Story: Paraphrase in Parable
Paraphrase in Parable
I am Wilma Zalabak, a lifelong believer in Christ, born in North Georgia, raised in Wisconsin, and now, after several more moves, returned to Georgia. I’ve sometimes been a pastor with pay by some organization and I’ve sometimes ministered without organizational connections, the better to depend on the benefits that are "out of this world." I’m a lifelong learner with a formal Masters of Divinity degree.
For the sake of the gospel, I was living in one-fourth of a one-bedroom apartment and using the rest for a meeting place, driving a thirteen-year-old car having spent all my money on meeting supplies, and working at least half-time so as to support both my eating and my preaching habits.
Through the years, I have often fasted and prayed for spiritual guidance, and just as often I have turned to the book of Revelation to see if the mysteries there could guide me.
It was while I was in meditation on a Sabbath day that I met a woman among my shelves of books. (Please indulge my fanciful allegory for a bit here. You may think of this woman as my muse, my imaginary friend, or my other self. These particular conversations I had with myself developed into a story that, in some ways, parallels the book of Revelation, a loose paraphrase, if you will.) She appeared to be both age-enhanced and wisdom-endowed, for though her face had wrinkles and her hair was white like wool, there was a glow about her of an alert consciousness and awareness. Her eyes sparkled with an intensity that could have frightened me had they not also poured over me, as our eyes met, such respect and regard for me as spread warmth and energy through my whole system.
She was not stooped as I would expect to see in an older woman who likes books. She stood ramrod straight in health from head to toe. She wore a simple white dress that added to the illusion of a glow about her.
When she spoke, her voice was not cracked or coarse as I often hear in older women. The tones of her words came as music cascading all over me, immersing me with their intensity, bursting into my mind with bright images quite new to me.
She said, "Do not fear, for the God of the Bible is still the God of the universe and has a marvelous grand plan for this planet. This God you worship has heard your prayer and has sent me to give you understanding in things that regard your future."
"Now look around you and discern the way the nations decay.
"First, a nation or civilization begins with high ideals and values, but the very purity of the ideals makes room for the rise of a generation who holds less to idealism and more to force to make its way. Through several stages, the popularity of values and ideals slumps and the raw strength expands to iron force until something cracks and divides that nation or civilization into many fragments, and wars abound. It happened to ancient Babylon and Rome. It happened to France, and it’s happening to your beloved United States.
"Now observe also the way of the churches on this planet.
"First a church begins with a dream and a vision but the next generation already has lost its first love. Another generation begins to shape its existence according to fear of suffering and slander. Soon enter those who teach people to make food, drink, and sex their gods. These are the gods who cause human churches to pull others along with them by disreputable means like fear, shame, and blackmail. Some rise up as prophets to protest and then fall back into the same cycle within the churches they created. But there is still an open door and an invitation to wake up, choose out of your lethargy, and decide to be either cold or hot regarding God.
"God wants the churches of this planet. God wants to be a sustaining, vitalizing presence in all of them. He wants them to stop fighting among themselves about survival, protection, jewels, celebrities, fashion, image, and authority, for He himself would be those things to them."
With that the woman turned and walked out of my apartment, closing the door behind her. I ran to the window and watched her as she stepped lightly down my stairs and past the parked cars, disappearing around the corner of one of the buildings of my apartment complex.
Next time I saw her among the shelves at the county library. She said, "Come over to this carrel where we can talk quietly. I will show you some things to happen in the future."
When we were seated, she continued, "Your beloved nation will become frightened at its disintegration, at the crime and wars, at its own hatred and abuses. So it will enact more and more laws and enforce more and more periods of martial law in hopes of protecting the citizens. Eventually the United States in panic will turn to religious legislation to force the nation ‘back to God.’ Those few who refuse government intrusion into religion will be scorned and shunned. Legislators will decide that the best and most obvious way to make a nation religious is to make skipping church illegal on Sunday. Jews may be allowed to go to church both Saturday and Sunday, but anyone besides Jews claiming adherence to worship on any other day than Sunday will be seen as threats to national security and terminated, their property confiscated.
"That’s when the God of the Bible will take a most intimate involvement with things on earth. God and Jesus will watch breathlessly for the decisions of nations, political parties, and special interest groups, clubs, churches, and each individual. The stakes having been raised so high, God and Jesus know that any decision to live in the character of God at this time is a major decision in the life cycle of the entity or person involved."
I began to cry at the picture she painted. I couldn’t hold back my emotion. I asked, "Is there no one, no one to heal our nation?"
She said, "Oh, yes, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ Himself, is the healing of your nation and of the world. If you search carefully, you will find some people on earth who follow the Lamb, that is, they live in the character of the Lamb and cherish a government of faith, hope, and love. Around God’s throne, everyone sings the wonder of this government, and its God who is worthy of worship. On earth, wherever God’s government is cherished, the government of fear, shame, and blackmail will be pushed back a pace or two."
She drew a book from the shelves, opened it, and with each turn of a page I saw fantastic strides and takeovers accomplished by God’s government.
