Inspirational Christian books for your family!

The Bench
by Dr. Jerry Kaifetz

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a day in Heaven with Jesus?

This book is the story of a young man named Jeremy who dies in car accident and is transported to heaven by two angels. Read the vivid and detailed account of his transition from life on earth, his first impression of the heavenly realm, his long conversations with the Lord, and his return to earth. His time with Jesus is a uniquely moving and compelling account that though fictional, remains amazingly true to Scripture throughout and riveting in every detail.

Chapter Two:

The Arrival
All of a sudden, there it was off in the distance of the black, velvety matrix of space. A gigantic jewel of a city that we would say on earth “took my breath away.” (Only one sight on earth had ever done that for me, and that was Havasu Falls at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. To compare the vision before me now to that would seem a nearly unforgivable affront to what I now beheld.) There were simply no human words that could possibly describe this wondrous sight before me.

My mind for some reason flashed to Abraham. This sight now in my view was the very city for which he looked. This was the city “which hath foundations,” I thought in utter amazement; the city that God has prepared for believers where the inhabitants are “just ... and made perfect.”

And what incredibly magnificent foundations these were! The colors of the foundation were absolutely transfixing. Their beauty arrested my mind and breath in their tracks. They were the green of jasper, the blue of sapphire, the green of chalcedony and emerald, the deep red of sardius, the gold of chrysolite, the transparent sea green of topaz, the purple blue of amethyst, the violet of jacinth, and other colors as well. I had just read of these the day before in the Book of Revelation, and the names came right back to me. I kept thinking of these massive volumes of gems and how puny and pitiful was man’s possession and use of them on earth by comparison. I somehow remembered at that moment that these were the same stones described in the breastplate of the high priests, and I immediately knew exactly why and what they had meant in their use way back then. The most amazing thing about these foundation gems was the way the light from the throne at the head of the River of Life radiated through them so powerfully and magnificently. I could see that the brilliance and color of this light was flooding out into space for distances that I immediately knew were far beyond my ability to conceive. It was like a huge cosmic twinkle, but on the scale simply overwhelmed my human mind and senses.

I don’t know how long my gaze was fixed on this heavenly vision, but it must have been long enough to not notice that I was far from the only one being escorted to its gate. This gate was even more amazing to me than the foundations! It was made of one pearl whose size I could not fathom despite my ability to see it in its entirety as we approached. It was on a scale that I could not fit into my tiny and inadequate earthly brain. It must have been hundreds and hundreds of miles high! (Yes, I do mean miles, not feet.) The angels seemed to be amused at my reaction. One of them conveyed a precious and wonderful thought to me. He had made it known to me at that moment that just as earthly pearls are made in response to the pain of a grain of sand, so these gates were to forever remind those who passed through them of the magnitude of Christ’s suffering and the indescribably and eternally joyous benefits that those sufferings have brought to everyone who would pass through these gates. This was the city “adorned for her husband,” I remembered. Then I thought of how pitifully inadequate that word was: “adorned.” I thought of what other word might better describe this grandiose sight before my eyes. And then it occurred to me: that word has not yet been invented!

This great city looked like the most intricate yet massive piece of jewelry imaginable. I could see the River of Life flowing from a stately and massive gold throne at the head of a main boulevard crowded with people coming and going to and fro. There were great waterfalls that would have dwarfed anything on earth by which this river descended to the other levels of the Heavenly City. There were hundreds of levels, it seemed, and so great was their separation that you could have flown airplanes in between them and they would have seemed like specs. On the banks of the river were trees so simple in their beauty, yet able to immediately draw the eye. Were those Trees of Life, I wondered? The angel on my left shook his head yes. I saw some people picking some fruit from these trees, and then carefully picking some leaves and folding them ever so delicately into a white napkin. I remembered that the Tree of Life had twelve kinds of fruit and the leaves were “for the healing of the nations.”

