Charles was a devout pioneer minister for the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He dedicated 70 hours a month proselytizing the good news of the Kingdom. Unlike many Jehovah’s Witnesses who dedicated that sort of time into going door-to-door and providing tracts on street corners, he also worked full time doing manual labor.
He was as genuine as he was indefatigable. Charles was a true believer. He never fudged his numbers and out of scrupulosity he often claimed less time when reporting back to the Kingdom Hall. His parents, who were also devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, were amazed at both his faithfulness and humility. They tried gearing him to attend training at the Bethel in Patterson, but he refused.
“I’m not worthy to be with the brothers there,” Charles would tell his parents, elders, and anyone who pushed him to follow such pursuits. “The Kingdom Hall needs support here.”
As a young man in his 20s, without debt or a family, he gave himself physically and financially to his congregation. No one knew quite the extent, because much of what he was paid was in cash and he contributed secretly.
Though Charles would not initiate conversations about the faith at work, everyone at his garage had a sense of his godliness. His rough-neck colleagues respected him. Charles never took a day off. He gave himself selflessly and asked nothing in return. In fact, people would come to him asking questions. He was not too pushy and in fact, the fellow mechanics would ask him for tracts at which point he would oblige.
“I see you near the train station handing them out,” Emilio said. “Do you have one on illness? My daughter has cancer.”
“I have one in my car on suffering, ” Charles said, “If I remember right it covers that topic.”
Strangers did not have such a high view of Charles, though. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are used to being criticized or having pranks played on them. Charles would always pray for them, “Jehovah, they just don’t know! Please help them.”
Charles was not only a devout and hardworking young man–God had also blessed him with good looks. He was an eligible bachelor. Many sisters made overtures, but Charles denied them all. “Paul writes that the time is short, ‘whoever does not marry does better,'” reasoned Charles. As a young man, this did not come without difficulty, but it was his love for Jehovah that overwhelmed any of his natural inclinations. He radiated such a confidence with the opposite sex, that no one whispered that he was homosexual. Yet, to the consternation of all, he did not seek a spouse.
The holiness of Charles’ life was so radical, that some brothers would make accusations against him out of jealousy. Yet, he never defended himself.
“Maybe they are right, they’ve known me for years.” Charles would say, “I must be a hypocrite. Please forgive me.”
More than one elder harbored the suspicion that Charles sought power or some sort of status–yet his meekness would always vindicate him. All of this actually brought great sadness to Charles, as he knew he did not truly suffer. The promise of Jesus to his disciples was that they would suffer persecutions.
“Jehovah, I am not persecuted for your sake like my brothers in Russia,” he often prayed. “Forgive me for my unworthiness that I may attain to all of the promises that Jesus has for us.”
One Saturday evening, Charles was standing at his display with the latest Watchtower publications. A couple young teens left the train and appeared to walk past him until they did a sideways glance. He heard laughing in his general direction and a cell phone pointed at him. They must have been memeing him.
Just then the young man tried to tug his female friend away. The girl prevailed and her friend sheepishly followed.
“What are you doing!?!,” she asked Charles. “Warning everyone they are going to Hell?”
“Why would you think you are going to Hell?,” asked Charles. “No one has to go to Hell; we don’t believe in Hell.”
“Don’t you believe that being gay is wrong and blood transfusions are bad?,” she asked rhetorically. “I am gay and my life was saved by a blood transfusion.”
“I am not here to judge you, but we believe that Jehovah has given us direction in our lives so we can better enjoy Him,” he replied. “Would you be interested in–“
At that moment the boy and the girl walked passed him, pulled down his display and started throwing about his materials, laughing at the mayhem.
Charles saw that a police car was driving by no more than a 100 feet away. He told the teens that he did not want to them to get in trouble–if the police saw them, they might be arrested for a public disturbance. The young girl cursed at Charles and ran. The boy ran in the opposite direction. The police officer parked his vehicle and started looking at his smart phone. Apparently he did not see a thing.
Charles decided that he had enough excitement that day, so he packed up his display and started driving home. His Saturday night routine was to read an entire Gospel. He genuinely looked forward to it and always felt gipped when it was the Apostle Mark’s turn. Thinking about this as he was driving, suddenly the GPS on his phone wanted him to take a side road. Charles always drove with the GPS on, because it updated him on traffic conditions. At this moment he saw out of the corner of his eye what appeared to be people fighting in an alley.
