Tales of the Divine Comedy
by Thomas Ragazzi and Dr. Philip A. Pecorino
“And the world shall be consumed in flames,” said a voice of a man on the radio, a voice that was deep with a slow drawl that made sure every listener understood the significance of what he said. “It says so in Scripture. For those who reject Christ, the lake that burns with sulphurous flames will be their portion.[i] And there is no way this can be changed. It is set in stone.”
“But it seems to me,” said another man’s voice, “that this might be God’s warning, and that if people change and start following God and doing good, then He won’t destroy the world.”
“No. God is not giving a warning here. He is giving a prophecy, and a prophecy is set in stone. Now God has given warnings in the past, say to the Israelites and the Egyptians and what have you, but here it is explicit in Revelation that the end of the world is a prophecy, not a warning. It shall come to pass regardless of what mankind does.”
“But Mister Renwaith, what if people change after hearing God’s prophecy and they all started following Him? Wouldn’t God be merciful then and . . .”
“Excuse me. Excuse me,” firmly interrupted Mr. Renwaith. “I believe I answered your question.”
“But if . . .”
“Excuse me! . . . And thank you for calling Free Symposium. Next caller please . . . Hello, and you are on Free Symposium.”
“Yes, Mister Renwaith,” said the caller, “I have a question about the exact date of your prediction of the end of the world.”
“Well, it’s not my prediction; it’s the Bible’s prophecy and it is right there, in the word of God.
“Yes, I know,” said the caller. “And I’ve been trying to convince my wife about this, and I showed her the passages you talk about, in the Book of Isaiah and in Revelation, and she believes you now.”
“Good. You are doing holy work by instructing your wife on what is coming. This is what a good husband should do.”
“You’re welcome. Now what is your question?”
“Well, the world will end very soon . . .”
“Yes, the calculations prove that the end of the world will begin March 28th.”
“So what should me and my wife do? We’ve tried to warn our neighbors. Should we leave our house? Should we leave everything here?”
“You should do what you would normally do for a natural disaster. Now, of course, this is no ordinary natural disaster we are talking about here. This is God’s intentional destruction of the whole Earth. Picture all the worst disasters you can think of, earthquakes, fires, wars, and magnify them many thousands of times. That is what the end of the world will look like. But if you are saved, then you will be spared the wrath of God and will be taken up in a flash to Heaven to be with God for eternity.”
“Thank you, Mister Renwaith.”
“You’re welcome. And thank you for calling Free Symposium. Next caller please. Hello. You are on Free Symposium.”
“Yes. Hi. My question is about . . .”
A man got up from his living room floor, shut off the radio, and immediately went to his wife in the kitchen.
“Sara,” he said earnestly, “I need to tell you something very important.”
Sara replied: “I know you were listening to that radio program. Is this about that religion stuff again? I’m a Catholic, Mark. You know I don’t believe in that Rapture stuff and being taken up to . . .”
“No. Listen. This is about the exact time and day that the Rapture will happen. You have to hear me out.”
“Yes?” she said with a sigh.
“The Bible says the world will end or will start to end on March 28th. We need to start packing up and get to a fallout shelter or some place for protection. There is a place called ‘The Sanctuary of the Holy Rock.’ It’s on the outskirts of Columbus[ii]. Many of God’s chosen are there right now. They’re waiting for His revelation.”
“We’re not going to a fallout shelter, Mark.”
“Sara, we’re going, but what’s most important is that you have accepted Christ.”
“Of course. I’m Catholic.”
Mark sighed. “But are you filled with the Holy Spirit?”
“Mark, I really was never taught about that, you know, the Holy Spirit filling you and all that.”
“Then you’re not saved,” Mark said matter-of-factly.
“What?” asked Sara.
“You’re not saved.”
“You’re not saved. And when the time comes, you won’t be taken up to Heaven. You will have to suffer the trials and tribulations with all those who rejected Christ.”
“Mark, please. Trials and tribulations? You never used those words before you started listening to that Bible radio program.”
