Chapter 12 Johan: Questions and Revelations

There was something about Yvonne’s love of life that gave Johan the freedom to be himself. From their first meetings he had been aware that his fondness for her was very different from the way he had thought about women in the Previous Age. Spending time with Yvonne did not send the blood rushing to his head as it would have done back then, and he marvelled at how he could enjoy their friendship without the need for any mind games or strategy aimed at moving it towards a sexual encounter.

However, along with this freedom, he also noticed other more confusing emotions coming to the surface. Recently Johan had been thinking a lot about his mother.

Johan’s mother had been tall for women in her country, and she had been strong. She had raised Johan almost singlehandedly, as his father had been a busy doctor and was often away from home. Johan had deeply respected both his parents but had yearned for more affection. As a boy, he had longed for physical touch, but had felt ashamed to admit this. He recalled with some discomfort the one time he had hugged his mother; it had been a stunted and somewhat awkward moment on the day he had left for the frontline. He had wanted to be held tight in his mother’s arms, but by then he had grown as tall as her and their embrace had lasted only a second. He had left that morning on the train with a deep regret in his heart, and had not seen her since that day.

Yvonne and Johan had arranged to meet for lunch, and Yvonne arrived at the mill with a picnic. Johan loved listening to Yvonne and he marvelled at how she was fascinated by every tree, flower, animal, child and grown person she came across. She seemed to have insight about everything in the world around her. It was a relief that he did not need to talk too much; enough to just listen and enjoy the food.

Yvonne spoke with unforced enthusiasm. She was delighted to be able to spend time with Johan. He intrigued her. She perceived that there was much going on under the calm surface that he presented.

Yvonne had lived during the time of the Great Suffering, in the Previous Age. She had been raised by a small group of women who had banded together to face the challenge of bringing up their children with their partners gone. Many children at that time grew up without male role models because most of the men had left to try and find work to provide for their families. The mother figures she had known were brave and resilient. Starvation and disease was rife across the world as supplies of food and clean water became increasingly scarce.

Only those with a strong will to live and the ability to cooperate found a way through. In the aftermath of the worst years, Yvonne’s family had been able to set up a farmstead where, despite much hardship, they farmed livestock and basic crops successfully. It was during this time that Yvonne had met Thomas, Yan, Anne and Harmony and had been able to help them relocate their community.

Yvonne loved to be around men, having had little male company when growing up. She had come to think of Yan and Thomas as older brothers after all they had been through together. She had known sexual desire in the Previous Age but had never had the opportunity to explore it. Here on the New Earth, it was one less thing to think about and her life did not feel lacking without it.

“Tell me more about your life in the Previous Age,” asked Johan as they finished their picnic.

“I met Thomas and the others when I was very young. I grew up around them, I guess. After we had established our community, the focus became more and more on learning the ways of unfailing love. Thomas called it agape love. It’s a love that is divine. We learnt how to make choices so that our lives were immersed in it. But it was a process, and that takes time.”

“Did everyone learn to live that way in your community?”

“To varying degrees. I embraced agape love along with a man called Carlos, another called Bull and a lady named Sylvia. We were so changed that we were able to fully trust Papa God when it came to the end.”

“The end of the millennium period?”

“The end of the entire Previous Age. The end of the Old Earth.”

“I have heard people speak about that. What did you see?” asked Johan, listening intently.

“I remember the fire,” said Yvonne, opening her arms wide. “All-consuming fire. The wall of fire was higher than any mountain. It didn’t burn things; it totally vaporised everything in its path. When the people saw it approaching, they cried out in sheer terror. Carlos, Sylvia, Bull and I, we watched, but we knew it was Papa God’s hand of mercy. We stood together and our hearts were ready to transition.”

“Transition? Do you mean die?”

“Yes, but we knew we were going to be raised. Thomas, Anne, Harmony and Yan had gone through it already and had told us what would happen. We trusted them, so we knew that Papa would receive our spirits and raise us to new bodies and that death was by no means the end. I won’t say I wasn’t daunted by the wall of fire. The worst part was when it got really, really close and you knew there was no way out. I admit it was terrifying, but at the same time exciting because we trusted Papa together. I stood arm in arm with my brothers and sisters, and we allowed it to take our breath and our bodies. It was over very quickly. We felt no pain at all. It was exhilarating!”

“But what about the other people in your community? The ones who hadn’t learnt agape love to the extent that you and your friends had. Do you know what has become of them?”

“At some point they will be raised and brought to a community where they can begin the next phase. Just like all of us. Most of them had already learned a lot, so it won’t take long for them to progress to Zion. I’m sure of that.”

