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Guide The Mostly True Story of Hell & Paradise

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The same thing is true for some writers of stories. They are drawn to a particular atmosphere, a particular kind of landscape; they want to wander about in it and relish its special tastes and sounds, even before they know what story they're going to tell. Books I and II are full of these magnificent and terrifying landscapes, and when the tale reaches Paradise itself, in Book IV, the descriptions reach a peak of sensuous delight that we can almost taste. But landscapes and atmospheres aren't enough for a story; something has to happen.

And it helps the tightness and propulsion of the story enormously if it's the protagonist himself who sets the action going, who takes the initiative. It also encourages our interest in the protagonist to develop into admiration. That is exactly what happens here, as the fallen angels, who are devils now, gather themselves after their great fall, and begin to plot their revenge. The interest here is in how Milton handles the narrative. How well does he tell the story? I think it could hardly be told any better. We can see and hear the plan taking shape, we can feel the surge of determination and energy it brings, and inevitably that makes us curious to know how they'll bring it off.

There is a sort of curiosity that isn't short-circuited by our knowledge of how things did, in fact, turn out: Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal demonstrates that although we know full well that General de Gaulle was not assassinated, we are still eager to read about how he might have been. And Milton is careful to remind us that it was Satan himself who first thought of this plan, and it is Satan who sets out across the wastes of Hell to find his way to the new world.

The hero is firmly in charge. If the opening of a story is important, the closing of one part of it, a chapter, a canto, is important in a different way. The purpose here is to charge the forthcoming pause with tension and expectation. Popular storytellers have always had a firm grasp of this principle; it's exactly what Conan Doyle does, for example, at the end of first episode of The Hound of the Baskervilles , in the Strand Magazine for August Dr Mortimer has just been describing the mysterious death of Sir Charles Baskerville and mentions the footprints nearby.

Storytelling principles hold true, whatever the subject, whatever the medium. Time the pause right, and the audience will be eager for what follows. The break after the end of the second book of Paradise Lost is powerfully charged with tension because it obeys that principle. After his journey to the gates of Hell, and his encounter with Sin and Death, Satan sees the distant vastness of Heaven:.

And fast by hanging in a golden chain This pendent world, in bigness as a star Of smallest magnitude close by the moon. And there Book II ends, and we pause with that image in our minds. This newly created world, suspended in its golden chain, so beautiful and fresh, knows nothing of what is coming towards it. But we know. To cite Alfred Hitchcock again, who knew more about suspense than most other storytellers, you can depict four men sitting around a table calmly playing cards, and the audience will be on the edge of their seats with tension — as long as the audience knows what the card-players don't, namely that there is a bomb under the table about to go off.

Milton knew that too. There are examples of his great storytelling power all the way through — far too many to mention here. But one we should look at is the very end of the poem. Adam and Eve have chosen to disobey the explicit command of God, and the consequences of this have been laid out for them not only by their own experience of guilt and shame, but also by the narrative of the future they've heard from the angel Michael. They must leave Eden: Paradise is now irrecoverably lost.

This is a part of the story that has often been illustrated, and in a picture the scene is indeed intensely dramatic, with the man and woman in tears and the angel with the fiery sword expelling them — just as it is in Burghers's engraving. William Strang also depicted the famous scene in this 19th-century etching. The angel raises his mighty sword to expel Adam and Eve from Paradise, Book But the story closes on a mood, a tender emotional harmony that is both crystal-clear and profoundly complex.

Part of its complexity depends on the interplay between the past and the future, between regret and hope, and this is the very thing that is so difficult to convey in a picture, where the only tense is the present. The best way to experience the full richness of this mood is to read the last lines of the poem aloud, as I've suggested earlier, and succumb to the enchantment, because at this point poetry and storytelling come together perfectly.

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There are many more stories to come. The angel drives Adam and Eve out of Paradise, and towards a new beginning, Book A poem is not a lecture; a story is not an argument. The way poems and stories work on our minds is not by logic, but by their capacity to enchant, to excite, to move, to inspire. To be sure, a sound intellectual underpinning helps the work to stand up under intellectual questioning, as Paradise Lost certainly does; but its primary influence is on the imagination. So it was, for instance, with the greatest of Milton's interpreters William Blake , for whom the author of Paradise Lost was a lifelong inspiration.

