You can’t provide yourself with an explanation as to why you are there, or even how you got there in the first place. You even begin to feel that somehow you don’t deserve to be here, as there is something about this place that should put it out of your reach. Minutes ago you were sitting on the sofa in your living room, tuned in to MTV Base and fixing your eyes on one of Rihanna’s raunchy videos before dozing off, and now you find yourself somewhere so beautiful. It’s everything the Scriptures said it is, everything you read about. Yes, this is Heaven, the place believers aspire to get to. It’s not a state of mind, not that feeling you get when you win a lottery, nor what Jane feels when Frank works his way inside her. The gates are twelve in number, the streets are made of gold, and the city walls are garnished with all manner of precious stones.
A creature resembling a man, with two pairs of wings, golden hair and clad in easily the purest white cloak you have seen introduces himself to you as your tour guide, and you just figure out that it’s Angel Gabriel. You don’t know how, there is no preconceived image in your awestruck mind, but you just get to be aware of who is who around here. He beckons to the direction in front of you, and you follow him willingly. Your mind is in no frame to ask questions yet, you just follow his lead in a manner the Lord would appreciate back on Earth.
As Gabriel takes you around, you find that there is no need for the Sun, or candles, or streetlights. The whole city is lit up with the glory of He Who Runs Things. You also don’t get to see any toilets, for the people here have perfect systems, and nothing they take in is imperfect. You follow your tour guide into a large mansion and spot David cleaning his harp (somehow you get to know who is who), and he tells you how much he would love to have Don Moen sing here.
“Yea, we could use some vocal adjustments here and there, you know”, Elijah cuts in, “David gets to go off-key sometimes.”
Somewhere around one of the many balconies you find Peter asking Paul a question. Paul responds in words which he doesn’t quite grasp, and he makes his feelings known.
“Why, why can’t you ever simplify things? Even in your epistles! Why won’t people misinterprete you”, Peter reacts.
Not too far off, Noah slips from his chair, and three other residents of this glorious city immediately come around to help him up. Everyone here looks out for one another, there is no giggling over the other person’s mistake. Samuel wishes to move a table from one corner of the mansion to another, and you find Jeremiah hurrying to give him a hand.
You take a look around and you see Manasseh bowed in deep thought. No, not Manasseh the son of Joseph, it’s the other one who ruled very wickedly as king of Judah and only repented at the end of his reign. You pause to think about how one could do so much wrong and at the end of it all, make Heaven just by changing course at the very end.
“It’s not His will for an evil man to perish, on the contrary He wants such a man to change his ways and live”, Gabriel says, patting your shoulder in a way which suggests that all your thoughts are audible round here. “Then again, he who confesses his sins and forsakes them shall obtain……”
He stares at you, waiting for you to complete that passage of Scripture, and after fifteen seconds in which you know no sign of remembering that part of the book of Proverbs, he adds “mercy”, smiling at you in a manner which suggests the words “Look who has not been reading his Bible”.
Looking at Gabriel’s opposite direction for a bit, you spot Esther, Mary Magdalene, Ruth and a few other virtuous women you read about when you still burned with zeal for His Word. They are busy with tablecloths and napkins. They do what they do with so much joy, and beyond that, you can’t help but feel an aura of pure beauty around them, the Proverbs 31 kind, nothing like what you have seen on Earth, a beauty not even the best makeup can bring about. You absorb the purity of what is around you, think of the way you have lustfully viewed other girls you know, and you feel ashamed of yourself.
You accompany Gabriel to the next part of the mansion, and you find the “hundred and forty-four thousand”, mouthing a special song to The Landlord which only they know. These are the ones who refused to taste the lips or thighs of women. “How did they do it?”,you wonder. They did not resort to soap either, you tell yourself, and you remember your friend Max who always says that every celibate man has a rapidly shortening cream jar.