Charles immediately parked his car and ran over. He cautiously looked around the corner and he saw three men punching a young man. One of them was holding a knife. Charles realized the assailant noticed him. He quickly thought to himself, “I can run now and that young man is in trouble or maybe I can talk them out of it.”
Confidently, but not aggressively, he walked over. “What’s going on here?”
“Get lost a****e,” said the man brandishing the knife. “Or you’ll get some of this too.”
“Does the kid owe you money? I’ll give you money, just let him go,” Charles said walking towards him. He then noticed it was the boy that gave him trouble at the train station.
“What, you think you are better than us?,” said one of the other men. “Like we need money, n****a?”
“Why you care so much about this white boy here,” said the other one. “We’re just messing with him.”
“Okay,” said Charles. “But just let him go. We can forget all about this.”
“You don’t know when to stop.”
The men started walking towards Charles. The young man, seeing his opportunity, ran in the opposite direction. Charles then turned and ran, but one of the men threw something hard at him. It him in the back of the head. The last thing he remembered was a warm feeling and his vision dimmed.
Charles then opened his eyes. He was in a beautiful park. It had brick paths and plentiful sunlight, but no other overt traces of technology. The moon and the stars were strangly visible, sparkling like crystal.
“Where am I?,” Charles thought looking left and right while lying on the ground. “Is this the Kingdom on Earth? Didn’t they say there was a judgement first?”
Suddenly the most beautiful person he had ever met extended her hand and pulled him up. She had an adoring smile and a warm glance that pierced into his soul.
“Charles, your struggles are over now; this is the Kingdom,” she said.
“Where is Jehovah, is He in the heavens and the rest of us are here?,” said Charles.
“Yes,” she said. “Only the 144,000 are in Heaven, but the rest of us are here enjoying the Kingdom.”
“Is everyone here a Jevohah’s Witness?,” Charles thought. She just kept glancing at him and then started rubbing the back of his head. Apparently, she did not perceive thoughts.
“There is no more pain here, no more tears, as long as we don’t want it–I am sure you are wondering who I am. I’m Sophia, your guide.”
“What’s a guide?,” he inquired. “Are you an angel?”
“Are you someone like me?”
“No,” she said. “I am like you, but only spiritually. But you are a spirit right now too. You don’t have your body yet. But, I’m not human. I’m an Aeon.”
Charles thought to himself very carefully. He was well read in Watchtower literature and the Scriptures, but he simply never heard of an Aeon before.
“So, you are like an angel, just not one of the angel’s among the 144,000,” he conjectured.
“Precisely!,” she said. “I will be with you as long as you want me to be, even until the end of the age.”
“What age is that?”
“There is a resurrection of the body–all people will get their bodies back,” she said.
“Does everyone have a guide?,” he asked.
“I can say this without fear of giving you grounds for pride, but not very many in the Kingdom get to interact with an Aeon. It’s not very common we have someone as virtuous as you that is not part of the 144,000.”
“Jehovah deemed it better that I would be here,” Charles said. “He works all things for good.”
“Indeed he does,” said the Aeon. “For those who love Him.”
“I admit,” said Charles, “A part of me is disappointed. I am so used to serving Jehovah, I don’t know what I am going to do here. He is not here so, I am not sure what I can do to please Him.”
“Well, simply call my name if you have any questions,” Sophia said waving her hand. “You are in the Kingdom. Read, pray, talk to your brothers and sisters, garden, go for walks and look at the beauty of the landscape. This is for all of you.”
In meekness, Charles accepted her answer and did as she said. A thousand years were as a day and a day a thousand years. There were countless people who were genuinely kind and enjoyed fellowship. Waterfalls, hills, rock formations, trees, and flowers were everywhere to be seen. Some parts had snow, but it was not cold, other parts had waves, but no undertow.
He spent much of his time in prayer and reading the Scriptures. He would ask questions to Sophia. She could never read his thoughts. He would have to say, “Sophia,” and she would come.
In a pillar of light she suddenly appeared. She gave him a fond, penetrating stare. “What is it?”