The myriad of twin, glowing orbs soon became distinct to me as other angelic escorts with bedazzled passengers just like me in tow now appeared everywhere. We were all funneling in toward this giant gate on one wall of this gargantuan city. “How could this grandiose edifice be out here without our telescopes ever picking it up?” I wondered to myself. So puzzling was that thought that it in fact made me doubt the reality of the events of the last few moments. A the precise instant of that thought, one of my escorts looked me right in the eye. That had only happened once so far—at the moment when they first came upon me in the car underwater. Then I realized something ever so profound that I knew instantly from his look (I use the pronoun “his” advisedly, as I really could not tell whether my two angelic friends were male or female; in fact they seemed like a perfect blend of both—very graceful and soft, but very strong and determined.) “He knew what I had just thought!” I exclaimed to myself. Incapable of assessing in any meaningful terms what this experience of mine was fully all about, I remember trying to come up with a rational and intelligent assessment that was commensurate with the grandeur, majesty and mystery of what was unfolding all around me. Not the least of this was still the amazing nature of these two sentient beings who had not yet let go of my arms even once. My puny and woefully inadequate little human mind could only frame the thought: “These guys are really something!” I was as embarrassed at the magnitude of my understatement as I was dumbfounded and awed at the heavenly vision unfolding still before me. At this, the other angel seemed amused. Did you ever have a grin on your face you didn’t want someone else to see for fear they would be embarrassed at being the subject of your amusement? Well, angels can have that look too, I learned.

Then there was a thought that hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as if all of the grandeur, majesty and magnificence before me all of a sudden did not matter. The entire experience came into focus for me in just one thought that instantly filled every corner of my mind, every square millimeter of my heart and went to the depths of my soul: where is Jesus?

I could hear some singing afar off. It was some kind of heavenly choir with what had to be thousands and thousands of voices. I wondered if they were singing praises to Him. I was disappointed when I saw that we were veering away from them. I so wanted to get closer to see and hear them. I think I as much wanted to see them up close as I did hear them. The brilliance of the light emanating from them was truly a sight to behold. Somehow that light seemed to pulse to their singing. It was almost as if their voices had dimensions other than just sound; such things were completely foreign to me. The music had color and a brilliant and living light that changed with every note!

Soon we were navigating down what looked like jeweled avenues and boulevards. They were intersected at right angles by other thoroughfares; some of these were even vertical. This took some adjusting within my customary frame of reference. I soon learned that I had to stop thinking in terms of “up” and “down.” The missing element, I soon realized, was gravity. Nobody was floating about, but the citizens there apparently had the ability to just will themselves about, or that was how it looked to me.

I kept thinking how John had described meeting Jesus in His glorified body in his vision on the isle of Patmos. I kept telling myself, “If you think you have been overwhelmed up to now, just wait until you see Him!” I could barely process that thought.

The angels then brought me down and placed me on the ground. They held my hands as they walked me toward a bench whereupon was sitting a robbed man in sandals with close-cropped black hair and a beard. It was Jesus!

I knew He was Jesus. I just knew even from a distance. There was not a shred of doubt. For some reason, however, this was a very, very “human” looking Jesus. He had nothing in common with the Jesus described by John. Looking at Him was not like looking at molten metal, or the sun at high noon. He was just sitting there on a simple wooden bench and wearing a white robe that could have been made out of cotton or linen. This may sound silly, but He looked Jewish. Nevertheless, I was speechless—paralyzed would perhaps be a better word. He had dark, thick hair, but not at all long. He had a beard, but not a long beard. His robe was tied at the waist with a gold cloth belt. His eyes were brown and very, very vivid and clear and powerful. I instantly thought of Matthew to whom Jesus spoke only the words, “Follow me” and Matthew left everything and followed Him, as had other disciples. As I looked into those eyes, I was riveted by their power and their purity and at that instant I perfectly understood what Matthew had done and why. I would have done the very same thing without a second’s hesitation. How could one not have obeyed His command to follow Him?

The next thing I knew, He walked toward me, grinning from ear to ear, His arms outstretched and He gave me a hug. I have never felt more love pouring out from another being in all my life. It was like all the love that had ever been directed toward me as a child by my mother, and father had just been multiplied by a million and poured directly into my heart in a fraction of a second, a heart that I instantly knew was made as the perfect vessel for that love. In an instant, I was renewed, regenerated and healed as never before, not even realizing how imperfect a human being I really had been until His perfection powerfully flooded my entire body, mind and soul.

Every single thing in my entire life had just been made right. I could not explain it, but I could not deny that it had just happened. Then He held me at arm’s length and with a grin that simply radiated, He looked me in the eye and said, “I have been waiting a long time to do that, Jeremy!”