In a matter of minutes, the table is set; you are just in time for lunch. The table is wide enough to accommodate every saint and angel in the mansion, and the glory of God is all around. It’s genuine glory, different from what you try to assume during Sunday service. The menu is unleavened cakes and broth (like what Gideon entertained the angel with), with that “Wedding at Cana” variety wine. You feel that sense of Communion like never before. It’s the real “Nni Nso”, of an even higher grade than that one which easily dissolves in the mouth, and which you often show reluctance to partake in because you are never sure of your “sanctity”. You get to “interview” some of the saints on how they overcame the sinful world you live in, and you notice that Faith and Grace are the common denominators in each response.
While at table seated next to John the Beloved Apostle, your mind gets into pendulum motion with all the questions you have for the Lord. You want to know which pastors are doing it right, whether praying in unknown languages is superior to praying on beads, whether the books of the Bible are 66 or 73 or even more. You want to ask if it’s ok to twerk or do the Azonto so long as it’s in His name, whether it’s fine to have “God Will Make A Way” and “Oliver Twist” on the same music player, or whether there is somewhere in between Heaven and Hell where the torment is only temporary. You feel like asking if rap and rock music are admissible in this place, or whether people like Lecrae and Da Truth were missing the point. You feel the need to find out if it matters whether you approach Him on your knees, if it’s really wrong to kiss and touch your sweetheart until wedding night, and whether 20 naira offering really means “20 naira blessing”. Yea, you want to ask Him whether Grace overrides the essence of Karma, whether full immersion is a truer form of baptism than sprinkling, and whether the notion of “Once Saved Always Saved” really holds true.
Everyone at table seems to hear your thoughts, and a collective sigh slowly rings across.
“Leave doctrines, search and meditate on Scripture, and strive unto perfection”, Moses says to you. “When the time comes, all you seek to find out shall be revealed.”
“Fix your thoughts on Him and don’t let your questions stand in the way of absorbing his glory”, Angel Michael joins in.
All the while, you show hesitation in touching your meal, feeling so unworthy to partake in this communion of saints. Your mind digs out memories of how you tricked you uncle into giving you money for “legal field trip” when the cash was actually used to get Vivian’s handbag, as well as the night when you used your hands to explore Funmi after just 30 minutes of getting acquainted with her, and you want to make a run for it, away from this holy place.
“I know just how you feel”, Isaiah reassures you. “It’s that ‘I’m a man of unclean lips’ moment yet again, but never forget that when sin abounds, grace abounds even more.”
“It’s not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends”, James adds. “He chooses the unqualified and qualifies them.”
After lunch Gabriel takes you to a corner of the wall, and with a flap of his wings something in the form of a projector opens up. The next thing you see triggers a combined feeling of horror and pity. On the screen you see people wailing, their souls up in smoke and worms having a field day with them. You need no guessing where this is, and the time frame within which their pain will subsist. Your eyes pop up with shock however when in the midst of the flames you spot someone who was venerated as a man of God in his lifetime, and who is still being celebrated as a saint today. Gabriel responds to your thoughts with the words “The Lord knows those who are his” and “Not all who call him Lord will get into this city”.
Your tour guide takes you away from all that and taking you back outside on these golden streets, shows you a row of the most magnificent houses you’d ever come across. He points to one made of blue ruby walls, holds out a key, and says, “That, dear friend, is yours…..but whether you will be getting in there is entirely up to you”.
As he pulls back his arm, you wish you could get a chance to take a short peep and find out what treasure has been stored for you in that blue ruby apartment of yours. A crazy thought comes to your head, and when you think Gabriel is a little less watchful, you make an attempt to snatch the key…….
You are back on that sofa in your living room, your legs spread and the DSTV remote control nestling in your loose grip. It’s Wande Cole’s video “The Kick” on air, and you instinctively change the channel to TBN, which you haven’t tuned to in three years. After trying so hard to absorb John Hagee and Rod Parsley’s sermons (each for thirty minutes), your stomach gives a signal and you head to the kitchen to source for earthly lunch, your mind all the while re-echoing the words “If you want that key, you know what to do”.
(Follow this writer on Twitter @Le_Bouquineur)