Chapter 23 Johan: Confrontation

Night was different on the New Earth. Colours still appeared and slowly evolved in the sky, but they were darker tones of purple and blue. The air was still, and Johan was glad that the temperature always remained at a comfortable level, even at night. Far off, unknown lights twinkled, but Johan felt completely alone.

He wasn’t scared, as he knew the New Earth was safe, but there was a bleakness in his heart. Chester’s words echoed in his mind as he strode out over rocks and heather in the half light. He felt shame and confusion over what he had learned from the Canadian, and he struggled to understand why Jesus would allow people who had been at war with one another in the Previous Age to be in the same community.

He cast his mind back to when billowing scarlet flags had hung from every house, a black swastika within a white circle adorning each one. As a boy, the swastika had reminded him of a squashed spider, and it had struck him as oddly fitting now that he knew that the twisted Nazi fantasy had been stamped out by the boots of the Allies. He remembered his Uncle Werner, a fanatical Nazi supporter, and how he had encouraged Johan to look up to the Fuhrer and, when he was old enough, to go and fight for the Reich.

He recalled the many nights he had spent in barracks, trenches and under canvas. He would lie awake listening to the other men talking, thinking about Uncle Werner and hoping he would be proud of his soldier nephew. Johan’s mind would often turn to his own father, a very different man of quiet thought, who only spoke when he had something to say. Johan’s father had fought in the Great War twenty years earlier and had seen action on the Western Front. Johan adored his papa very much and when he was small had loved to sit on his lap and trace his fingers along the strange pink scars on his arm that were a permanent reminder of the shrapnel that had torn his flesh.

Johan longed for his papa to come and find him now. Looking out from a hilltop over the landscape, he felt as if he was the only person in existence. But at that moment a movement in the heather behind him made him swing around, and in the low light he could just make out the figure of a man with long white hair and a beard in a pale robe that reached to the ground. The man was looking at Johan and holding up both hands as if in surrender.

Johan’s heart pounded at the shock of being disturbed, yet there was a reassuring warmth that radiated from the man’s presence as he stood there, his hands now held out in front of him, as if he was offering Johan something.

“Hello?” said Johan, wondering if this was an appropriate greeting.

“Johan,” replied the man.

“Do I know you?” asked Johan in surprise.

“You do… and you don’t. I am here to assure you that you are never alone. You miss your father, and you mourn your life prior to coming here. In fact, you are ashamed of what took place.”

Johan nodded but was perplexed by the stranger’s knowledge.

“I am here to tell you that you are not to blame, and that you are loved and cherished.”

“Cherished?” asked Johan, somewhat bemused. “Surely you have to be with the ones who love you to be cherished.”

“You are with ones who love you. People who see the goodness within you.”

Johan thought of Yan, Yvonne, and the friends he’d made like Ebo, Jemila and Eric.

“And you will see your parents again. You will see your army comrades and your uncle too. Everything will happen in its right time.”

Johan felt a surge of love towards this kind old man who had come to him with these words of comfort.

“But how did you find me? And who are you?”

“I am a friend. I’ve known you for some time.”

“But you are not Jesus?”

The old man smiled. “No, I lived on earth many years before Jesus was born. You may call me Mel.”


“Melchizedek, but I prefer Mel.”

“What do you do? Do you go looking for people who are lost?”

“I meet people where they are,” said Mel. “I love to wander the highways and byways of the New Earth encouraging those I find.”

“How do you know these things about my life?” asked Johan.

“Ruach tells me anything I need to know. You might know her as ‘the Holy Ghost’.” 

“I have heard of ‘the Holy Ghost’, and I met Ruach when Jesus resurrected me. Do you see her when you talk together?”

“She is with us all. She is spirit and so is everywhere. If you ask her, she will speak to you, too. It’s as though we carry an invisible part of her within us; we just have to learn to hear her voice and use the gifts she gives.”

“You make it sound easy,” said Johan with a slight chuckle.

“Well, it starts with ‘Hello’, and you’ve proved you’re good at that!”

Johan laughed. This unexpected encounter and the man’s wisdom had lightened the darkness that had weighed on his heart and restored his sense of hope and belief that all would be well. As the man raised his hand in farewell, Johan knew that he must return to his community.


Yan never rushed. Time has a very different quality when there is always another day. Remembering the constant worry of being caught by the secret police in the Previous Age, Yan compared his state of mind then with now. He had always been anxious, afraid not only for his own safety but of giving away information that might endanger his friends and family. Now he moved with confidence and intent. Johan was out there, and Yan’s focus was to locate him and reassure him.

As the light began to change and evening fell, Yan felt an increasing sense of peace that Ruach was leading him to entrust Johan to her purposes and that he should end his search. Instead, Yan decided to use this opportunity to walk in the night air and draw near to Ruach in meditation.

A familiar warmth began to grow as he turned his full attention to the divine flame within him. Ruach was the essence of God that Yan related to the most. He had great reverence and affection for Jesus, but it was Ruach who had drawn alongside Yan when he had been imprisoned and tortured for his beliefs in the Previous Age.

During many dark nights in prison cells, her flame had burned, and he had experienced heavenly ecstasy as she poured love into his heart. Sometimes he had wondered if he could take any more of her glorious presence, and he had been known to break out into dancing, singing and shouting for joy, even in the midst of the dirt and stench of the prison.


“Oh, you’re back are you, Nazi?” sneered Chester, as he saw Johan next morning sitting at a table carving some wood with Yvonne

“Chester, I’d like to talk with you. Would you sit with me?”