At that moment, a great mystery concerning Jesus Christ was revealed to me: I knew exactly how all those people whom He had touched were healed. I knew how the woman who only touched the hem of His garment was healed. I knew how Peter’s mother-in-law had been healed. I knew how the blind man had been made to see. I understood in an instant that when His divine energy flowed into you that it was just as impossible to not be made whole as it was for a lightbulb to remain dark when it became energized by an electric current. I knew at that instant exactly what He had meant when He was once touched and said, “I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.” That virtue had just flooded my soul.

I am sure that He knew that I was having difficulty assimilating the magnitude of the moment, particularly what seemed to be His absence of a glorified body. When He said to me, “I am Jesus of Nazareth,” I then understood. I did not yet have my glorified body, so I was not equipped to experience the greater reality of who Jesus Christ really was in the more complete sense. I was seeing Jesus as the disciples knew Him 2,000 years ago. He bade me to sit on the bench with Him. Then He began to speak, still unable to suppress that warm and energetic divine smile of His, and with the power of His love for me still radiating from Him like the rays of the sun piercing parting clouds.

“Do you like my home?” He asked me, extending His arms outward and upward.

“Oh yes!” I answered. “It is magnificent!”

“It is a work in progress,” He continued. “We have many new arrivals every day. We are constantly preparing the homes of those who will be arriving later as well. Sometimes we think their mansion is perfect for them, and then we have to make it bigger.”

“May I ask why?” I said.

“Of course you may. The mansions up here serve a purpose. Every neighborhood is an extended earthly family. People maintain a family closeness in Heaven. One of the first things the heavenly citizens do every day, after they have come to me to offer their praise and glory and get their daily hug, is to pay a visit to those who brought them into the family of faith in their earthly lives. That is a most cherished bond up here, as you can imagine. Those with the most visitors need the biggest mansions. Pretty simple, isn’t it? Those who taught them, nurtured them in my Word, and cared for their souls and prayed for them get a lot of visits too. So as earthly ministries flourish, sometimes we find that somebody’s mansion is just going to be too small!”

That led me quickly to understand why on the outskirts of these grand avenues and glass boulevards there were some very quaint but humble little one room homes. They looked more like cabins to me. They had stunning flora and vegetation growing all around them such as I did not recognize as being earthly, but it didn’t seem like these homes were made with the need to do a lot of entertaining in mind.

Jesus spoke again: “Yes, this is a place I love. I thought of it so often during my life on earth. It is a place that the Father and I designed, and that the Holy Spirit built. Hard to beat a construction team like that, isn’t it, Jeremy?” He said with a smile. I could tell that the Lord had a sense of humor. “Who would have ever thought it?” I thought. As it turned out, I would see more of it later.

I nodded in agreement.

“Everything here was designed and made by God,” Jesus added. “Well, almost everything.” With that phrase added, another kind of expression came across His face. Not a sad look, but a more serious countenance, as He then added: “Only these were made by man.” He then extended His hands toward me and turned His palms upward and showed me His scars.

I began to shake and tremble, and tears flooded my eyes in an instant. I tried to utter the only two words that came to mind, but I could not speak. My vocal cords were trying, but they seemed to be completely seized, and my hands were now shaking uncontrollably. Finally He placed His hand on my shoulder, and the trembling stopped and I could then speak:

“Thank you” I said softly, speaking in little more than a whisper, as my gaze became riveted on those large scars in both of His hands. “How trite and impotent those words were!” I chastised myself in my mind. I have never meant those words as I did at that moment, but they just fell so inexpressibly short of saying what needed to be said as I beheld those hands. At that instant I fully knew how much He loved me, and I could literally see the gratitude pouring from my heart into His. Yes, heavenly music does pulse with light, but gratitude has a glow all its own that the Lord soaked up with an indescribable sense of delight and wonder right before my very eyes. There was something I can only describe as childlike element to His expression. I had just made the Lord of the Universe happy—very happy, and my heart soared like a hawk. As my heart was made the perfect vessel for His divine love, I thought that perhaps His heart was the perfect vessel for mine.

Jesus continued. “Jeremy, you are a very special guest here in Heaven.”

“Guest?” I thought. I assumed that this was a reference to the fact that even Heaven would one day pass away. I didn’t give it a second thought.