“Can you lift me up and show me what everything looks like from the sky?”
“That’s an innocent question,” she said. “We will hit a limit at the second heaven. We cannot ascend to the third.”
“Why is it an innocent question?”
“Only a handful of people have ever asked to see the Kingdom from the sky. Are you unhappy with the Kingdom?”
“No,” he said. “I am very happy. You cannot read thoughts, can you?”
“Aeons cannot read thoughts,” remarked Sophia.
She picked him up from under his shoulders and brought him to the limit of the second heaven. The Kingdom was far larger than he imagined.
“Why do the Scriptures not talk about Aeons?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know the Scriptures,” said Sophia.
“Have you read them?”
“I have, I just don’t understand them,” she said tersely, but without anger.
“Don’t understand them?,” said Charles. “Is there any end to the Kingdom?”
“It’s finite,” said Sophia.
“Is the whole thing the same?,” asked Charles.
“Well, it’s generally pleasant on top, but underneath the especially wicked experience flames and subterranean pressures that are exacted upon them.”
“What a horrible thing!,” Charles thought. “The Governing Body never gained such ‘new light’–though I know the Book of Revelation places paradise Earth next to Hell…”
Charles then spoke up, “I thought that the wicked were annhilated. Why are they there?”
“The wicked are not annhilated.”
“Maybe I don’t understand,” said Charles. “But maybe you can tell me, because there is so much I don’t understand. We know Jehovah is always fair and good. How is it fair that people are punished for eternity?”
“Well, it’s not for eternity, they will get their bodies back.”
“Now you’re changing the topic!,” Charles said playfully to an Aeon who was not bemused. “But that leads me to ask this: I will certainly be resurrected in the body and enjoy a state like this; and they will resurrect and enjoy a state like theirs, right?”
“Yes,” Sophia said plainly. “Each enjoys the state in which they attained to in their lives. There is no repentance after death.”
“How can they enjoy heat and high pressures? How could anyone?”
“Well, enjoyment is a relative term,” Sophia pointed out but then was careful to avoid overtly philosophical jargon with an auto mechanic. “Enjoyment is a matter of what one chooses. If one chooses to be pressed down by worldly cares and desires, they will feel the pressure and heat of those things–not literal pressure and heat but the cares and desires. However, if people understood how these things can only be compared to those physical things, they would be more likely to repent.”
“I wish I did,” admitted Charles. “Only if I did, I could have warned people of this.”
There was a brief silence, but then Charles smacked himself on the head. Why didn’t he notice this before? There were no “unreached peoples” in his paradiscal landscape. The Watchtower taught that the unreached would be given 1,000 years during Jesus’ millenial reign to hear the good news of the Kingdom and repent.
“There’s no repentence after death and no Jesus here,” Charles reasoned aloud. “This is not the millenial Kingdom.”
“No,” said Sophia. “This is not. Jesus came here only once and it was to take people out.”
Charles had read the Scriptures so he immediately took notice: “Was this to preach the Gospel to those in Hell?”
“Yes,” answered Sophia. “Some traditions call that the ‘Harrowing of Hell.’ Anyway, do you want me to show you the largest waterfall you have ever seen?”
“Please forgive me for asking, but why are you changing the topic?”
“Oh, don’t worry about being so polite,” laughed Sophia. “Aeons are not moral beings.”
“But, you are beings? Do you think and feel?”
“Well, yes,” admitted Sophia.
“How are you not moral?,” inquired Charles.
“That’s a good question, but there is already too much for you to take in today–trust me.”
Charles obliged and dropped the line of questioning. What felt like another 1,000 years passed. He asked everyone he met about what they knew. Their conversations were pleasant, but it seemed as if they knew far less than him. Without personal Aeons, they did not get some of the insights that he had received.
Charles noticed that everyone was happy–but then this thought struck him: What if it was he who was being pressed down by worldly cares and enflamed with passions? He called for Sophia and asked her these very things. Sophia was at first reticent to answer and told him he was worrying too much. To this Charles answered, “I would not be feeling this apprehension if there was nothing wrong with me. The Scriptures speak of a ‘rest’ for the righteous–I have clearly not entered in it.”
“Of course,” said Sophia. “Only the 144,000 have.”