“And when you die . . .”
“Mark, please . . .”
“After you have suffered all the trials and tribulations before the final destruction of Earth . . .”
“Please . . .”
“You will be in Hell . . .”
“Mark . . .”
“And will suffer for eternity . . .”
“Mark! . . .”
“No second chances . . .”
“Mark! . . .”
“No purgatory . . .”
“Mark!!! . . .”
“Just Hell and eternal suffering.”
“Mark!!! That’s it! I can’t take this anymore! I can’t deal with all this religion stuff! I can’t deal with it! I’m tired of you repeating what that radio preacher says. I’m tired of these arguments. I’m tired of you saying I’m going to Hell.”
“Sara, I want to see you saved.”
“No. I can’t. We’re not working out Mark. You’ll just have to go wherever you’re going by yourself.”
Sara started to sob.
“I’m sorry, Sara. God knows I can only do so much. Just know that I am praying for you. For the sake of your soul, Sara, please accept Christ. Accept Him.”
Sara kept shaking her head and sobbing.
That night, as Mark and Sara slept . . .
In a field situated in the night’s dark blue landscape, on an open plain with dark storm clouds brewing overhead, there stood a man with pale blue eyes and long brown hair that grew slightly past his shoulders. He wore a beard of medium thickness. Upon his head was a crown of thorns. There was blood dripping down from his head onto his face and pale robes. A pained look was visible in his knowing expression.
As the view of this man came closer, he began to loom larger. Storm clouds began to rumble as lightning began to jump from cloud to cloud. Then it began to rain . . .
Mark suddenly woke up and was trying to catch his breath.
It is a sign, he said to himself amid breaths.
He looked to his wife who was still sound asleep.
It is a vision, he thought. Tomorrow I must leave, for a great destruction is imminent. I’ll tell her about it in the morning.
Mark then went back to sleep. He and his wife slept a foot apart.
That Saturday morning, Mark and Sara finished the egg breakfast that she made for them both.
Then Mark began:
“Sara, I had a vision last night.”
“A vision? You mean a dream,” she responded as she had an incredulous expression on her face.
“No, it was a vision. A vision of Christ.”
“Really, Mark? Are you serious?”
“Yes, Sara. I am.”
Then Mark proceeded to describe the vision of the man bleeding from the crown of thorns who was standing on a dark plain with thundering storm clouds overhead.
“Then it began to rain, Sara,” Mark continued. “It began to rain. Do you know what that represents? It’s the beginning. It’s the beginning.”
“Yes, I know,” said Sara with a degree of frustration. “It’s the beginning of the end of the world. Okay. Really. Who are you?! John the prophet?! Come on! Your dream sounds to me like some lame Hollywood production. Really. Don’t you think your ‘vision’ has to do with all those movies and documentaries about Jesus you’ve been watching? Every week it’s another movie about Jesus. And you know what it really is? It’s that radio program that you’ve been listening to practically every night. It’s that guy Renwaith you’ve been listening to.”
Sara shook her head and continued:
“You’re not listening to that program anymore, Mark. I won’t let you. It’s making you crazy. You’ve become a religious nut.”
“Don’t call me crazy!” Mark struck back. “And don’t mock my faith! The End is coming, Sara. I know it. I feel it. As I told you yesterday, I’m going to The Sanctuary of the Holy Rock, and I’m going today. In fact, I’ll be going now. I’ll take a cab and a train there. You can keep the car. You’ll need it for your job. But I want you to come, Sara. I don’t want to leave you behind. This is real biblical prophecy come to life. This is real. Come with me, Sara, and be saved.”
“You’ve completely lost it, Mark. You’re gone.”
Sara started sobbing, went upstairs to her bedroom, and closed the door.
Mark packed up his suitcases with clothes and called a cab.
Fifteen minutes later, the cab arrived and beeped. As soon as she heard the beep, Sara ran out of the bedroom and rushed downstairs to Mark. She grabbed both of Mark’s wrists and said “Don’t go!” amid sobs.
