9: Meeting Jonah and Many Other Elders

Genevive, mother and Mary were standing at the gateway. David’s chariot was standing on the opposite side of the avenue, where he was still gathering some fruit and filling a basket. I saw Bohemond also coming toward us, and motioned to him to hurry.

“Oh, Bohemond, I have many things to tell you. Many blessed things have occurred since we parted. I want to introduce to you my bosom companion, the wife of my youth, whom I have just found most busily engaged in a distant part of paradise.”

Genevive seemed greatly pleased to know we were such close friends.

Bohemond now said, “When are you going on to the Throne?”

“Oh, very soon, I trust.”

Genevive spoke and said, “If you like, you can go on at once, and mother, Mary and myself will meet you at the great convocation a little later.”

So we waved to David to come to us. He quickly consented to be our servant again, and we planned to be off. As we were exchanging good-byes, Genevive said to David, “Go by way of the mansions of the prophets and call at the mansion of Jonah.”

“Oh, Genevive,” I said, “how kind and thoughtful you are for me,” and after pressing my lips to hers, with a good-bye kiss, as we used to do in the world, we were soon in the chariot which was heading toward the interior of the city. Ever since stepping from the chariot at my first entrance into paradise, this had been the goal of my constant desire, to reach and see my Father’s Throne, for I remembered we are to reign with Him. I have already repeatedly seen our blessed Lord and looked into His holy face—but oh, I so very much want to see His Father’s Throne and the multitudes that must be gathering about it.

“All your desires and more,” said David, “will soon be granted you, but you have been wise in not hurrying to the Throne, for even now you are none too well prepared for its exceeding glory. Your trip into paradise will only better prepare you for the scenes just ahead for it is better further on.”

Bohemond spoke and said, “I have been very busily engaged in various parts of the city since I saw you last, but I am exceedingly thankful of this opportunity of going along with you.”

“Now David, tell us about the mansions of the prophets of which Genevive spoke.”

“I will be only too glad to tell you about them. Very many of the prophets and ancient men of Israel, including the Patriarchs, had their mansions located near together. They are so grouped that they have easy and ready access to each other. These they call their own and yet everyone has perfect privilege to go and come as he likes. It is thought no intrusion here to come and stay as long as one desires. Everything in the city belongs to each of us—we are heirs of it all.”

“Oh,” I said, “has God prepared all these great things for me? Are they really mine?”

“As sure as you are in the city they are yours,” said David.

“I do remember the scripture,” I replied, “where God says: ‘All are yours and ye are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.’” (1 Corinthians 3:22-23)

Bohemond spoke and said, “I am wondering about a mansion for myself and its location.”

David replied and said, “Be patient, my son, God will settle you to your own satisfaction. But remember, you have unbounded privileges in the entire kingdom of heaven, both in the city and paradise. Go where you will. Come when you please, and be forever contented.”

Like all the avenues and streets of the city this one was most gorgeously decorated. A branch of the river was flowing in the midst of it. On either side were growing the trees of life interspersed with many varieties of most beautiful shrubbery. No earthly camera ever made a picture even to compare to this heavenly glory.

Since leaving the children’s Polytechnic our chariot had been rolling along with indescribable speed. Many dozens of kilometers [11] had been passed while Bohemond and I had been talking over the experiences of each since we had parted.

[11. “Many hundred furlongs.” That is tens of miles. One furlong being about 200 meters (660 feet).]

“Now,” said David, “we are coming near to the mansions of the ancients.” And reducing his speed he said, “You can recognize the names of many of the occupants no doubt, for all who are acquainted with Jewish history will be familiar with many of the names you see there.” Sure enough, upon the doors and posts of the verandas and other places were the names of many of the ancient saints of God.

“Now,” said David, “they are always glad to welcome all the new arrivals, as well as their old friends.”

I said to David, “Genevive spoke of Jonah the prophet, will we pass his mansion?”

“Oh, yes, indeed,” said David, and in a few minutes the chariot stopped near the threshold of a beautiful palace.

“Well, I see the prophet’s name,” said Bohemond.

“To be sure,” said David, “and he is the real Jonah of the Bible. I am also trusting for you, dear brethren, that he is now in his residence.”

We all jumped from the chariot, and David leading the way, we were soon at the threshold. There are no door bells to ring in heaven, for everyone is always welcome. As well might a busy bee ask admission into its own hive as for one saint in heaven to have to ask another to admit him to his mansion, for there is an eternal brotherhood in heaven, with all things in common, as we know but little of on earth.

We rejoiced exceedingly when David said, “I see Jonah now through the hallway over there.”

