There once was castle set in the center of a perfect Kingdom.
The land was lush and beautiful.
The skies were blue.
And the people were happy.
They were happy because of the perfect beauty of the Kingdom – but they were even happier because every day they got to spend time with the King. Each day the massive arched doors of the castle would swing open and the King would stroll through them, eager to spend time with the residents of the Kingdom. They talked and laughed together, exploring the beauty of the Kingdom and enjoying sweet fellowship with their King.
But, unfortunately, an evil lurked in that Kingdom. A long- time enemy of the King watched and waited for his chance. He hated the King – and therefore, he hated anyone the King loved. It was obvious that the King passionately loved the subjects of His Kingdom.
One day, it happened. The enemy found one of the King’s subjects and cleverly twisted the King’s words, planting seeds of doubt in the mind of the woman. He made her question the goodness of the King and in just a moment, she had made a decision that changed the Kingdom completely. The woman chose to side with the King’s enemy – and with that one act of defiance, the doors of the castle swung shut. The King no longer could walk among His people because their rebellion separated them from Him. The Kingdom – or at least the part of it beyond the castle grounds – had fallen into the hands of His enemy.
The King, in His goodness, did not destroy the enemy or the remains of His Kingdom in that moment. Instead, He set into motion a plan. The King told the enemy that one day his head would be crushed by the Servant the King would send. He also explained that His Servant would suffer in the process – but that, in the end, the King would restore the Kingdom to its former, perfect glory. And in the meantime, the King gave His subjects a choice about where they would dwell. They could venture into the once glorious land, which was now filled with dangers both seen and unseen, and attempt to make it on their own. Or they could choose to willingly submit to Him and live within His protection.
Those who chose to live within the protection of the King found that He did a marvelous thing. Around the castle He built a high, thick stone wall. It was so high that you could no longer see the castle or its courtyard, hidden behind it. And it was also so tall that it was impossible to climb over it. It was so thick that you could not tunnel through it to get to the courtyard of the castle. There was no visible door to the castle within that wall.
But within that thick, high wall the King set many, many rooms. These were the places provided to those who chose Truth and threw themselves on the King’s grace rather than believing the lies of His enemy. By choosing the free gift of grace the King offered, they could dwell in the King’s shadow, within the bounds of His protection. They could not see Him face to face like their early ancestors had. But they could dwell near to the heart of the Kingdom, the heart of the King. He sent them messengers who faithfully recorded His Words. And those who were wise within the Kingdom took those words to heart, not just hearing them but faithfully obeying them as well. He assured them that even though they could not see Him, He was still there, still present and still listening to them. He gave them many great and precious promises to cling to while they dwelt there in the wall surrounding the courtyard of the King.
These rooms within the courtyard wall were rather wondrous. No matter how many people chose to accept the King’s gracious offer, there always was enough room. And there was always room for one more. All the former subjects of the King were now born in the land of the enemy. But all of them were given the choice – to come and live with and for the King or to stay in enemy territory.
There are many stories I could tell about the Kingdom and how marvelously the King set it up. And there are many stories I could tell about the subjects of the King and how they often forgot the King’s ways, in spite of the messages He sent them. But those are stories for another day. However, there is one more wondrous thing to share about the walls where the King’s people dwelt.
In the walls of the courtyard there were only doors from the outside, in. You could freely come from the land that now belonged to the enemy to enter the walls to dwell in the shadow of the King. However, there was no door that you could open to get through the other side and into the castle of the King. But for every person who lived there, the same thing would eventually, inevitably happen. At some point, a door would appear in the wall between them and the castle. And as the door opened, they would glimpse the beauty of the castle and the unspoiled, perfect Kingdom within. They would hear the King’s voice calling their name. And they would rise and go to Him, unable to do anything else. Their residency would change that day, from living in the shadow of the King to living with Him in His glorious, unspoiled, magnificent castle.
For some, this door in the wall appeared at the end of a long illness. With relief and a touch of guilt, the others who loved them would celebrate that they were no longer sick, no longer in pain, no longer suffering.
For others, the door appeared at the end of many, many years. With failing body and wasting memory, the person waiting would welcome the door and its opening, eager to be made new in the presence of the King.
But for others, the door would come after only a short time. It would appear suddenly – and those left within the walls would be stunned by its appearance. They would shake their heads and say things like, “But he was so young!” or “She had her whole life ahead of her!”
They forgot the messages from the King. They forgot that the life that they were living in the shadow of the Kingdom was nothing compared to the Real Life that was waiting, a life with the King. They forgot that the walls were temporary dwelling places, not built to last forever. And they forgot the attributes of the King. They forgot His kindness, His beauty, His mercy, grace and glory. And because they forgot, they feared the door in the wall. They feared “losing” someone they loved. They grieved the absence of the person, forgetting that they were guaranteed to be reunited with them one day, this time in the glorious presence of the King.
Their grief was understandable. It was difficult to be without the person they loved as they lived in this fallen world, on this side of the courtyard. But the King reassured them with this message: “Do not grieve like the people who live outside of my protection. They grieve like that because they have no hope. YOU do have hope! Those who have gone ahead of you into my presence are with Me. And one day, you will be with Me, too. You will be reunited. Or perhaps you will still be alive when I come back again. Because, remember, that is My plan. I will return one day and you will see Me face to face. I will destroy my enemy once and for all and we will all live together in perfection once again. You can be sad because you miss your loved one – but do not forget that I AM your Hope!”*
The subjects of the King did their best to remember these things. They sought to remind themselves and each other that the door in the wall – death of this body – is inevitable. But that life in the presence of the King is Real Life. That life started at the moment that they chose to live for His Kingdom and not the enemy’s. But one day, that Real Life will be fulfilled when they finally see the King face to face. And that is Real Hope for the residents of the Kingdom!
*First Thessalonians 4