“I wonder how long it will take me,” said Johan with an air of sadness. “I didn’t have any time to prepare. As you know, I was killed by an explosion. Didn’t even hear it coming. I fell asleep in my dug-out with my friends and I remember dreaming that I was in a vast black space heading toward a beautiful light. And then I woke up in Jesus’ house.”

“Yes, that happens when our spirit is released from our old, mortal body and we are heading toward our new body. Memories of such occurrences were called ‘near-death experiences’ in the Previous Age and they helped people believe that we are more than our physical bodies. As for how long it will take you to get to Zion, I don’t have the answer to that question. But I know that the only way anyone can really enjoy Zion is to be completely ready. If we aren’t given over completely to the ways of agape love, it will ask too much of us.”

“That’s interesting,” said Johan, slightly raising an eyebrow. “It’s almost like you’re saying that it’s a good thing I’m not in Zion yet.”

“To be honest, yes. It would be very hard for anyone to enter Zion unless they were ready. Following Jesus means having a heart that is always able to choose agape love, and that might look like hardship and suffering through any other lens.”

Suddenly Johan felt a deep sense of peace. He looked around at the meadow where they were seated and at the river gurgling past and realised that this was exactly where he should be.

Yvonne could sense Johan’s thoughts.

“You are in the best place for you, right at this moment,” she reassured him.

“I believe so,” said Johan, looking her in the eye. “For the first time I really think I believe so. It’s all a gift, isn’t it?”

“It certainly is,” she replied with a smile.



Each day Johan was grateful to be with his little sister, Gerty, who was now growing into a young woman. However, he couldn’t shake off thoughts about his parents and wondered if they too might have been raised and how long it would be before he saw them again. His friendships and work in the community gave him a great sense of satisfaction and enjoyment, but he longed to see his mother and father.

Walking with Yan one evening, he decided to bring it up in conversation.

“We all need to discover who we are within ourselves for the time being,” explained Yan, “so that when we do get to meet our parents and other family members we are able to relate without the often broken identities that were forged in the Previous Age.”

“But I loved my parents, and I’m sure there was nothing broken about my relationship with them.”

“Even so, I think that they are finding out who they are away from being a parent, a wife, a husband, a son, a daughter…”

“What about Gerty?”

“When she is fully grown, she will spend some time away from you, establishing who she is apart from being your sister. We are each wonderfully unique, and Papa wants us to really know, understand and accept who we are. However, we are also part of families and communities. Many of the problems in the Previous Age stemmed from unhealthy dependence and attachments caused by desires that we sought to fulfil in the wrong way. We have to be free of those, so that we can relate to each other in the best way possible. If you think about Jesus, Ruach and Papa God, they are distinct but also one. They relate perfectly with each other, but they always retain their individual identities.”

Johan listened. What Yan was saying made sense, but it didn’t ease his longing to be with his family.

“Your love for your family is a beautiful thing, and I’m sure that your parents feel the same about you. But our longings must be tempered by our growth as an individual.”

“What about you, Yan? Don’t you want to see your family?”

“Yes, I do. But I am sure this will happen when it is the perfect time for all of us. When I see them, they will be ready, I will be ready, and we will come together in the most complete and wonderful way. All the healing that must happen will have taken place, because we will have let go of all that hinders and restricts. It will be a true and lasting reconciliation.”

“But don’t you sometimes get tired of longing?”

“I am human, so of course my feelings and emotions are with me each day. But I exercise my ‘trust muscles’ and have done so for many centuries! That’s how I stay strong in my faith that all will be well. You see, for a long time I believed and trusted Jesus before I had even met him. But when the day came and I met him face to face, my faith and all my longings were rewarded in that very moment. I know now that there are stages and seasons and ages, and that all things are working together to bring about an environment of agape love.”

“I guess I am still immature in many ways,” said Johan.

“You are growing all the time, every day. Take heart, my friend! The Jesus-like part of you is being revealed and the same is happening within every human being. Each one of us will be fully formed when we stop resisting him and give up trying to find our identity in other things.”

“But what if people don’t want to be like Jesus?”

“Then they are free to resist, but every path they turn down will eventually lead them back to Jesus. He is the beginning and the end of all things. Trying not to be like Jesus is like fighting your own breathing.”

“But surely many people will reject these ideas?”

“Yes, but that’s because they don’t yet understand the ‘science’ of God. Everything was made by love and for love. It is the very foundation of the universe. When we reject these ideas, it’s because we haven’t accepted the basis on which everything stands. All resistance is just a detour on an inevitable path, because love is the metaphysical reality that sustains all things. Denying love is like denying you exist. The purpose of this age is to bring people into an understanding and experience of agape love – within themselves, with their neighbour, and with God.”

Johan was quietly trying to piece together Yan’s explanation. Jesus was real; that was for sure. But he struggled to get his mind around the idea that the humble man who had welcomed him to the New Earth was also God in bodily form and the walking, talking logic of all reality. It was more than he could comprehend.