And Blake's continuing and passionate interest in Milton resulted in a long and, frankly, difficult poem named after the poet , as well as a series of illustrations to Paradise Lost which are some of the most delicate and beautiful watercolours he ever did. Michael leads Adam and Eve out of Paradise Book 12, l. Other poets at the same period felt the influence of Milton, Wordsworth in particular, who began one of his sonnets with the words:.

And very near the beginning of his own great long poem, The Prelude , Wordsworth deliberately echoes the phrase in the closing lines of Paradise Lost :. Today, nearly three and a half centuries after Paradise Lost was first published, it is more influential than ever. Two separate dramatic adaptations have recently played on the stage in Britain; and only this morning I opened my post to find an American retelling of it, with attractive watercolour illustrations, in an edition for children.

'Waking Up in Heaven: A True Story of Brokenness, Heaven, & Life Again' by Crystal McVea

It will not go away. In my own case, the trilogy I called His Dark Materials stealing that very phrase from Book II, line 96, with due acknowledgement in the epigraph began partly with my memories of reading the poem aloud at school so many years before. As I talked to my publisher, I discovered that he too remembered studying it in the sixth form, and we sat at the lunch table swapping our favourite lines; and by the time we'd finished, I seemed to have agreed to write a long fantasy for young readers, which would at least partly we hoped, evoke something of the atmosphere we both loved in Paradise Lost.

So it was the landscape, the atmosphere that was my starting point. But as the narrative began to form itself on the page, I found that — perhaps drawn by the gravitational attraction of a much greater mass — I was beginning to tell the same story, too. I wasn't worried about that, because I was well aware that there are many ways of telling the same story, and that this story was a very good one in the first place and could take a great deal of retelling.

Inevitably, the storyteller's own preoccupations become visible in the emphasis and the colouring they give to this or that aspect of the tale. In my case, I found that my interest was most vividly caught by the meaning of the temptation-and-fall theme. Suppose that the prohibition on the knowledge of good and evil were an expression of jealous cruelty, and the gaining of such knowledge an act of virtue?

Suppose the Fall should be celebrated and not deplored? As I played with it, my story resolved itself into an account of the necessity of growing up, and a refusal to lament the loss of innocence. The end of human life, I found myself saying, was not redemption by a non-existent Son of God, but the gaining and transmission of wisdom.


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Innocence is not wise, and wisdom cannot be innocent, and if we are going to do any good in the world we have to leave childhood behind. That is how one modern writer told this great story. It will certainly be told many times again, and each time differently. I think it is the central story of our lives, the story that more than any other tells us what it means to be human.

But however many times it is told in the future, and however many different interpretations are made of it, I don't think that the version created by Milton, blind and ageing, out of political favour , dictating it day by day to his daughter, will ever be surpassed. Milton, blind and ageing, had to rely on others to record Paradise Lost for him. This is a fair copy of Book 1, written by a professional scribe. MA Purchased by Pierpoint Morgan, Do not reproduce without permission.

Philip Pullman is one of the most acclaimed writers working today. Philip Pullman's introduction to Paradise Lost. Philip Pullman first read Paradise Lost as a schoolboy and was dazzled by the sound of its poetry as he and his classmates read it aloud. We get another insight into this subject in the book of Revelation. In one of his visions, John was shown the glory of the New Jerusalem. It was so dazzling that the prophet was almost overwhelmed by the glory of it. As he drew nearer to the shining walls in his vision, John saw that the foundation of the city was composed of 12 precious stones, all of different colors.

Then he saw that a name was inscribed in each of the glittering foundation stones. Imagine his feelings at the moment he recognized his own name on one of those stones! All the apostles will be honored throughout eternity by having their simple Galilean names etched into the massive support stones of the New Jerusalem.

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What a thrill that must have been for John! After the New Jerusalem descends to this earth at the end of the thousand years, the earth will be re-created in its original, perfect form. We will have a city home as well as a country estate. The mansion in the New Jerusalem is being prepared right now by Jesus John We will build our own house in the country to our own specifications Isaiah , Will we be satisfied with the home Jesus is getting ready for us? For you! You may put your own name in there if you would like, because it is true. He went to get a place ready for you, and your name will be on it.

