The Damned May Enter
An Apocalyptic Prelude
By Jedidiah Paschall
Forgive these wild and Wandering ,
Confusions of a wasted youth,
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in Thy wisdom make me wise.
Lord Alfred Tennyson – Preface to In Memoriam
There’s been a few notable novels about the Christian apocalypse from Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth to Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind series and scores of others that have not quite attained to the popularity of these titles. At the outset, I’ll say this much; if you think The Damned May Enter is like the kinds of books that are common to the genre of apocalyptic fiction then you would be wrong. I am not going to provide a book that details a timeline of what will happen at the end, so much as a book that contemplates aspects of an apocalyptic future enfolded in a family saga that delves very much into the question of calling and how we grapple with the calling God has placed on our lives in the middle of the triumphs and tragedies that are the warp and woof of our existence.
If you want me to be more specific, it is about the calling of the Two Witnesses that are found in the eleventh chapter of St. John’s Apocalypse (or Revelation in modern parlance). I am fascinated with the big ‘what if’ questions in general. This passage in Revelation is something I use to contemplate not only a future apocalypse and the eventualities of the future; I also use it to evaluate the broad sweep of God’s saving purposes in history and how we as individuals deal with a story that is truly cosmic in scope. So this biblical question drives the fiction that I have developed: what if the towering figures we find in the pages of Scripture were ordinary people like you and me that just so happened to be called to extraordinary things? I know that the nature of who the Two Witnesses are has been a matter of much debate down through the ages of the history of the church. Are they literal prophets who will rise up before the end? Are they symbolic of the witnessing church? Without being trite, I would answer both of these questions with a simple answer – yes. I think that these individuals have an archetypal quality to them that symbolizes the prophetic witness of the church that has been entrusted with the great oracle of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, this does not preclude the possibility that they might also literally be two individuals who will arise at the end of history. Some have postulated, even in the earliest centuries of the church that these would be Elijah and Enoch or Elijah and Moses who would literally appear again in the waning hours of the present age. Still others have theorized that they will be individuals who will wear the prophetic mantles of these great prophets, but they will be individuals who live and will die in their own time. I opt for the later option for the sake of this story, because in the fictional space I have constructed I think it addresses the ‘what if’ question in a more interesting way.
I also believe that The Damned May Enter is relevant to our present world, which seems to be headed toward a great inflection point where perhaps we could see the end of the present age unfold in our time. We live in a time of global upheaval that could portend the Second Coming. Of course, since the First Coming of Christ into history the world has been indeed ending. Depending on how we look at time we might even say the world is ending in every moment and beginning anew in the next. As valid as non-linear understandings of time might be, I do think that time also has a linear trajectory that is indeed heading to an end point that will mark the end of the present age marked by Divine judgement and all of the cataclysms contained therein, which will eventually give way to a glorious new age where all creation is at last redeemed and the world is finally set right. This Second Coming is the doom and hope of the world, and the great hope for all who name the name of Christ as Lord and Savior.
I realize that if you get more than two Christians together and talk about end-times you will get many opinions and little agreement. That’s fine with me, I am not here to convince anyone of my own views, I have simply written a story that I intend to provoke thought, so feel free to disagree with my views, I take no offense at this. To show my cards a little more to the theologically astute this book does not assume a Dispensational theology where there will be a rapture of believing Christians before the events described in the book of Revelation. There is, in my mind no escape for the church in the final hours of history, and a great many, perhaps most Christians will be called to faithful witness even unto death before the Resurrection and the return of Christ. Instead of treading the well worn paths that have dominated the genre, The Damned May Enter assumes a simple futuristic reading of Revelation that presupposes that some of what is revealed in St. John’s opaque visions are symbolic and some, like Chapter 11 might have at least some literal fulfillment. Like I said earlier, it does not delve into the (possible) literal future where the Two Witnesses will conduct their ministries marked by terrifying judgements from Heaven upon a humanity that is both rebellious and in thrall to dark spiritual powers. I will make no effort in The Damned May Enter to identify other characters in Revelation such as the Antichrist and the False Prophet, both of whom I also take to be real persons that will arise in history’s final act. This book only outlines the calling of the Two Witnesses in a fictional World War 3. It is fiction, I repeat F-I-C-T-I-O-N. Perhaps history will indeed play out something like what I have written, perhaps not.