“I’m going, Sara. My cab is here. Come with me.”
“I can’t!” she yelled. “I don’t believe in that crazy stuff! I can’t!”
“I love you,” Mark said to his wife. “Christ loves you.”
Then he began to walk towards the door, rolling his suitcase behind him.
“I won’t be taking my cell phone with me because where I’m going I won’t need a cell phone. But I’ll write down the address for you.”
Mark found a piece of paper, wrote the address, and left it on the kitchen table.
“I pray that you will join me, Sara. Before the end. May God’s love shine upon you.”
Mark walked out of the apartment and closed the door.
Sara continued sobbing.
A few minutes later, after she started to compose herself, she made a phone call:
“Hi Sara. What’s wrong? Are you crying?”
“We have been having arguments. It was about religion again.”
“You’re Catholic. Isn’t that enough for him?”
“No. It’s that I’m not religious enough and that I don’t have the Holy Spirit, something like that. You know how this all started? He lost his job and was really depressed for months. I have been paying the rent since. He started to watch all these Jesus movies and documentaries. Then he started listening to that damn Bible radio program, and he was believing it. And he’d bring up religion during every dinner conversation and I was always wrong in these conversations. Me being Catholic was like I was committing this great crime against God. What was weird was that Mark started to become arrogant, almost like he was special because he had God and I wasn’t because I didn’t have God. It really got on my nerves because it was like he was better than me because he found the true religion. And he kept trying to ‘save’ me, whatever that means. I mean, first he’s depressed, and then he’s arrogant. I can’t handle him like this.”
“Oh, Sara. He’s been through a lot, you know. I mean, to lose your job at thirty-five. That’s hard for a man to handle. You know how men are. They have to be the rulers of the household. And now you’re working and he’s not. It’s a lot for a man to deal with.”
“Mom, he left.”
“Oh, he’ll be back. He doesn’t have a job. He has no other place to live. Where could he possibly go?”
“But Mom, this is what I’ve been trying to tell you. He said he’s going to go to a fallout shelter or some religious complex because he thinks the end of the world is coming soon. I mean, he’s just gone crazy, and I’ve been dealing with him like this for the past few months. He’s going there with all these other crazy religious people who listen to that radio program, and they’re all going to be together waiting for the end of the world.”
“Oh dear. You know, let me call him on his cell phone. Maybe I can talk to him.”
“Mom, he left his cell phone here. He said he wouldn’t need it because he’d soon be with God. He gave me directions to wherever he’s going, but I’m not going there. They’re a bunch of crazies.”
“Oh dear. I’ll be over right away. Oh Sara.”
A few months had passed and it was March 28th. Mark was in a white room alone, praying. This was a small bedroom with basic furnishings and was part of a large building that was something between a religious complex and a fallout shelter.
“Lord, I pray for Your vindication. Your will be done today, my Lord. Your will be done. This is the day of the Reckoning of Man. Your will be done. Doubt is a virus that afflicts man. Even some of Your most loyal followers here today are victims to this disease. But I have the purest faith in You, my Lord, that this is Your day as prophesied in Holy Scripture. This is Your day, my Lord. Your will be done. This is Your . . .”
Mark started to feel different. He started to feel a bit dizzy, and then he felt calm and at ease. Suddenly, it seemed the room started to change. The room furnishings gradually faded into the white and from the ceiling what appeared to be a funnel began to form. Then, slowly, he felt himself being sucked up into the funnel.
At first, he felt fear, but fear changed to a developing sense of ecstasy when he realized he was not being harmed, but was being transported. Up, and up, and up he went until the funnel dissipated and he was standing on a white plane, white ground and white sky.
“Lord, Lord, I am here. All that I have worked for, and I am here. My Lord, I thank You. I praise You. All praise to You, my Lord.”
As he said these words, his eyes started to tear up.
Then the surrounding whiteness began to ripple, as does a pond when a stone is dropped in.
This otherworldly plane in which he found himself started to hum and vibrate.