“Fuck you!” came the response, as Chester spat and went on his way.

Johan looked helplessly at Yvonne, who gave him an empathetic smile. Some minutes went by as they continued their work, but despite his previous resolve, Johan could contain his frustration no longer.

“What am I supposed to do? I didn’t start the war! And I didn’t kill his friends! I lost my life in it, for Christ’s sake. I’m more of a victim than he is!”

Johan threw down his tools and stormed off. Seeing Chester coiling some rope in the distance, Johan strode towards him, still seething. The closer he got, the more he was consumed by the injustice of the situation.


Chester turned around, surprised.

“Don’t you see? I’m a victim of that war even more than you are. You have no idea…”

Chester dropped the rope and stepped towards Johan.

“No, you bastard, you have no idea. Millions of people killed in your death camps?”

Johan felt winded.

“But I didn’t know!” he protested.

“You disgust me.”

“What do you want from me? To hear me say that I’m sorry? Well, I am sorry. I’m sorry for the whole damned lot of it. I’m sorry that I died, and that I was on the wrong side of it. Don’t you think you were just lucky? I mean, you could just as easily have been born where I was, and I might just as easily have been born where you were.”

Chester threw out his arms. “Look at all this? Don’t you believe in God now? Don’t you think it’s clear that God made us and put us where he wanted us on the Earth?”

“Yes, but I don’t think God made me to be caught up in the Third Reich. And I don’t think God determined that I should die in a war. What kind of God would make that happen?”

“A sovereign one,” retorted Chester.

“So sovereign that all kinds of evil happen all the time?” asked Johan, becoming emotional.

“If that is God’s will.”

“And yet here we are now. You believe certain things and I don’t – but we‘ve both ended up together in the same place.”

Chester hesitated. “Yeah, but I’m here and not in Zion because of the things I did wrong, so you must be too.”

“So, the things you did wrong must be as bad as me being a Nazi?”

Chester looked flummoxed.

“According to your logic, I’m evil and guilty of genocide, and somehow you’re better than me. Yet here we both are - in the same place. So, what did you do that was as bad as being a Nazi?”

Chester made no reply.

“Come on, Chester. Let’s at least talk this through together?”

“Not interested,” said Chester with a shrug of his shoulders. He picked up the rope and began coiling it again.

Johan’s hands fell to his sides in exasperation. He turned and walked away.


A few days later Johan was thumbing through the first few pages of the thick tome that Yan had presented him with. His forehead was furrowed as he skim-read the text.

Yan stood leaning on a chair on the other side of the table.

“Who wrote this?” asked Johan.

“Angelic observers. They have written accounts of human history since the beginning. This one details Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.”

“Why? Didn’t God see what was happening?”

“It’s not for God’s use. It’s so that people can learn about the Previous Age. It’s for moments like this one. It’s simply a report from an objective and unbiased viewpoint of what happened. Jesus trusts that this can bring insight and understanding to those with open hearts”

Johan closed the book and sat back, taking a deep breath.

Yan came around the table.

“I know it will be a hard read, but just remember that every life that was lost is being raised to an abundant future. No one is lost forever.”

“But that doesn’t take away the immense suffering, does it?”

“No, but we have the ages ahead of us to heal all the wounds that were sustained in those days. The infinite life ahead of us means that eventually the years spent in the Previous Age will be swallowed up. A tennis ball might feel large in your hand, but next to a planet it doesn’t seem so big, does it? And compared with the universe, well, you get the idea. It’s the same with eternity and all the ages to come. It will put everything into perspective.”

“I guess my task is to try and understand and move forward?”

“As you progress and immerse yourself in new experiences, you will be able to see the past in a new light. It takes time to trust the vantage point from which we can now view the Previous Age. Don’t worry, Johan, just trust the process.”

Johan nodded and re-opened the book.


Months turned into years. As Johan studied, he became deeply familiar with twentieth-century history. The knowledge he acquired gave him the tools to better understand his own story, as well as the experience and attitudes of others who lived through those tumultuous decades.

For a long time, Chester resisted the invitations that Johan gave him to come and discuss these matters. However, one day as the wind was blowing across the grassy plains, Johan glanced up from his book to see Chester’s face looking in through his window.

Johan smiled and gestured for Chester to enter. Chester opened the door and stood at the threshold.

“Ok, Johan. We need to talk.”

“You are welcome, Chester. Come in and take a seat,” said Johan, motioning toward the chair next to him.

Chester hesitated but slowly made his way across the room to the chair.

“Are you ok?” asked Johan, noting his reticence.

“I think you will understand what I have to say.”

Johan was struck by the change in Chester’s demeanour. It was the first time he had shown any sign of vulnerability. In fact, his face betrayed such a clear sense of discomfort that he appeared to be in physical pain.

Chester sat down stiffly.

“Recently I asked an angel to supply me with one of their observation books. I got a book on the history of Canada. It seems… it was not what I was expecting. I knew about the wars between the British and the French in Canada but we weren’t taught at school about the indigenous peoples and how we took their land so that many of them died from disease and starvation. And it wasn’t just what happened a long time ago. During my grandparents’ and my parents’ generations, children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools where they weren’t allowed to speak their own language or learn anything about their own culture. Dreadful things happened to them in some of those places. And Johan, it was still going on when I was alive… and I didn’t know about it.”

Johan closed the book he had been reading and the two began to talk. Over the next few hours tears were shed. After they had shared a simple supper Chester had no hesitation in accepting Johan’s invitation to stay the night. He felt totally understood, humbled and welcomed. The two men slept more soundly than they had done for a long while.