As we entered his mansion, he came toward us and David saluted him with, “Good morning, my brother.”

“Good morning to you,” said Jonah. “I am always glad to have you come in. Tell me who are these brethren with you?”

“Recent arrivals. Brother Sodi is a Greek of Jewish descent but later from the Scandinavian people, and Bohemond from northern Russia.”

“Glad to welcome you, dear brethren,” he said, as he gave us his hand. We were soon all seated in his spacious mansion, beautiful with adornments as no earthly home has ever been decorated. As I looked around me I thought of our Lord’s words on earth: “I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) Oh, these many mansions, prepared by an almighty hand! Then I thought again, if He has made such an endless variety of flowers, sweet scented and lovely shrubbery of all kinds, with so many things to please and enhance our earthly lives, what will He not provide for His saints and His bride in heaven?

“Well, Jonah,” I said, “we are glad to meet you indeed, but tell me, are you the prophet Jonah, so conspicuous in Bible times on earth?”

“I am the Prophet Jonah, son of Amittai, reared up in Gath Hepher, a town of old lower Galilee in Zebulun, more than two thousand seven hundred years ago—but that is reckoning like we used to on earth, but, dear brethren, it has really only been about two and one-half days since I came into this heavenly kingdom, reckoning by heaven’s count.

“Well, do tell us, Jonah, of your experience with the whale. There has been a lot of skepticism about the story.”

“The story is all true,” said Jonah. “How I lived in the midst of the great fish I cannot tell. I only know I did live the three days inside the fish. But he was fully as sick of the job as I was myself. I have been asked these same questions thousands of times. It is an old story to me, yet ever new and ever true because God’s hand was present both to punish and to save. My continued disobedience would have meant Nineveh’s destruction, but my repentance and faithfulness meant their salvation. Yes, the story is true, whatever scoffers may say, miracle indeed it was—but it was followed by the greatest revival any city ever knew. My punishment and repentance was a sign to the Ninevites. They repented, God had mercy, and I was angry, oh, sinful Jonah that I was, but He had mercy on me also, and many of the Ninevites were saved and are now in heaven.”

“Oh, Jonah,” I exclaimed, “I wish you could only go back and repeat your story on earth again. Many skeptics are ridiculing the word of God over your experience.”

“Yes,” said Jonah, “and they will do it to their own destruction. Many great and strange things have occurred and will yet occur—some of them so strange that men will still doubt and object as they always have; nevertheless they are true.”

“True indeed,” I replied, “we have known children and animals born with two heads on opposite ends of one body, a peculiar working of some law of God producing what we called monstrosities. When other things strange occur in the physical realm, we say a miracle has occurred, and then men object and deny. But we are glad indeed to have met you and heard your story from your own lips. We have always believed God’s word was true. Our Lord made reference to you eight hundred years after your time on earth, making you a sign of His own death and resurrection.”

“Yes,” said Jonah, “and it was all true, and skeptical men who were plentiful in the days of the Lord on earth, will stand at the last judgment day with the same men of Nineveh, while the Ninevites cry out against them. So will it be with latter days skeptics, who have abundantly more light than even the men in our Lord’s time.”

David spoke and said, “In my time many great things occurred. The hand of God was daily stretched out over me, and many deliverances He gave me—enough to fill a volume. Men in my time on earth generally accepted these special providences as God’s hand in dealing with the affairs of men.”

“Quite true,” said Jonah, “for in my time some two hundred years after your death, everybody seemed to speak of you as one whom God greatly honored.”

“Well, Jonah, we are going on to the Throne, and I am very eager to behold the glory of that most wonderful place in heaven about which we have sung and prayed all our earthly lives, and just think, I am so near to it now! Oh, hallelujah to my God! My soul is so full of raptures I cannot contain myself longer.”

“Tune your harps,” said David.

“Sure,” I replied, and in a moment we were singing at the top of our voices, “The wonders of our God, our King.”

“Oh, just think, we are in heaven, and really in the mansion of Jonah, the prophet, near to the Throne.”

“It has been such a pleasure to me,” said Jonah, “to meet you dear brethren who have lived on earth nearly three thousand years after my time, that now we must join with you in thanksgiving to God.”

So at this we all fell on our faces with adoring praises to God.

When we had arisen, Jonah said, “I hope to be at the Throne during the great convocation. Millions of saints attend. I hope to meet you again at that time.” So offering to us his hand, we all said good-bye to him, and were soon in David’s chariot headed for the great center of the heavenly kingdom.

I said to David, “Are we not almost as near the Throne as we were when we turned back for the trip in paradise?”

“Quite as near,” said David, “but we are approaching it from another direction this time.”

