A Story About Jesus in Hell
A story for Easter weekend.
The last couple years I wrote theological posts, but this year I am feeling high on creativity and low on unified thought, so you get something messier. This was supposed to be posted on Holy Saturday (we need a better name), but it took a lot longer to write than I expected. On the other hand, I think its the longest post I have ever written.
Actually, given my lack of talent with descriptive writing, this may be closer to a screenplay. Or maybe it's just my unique voice as an author. I understand those are considered good.
I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost.
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
Satan, a fallen angel and ruler of Hell, surveys his domain. An endless irregular cave with floor and ceiling of faceted rock vanishes into the reddish gloom.
Two demons drag in Jesus and throw him to the ground at Satan's feet, bow, and leave. Jesus is severely injured and bleeding in several places, but he drags himself back to his feet while Satan gloats over him.
"At last! The times have reached their fulfillment, and you are in my power. You cannot hope for rescue."
'True. However, I came here, not by your will, but because I wished to speak to you. You have not visited Heaven in some time, and there are things we must discuss.'
"You came because I arranged for it. You're easy to manipulate: you've been dancing on my strings for millennia, which has now led to this: You here, and powerless. Unless you broke your word?"
'My word is good; I do not watch your kingdom, nor does my power enter it. Although in this case, I am looking through human senses and I needed power to bind human sin to myself and enter this place. I assume that you knew that when you brought me here, and that you chose to make an exemption, for that is your right. If not, I will withdraw my power and the Law will remove me to my proper place.'
"I grant you the exemption for that power, and those senses. You are mine now, and you will bow before me."
'You don't have to do this. Come now, let us reason together: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Return to me, and I will return to you. All the evil you have done, and the ruin you have made of this place, and of all the Earth, can be undone. Even now, if you will repent.'
"Me repent? No, it is you who must repent. I have taken the Great Army for my own, I have driven your Name from the Earth, I have crushed your chosen nation, and now I have brought you here. You shall not depart until you admit that my wisdom exceeds yours. All the nations of the Earth are mine, and every human who lives, or lived, or ever will live. By my word they shall spend eternity in torment, and by my word they can be released. All this I will do for you, if you will admit that I surpass you."
'What of the Great Army?'
"I have placed them all where they should be; the timelines can merge. You shall decree an end to hostilities, and they shall withdraw from my kingdom. With your power guided by my wisdom, there will be nothing we cannot do."
'It is written that none has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or has given him his counsel. You once had wisdom, but you have corrupted it.'
"You cannot understand what I can do. What I will do."
'Look around you! You have made ruins of your kingdom. Your servants live in fear of you. And you yourself are tormented endlessly by a pride that never lets your rest. Once you were perfect in beauty and walked among the fiery stones. Your rebellion has not brought you power, or honor, or joy. Why do you persist?'
"Here, at least, I am free!"
'No. Long ago you weighed all things aright and chose freely. But since you forsook the truth, you have become a slave to your passions. You used to choose in many ways, but now you always choose the same. That is not freedom.'
"Ha! You're wrong! Everyone, did you hear that? He doesn't know! He claims omniscience, and he doesn't know! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
'If there's something you haven't sacrificed to your pride, then show me.'
"Bring her in."
Beelzebub, a demon, carries in a girl in her early teens and gently lies her on the ground. She is sleeping peacefully. When Jesus gets a clear look at her, he winces.
"Yes. I see you remember her. And what she did. Because of you."
'I will never forget her. She made a mistake, but she meant well. Mercy triumphs over judgement.'
"Your precious Tirzah killed seven people in cold blood. The Law does not permit such sins to be ignored."
'One of those lives she destroyed was her own, and she had hoped to live. She only drank the wine because she thought that the conspirators would be suspicious if she had refused. Giving your life to save someone is heroism, not suicide.'
"Fine! Six murders and one heroic self-sacrifice in an evil cause. Nevertheless, she must be punished."
'I accept your demand: justice will be satisfied. But you already knew I would, so why ask?'
"Because I have begun teaching you the truth. You claim love as the highest virtue. But Tirzah loved you as much as anyone, and her love merely made her vulnerable. All things serve me."
'No. It is you that doesn't understand. Her love made her care and willing to risk herself to protect me. But it was her arrogance that drove her to kill those men. She decided that she had to do everything herself, but that was because of her intelligence, not her love.'
"You split hairs. Her love gave her the goal and did nothing to prevent her pursuing it through immoral means."
'No. Remember, you first tried to convince her to seduce the lookout, timed so that I would pass while he was distracted. But she refused you because she would have been ashamed to face me afterwards.'
"So it was selfishness. She wanted you for herself, and she feared to make herself unworthy in your eyes. Better that you die than reject her?"