“It’s going to take a while to get used to these things,” Yan encouraged him. “You don’t have to work it all out now. We have all the time we need to grow in our sense of wonder and awe at the whole amazing story, and there will always be more mystery to explore.”

“For some reason, right now,” began Johan, “I just feel incredibly grateful to be alive.”

“That’s wonderful!” exclaimed Yan with delight. “That’s what thinking about this does. It fills us with gratitude, so that gradually we find that we aren’t longing for what is not but are joyful and thankful for what is.”


Johan felt more at peace after each conversation with Yan and Yvonne. They had a gift for knowing how to explain things in a way that helped him to understand.

Johan’s new passion for learning was leading to some surprising new revelations. He realised that he could absorb new knowledge far more easily than in the Previous Age. He enjoyed using his mental faculties and, alongside Yvonne, had begun to help the children in the school, grateful to be reacquainted with maths and science and relieved that resurrected brains weren’t as forgetful or easily distracted as when he had been a child.

“Language interests me,” said Johan, as he chatted with his two friends after the school day had come to a close. “I liked English at school, and here on the New Earth I speak it fluently as though I were speaking my native German. However, there must be many other languages here as well?”

“Yes, of course,” agreed Yvonne. “Every tribe and tongue are present on the New Earth. For now, we are in an English-speaking community, but there are many other communities that use different languages. We will all be able to learn other languages over the course of the ages here, and our brains will learn faster and more easily than in the Previous Age. That way, we get to learn about many other cultures and different ways of thinking.”

“So we might become able to speak every language eventually?”

“It’s hard to imagine, but yes, that might be possible in the ages to come. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a new common language didn’t evolve as well.”

“This brings up another question,” said Johan. “Where are we? I mean, I know we are on the New Earth, and in many ways it’s a similar planet to the Old Earth, but whereabouts on the New Earth are we living?”

“The New Earth is much bigger than the Old Earth and has completely different continents,” explained Yan. “The climate has been upgraded, and the ecosystems are able to thrive in new ways. The land is literally a different shape, so no one can say, ‘This was China,’ or ‘This is England,’ or anything like that.”

“God had many objectives when he created the New Earth, and one of them was to mould a new landscape so that the New Earth could support God’s purposes for this age,” added Yvonne.

Johan smiled. “Well, if the old has gone and the new is here, it means that there is a whole new world to explore. I like the idea of that!”

“Yes,” said Yan, “a day will come when all the New Earth will be accessible to everyone. But for now, we must live where our communities are situated, and we cannot go beyond the boundaries that have been set for us.”

Johan was satisfied with this explanation. He knew that he could trust Yan and Yvonne. He felt confident in the timing of everything, and for now was perfectly happy to be living within his community.


Harvest on the New Earth was very different to the backbreaking work in the fields in late summer that Johan had experienced in the Previous Age. The constant energy from the three “suns” meant that fruit and vegetables could be harvested throughout the year, but certain crops required the whole community to work together to gather them into the communal storehouses.

Johan found it easy to work alongside most of the villagers, but being placed in a team with Ebo, his wife, Jemila, and their son, Eric, caused him to clam up inside. For some reason his tongue become tied and his words dried up when he was around them. The only times he felt able to speak were to correct or reprimand them when some aspect of their work failed to come up to his high standards.

Out in the fields Gerty could do little but look on in quiet frustration at her brother’s critical attitude. It was clear he was still struggling with something that prevented him from relating with his usual good humour to Ebo and his family, so back at home in the warmth and familiarity of their dinner table, Gerty once again raised the subject.

“You still seem different around Eric’s family. Why are you always so negative when you talk to them?”

Johan looked at his sister. Her face was not angry, but full of an innocence and sadness that disarmed his defensiveness. Johan stared into space for a few moments. He gently put down his cutlery and finished chewing his mouthful. Dabbing the corners of his mouth with a napkin, Johan’s shoulders drooped.

“Are you alright?” asked Gerty. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“I’ve just realised something,” her brother replied in a hushed voice. “When I was growing up… and when I was in the army… we were told over and over again that we were the ‘master race’. We were told that everyone else was inferior.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m so glad you don’t remember,” he said, pushing his plate away. “We were taught that people of other races – Jews, Asians, people with black skin like Eric and his family – were less than human.”

Gerty looked at her brother intently, unable to fully comprehend what he was saying.

“Oh, Gerty, I’m so ashamed. I think there’s still something left in my heart from what I was told, and that’s why I treat Eric’s family that way.”

“But that’s not like you,” she reassured him. “Your best friend is Yan, and he’s Asian, isn’t he?”