The light seemed so bright, yet not dazzling, for we were being prepared for it. Thousands of happy souls were passing us. Many loads were being made up at different points arranging for the great convocation.

“Now,” said David, “we must stop, for I see an angel calling to me.” He sprang out of his chariot, and, after a few minutes conversation with the angel, came and said to us that he would have to leave us here for a little season, as he was called to a distant part of the city. “I think I shall leave you for only a little time. You can enjoy yourselves in such strolls as you like. Call at any of the mansions you wish. Feel perfectly at home. All you see is yours. I have to make a quick visit to a distant part of the city on business matters concerning the great convocation. If I do not return in time for you, step on any of the chariots and you will be taken to the Throne in due time.” So saying we stepped from the chariot, he said good-bye to us with a lovely bow and wave of his hand, and his chariot had gone. n


* * * * *


Soon after leaving David’s chariot, Bohemond and I were walking alone in a deep consideration of these great marvels, and the almightiness and love of God, when we came to a lovely park into which we entered. We had not gone far until we came upon a group of the elders, among whom were Abraham and Moses, Joshua and Isaiah, Peter and John, Paul and Silas, and many others. They were engaged in a spirited conversation. They motioned us to them, saying, “We are glad to meet you again, for we are informed that our Lord has gracious intentions concerning you.”

“Well, holy brethren, we do not know what is before us, but we have found that He is full of infinite mercies and we are greatly interested in all we behold.”

“We are very glad,” said Abraham, “you have been wisely guided to this conference, and I have known of the extent of your visit up to this time, but we were just beginning a conversation on theology as it is now taught in the churches on earth, and if you are interested, we would invite you to remain for a time with us, and you are free to ask, and answer, any question you like.”

We both spoke at once and accepted their kind invitation, for not often would one meet with so many men, so able as these, and the very ones who had contributed more for the faith of the church than others.

Abraham now said, “We are deeply interested in all the affairs of the church on earth, more so perhaps than those who still are in their earthly habitations and you have so recently come from the earth, we are glad to have you with us at this time.”

“Indeed, we feel it a great privilege,” I replied, “to sit with you in this conference.”

At this, Moses passed to us a basket of most delicious fruit of which they had been partaking. Then Abraham spoke and said, “The theology which deals with the existence, character, and attributes of God, His laws and government, the doctrines men are to believe, and the duties they are to practice, has been much neglected in recent years, and we are informed that in many branches of the church grave errors have crept in.”

“Religion,” said he, “is the life of man in personal communication with God. It is the recognition of God in all of our duties. It is the bond which unites man to God. It is that faith which comprehends His presence, and invites Him into all the affairs of man’s life. It is the life of God in the soul of man manifesting itself daily in practical morality.”

“What then,” I asked, “is the difference between religion and theology?”

“Religion,” said Abraham, “has reference to God in the heart and life of man, which sows itself in obedience to all the divine will.”

“Theology,” said Moses, “is a scientific system, which deals with God and the laws by which man is saved. Yet a man may be a theologian, as were many of the Scribes and Pharisees, without religion based on experience. The source of all true theology is God Himself in the revelations He has given to man.”

Paul then spoke and said, “These revelations are both natural and supernatural. Natural theology deals with God and His attributes as taught by nature. Nearly nineteen hundred years ago I wrote: ‘For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal Godhead, so they are without excuse.’ (Romans 1:20) But the Scriptures,” said he, “are the true source of correct theological teachings among men on the earth. They are a divinely inspired revelation to men. The careful interpretation of them reveals God to men as we have found Him after hundreds of years’ acquaintance with Him here. They reveal His true nature, attributes, relations to and dealings with man. True theology deals also with man, his relations and duties to God and his fellow men, of the future state, which we are all now enjoying, with its rewards, and also the punishments which are dealt to the unrepentant.”

At this, I spoke and said, “There has been much criticism and critical fault-finding of the Scriptures in the last few decades of time, so that I am glad of the privilege of asking you, who wrote so much of them, further concerning them, as to their authenticity, genuineness and authority as coming from God to man.”

Moses was first to speak. He said, “Many scoffers and fault-finders were in my own time. No proof could satisfy them. There are mysteries of revelation as well as in the outward creation. I knew I was called and directly commissioned of God, and the books of the law were written by His express commandment. Joshua was my successor and went forth to his responsible task by appointment of our divine Lord, and his messages and writings were prefaced by such words as, ‘Thus saith the Lord God of Israel.’ Samuel, the prophet and seer of Israel, was early called of God and spake the word with authority from heaven. All the books of the prophets are composed of direct messages from God. Our Lord who sent us forth, fully recognized the whole body of our writings, included in the Old Testament Scriptures. He paid the highest honors to those ancient records, as He has fully told me. His seal being set to them they will stand forever. You need have no fears of the Scriptures ever falling beneath the feet of the church, on account of the efforts of skeptical men. God reserves to Himself the power to cause the earth to open its mouth again and swallow up the alliances of evil men, as in the days of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.”