“Oh Lord. Oh Lord. You are here. I feel your presence, my Lord. My God, I am so blessed. So blessed. Thank you, my Lord. Thank you.”
Tears were now pouring down Mark’s eyes.
Then objects started to fade in. First a bed, then a night table, a lamp, a closet, a cement floor, white walls, and a door. He was back in his bedroom, but something had changed.
“I am in Heaven,” he said to himself. “I am saved.”
He walked out the door of his room, which opened into the main foyer of the building complex. Men and women were sitting down, talking about prophecies, and many were praying. Most of them seemed afflicted with great sadness and disappointment.
“I am in Heaven, looking down upon the sinners. It feels so strange, my Lord. But thank you. Thank you, my Lord, for saving me from the destruction to come.”
Mark looked at all the men and women with pity in his eyes.
“Ah, they too, my Lord? They too, whom I took to be believers and among your most faithful servants? But it is Your judgment, and Your judgment is just. Of all the billions on Earth, only one-hundred and forty-four thousand are saved, says the prophecy.[iii] And I am among the few. I am among Your chosen few. This is man’s greatest honor, my Lord. No other honor compares. Thank you, my Lord. Thank you.”
Mark walked over to a table where a man in his late thirties named James was sitting and conversing with other believers. As Mark approached, James looked up and said:
“Mark. I guess Brother Renwaith was wrong. His calculations were off. We were wrong.” He shook his head. “And I sold my house and everything. I don’t know what to do.” He shook his head again.
Ignoring James’ words as if he never heard them, Mark said to himself, “You too, James? I thought surely you would be saved. But God wills what He wills, and God is always just. I just pray that you truly accept Christ before the final destruction begins. God, will it so.”
As Mark began to walk away, James responded, “I have accepted Christ. He has been my personal Lord and Savior for five years now. You know that. Mark, are you all right? The Rapture never happened. Renwaith was wrong in his calculations. Mark, are you okay?”
But Mark just walked away and could not hear James’ words. Mark walked to another table where a woman named Kim was praying earnestly.
“Kim, I sincerely thought you would make it to be one of our Lord’s elect. Your prayers were so true, or so I thought. But no, your faith was weak and has been deemed inadequate by the Lord, as He knows the hearts of both man and woman.”
Kim looked up and said, “Mark, I’m saved. It didn’t happen. Brother Renwaith was wrong. Mark? Mark!”
Mark walked out the foyer door, through a small hall, and then exited the building where he was surrounded by the noises of the city streets. It was midday, and the streets were crowded with the daily bustle.
“So many unsaved,” said Mark. “They know not what they do, my Lord. So much sin. And they are all crucifying you, my Lord. But vengeance is Yours, and You will repay them for their rejection of You. But those who suffered for Your sake, my Lord, will not have to wait much longer to be vindicated. Your justice will be done. And it is beginning now.”
Mark walked down Grenville Avenue to a café where he saw a young couple sitting at a table, talking and flirting with each other. He hovered over them and said:
“Ah, the stench of sin. Is it any wonder, my Lord, why these fornicators would not be saved from what is to come? They are all the same. Once they begin sin, they get stuck in the mire, and persist in their sin, just as Brother Renwaith had said.”
“Hey, buddy,” said the young man at the table, “my wife and I are trying to have lunch here. Why don’t you go bother someone else? What the hell is your problem?”
But it was as if Mark did not hear him and said, “the poor souls,” and walked away.
He went down 23rd Street where a homeless man on the corner was begging for food and money.
“Ah, how many sins has this man committed? Plenty, I am sure. Apparently, his master is liquor, not God. And man cannot serve two masters. And what else? Murder, I am sure. He has that look of desperation in his eyes that all murderers have. The sin sickens me. Thank you, my Lord, for taking me up to Heaven so that I no longer see this filth.”
“Please, sir,” said the man, “spare some change.”
Mark said to himself, “The man has no idea that all that was foretold is happening right now. Change, he needs not. Change of spirit, yes. What he needs is the Lord’s saving grace.”