“Are there literally only 144,000?,” asked Charles.
“No,” said Sophia. “It’s just a name for a large mass of people.”
“What have they done to be there that I have not?”
“Nothing. Many find this unfair, but the vast preponderance of them would be worse people than you.”
“Oh, that’s not possible,” said Charles. “There is so much I have not done, so much selfishness I have–“
“You are too humble,” cautioned Sophia. “You literally died saving the life of someone who hated you.”
“There is no greater love–“
“–that to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Sophia completed the sentence, slightly clenching her fist. “Not enemies.”
“Do you think Jehovah is unfair?”
“It does not matter what I think,” said Sophia biting her lip. “It–“
“You told me not to apologize to you because you are not a moral being, but you also said that you think. So, what do you think?,” asked Charles.
“I really don’t think you want the answer to that question. If I answer that question, here will never be the same.”
“Well,” said Charles with a sense of resignation. “It already isn’t.”
“You may not be book smart,” said the Aeon. “But you are not stupid.”
Her appearance seemed to change, but not in any tangible way. She still smiled, but it was not friendly as before; she still had a piercing stare, but it betrayed a subdued malevolence. At this moment Charles began to feel terrified.
“So, this is Hell. And you are a demon!”
“You can say those things,” said Sophia. “But it is just what you say. Words are just words. Is this not precisely what you wanted?”
“I thought I did,” said Charles. “But now I realize that there cannot be Heaven without God.”
“This is precisely what I think,” Sophia wagged her finger. “That God is unfair. I have not seen a single human specimen aside from a select few ‘canonized saints,’ as they’re called, live a more upstanding life than you. I’m talking about literal miracle workers. And yet, for some intellectual defect, you are cast out of Paradise–with us. This cannot be right. They say, ‘good being done by nature only and tending to form the natural character of the doer but not the spiritual, it does not itself contribute to salvation without faith.’ How can that be fair?”
“But I had faith,” reasoned Charles. “Clearly, I had the wrong one.”
“And there’s the rub,” Sophia said tenderly while grabbing Charles’ shoulders, seemingly to console him. “You could have never possibly known that. Did you not go to church, and listen to your parents, and study the Scriptures? And yet, God did not give you this insight. How were you to know that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God in three Persons? Who could reasonably come to that conclusion on their own?”
“As much as I would like to justify myself, I must justify Jehovah,” said Charles. “I have always known at some level. I tried to persuade the people I proselytized to against it. Some of them brought up Scriptures. I just never found them as convincing as what the Governing Body taught. But even then, I knew that the Governing Body always made mistakes and corrections.”
“Again, were you wrong? Of course! But how can any normal person know?,” Sophia caressed his face and spoke behind his ear. “How much pleasure have you denied yourself nobly pursuing what turned out to be a lie?”
Charles began laughing. Sophia then joined in. She realized what she was doing was foolish. There are no new sins in Hell–just the reliving of old ones.
“So, you really had no hypocrisy about you,” Sophia then stood erect, dropping the seductive fascade. “You pursued these things out of sincere, undivided conviction. Then, you know there is only one thing you can do.”
“Yes,” said Charles. “I made my bed, now I have to sleep in it. You said there is no repentance after death. Well, I pursued my lie. Now, though it will be different, I must perpetually pursue it all the same. I have rejected the God who loves me and gave Himself for me. I will have to settle for the Jehovah that I knew and find my enjoyment in this.”
“Indeed,” said Sophia following along. “Forgive me for playing along with you, sometimes we Aeons cannot help ourselves.”
“You’re not a moral being,” said Charles. “Apparently neither am I, do not feel the need to apologize. You said we all enjoy what we enjoyed on Earth. Then, there is no unfairness. I settled for good living, conviction, and faithfulness to the Kingdom. I must find pleasure in what I always loved.”
And so, Charles like everyone else consigned himself to the other side of Heaven. There was no more noble creature in Hell than Charles. Even after the bodily resurrection, the demons respected him. Those who shape-shifted into undying worms would want to avoid him out of respect, though occasionally Charles would ask them to do their work. This way, God would not be made into a liar. Charles accepted his eternity–as does everyone. In this regard, he would prove to be unexceptional.
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