“Indeed,” said Paul. “Our Lord put His full sanction to every jot and tittle of the law and the prophets and enforced the precepts written by Moses as binding upon all the Jewish people. He quoted the writings of nearly every prophet, from Moses to Malachi, recognizing their full authority, as the word of God, and giving them the distinctive title of the Scriptures, as different from all other writings. As the apostles and evangelists of our Lord, we always fully recognized their divine origin and quoted and wrote and preached from them appealing to them as authority on all questions of faith. We ever declared they were the ‘Oracles of God,’ and given as the Holy Ghost spoke by the mouth of His ancient servants. This is expressly declared of David, of Isaiah, and of all the holy prophets.”

Peter now spoke and said, “You will remember in one of my epistles I spoke of our Lord’s transfiguration on the holy mount and the voice that then spoke from heaven attesting that this Jesus was the Son of God. (2 Peter 1:17-21) Our combined testimony should have been received by every Jew. Yet, I then declared that the Scriptures were to them a more sure word of prophecy, and urged them to take heed to their revelations, for they fully spoke of Christ our Lord.

“Now,” continued Peter, “there are the positive assertions of inspiration and authority for all the writings of the New Testament. What the four evangelists wrote was under the eye and inspection of our Lord, although not coming to public notice for years after His ascension to heaven. A special promise of the presence and help of the Holy Spirit was given to all the apostles. The Spirit of Truth thus promised was to bring to our remembrance whatever the Lord had taught us, and to teach us all things. Old truths brought back to mind, and new truths brought forth from the fountains above, were His special delight. On account of this endowment, our Lord placed an authority on our word as upon His own and the earlier prophets’. The writers of the New Testament always identify their words as the words of the Holy Ghost, announcing their messages as in truth the word of God: the word of the Lord that should endure forever. So from God they all came. They breathe the pure spirit of His goodness and carry the stamp of His authority, and will stand forever.”

“Well,” said Bohemond and I at the same time, “we would very much like to have a brief statement or summary of their teachings as you understand them now, for we would like to compare our own ideas of theology, and also that which is now taught in the churches, with the truth as it is.”

They all assented quickly, and Abraham spoke, saying, “We will hand you such a statement shortly. In the meantime, if you care, you can take a flying trip in one of the passing chariots to a praise service on Broadway, or visit the park adjoining the Throne.”

We thanked them for their friendly service and as we stepped on board a chariot, they said, “We will see you again soon,” and waved us a pleasant good-bye. Isaiah kindly offered his services to go with us. We thanked him and the chariot soon slowed down at an entrance where thousands were gathering.

The place seemed to contain a space somewhat equal to a ten or twelve acre field in the earth. Circular rows of seats ran the whole course round the spacious place of worship. The orchestra occupied an elevated position in the center, and a thousand harps and voices were thrilling the vast audiences with the melodies of heaven. David’s harp and voice never seemed so sweet as at that service. Many fathers of the church of an early date were there; many who had suffered persecution and martyrdom were also there. Their faces glowed with a peculiar joy as their words fell like fragrant oil upon that wonderful assembly. At the suggestion of St. Bartholomew we all fell on our knees and faces and with one heart and voice gave God all the glory. Many short sermonettes were preached to the thousands, many of whom like ourselves were newcomers into the city. This seemed to be a preparatory service for the great coming convocation at the Throne. Isaiah, with his long flowing beard, spoke as with a silver trumpet, announcing the general order newly arranged for the great occasion. Enoch’s face shone equal to the angels’ as he shouted the glory of his Lord. John the Baptist also with his piercing voice stirred the congregation as to a flame of fire. The blessed Virgin was also there and her sweet voice was like waves of light over all the people. We found she was held in great esteem in heaven. Priscilla and Aquilla both gave public utterances of great helpfulness. Many others witnessed to the great goodness of God. At last we all stood and sang a doxology and with one voice and as one soul shouted the praises of Him who had redeemed us to God by His own blood.