Page One, I saw common people dressed in white with white light all around them and especially flowing from their mouths as they spoke, and many others listened and followed.
Page Two, I saw fighting and blood flowing as people and parties tried to use force against the advancement of God’s government, but I still saw many who listened and followed.
Page Three, I saw merchants and investment firms auctioning the freedoms of humans, yet many still listened and followed.
Page Four, I saw people dying by outright murder, by starvation, or by exposure as they tried to hide resisting the fear, shame, and blackmail that ruled more and more.
Page Five, As they died they cried out "How long before Your judgment, Oh God?" And the white light surrounded them.
Page Six, I saw the earth itself tremble with the magnitude of human decision at this moment. Whether from nuclear explosions or from some other source, I know not, but the sun turned black, the moon turned red, the stars went out of orbit. Clouds billowed and dispersed and earthquakes leveled mountains and islands.
I looked up from the book, not wanting to see more. My friend had one more page ready to turn but waited. She said, You think now that so few hear your preaching and come to Christ. At that time, many, many will listen intently. Many rich people, legislators, and community leaders will hear and drop off their oppressive ways. God will give them dreams that disturb them. Then they will search out and find mentors who will help them interpret the dreams according to God’s character. Decision after firm decision, God’s number will be made up, a vast multitude out of all ranks and professions and stations in life."
Now the woman turned the page.
What I saw I could never begin to tell, but she went on narrating.
"When America so thoroughly turns its back on the ideals of freedom out of which she was born, then her decay will be complete and her ruin certain. Many trapped and confirmed in fear, shame, and blackmail will see the handwriting on the wall, even though they will not turn around. They will still worship their gods of food and drink, greed and force.
"At that time, if you will watch carefully, you will recognize these omens whether brought about by human war of bomb, germ, or chemical, or by natural disasters of asteroid, comet, or weather.
"First Omen: Hail, fire, and blood together burning wherever it lands. There is no shelter big enough.
"Second Omen: Burning mountain crashing and destroying in the ocean. There is no trade agreement strong enough.
"Third Omen: Fireballs in the rivers turning all fresh water bitter. There are no wells deep enough.
"Fourth Omen: Sun, moon, and stars go out. There are no candles bright enough.
"Fifth Omen: Smoke and serious war with many forceful people maimed and cursing God, wishing to die but refusing to turn from their gods of gold and silver, greed and force.
"Sixth Omen: Fiery war emanating primarily from the area around the Euphrates River.
"One would think," she went on, "that everyone would be dead by now, but not so. These omens will concern for the most part only the United States and only those who continue to operate by fear, shame, and blackmail. They still worship the gods of food and drink, greed and force."
Then I looked at the book which the woman still held, ready to turn to the seventh omen. Somehow out of that book she caused a Bible to appear and to be present to my hand.
She said, "Go take this book and cause as many people as will to read it as if they are eating it. It will be sweet in their mouths because it has power, but it will be sour in their stomachs as they begin to truly understand it and find themselves out of step with the fear, shame, and blackmail that rules the world. They may wish they could kill the book. They may think they have succeeded but it will rise again in power.
"So now you may hear the seventh omen. At that time there will be singing around the throne of God because Jesus Christ will reign and the time will come for Jesus to judge between the two governments and between the people who have perpetrated them. The time will come for God to destroy those who have polluted and destroyed the earth."
I wandered in and out among the business and politics of my world for some time, carrying my story and my book as if it was too big for me. I dropped them here and there where I found a welcome.
Then one day I saw her again in the cavernous basement shelves at the library of a local seminary. Her eyes sparkled and she grasped my elbow and directed me to a back carrel where I listened to an amazing story.
"The devil doesn’t like what you’re doing," she said. "He’s angry with you. He has been roaring at you like a thwarted, hungry lion, but so far angels have always come to shut the lion’s mouth. I came today to tell you his story and to open to you his tactics of the future.
"The devil was once a gorgeous and powerful angel, next in rank to Jesus Christ himself. He knows all about God’s government of service with no fear, shame, or indebtedness. He was smart enough to figure out the power he could wield by using force, ridicule, and blackmail, and he broke off to create a rival government here on earth. Jesus Christ then came to earth to contest the devil’s right to rule. Only divinity could have conceived a plan to attack the fear, shame, and blackmail by faith, hope, and love. It cost Jesus His life, but He rose again and now backs all who choose His government. If they will only choose to listen to His character and follow His government and commandments, they will win in the end.
"But the devil has long inspired nations, political movements, and even churches and families to perpetrate the principles of his government. Throughout the ages most of the wars ever fought have been religious, humans trying by force to spread their various religions.
"After the decay of ideals in the United States has been culminated with near destruction, the churches will arise. The most powerful churches on earth will unite under one head to force some sort of religious duties on all the inhabitants of the world. It will be settled then that going to church on Sunday will be the one thing required and of course, except for Jews, anyone who holds any other day sacred will be suspect.