The book, for the most part takes place in Southern California. I have opted for this mainly because this is where I have resided for most of my life, and writers generally write about what they know. The main characters might have some resemblances to people I know and have known, and this is not an uncommon feature in fiction. However, they are very much their own characters, not really the people I know in spite of some superficial similarities. There are many real places listed in the book, but even these take on a fictional flavor. Most of the events do take place in a fictional town called Chaparral, and center in on a very special place – a tavern called St. Jude’s Tavern (which not so incidentally is the name of my website). St. Jude is, in many Christian traditions the patron saint of lost causes, and in the book the tavern is a place for saints and sinners alike. Hopefully my readers will find St. Jude’s to be a welcoming place where they might like to take in a drink and a nice meal where, like the best pubs and cafes in the world, the big issues and ideas in life are discussed by people of all persuasions. Christians from various traditions conservative and mainline and every point in-between whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, or Charismatic. Hopefully many from these traditions will enjoy and I have tried to honor these various strands of the faith in such a way that grants that they are all Christian and part of the Body of Christ. Non-Christians might also find themselves taking in this story because, well, I think it is interesting and I have also tried to honor those who don’t have faith with an understanding that they too are dignified people that God values as well.
I get into some controversial matters. As much as I do see the final movement of history to be filled with fire and wrath I do not see this as the end of the story for anyone. I am a Christian Universalist, joining a long line of great Christians from the past from George MacDonald the Scottish Evangelical whose writings were profoundly influential on CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, to medieval saints such as Dame Julian of Norwich, to early pillars of Christian Orthodoxy such as St. Gregory of Nyssa and his sister St. Makrina. Being a Universalist means that while I take the biblical warnings of wrath and hell to be deadly serious realities, I do not think that they end in the eternal conscious torment for sinners, and I think there is plenty of biblical arguments marshaled in its defense (a great resource I would recommend is Robin Parry’s – writing under the pen name Gregory MacDonald – The Evangelical Universalist (I have also written on the subject on this blog: Christian Universalism. To state my position succinctly, I see hell, whatever can be known of it to be a temporary (perhaps a very long and painful period) but necessary state for some in a longer story of ultimate reconciliation. I realize that to some this might be taken as heretical; however Christian Universalism was actually a quite prevalent view shared by a great deal of the church for at least its first four centuries including many Church Fathers who were staunch defenders of Christian Orthodoxy. I think that this is a valid position that serious bible believing Christians should consider, and a theological concept that deserves revisiting after centuries of relative obscurity. This alone will chase away some, it certainly has chased away Christian publishers. But, I do believe firmly in the Universal hope that at the end of the day God’s love for humanity in Christ will be victorious in the hearts of each and every person and the reader deserves to know this from the outset. The book also deals with the realities of human sin and broken families in a way that many Christian books do not. I have tried to allow this grit to exist at the surface while not defying good taste. Younger readers might want to take this into account before proceeding.
I realize I am waxing on, perhaps too much and I don’t want to test your patience so I’ll wrap up this introduction. I think we should take the immanence Second Coming of Christ with the utmost seriousness. The New Testament church certainly did. As the Apostle Peter makes clear, whatever might be made of the Lord’s apparent delay in returning, God is not slow in bringing his promises. Nearly two thousand years have passed since Christ ascended into heaven, but given the billions of years of cosmic existence this ‘delay’ is but a blink of an eye comprising not even a second on the cosmic clock. In considering the possibility that we might be standing on the cusp of these events I do genuine hope that whatever enjoyment you derive from The Damned May Enter you would also consider what the end means and what God is calling you to. I want the reader to put themselves in the shoes of the Two Witnesses and see something of themselves in them. The mantle of prophetic witness belongs to every believer, and the calling of Moses and Elijah belongs to all who name the name of Christ because they, like we who name the Name of Christ are called to testify of him and the salvation that is found in him – this is at the beating heart of the spirit of prophecy. For the non-Christian reading this book, I hope it urges you on to consider the realities of faith and to grapple with the claims of Christ. To all, please belly up to the bar at St. Jude’s, enjoy a drink on me and by all means take in this little yarn I’ve spun about the beginning of the end of the world.
I would be remiss if I did not also acknowledge the people who helped bring The Damned May Enter to life. For my family who has borne with me, not without trial as I wrote this book I thank you most. Zannie Carlson, my editor, I owe you a great deal of gratitude for the skill with which you helped me refine the book into something readable. For my beta-readers, Nathan Keys, Rikah Thomas, Nancy Dorsett, Sarah Tipton, and Sharon Hunter your insights and feedback were pure gold. To my family at San Diego Kingdom Writer’s Association under the godly leadership of Brae and Jill Wykoff and Manna Ko, you all encouraged me to keep at the arduous task of writing this book and I owe much of what I have written to your efforts to inspire our writing community. My thanks to you all!