The Gate or the Stairs?

There were once two men who had died and awoke to find themselves in a line of people. They were good friends who lost their lives coming home together from work. As they stood in the long, slow-moving line, the first man looked around. He saw some glum faces, some happy, and noticed that everything around him was white and puffy, as though they were literally in the clouds. He could also make out in the distance, far in front of the long, winding line, a gate and a stairway. The gate was glittering pearl, brighter than all around it, and the staircase glowed with an evil red that gave him chills. As each member of the line moved forward, a figure searched an over-sized book and they were afterwards sent either through the gates or down the staircase.

He had been a smart man and figured that if he and his friend arrived together, they would take the better of the two. So he began to think about his life, and how good he had been. His friend had two divorces, and it was rumored that he even cheated on his third wife. He, on the other hand, had been a good and faithful husband, though granted he had lost his temper every once in a while, but hey, that was to be expected, wasn’t it? He also thought about his children. He had sent them to the best schools, listened to them when they cried, and read them stories as they fell asleep. His friend, though, was hardly paying alimony and lost custody of his children because of a drinking problem in his first marriage.

As they walked, the first man began to feel rather good about his chances. He thought about how punctual he had been at work, about that time he gave money to a homeless man, or helped his dead-beat brother move with his own truck. He even remembered the small details of his childhood about when he had been honest when he could have easily lied, or about when he cooked a special dinner for his mother on her birthday. In all, he thought, he had lived a pretty good life. The line inched closer and closer, and he was pretty assured of where he was going, craning his neck to see if he could get a premature glance through the gates while his friend silently walked beside him.

Soon enough they reached the big book and his friend stepped forward. The man in charge of the book said, “What is your name?”, and the first man zoned out as he remembered another time when he had gone back and paid for the candy bar his friend had stolen when they were children. As he patted himself on the back he looked up and noticed the second man was walking through the pearly gates into the party beyond. He could taste the joy and smell the excitement. With great fervor he stepped forward and, without listening to instruction, proudly proclaimed, “I am John Smith, sir”. Without even flipping a page, the man in charge of the book said, “I am sorry, there is no John Smith written here. Please kindly move down the stairs”.

Shocked and outraged he lunged forward, trying to get a look for himself, but the book was pulled away from him. “How dare you! You didn’t even search a single page!” he cried. “Besides, I am a much better person than the man you just admitted!”. The bookkeeper responded, “I am sorry, but if your name is not in the book, you must go down the stairs”. The man was fuming now and cried, “Oh? And what false name did that last man give you? – Because I am sure his name was not in that book!”.

“I can assure you his name is not in the book, sir, but he did give me the only name that appears in here”. Stunned, the first man asked, “What name is that?”.

“The name of Jesus” was the reply. “Now, please kindly move down the stairs, for there are others waiting”.

As the bookkeeper set down the large volume, the first man glanced at the pages and noticed, written over countless names, the word, “Jesus”, copied down in a shimmering red blood. Knowing his fate was sealed, he turned with deep agony and walked down the stairs of death, where he contemplated the name of Jesus for an eternity or more.

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  1. Dun Gordy Reply

    Soberingly true. May our Lord use it to draw attention to Himself!

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