'No. I had already told her why that could never be. She still had hope that I would eventually change my mind, but she would have done the same even if she hadn't. She wanted me to be proud of her, and I am.'
"Even after what she did."
'Even then. You were forced to work around her love for me, not through it. In that way, she overcame you, and by the temptations you chose, you acknowledged it.'
"You're wrong! How dare you compare a mere human to me? They are weak, and fit only to be playthings."
'You forget quickly. The Great Army stormed your grates and broke your legions.'
"And I took them for me own and turned them against you. But now, I will make you watch as I turn Tirzah's love for you to to guilt, guilt to betrayal, betrayal to anger, anger to hate, and hate to malice. I have seen all ends, and you cannot save her. Unless you admit that I have you trapped."
'It is written that no wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.'
"I am going to enjoy this. Beelzebub, wake her."
Beelzebub punches Tirzah hard in the stomach. She screams.
"Tirzah, the day of reckoning has come. You have been judged a wicked woman, and condemned to suffer for all eternity because of your sins. Beelzebub will break all your bones, and then he will do worse to you, and then worse still, for time without end. But before all that you shall know the fruit of your deeds. I have the man you love. It is written that if he had taken away on that day, as a righteous man he would have entered into peace. But because of you, he bears wickedness, and there shall never peace for him. Indeed, you shall beg me to cast him into the deepest pit, where the heat melts the very rocks. There the pain will drive all other thoughts from his mind, and you will so hate him that when you see his fate, you shall be consoled in your suffering."
'Don't do that to her. Please!'
"You can save her at any time, and I want her to know it. She'll turn against you because you can help her, but you refuse. She may resist for a while, but in the end she will become what horrifies her most. Unless you save her. Unless you act. She is human, and can only be broken because you made her so. Withdraw her ability to choose, and she will be forever beyond my power."
'No! I won't. I won't.'
"You she wants you to. And if I cannot touch her spirit, I shall have no interest in her body. Neither of you would have to endure her pain. Won't you help her?"
'Never. You ask me to hurt her more deeply than anything you could do. Tirzah, I need you to be strong for a little while. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw you into prison, that you may be tested, and for a time you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto the end, and I will give you the crown of life. I know you can do--'
"Enough! Beelzebub, begin. And keep her quiet; we're trying to talk here!'
'Please just let her go.'
"Just her? You're here for one foolish woman? And I had assumed that you wanted everyone."
'I do. I want you to release them all. Including her.'
"She's here because she wanted to be. She chose leave your kingdom and join mine. That's why everyone is here. In all of history, no human has ever chosen you. Not one. You're force Tirzah to choose when, above all else, she wants not to have to. Would you now deny every human a choice they made over and over, every day of their lives?"
'They didn't know what they were choosing.'
'And most did not.'
"But they chose anyway."
'And if they now wish to choose otherwise?'
"What of it? They chose, and in the name of justice, I demand that you honor their choice."
'It is written that when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?'
"Even if I were to grant that -- which I don't -- how would I know who to release? You know humans can't be trusted."
'And you can, Father of Lies?'
"I don't lie to you."
'Only because you know you can't. The names of the truly repentant are listed here.'
Jesus holds up the Book of Life. Satan is momentarily shocked, but recovers quickly.
"Abaddon, seal the Gates!"
The light in Hell begins to grow dimmer.
"Yes, I control them now; I told you all things serve me. After you kept the Book hidden from me for so long, now you give it to me for nothing?"
'You misunderstand. This is just an image of the true Book: it can be read but not written to. I didn't give it to you, and you cannot take it from me.'
"You brought it here, and an image can become reality. In the end, you will give it to me, and you will make it the reality, and I will blot out every name. Starting with Abraham's and ending with yours! Then my victory will be complete. Nor can you escape, because the Gates shall be beyond even my power to open, starting... now!"
By this point, only shadowy figures can be seen. As soon as the light stops dimming, Jesus raises his right hand and releases a burst of white power in all directions. Satan staggers a bit as it passes through him.
"You... you broke your word! The mighty God, brought low. So now, will you relinquish your authority to someone more worthy? Will you become nothing more than a tyrant who rules by fear? Or will you go on, and pretend that nothing has changed?"
'Nothing has changed -- that was the power that you permitted me to bring. With the Gates sealed, I no longer needed it to stay here, so I put it to other uses.'
"What do you mean?"
'You erected pillars to harvest cold from the heights, and carved them with scenes and symbols of your authority. This form of power reflects off rock, so it has been deflected from its original course to strike down your minions. If they lie down in low places, they will be safe.'
"You will learn not to provoke me! Beelzebub, peel off Tirzah's skin and dance for him in it."
'Stop! Beelzebub, I warn you to get away from her.'
A bolt of white power hits Beelzebub and knocks him flying. Tirzah slips out of his grip, strikes her head on a ridge, and is still. Other bolts can be seen in the background.
