Trip to Heaven

I remember a class period early in my first year of college. It changed my life.

It was a Bible School and I already knew the Bible pretty well. The subject of the class was Theology Proper, which is, the Study of GOD; His person, His attributes, His character. I actually thought the class would be dry, but upperclassman told me I was fortunate to have this teacher. Mostly he taught senior students.

So I turned up for the first class wondering what to expect.

Dr. Needham shuffled up to the podium (it was a large class with theater seating). He looked uncomfortable, and I wondered why. He hesitated, and started by confessing that he was nervous. I am really confused.

He said that he has taught this material before, but he is always fearful about it. My ears grew bigger to catch every word. I shewed away the question marks that were filling my head. And focused on what he would say next.

He said, “It is easy to talk about someone when they are not there with you. You might mistakenly give some false information or offer a few biased opinions, but they are not there to hear it. If later it comes back to you, you can always deny or make excuses for it.”

He continued, “The subject of this class is not an intellectual subject, it is a Living Person. More than that. This Living Person is not off somewhere else, He is right here in this room every minute of every class period. More than that, he observes every moment of work I put into preparing for this class. I cannot sneak anything past Him. And how can I be lazy or blasé before such a BEING?”

Dr. Needham must have given us some time to digest this, but then he led many of us on a trip we had never made before. He led us up, beyond the clouds, beyond earth’s atmosphere, beyond the known boundaries of our small galaxy and little universe, to a blindingly bright, holy Throne Room. Cherubim and seraphim and countless myriads of angelic beings surrounded the throne. The Indescribable Being on that Throne was too blindingly bright for a human to even dream of seeing. And Dr. Needham must have kept us there many minutes without us even thinking of time.

Somehow, Dr. Needham brought us back to earth. We found ourselves back in the classroom and sitting in our chairs. But some of us would never see life the same again.

N.B. Dr. Needham was not a rhetorician or a performer. And I have never attempted to do what he did that class period; leading others to the Throne Room. With him it was genuine. He knew God, not as a subject to teach. Not as a compilation of attributes to be labeled, described, and tested on. He knew God as The Divine Living Being, to be feared and worshipped and adored. May we do the same.

Beyond Acts 28

After Acts 28

The Bible doesn’t tell us about Paul being released and what happened next, but from the writings of early Christian leaders it seems quite certain that Paul was released and was able to visit his “sons” in Colossae and his thousands of other children. But he was back in Rome again when Emperor Nero was inspired by Satan to try and kill off all the Christians there.

In 64 A.D. there was a long dry spell and a terrible fire burned a large section of the city of Rome. Accusations spread that Emperor Nero himself was responsible for the fire because it cleared the land for him to build himself a large, new palace. So Nero looked for someone else to blame and he decided to pick on the Christians.21  He publicly accused the Christians and had them arrested and killed. Thousands of them died terrible deaths at the hand of this ambassador of Satan.

It is reported that the Apostle Peter was sentenced to death by crucifixion, and that he complained that he was not worthy to die in the same way as his Glorious Lord, and that after some debate the soldiers agreed to crucify him upside down – feet up, head down.

It is reported that Paul was killed by having his head chopped off.

It is known that Nero killed thousands of Christians though public execution. He had some tied to poles at night and burned to death as lamps to provide light to his palace grounds. There was a stadium in Rome that could seat 250,000 people.22  Christians were brought there to be killed as sport. When one way of killing them became boring (gladiators, crucifixion), they found other ways to kill them – as a meal for lions, tigers and leopards. Then, when they realized these animals killed too quickly, they brought in other animals to give a better show, like bears, crocodiles and wolves who took their time at it. People had a sickening lust for violence.

Thousands of Christians were killed in this way. This would have been the end of Christianity if Christianity was just another man-made religion. But the Gospel is mighty; it is the force of the Kingdom of God. For every Christian shamed and killed, thousands of unbelievers witnessed their strength, joy, and “shalom” that could never be forgotten. These Christians in their intense pain were singing and praising their Saviour. The light of heaven shined on their faces and those who watched were convicted of their sin and separation from God. People turned to Christ, at the risk of their lives, faster than the emperor could kill them off. Nero was followed by other emperors who continued the attempt to wipe out Christianity. But they were powerless against the Kingdom of God and the Mighty, Mysterious Gospel. The spread of Christianity could not be stopped! It is still moving forward and will continue to do so until our King returns.