I like that, because the Lord is a builder who knows just exactly what I would like the most. I believe the Lord will meet each one of us and show us through the Holy City. He will escort us down those golden streets to show us all the different places of interest in the New Jerusalem. We will walk along the river of life, and He will tell us all about the tree of life, which grows over the river and bears a different manner of fruit each month.

He will take us down one street after another, and finally, as we move along, we are going to see a certain mansion. This one is especially for you. Remember that Isaiah promised we shall build houses and inhabit them? And we can pick our own location. There is the whole beautiful new world before us, and we can find the choicest place that will fit our own personality and put up our house right there.

I close my eyes sometimes and try to think of a place that would please me, and I can think of a lot of them that would make me happy. It will be without any spot of sin, for there will be no more curse upon the land. We will never be bothered by thieves or lose the house by fire. I have talked to poor people whose home had burned, destroying their every possession.

No, it is not going to be like that at all. There will be no limit to what you can learn. You will have a whole eternity before you to learn and understand. Join the heavenly choir. You can go into the bass section one day and learn to sing bass, and then you can go into the tenor section and sing tenor. You can sing all the parts and learn just as much about music as you want to learn.

You can learn architecture. You can learn to build. You can learn about nature. Or maybe you want to study astronomy. That is what the new earth will be like. We can travel with the speed of light. Angels can do it now. Daniel started praying one day, and before he ended his prayer an angel had come all the way from heaven to his side. We can go out to visit the great, expansive universe of God and understand things that no human mind has been able to comprehend before.

Oftentimes people ask me if there will be animals in heaven. The Bible has a surprising number of references to this question. Pet lovers will have a field day there! And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the suckling child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. Sometimes we have heard of lions that have been domesticated and will allow children to play on their backs.

Visits to Heaven and Hell, Part One

Too often, though, we have read stories of family pets which suddenly turned upon children, attacking them like wild animals. The ravages of sin have made animal nature unpredictable at best. But in the restored Eden of God there will be absolutely no danger of violence from lions, leopards, bears, or snakes—much less from the beloved animal pets of earth.

In this world, all of created life has to be on guard against attack at any time. The reign of tooth and claw has created an atmosphere of constant fear in the animal kingdom. Birds seem never relaxed as their heads dart from side-to-side, watching for potential attackers. Tragically, it is only in that restored paradise that we will be able to relax our own guard against criminal violence from fellow human beings.

For the first time since Eden men will be able to trust other men. No one will be there who could inflict harm or unhappiness on any creature. Since there will be no sickness, pain, or death, some occupations and professions will be totally out of place. No doctors, nurses, morticians, or insurance agents could find a soul to do business with. Financial problems will be banished forever. The very issues which cause the greatest grief now will not even exist in the minds of the saints. They will forget eternally the troubles of this life.

No doubt we will weep when the discovery is made that they are missing, but then God shall wipe all tears from their eyes. One of the greatest promises in the Bible is found in Revelation , 4. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

No more cause for sorrow—no pain, no death, no separation. In Isaiah we read something else about the people who will live in that new world. I probably should have stayed in bed. It will be done away with altogether. They are fine. They are not sick.

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They feel perfect. The immortal bloom of youth will be upon every face. Oh, I long for this experience more than for anything else. Children will be safe in this new kingdom God is preparing for us. Let me tell you this, parents, and you may take great comfort from it—your children will never be in danger of getting hit with automobiles.

I will never forget the scene in front of the tent in our Louisville crusade. Right in the middle of the street I saw a little girl who had been hit and killed by a car. I have never been able to blot out of my mind the scene of that little girl lying all crumpled up. The Bible says children will be there, and they are going to play in the streets and never get hurt. Parents, have you ever heard squealing automobile brakes which made you freeze in your tracks? Then you ran to the window with your heart in your mouth to see whether your child was in the street?

But there will be no fear that your children are not safe in the new earth. And even when they play alongside the river of life, you are not going to be worried about them at all. They will not fall in and drown. Children are going to grow up there. The Bible says they will grow up as calves in the stall, and I think we adults are going to grow up, too. We will grow up spiritually and intellectually. He was made in the image of God, and our poor minds have become dull by the inherited tendencies and weaknesses of 6, years of sin.