“I watched you every day, you know,” Jesus said to me. I watched over you every day in the womb even. I saw your remarkable journey to the place of faith that you one day found. I know you had a lot of questions along the way, and I know that a lot of your questions were never really answered for you. I tried to lead you to some good churches, but so many of them were led by self-serving pastors who had lost their passion to shepherd and disciple my people, that it became harder and harder for me to use them in any meaningful way in my work. Their messages were the equivalent of opening a can of food and calling it a real meal. They did not understand that where the Scripture says that they are not to judge, that they still have the obligation to apply my judgment in all areas of life. Those are two different things, you know. Not only that, but so amazingly few of my people had a true hunger to learn of me, and so they were satisfied Sunday after Sunday with uninspired preaching, and little or no real spiritual growth for themselves. We call it “skyscraper preaching” up here: story on top of story, and very little Bible.

Other church goers settled for what I called “vain repetition” when I saw it back in Jerusalem. That is why when I walked the earth and contemplated my return centuries later, I wondered if there would be any faith left anywhere in the earth when I returned.”

“The greatest expressions of spirituality in many churches are the elderly saints who sit quietly and just listen. Many of them know me so much better than the pastors who would presume to preach to them every week as if they could add to the faith or Christian character of these dear old saints. Their vain assumptions that they can do this by their example has become especially offensive to me. But I must tell you, Jeremy, that there is something else as well that I see in a lot of churches that is very disturbing to me and to my Father.”

“What is that, Lord?” I asked quietly.

“It is church conflict—churches with inner turmoil and squabbles. Do you know what it says to me when these conflicts separate Christians for good? It says that what separates them is to them greater than what unites them. It says that their perceived personal offenses are in their minds beyond the grace of God to heal. It says that their sins against me were not as difficult to forgive as someone else’s sins against them. That comes somewhat close to a person making themselves God, you know.”

Jesus’ brow was deeply furrowed as He spoke. But then He smiled broadly and looked at me.

“But you came to understand that faith was the important thing,” Jesus added. A lot of people do not seem to understand what I meant when I said “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believed.” I remember when Satan came to me about you just as he did to challenge God about Job thousands of years before. He said, “You watch that Jeremy; the first time something you do doesn’t make sense to him, he’ll be through with you!” I told him he was wrong about you. Then your nephew died in that accident. Ol’ Lucifer was just sure you would bail out on your faith over that. Then you yourself quoted from Job at the young man’s funeral: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” O did we ever rejoice up here when we heard that, Jeremy! Your nephew Brandon did too, I want to tell you. He was sitting right next to me as we watched his funeral. All of Heaven was talking about how you made that victory up here possible for us by your faith, and that young man Brandon made sure every last soul around here knew: ‘That’s my Uncle Jeremy!’ He went around telling everyone. I saw him telling Job about it, even. That made Job’s day, I want to tell you. He and Brandon are very close now. I see them together by the river all the time. They love to fish.”

“So Jeremy, I have arranged for this time with you,” Jesus said as He slapped my thigh with His right hand.” You can ask me anything you wish. I will stay here as long as you want. When you leave here after this meeting, I want you to have the assurance of a complete knowledge regarding everything that you have accepted by faith during your entire life on earth. I know there are a lot of things you couldn’t figure out in your life. Of course, I knew that it would be that way for you and so many others as well. That’s why I sent Job and others as an example of how faith could sustain a person in time of great doubt and even tragedy. The Apostle Paul understood that quite well, too. Remember when he asked me to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” and I answered him, “My grace is sufficient?” You took that as your life’s verse, didn’t you, Jeremy? I was very proud of you, son. Those are always great moments for me. It is often these precious little moments that I see as compensating my sorrows in my earthly life.”

I was dumbfounded. There was a tremendously real link between the earthly life and the God of the universe! He watched and cared and reacted to our lives. “How amazing!” I thought. I still, however, kept wondering if I was dreaming all this. Then it occurred to me: it doesn’t matter if I am dreaming. The reality of it all is something I will never forget. If this was a dream, than it was still a vehicle well suited to the unmistakable power and presence and truths of God in my life. The clarity, detail, wonder, scope, and powerfully vivid and transcendent beauty of all that I had experienced in the last few moments alone was something that I would always have. Now the Creator of the universe has offered to reveal any and all of His secrets. What could I do but take the next step? I knew immediately what my first question would be. I wanted to first ask Him all about the creation of the universe. I now had available to me a first-hand account of the Creation, and I was beside myself in anticipation.

Could this really be, I wondered. Was I, an undeserving audience of one, about to have a personal and divine narrative of God creating the universe? The answer was in Jesus’ eyes and in His confident and supremely loving smile. That answer was “yes!”

   -   © JK-Phd All Rights Reserved