"In fact, some Sabbath worshipers who survived the omens in America will be experiencing a measure of success and happiness in their ideals as they band together to help other survivors. This success and pure pleasure in helping others and building a loving community will irk those operating by force.
"The way to lessen the ills of this time to come is to teach people now to listen to each other and not to go out to capture and kill.
"Then out of the ashes of the United States will arise a government that is puppet to the most powerful churches. Thus the United States will create the final worldwide decree forcing people to worship on the day chosen by some human church. The United States will lead the world in sanctions and confiscating any success of the Sabbath keepers. The United States will finally issue a call around the world for the death of such people.
"But while this is going on, despite increasing sanctions against them, the Sabbath keepers will be gaining converts hourly, warning people openly that this issue is weighted in eternal judgment, that any religion that operates by fear, shame, and blackmail is bankrupt, and that anyone who gives in to the sanctions in order to save his or her life will be in a poor position with God for eternity. They will be calling the world population to faith in God’s government and to living by God’s commandments, including the one about the Sabbath.
"These warnings will spread like wildfire, and soon earth’s entire population will have made a decision. There will be only two sides then. The issues will be clear."
The woman got up to leave. I begged her with tears not to cut off the story here. Before she left she assured me that she would see me again soon and we would finish the book. She said we would go back and close up each issue we had opened and left hanging.
I walked through my days in a haze. I remember urging several people to please read the Bible and listen to each other.
I frequented libraries often, always looking between all the stacks for my friend. Then suddenly she appeared back at my own library.
She asked if I remembered talking about the seven omens. Of course I did.
"Now," she said, "you must hear the seven soundings of the gavel, for judgment has come and will fall on people who gave in to the world’s government." So I heard the seven soundings of the gavel.
First gavel sound: Medically mysterious sores break out.
Second gavel sound: Death and blood in the sea, killing tours and trade.
Third gavel sound: Blood to drink because they shed blood.
Fourth gavel sound: Scorching heat from the sun.
Fifth gavel sound: Dense darkness, painful, and dreadful.
Sixth gavel sound: Demons use miraculous signs, powerful churches, and world-wide government to persuade all people to gather to fight God.
Seventh gavel sound: Social earthquake which splits apart the coalition so the government turns on the churches and the devil himself appears to call people to himself rather than to any government or church.
The great coalition was amazing in operation and it is more amazing in dissolution. The kings and merchants, and the traders will lament with page after page of distress for they are all ruined now. Their pages of distress close out and even up the score for the seven pages of distressing results the preaching of the gospel brought about before the demise of the United States. Now those who called out in death for God to judge them are finally avenged.
The woman calls my attention to her book, telling me I must write what I’ve seen and heard. She opens it again and I thrill to see a golden corridor opened through the heavens and Jesus on His horse swooping down toward earth. I feel His eyes upon me and am filled with their love and warmth. I am invited, I know it, and the knowledge heals me.
I saw the inhabitants of earth gathered under the devil’s spell to fight the Commander of the Sky. I saw other small groups of people come out of hiding, look up, and be drawn up to those eyes of love. I saw graves opened and people dressed in white light speed toward the Light Rider. I saw the armies of earth topple in the light, dead on the spot. Somehow I knew there was power held in check in that light, and I would see it unleashed another time.
I saw the sky armies withdraw, as if the hostages’ safety was all the Sky Commander wanted. I saw the devil pacing on a destroyed earth, all his dead humans at his feet. I saw happy people around the throne of God, reviewing the videos of any dead acquaintances they wanted to. They took the time to satisfy any question they might have about the justice of God.
After a thousand years, I saw the white horse again, and this time it turned out that the entire golden city with the white throne would sail down through that corridor in the sky.
At the new movement in the universe, all the dead of the ages got up, sick, and tired, but alive again. The devil seeing the earth populated again, went eagerly among them to arouse them and arm them for another great battle with the Commander of the Sky. One after another, his generals take heart and inspire courage in their people.
So the day of standoff comes. All people gather before the great white throne on which sits the being with the piercing eyes. Those on earth see his eyes and in them reflected all decisions of their lives. As the realization dawns where they could have turned around but didn’t and all they have lost, the grief is too much and the fire from inside them reaches out to the fire from his eyes and they vaporize right there.
The devil plants his feet. "If this is a stare down, I can conquer!" he says to his generals, and he does stand longer than all the rest. Indeed his grief and his explosion are larger than all the others, too.
The fire cleanses the universe. The ashes cover the ground. The golden city with its inhabitants settles and spreads health and vitality and green grass over all the soil. And now there are food, protection, jewels, celebrities, fashion, image, and authority enough for all. It is a government forever delivered from oppression by fear, shame, and blackmail and vastly thriving on faith, hope, and love.
I don’t know how long it was before I awoke to my surroundings. When I did, I noticed that my friend was gone, and I lay on my floor for a long time in a state of profound rapture. There are times when staring off into space is the only sensible thing to do, and this was one of them.
Later, I noticed on the floor beside me—
The Book of Revelation.