Destination Final Series - Scene 1
A man accused of the most severe of all crimes in Jerusalem stands in a court hearing before the Sanhedrin Council. At the time, the early church was being brutally persecuted by a religious order known as the Zealots. Under the leadership of Saul of Tarsus, the Zealots were comprised of devoted Jews who would do anything for the preservation of the Jewish faith. They held the conviction that it was their responsibility to invalidate the teachings of Jesus that had been spreading throughout Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. The Zealots sought to annihilate the doctrine of Jesus and those who followed Him in any way they could, but their primary method was to murder those who acknowledged the then unpopular doctrine of Christianity. The Zealots concluded that Jesus was a demon possessed lunatic who supposed that He was the Son of God, and they believed it was their responsibility to put an end to His madness.
The man accused of this atrocious crime is a faithful follower of the doctrine of Christianity. His name is Stephen and his crime is blasphemy and according to Jewish Law blasphemy is a crime worthy of death by stoning. The whole city of Jerusalem is in an uproar as Stephen is led into the courtroom followed by a violent outraged mob who was shouting false accusations and obscenities at him.
As Stephen stood before the Sanhedrin Council with his hands bound in front of him, one of his accusers says to the High Priest,
“We have heard this man Stephen repeatedly speak blasphemous words against the prophet Moses and against God. Whenever he teaches the people his words are incessantly blasphemous against this holy place and against the law that Moses delivered to our forefathers, and with our own ears we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will annihilate this place and do away with the customs of Moses.”
Then the High Priest asks Stephen,
“The things that these men have said about you, are they true?”
Stephen remains calm as he looks up at the High Priest, and then with absolute self-confidence that God is with him Stephen answers,
“I know nothing of these accusations that I am accused of. I have been brought before the council and charged with this crime merely because I have told these men the truth and they have been offended by my words; for that reason they seek to kill me as they did the prophets of the Most High God—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Then turning to face his accusers, Stephen says, “You are a stubborn people who have continuously resisted the truth. All of you are following in the footsteps of your fathers who murdered the prophets of God one by one, as you intend to murder me this day.”
When the people heard his words they were cut to the heart and deeply offended. Disrupting the court session, they began to mumble, first to themselves, and then to each other. Then all of a sudden as if they were controlled by some unseen mysterious force, Stephen’s accusers were violently aroused and they all started to shout obscenities at him. But Stephen seemingly unmoved by the violent behavior of the crowd looked toward heaven and began to pray. Because of their strong hatred for the teachings of Jesus, the Jews loathed anyone who practiced the doctrine of Christianity, so the angry mob quickly overpowered Stephen and dragged him out of the courtroom to a deserted place in the wilderness outside the city where they tied his hands, this time behind his back, and bound his feet at the ankles.
Stephen, realizing that the hour of his death was upon him began to audaciously preach to his assailants that Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
“This man Jesus,” shouted Stephen “is the Living Word which God sent to the children of Israel—He is Lord of all. And each of you knows what I am saying is true because it was proclaimed throughout all Judea, of how God anointed His Son Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how this man Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And many of you are living witnesses of the things which he did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, and you know that he was falsely accused of criminal offenses that he did not commit and was crucified, being hung on a tree. I tell you that this same Jesus whom they crucified, God delivered from death on the third day and showed him openly to many people in the city, and he is now seated in heaven at the right hand of God. It is he, Jesus of Nazareth, who has commanded me to preach to you and to testify that this same Jesus, whom you crucified but could not kill, has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. He was, and is ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets witnessed that through his name, whoever believes that he is the son of the true and living God will be forgiven of their sins.”
When Stephen had finished preaching the people grew even more furious and from the crowd someone shouted, “Why do we listen to the words of this blasphemer? He is nothing but a troublemaker, as was this Jesus whom he preaches. I say we should stone him!”
Then one by one the people began to respond, “Stone him! Why do we listen to his lies? Stone him!”
And then in unison the angry mob cries out, “Death to the blasphemer; stone him!”
As they continued shouting at Stephen building up the courage to stone him, an enormous cavernous opening suddenly appeared in the air directly in front of Stephen. It was a tunnel of some sort that just appeared from nowhere. No one saw the tunnel-like gateway but Stephen alone. There was a bright white light radiating from the interior of the opening, pulsating, like the flickering, waving flame of a fire, dancing as it were to the undefined rhythm of a life force.
Next to the entrance of this cavernous opening there stood a tall glowing muscular life form that had also appeared out of thin air. He stood motionless like a palace guard, extending an open hand toward the gateway’s entrance as if it were a gesture for Stephen to enter the tunnel-like opening. Although he resembled a man in appearance his physical features were unlike those of any human. There was a bright glow of light radiating from his body that was as bright as the sun.
As he gazed into the tunnel’s opening Stephen could see the form of two other beings, one sitting, and the other standing. The one that was sitting appeared to be made of pure energy. His human-like form could be seen in spite of the bright glow that emanated from his presence. The one standing looked like a flesh and blood man. Seeing this Stephen pointed toward the figures he saw and said to the angry mob, “Look! Look there! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
When they heard this, those wishing to see him dead thought that Stephen had lost his mind and they became even more agitated. Then one of the men in the crowd shouted, “See! It is just as we say; this man has lost his mind. Listen to what he says. ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ We see nothing of this vision of his. Surely this man is mad.”
Then the mob rushed upon him yelling, “Stone him,” and one by one they picked up stones and begin to throw them at Stephen. But still looking intently in the gateway, Stephen fell to his knees and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and do not charge these people with this sin.”
When he had said this he fell motionless before the crowd as the stones continued to rain upon his lifeless body. Then the crystal being that stood by the opening of the gateway stretched out his hand and calling him by name Stephen’s spirit emerged from his body and stood upright. Then he said to Stephen, “Come with me. Your work here is done, and your time to be in this realm has expired. Now you will enter into the presence of God; He has prepared a place for you and there he will wipe away all your tears you will live in continual peace, never to suffer again.”
Then, together they stepped into the gateway of eternity and the anomalous opening closed behind them.
Excerpted from my upcoming novel, Destination Final