“Please, sir,” said the man, as Mark walked away.
Mark walked down Thurn Avenue and at the end corner a bearded man was holding a sign, which said, “The End of the World is Nigh.”
Mark walked up to the man, looked at the sign, and shook his head. “Ah, the poor fool,” he said. “The end of the world is not near; it is here already, and I am looking down from Heaven upon the sinners who soon will be consumed in the Earth’s destruction.”
Mark walked away, and as he was walking away, the man with the sign shuddered and said to himself, “And they say I’m crazy.” The man threw out his sign and went to look for work.
Mark spent the rest of his day observing the sinners and imagining their sins. At night, he went back to the complex and took to bed. For the next five days, this would be what Mark would do: wake up, observe the sinners, and imagine their sins. Of course, he took breaks in his schedule to eat three meals a day, which were provided free by the staff who worked at the complex.
But on the sixth night, Mark was feeling a little different. In his room, he spoke to God:
“Heaven. I am in Heaven, saved from the wrath to come. This is Your will that I am among the Chosen to reign in Heaven with my Lord for eternity. I see Your blessed face . . . or saw Your face, my Lord. Did I see Your face? Too much has happened. Heaven. Is this Heaven? I feel different. I feel as though I am with You, yet this looks like my bedroom. Lord, please save me! . . . But I am saved and am in Heaven with You. But where are You? Lord? Lord!”
One hour later, Mark was found in his room with his arms crossed and his head in his lap. Kim knocked on the door and came in.
“Mark, it’s okay,” she said. “The Lord will come at His own time when He chooses.”
“But I was in Heaven with the Lord,” Mark said. “I saw Him, or I thought I saw Him . . . Brother Renwaith . . . Brother Renwaith was wrong.”
Kim shook her head, patted Mark on the back, and said, “This is just one obstacle, one that we can overcome. Mark, we were wrong, not God. I’m not sure we can ever know all of God’s plans, and God has a reason for this. I wish I could know His reasons, but I know it is God’s will that I don’t know.”
Mark smiled and said, “Thank you, Kim. Thank you for comforting me in this time of my life.”
“You’re welcome, Mark. You’re a brother in Christ. And I’m here for you.”
After their conversation, Kim left and Mark went to bed. The next morning, as the rest of the disappointed believers were leaving, he said his goodbyes to the friends he made and took a train and a cab back home.
He arrived home on a Friday evening before his wife got back from work. When she arrived, Mark was apologetic, they embraced, and she forgave him.
Three weeks later, as his wife was working and Mark was looking through the papers for job ads, he decided to take a break and sat down and turned on the radio. He was switching stations until he came to a familiar voice:
“And welcome to Free Symposium, and what is your question?”
Mark shook his head in disappointment.
“Yes, my question is about the end of the world,” said the caller.
Mark shook his head again, folded his arms and put his head in his lap.
“Yes, well I admit that my previous calculations were wrong. As we all know, the Rapture did not happen on March 28th. But I corrected the error of my miscalculations and now I am sure, indeed I am one-hundred percent sure, that the world will begin its end August 28th.”
Mark picked up his head and piqued his ears.
“It’s definitely August 28th?” asked the caller.
“Yes. I am sure of it. My previous calculations were exactly five months off.”
“How sure are you on this new calculation?”
“Absolutely sure. Beyond absolutely sure. It will happen August 28th. On this day, we will definitely see God’s elect taken up to Heaven with a bang and a flash. I went over my calculations hundreds of times, and I am one-hundred percent sure.”
“Thank you, Brother Renwaith.”
“Your welcome. Next caller, please. And welcome, you are now on Free Symposium. And what is your question?”
Mark then shut off the radio, stood up somewhat proudly, straightened up his posture even more, breathed deep, exhaled, and smiled . . .
[i] Revelation 21:8
[ii] Columbus, Ohio.
[iii] Revelation 7:4
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© Copyright Thomas Ragazzi and Philip A. Pecorino 2010. All Rights reserved.