nothing more I want. I shall try and remember everything you ever told me about the Kingdom and give my life to serve the Lord Jesus and do my best to progress along the—what do you call it? …. the Highway of Holiness, just as fast as ever I can."
The soft voice seemed to be coming from a great distance now. "Remember the words we used to read together, Sheila. 'The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.' You are one of those ransomed, and life, rich, glorious, never-ending life lies before you. Your old childhood's friends, John and Mary, are in the house. Go to them and they will tell you much more about this wonderful world into which you have come. I go now, but I shall come again and come to you often."
Sheila stood up and looked around, quivering with eagerness. A puzzled look came into her eyes, and then a dawning understanding. For a long minute she stood, and then, "Come soon, my dear," she breathed softly. Thoughtfully she turned again and went into the house.
This is the kind of incident that will be common in the Millennial Age. Christians who have loved and served the Lord Jesus in full consecration of life to His service will experience the change to heavenly conditions of which Paul speaks in 1 Cor. 15, and so "reign with Christ a thousand years" (Rev. 20.4). All others of humanity will enjoy the blessings of the Kingdom on Earth during which the Father makes His final plea for repentance and allegiance. It is to that new world the dead will return, in the resurrection, restored to conscious life by the power of God, in the new bodies which He gives to them "as it has pleased him."
See Psa.145.16; Matt.25.40; Isa.33.24; Rev.21.4; Heb.12.22-23,
1 Cor.15.50-53; Psa.87.5-6; 1 Cor.15.38-40; Isa.35.8-10.