“That’s true,” said Johan, encouraged by her observation. “And maybe it means that I can be free of the things I was taught in the past. Give me some time, Gerty, and I’ll see if I can work out the rest too.”


A new awareness had dawned for Johan. Over the next few weeks, he observed his interactions with Eric and his family and noticed how his feelings swung between prideful stubbornness and disgust at his own prejudice. Little by little, he showed more kindness toward Eric, using encouraging words rather than critical ones. It felt hard to start with, but Johan was pleased at how Eric flourished under his improved guidance.

“Great job, young man,” Johan enthused, examining Eric’s thatching.

Eric beamed with pride, and Johan felt a glow of satisfaction as he saw the effect of his words on Eric’s confidence. After lunch as they resumed work on the roof. Eric struggled to tie the correct knot with the thatching thread that was used to keep the straw in place on the rafters.

Johan frowned and Eric's head drooped in anticipation of harsh words. But at that moment when those words were on the tip of his tongue, a rush of determination coursed through Johan; his frown melted, and a broad smile spread across his face. He gently placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder and, crouching down to his height, felt a surge of love towards both Eric and himself.

“Hey, you’re doing great. Let’s give it another try.”

The glow inside Johan was obvious to everyone around him that afternoon, and they enjoyed their day’s work all the more.

At the supper table that evening, Gerty noticed that Johan seemed more relaxed and had an even better appetite than usual.

“You look happy. Did anything special happen today?” 

“Well, you know I have been paying close attention to my attitudes? Today everything was going well with Eric, but then he got something wrong. Awful words crossed my mind, but I realised where they came from. I don’t want to think that way anymore, so I threw those thoughts out and chose to affirm and encourage Eric instead. As soon as I’d done that, I felt so good. I’m not my thoughts or my background; I am my choices. I am what I do. I can choose love and goodness.”

Gerty was overjoyed. “That is so powerful. You’re right. Sometimes we can’t help our thoughts but we can choose what we do with them. I am so proud of you!”

Johan blushed a little. “I am proud of myself too, and I think it’s ok to say that. But I know what I need to do. I need to speak to Eric and his family.”

After clearing away the supper things, Johan and Gerty walked in the quiet of the evening along the path that led to Eric’s home. Johan looked at his sister, who nodded her support, as he took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

The door was opened by Jemila, and behind her they could see Ebo in the kitchen wiping his hands on a cloth.

“Hello Johan,” she said brightly, “Hello Gerty. How lovely to see you both. Won’t you come in?”

“Come in, come in,” echoed Ebo, waving to them as his son emerged from upstairs.

“Thank you, but I don’t feel I can until I have said what I need to say.” Johan looked at the family gathered in their entrance hall. “I am here to apologise.”

“First of all, Eric, I want you to know that I should never have shouted at you the way I used to. I was not patient or kind, and you didn’t deserve to be treated like that. You are a hard-working, intelligent, trustworthy young man, and I did not… ”

Before Johan could say anything else, Eric flung his arms around Johan. Johan put his arms around Eric and felt the healing of the embrace wash through him.

“And I need to apologise to your parents too. Ebo and Jemila, I was told so many lies when I was a child about people of other races. I am so sorry. I don’t ever want to think that way again.”

Ebo reached out his hand and grasped Johan’s. “Come on in, my friend.”

Johan bowed respectfully and he and Gerty took their seats around the family table while Ebo filled their glasses with fruit juice.

“You know,” said Ebo, “I have to say something, too. We were taken by people with white skin like yours. We were treated like animals and put in chains.” Ebo sat down and held Jemila’s hand.

“I need you to know that Jemila and I died in an uprising. We hated our masters and their people. One day we fought back, but they were too strong and they beat us to death. So when we came here and had to live with white people, we also struggled with what we felt inside.”

Jemila looked searchingly at Johan and was moved to see tears trickling down his face.

“We found that people here expected us to be compliant because we are black. Jesus warned us when we were raised that many people expect black people to forgive quickly. But then we met Yvonne and she was so different to all the white people we had known in our time. It was the first step towards us changing our minds. What I am saying is, we have had to work on our attitudes as well.”

Ebo reached across the table and took Johan’s trembling hand in his. “I accept your apology. Will you accept mine?”

Johan squeezed Ebo’s hand and looked at each person around the table in turn. “Yes, and I renounce every lie I ever believed about all people not being equal.”

“And we renounce all hatred against white people,” declared Ebo quietly.

Eric and Gerty understood the solemnity of the moment but could not restrain their beaming smiles. Jemila laughed to see their expressions.

“Isn’t it good to know that these little ones will never know the burdens of the Previous Age?”

“Everything is right now, isn’t it?” asked Gerty.

“Yes,” said Ebo firmly. “We are learning. Step by step, we are learning how to treat everyone as our brothers and sisters in this wonderful new world.”