The services now closed and in leaving we saw many new arrivals from the earth, some were our own acquaintances. Oh, what joy in meeting these and to think we could now help them in their knowledge of the heavenly kingdom. They were so full of adoring wonder and praise that they could not restrain their feelings. In fact, we all felt much the same. We could not feel otherwise being in the very midst of the glory of God and in His blessed image, and in a reunion of long expectation with those of earlier years. We walked to a quiet place beneath the wide-spreading branches of a most lovely tree whose fruits were thickly hanging within easy reach and ripening every month. The fruit and leaves sent forth their fragrance delightfully and we all felt so enraptured by the presence and glory of God and the great provisions His love had planned for us, that I quickly suggested we all bow and give Him our heartfelt gratitude. We were all on our faces in a moment and it seemed our friends could never cease in saying, “Hallelujah to God.” I at last said, “Would you like to go back to your earth home again and leave your mansions here?”

“Oh,” said one of my dear old friends as he arose and grabbed my hand, “don’t ask me such a question. That was only the cradle of our existence. This is our home. Oh, blessed be the Lord!”

We now gathered some fruit and communed together a long time. They told us of much of the doings of the communities we had left. I seemed to be back again, for the time being, among their homes, at their tables, driving with them along the roads and the streets, while they were speaking to me of these things. I said, “Oh, Scandinavia, my people by adoption, could I only see you all here and out of all your spiritual bondage and tradition, then would I shout the praises of God greater than ever.”

I then said, “If they could only know that you have brought us this news when they were lowering your cold body into the grave, if they could only see you here in all this glory, and us having this precious visit beneath these majestic trees of life, then they would lift their eyes on high and say: ‘Oh, that they had the wings of a dove, then would I fly away and be at rest.’ (Psalm 55:6) Then with the anointed vision like the martyred Stephen of old, they might see heaven opened and the glories which the Son of God has prepared for all His children. (Acts 7:56) If their eye of faith could only penetrate the veil that hides the future—if they only could, with spiritual vision, but behold these glories—if they could only hear even the echo of the melodies which we have just heard, and of which Paul caught the tune of when transported to the third heaven, they would evermore say: ‘For me to die is gain.’ (Philippians 1:21) The privileges of Christ in them by the Holy Ghost would mean much more to them than they do now.”

Bohemond now said, “You have unbounded liberties here. Pluck from any of the trees as often as you like, go where you wish, enjoy everything you see. All are yours and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. We have found it wise not to hurry. You need be in no hurry. Eternity is before you.”

So saying, we said good-bye, adding, “We will no doubt often meet again. We have an appointment near the Throne and will need to go to it. Later, we hope to meet you at the great convocations at the Throne itself. We will be greatly delighted to see you then.”

We stepped on a chariot and were soon far out of sight or hearing of our friends. The light of the Throne greatly increased, and we stepped off just to meet our elder brethren whom we left some time since.

They now handed us the scroll which they had prepared, saying, “Study carefully and compare yourselves with it.”

We thanked them for their great kindness and said a pleasant good-bye to them, also saying, “We hope to see you again soon at the Throne.”

“Oh, yes, indeed,” said Abraham. “We will be there, for it is of too important a character to be missed.”

We now turned our faces toward a beautiful grove of shrubbery, many of the trees growing in a kind of circular form with the branches drooping all about, somewhat like the weeping willow of earth. When we came near, we saw two angels in most lovely apparel, sitting in the midst, on lovely upholstery. They arose and welcomed us and laying their hands on our heads, said, “We greet you in the name of our God. But what is that in your hand?”

“A scroll given us by the elders.”

“Welcome to this grove and to these seats. The fragrance of these leaves will impart to you enlightening grace as you read and study.” We sat down to wonder, but the angels had disappeared.

“We read and reread the sacred scroll, and rejoiced exceedingly to know that we felt in sweet harmony with the clear statements of divine truth contained in the document.

Bohemond now said, “Would to God my Bohemian brethren throughout the Austrian empire and elsewhere might only have the privilege of reading what the elders have written us.”

“I was just thinking quite the same thing myself—that if the Scandinavian people as well as thousands of the churches in America and England could only study this orthodox code of divine doctrine, it might correct some of the modem errors and perversions of the faith, crept in among the people, through unfounded criticism of recent years. We must preserve this scroll, for it has been prepared with great care.”

We now arose and took a long stroll among beautiful flowering shrubbery and gathered such fruit as we needed. We left this quiet seclusion and joined the multitudes on their way to the Throne. We had not gone far until many of the passing saints inquired concerning the scroll. We read it to them aloud and discussed its various doctrinal features to the great appreciation of everyone.

Just at this time there came a chariot filled with ancient men, whom we had not met before. They were driving very leisurely along. Their chariot seemed more like the Tally-Ho or a massive automobile of an earthly pattern. Seeing we were strangers, they at once invited us to ride with them. We accepted their invitation and the visit and the scenes which followed can never be fully described. o

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