We will have to develop quite a bit to catch up with Adam, but we will learn quickly. No doubt we will grow up physically, too. The Bible says there were giants in the earth in those days. One man is described in the book of Genesis as being 10 feet tall. I can well believe that Adam and Eve were 12 or 15 feet tall. I believe the entire, final curse of sin will be taken away as we grow up into the image of God, as it was reflected in Adam and Eve.

We often interpret this to mean that parents can watch their children grow into holy adulthood, but could it not also apply to all of us as we grow out of the stunting effects of sin? Although we cannot be dogmatic on this point, it seems likely that this could happen. All defects will be left behind when we go there. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

Every mind will be keen and alert. While living in India I often saw heartbreaking scenes of human suffering and human wretchedness. Beggars lined the streets in certain places—crippled, twisted in body and mind, leprous, and blind. Not even a memory or reminder of such an experience will afflict the inhabitants of this glorious earth made new. With bodies that will never tire we may explore the majestic expanse of the City of God.

It will take only a tiny fragment of eternity to traverse every street of that New Jerusalem with its 1, mile wall of purest jasper. Every square inch of this reconstituted planet will scintillate with the rarest beauty and appeal. Those who love to travel will find heaven a special place. The entire unfallen universe will be open to our study and observation.

We will be able to visit the billions of exciting planets, solar systems, and galaxies that were never spoiled by the touch of sin. We may go where we like, stay as long as we please, and return as quick as a flash. Is anything more wonderful to contemplate? Maybe you are interested in people, as I am. Have you ever thought of the joy of getting acquainted with folk you have read about in the Bible?

In my library is a book in which a man tries to explain on a natural basis how Noah got all those animals into that ark. That is what we will do some day. We will be able to ask him about it and find out just how he did get all those animals in, and how they stayed for over a year. Oh, what an experience that must have been for Abraham! I have tried to imagine what that father felt as he toiled up the side of the mountain, knowing that with his own hand he had to kill his beloved son.

Even in our wildest imagination we find it difficult to envision those special contacts with Bible characters we have learned to love and respect. Nevertheless, it is thrilling to anticipate how it will be when we actually meet them. There is nothing quite like it in all the Bible. When it says that I have never seen anything to compare with heaven, that is great enough, because I have seen some wonderful things in this world. I saw the beautiful Taj Mahal in India. I have seen the towering mountains of Switzerland and the lovely tulip gardens of Holland, but heaven will be immeasurably more beautiful than any of those sights.

Some of my friends went up into the vale of Kashmir, over the great passes of the Himalaya Mountains. They tell me that nothing on earth can compare with those beautiful valleys! Some friends of mine in Pakistan went out into the Shangri-La country of Hunza, and they told me about the placid lakes and the beautiful mountains. It sounded wonderful; but, listen—the Bible says we have never heard about anything that would give us even the faintest idea of what heaven is really like. The text goes on to say that we have never even imagined the true beauty of it.

It has not entered into the heart of man. One of the most pleasing aspects of that holy habitation is that it will be a clean city and a clean country. Can you picture an entire city, much less a planet, in which no foul smell of stale cigarette smoke will ever be known? In that day God will have a limitless universe where no chemical poison can exist. The golden streets will never know the litter of beer cans and tobacco butts. I grew up near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the noisome smell of tobacco hung in the air of those city streets.

What a joy it was to get away from the area where so much natural beauty was negated by the miasma of nicotine pollution. Later I responded to a mission call to India, and our family located in the beautiful city of Bangalore. After settling into our cozy rented bungalow, an east wind sprang up and we found out what lay on the other side of the red wall across the street.

A tobacco factory! For a few more years we had to endure the unpleasant odor of the processed poison. After returning to the United States I responded to an invitation to pastor a church in Louisville, Kentucky. Just as we crossed over the city line our nostrils were assailed by a very familiar smell. Tobacco again! But this time it was combined with the stench of fermented alcohol. Louisville, we discovered, was famous for its tobacco and distilleries.

I am now convinced that there can be no real relief from these corrupting influences until I take up residence in that clean city of New Jerusalem. We have alluded to many of the dramatic changes in lifestyle that will mark those who inherit the new earth. We have tried to portray in human language the joy and delight of dwelling in a perfect environment, free from all sin and its despoiling influence. Each circumstance has been challenging and exciting.