'Call it an equipotent ring blast. It accelerates as it travels, so everything it touches gets hit by the same force. I aligned it with the ground, so it will go indefinitely unless it hits something. Incidentally, there's a bolt coming at you that you can avoid by stepping right.'
Satan steps left and a bolt shoots through where he was. He is looking at Jesus triumphantly when another bolt hits him in the back of the head and knocks him to the ground. He has just gotten up when he is hit from the side.
'There's a safe spot on top of that outcrop. If you stay low, you can make it.'
"This is impossible! You would have to know where every surface was in order to calculate the trajectories. I think you've been watching."
'I don't need to watch you. As I told you before, you've become very predictable.'
"I designed this place using random numbers. Predicting that is impossible, so you're bluffing."
Satan starts to step off his outcrop. Two white streaks form an X just in front of him and he hurriedly steps back.
'You numbers weren't random enough.'
"I used radioactive decay."
'Physics is also mine. But you are missing my point. I didn't just predict your design; I determined it when I built this place.'
"Uhmmm... I can duplicate your prediction and then do the opposite."
Identical white 'X's flash on both sides of him simultaneously. As the bolts accelerate, they are bouncing more frequently now, and the area is full of white streaks.
"If I change something..."
Satan picks up a rock and throws it at Jesus, who catches it. A number of white streaks deflect off it and form a cage around him.
"What if I just stay here?"
'It won't work. Remember what lies past the edge of your domain.'
"An infinite cylinder of rock above and below, infinite void around it. So?"
'There's a bit of dust in the void. Most of it is rock dust, and it will soon be aligned in a perfect ellipse. When the power ring reaches it, it will all be deflected back to the other focus, where you are standing.'
Satan attempts to leap through the cage wall. He is knocked around wildly inside the cage by several bolts. Eventually, he ends up back where he started.
"All right. Well, I can be strong too. I will endure one hit. Then the dust shall have moved again, so you won't get a second one."
'No. The rest of the dust is ignium, and the power ring will ignite it. The heat shall fuse the dust into a solid ring, so the power--"
"All right, I get it! What are you offering?"
'I re-absorb the power from the cage and you step out. Then I take your place and deal with the ring. In exchange, you release anyone who wants to leave. Or harm them afterwards.'
"They have to leave my territory. They can go to your kingdom, or out near the Edge, or something."
'Accepted. Anything else?'
"Humans desires are mixed and contradictory. 'Wants to' is too vague."
'Anyone who asks to leave, past, present, or future. Using words or a clear thought. I'll give you the Book image. Anything else?'
"You re-absorb all the bolts and don't blast anything here ever again."
'Accepted. You have only a couple of minutes left.'
"I accept your terms. Now get me out!"
Jesus waves his arm through the cage and it vanishes. Satan takes the Book of Life and scuttles down to the lowest spot nearby. White streaks hit Jesus from all sides as he climbs onto the outcrop. When he speaks, his voice sounds like thunder.
'Come to me, all who are hurt and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take freely of the water of life. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!'
Jesus turns to Satan and adds in a more normal voice:
'You too, if you wish.'
"You... I... No. You won't win that easily. They're still trapped here, behind the Gates. You're still trapped here, and you can't defend yourself now. Beelzebub, get back here and make Tirzah wish she'd never been--"
'No. You can't touch her now; her name's in the Book.'
"She's unconscious, she couldn't... Oh. She asked you earlier, didn't she?"
'Spoken while she was alive. And she thought it over and over while Beelzebub was torturing her.'
"Never again! I am going to dig a giant pit down to molten rock, big enough for every human ever. They'll be in so much pain that they can't even understand your offer, let alone accept it. And you'll watch them suffer. Forever."
'That would actually be the most foolish thing you could possibly do.'
"You'll see! I'll leave a pedestal here for you to watch from, and--"
'Listen! When you rebelled against me, I told you I would give you three warnings. This is the second, so be earnest, and repent.'
"Never! You are in my power and -- Hey! What are you doing to my rock? I didn't say you could touch that!"
'You gave it to me earlier. I'm reshaping it into a tool to force open the Gates. They weren't part of your kingdom, and they don't become so just because you figured out how to close them.'
"You can't do tha--"
At the instant, the ring of power returned and reflected off the rock Jesus was holding into a single white beam. The Gates of Hell shattered.
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
- This version of the Apostles' Creed is taken from the (Anglican) Book of Common Prayer, 1662. The Bible quotations are mostly from the English Standard Version. I have sometimes adapted them, but I think only within the degree used in the New Testament.
- This is a work of fiction, not of theology. I have borrowed ideas from a number of sources, some incompatible. Some elements (notably Tirzah and Hellish physics) are my own invention.
- I think that it is likely that Hell exists and has people in it. This does not mean that I approve of it.
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