Zoe sat hunched up inside her bubble. It wasn’t exactly
uncomfortable, just rather round. She pressed against
it with her feet and felt it move like springy rubber. She
didn’t want to push too hard in case it burst and she fell
into the sea! It looked a long way down. The bubble drifted inland over a vast sunbaked plain. Zoe could see villages that dotted the plain wherever there was water. She made out what must have been wells that the villages and houses were built around. Sheep and goats were being herded by the villagers. But what struck her most was the harshness of the environment, so bleak, so dry. Even the houses looked poor compared to the lavishness of Nineveh.
The desert winds carried the bubble and its precious cargo deeper over the heartland of the plain. In the distance stood a tower. It was the tallest tower she had ever seen—
more like a skyscraper. Its foundations were massive. Layer upon layer of brick formed the thick ramparts. Six levels rose toward the heavens. The tower’s size and beauty made her shake. It was breathtaking, and yet at the same time, it felt very evil. Thousands of workers clambered over the structure like busy ants as they rushed to finish building it.
The bubble slowly descended toward the tower like a hot air balloon. No one saw her land. As it touched the ground, it popped, and she effortlessly stepped out and onto the ground. Someone then noticed her and thrust a heavy blue glazed tile into her hand. Zoe was shoved roughly toward the massive tower entrance.
“Take this to level one,” the man instructed her harshly.
He looked worn and haggard as though he hadn’t eaten properly in years. Zoe looked at the ornate door. It was decked in the same blue tiles she was carrying, covered with patterns of white and gold flowers. How can something so beautiful feel so evil? she thought. With nowhere else to go Zoe joined the line of people walking up the ramp to the open doorway. From their clothing it looked as though the people must have been from every known country. They ranged from the very young to the very old. Some could barely have been twelve years old. All carried bricks and tiles that were far too heavy for them.
The door was even more massive and impressive up close. It was lined with gold and precious stones of turquoise, emeralds, and rubies. The people were oblivious to its beauty, and their heads were downcast. They needed all their strength just to walk up the ramp to carry heavy loads. Stepping through the doorway was like walking into the
most luxurious chamber imaginable. It appeared even larger on the inside, larger than any church or railway station you had ever been in. The walls were lined entirely with gold, and the whole place glowed with its radiance. Overhead, the turquoise blue tiles formed an intricate pattern framing the open vault many hundreds of feet above. This was a place of opulent beauty and awesome power.
Directly opposite the entrance stood a throne, high and imposing, set on a great pedestal. Above the throne was a canopy supported by six pillars of gold. The canopy was an amazing lapis blue color and contained many hundreds of stars that twinkled and shone. Zoe couldn’t tell if the stars were just lights or real ones—they looked so beautiful. Six wide steps covered in gold, each two feet deep, led to the throne. On either side of the six steps sat a statue of a menacing lion guarding the throne. A woman sat upon the throne, staring back at Zoe. Slowly the woman raised her hand and pointed straight at Zoe.
“I have been waiting for you,” the soothing voice said. “Come forward, little one.”
Hesitantly, Zoe edged closer to the woman on the throne, feeling dwarfed as she stood before her.
“Come closer,” the woman commanded.
Tentatively, Zoe walked up the first step. The lions’ heads moved. They weren’t statues at all but alive. Their red eyes followed her as she climbed the stairs. She could see their breath coming out of their half-open mouths. They sat panting, silently watching her. Zoe’s legs began to shake, and she thought that she was going to fall over. She had been in the presence of the Lord before, and knew what it was like to be overcome by his glory and majesty. This was somehow different. Despite all the glory and splendor there was in this place, there was something terribly wrong. The woman on the throne was dressed in luxurious clothes made of the finest silk in purple and scarlet. Elaborate starry patterns had been stitched in rich clusters across her gown. Along with embroidered moons, they shimmered and glittered as she moved. Even the woman’s skin seemed to glisten with a golden hue. Precious stones, jewels, and pearls were also fastened to her robes and crown. She was stunningly beautiful. Her gaze was regal, and even though she was seated on her throne, Zoe could tell that she was very tall. The woman looked perfect. She held a golden cup shaped like a star in her hand.
“I am the queen of the whole world and rule over all,” the woman announced matter-of-factly, as though she were giving a lesson to schoolchildren. “Don’t look so frightened,
little one. Yes, I am the Bride. God has called me to have dominion over the world and rule on his behalf.”
Zoe had been wondering, Can this be the Lord’s precious Bride that I saw before? So perfect, so flawless. Can this woman read my thoughts?
“Be seated,” the queen said calmingly. “You must be very tired after your long journey.”
One of the many officials dressed in a purple robe with a gold sash hurriedly placed an elaborately carved wooden chair inlaid with ivory next to the queen. Not knowing what
else to do, Zoe tentatively walked up the remaining steps and sat down next to the queen. The lions turned their immense heads as she walked past, watching her every step with their glowing red eyes.
“My kingdom extends from shore to shore and stretches to every continent.”
Majestically the queen waved her hand and the floor below lit up, revealing a map of the world. Every country and nation was present.
“All adore me and want to partake of my wealth and wisdom. That is why they bring tribute to me: so that I can make them rich and wise.”
The queen leaned forward toward Zoe.
“I am the one who has access to the Most High God. I am the one who talks to him on behalf of his people. I am the one who can make you like him, to make you like God himself. With me by your side you can ascend to heaven.”
Her voice grew in power. “‘I’ll climb to heaven. I’ll set my throne over the stars of God. I’ll run the assembly of angels that meets on sacred Mount Zaphon. I’ll climb to the top of the clouds… I’m about to take over as Queen of the universe. Come, all you have to do is bow down, and I will give you riches and splendor beyond your wildest dreams. Together with me you will rule over the world.”
The hair on Zoe’s neck stood up. She wanted to scream and run from the room! Her mind was awash with thoughts. Sure, God had promised to everyone who believed in him that he would come and live inside them so they would become like him. She knew that all power and authority had been given to mankind in the beginning, back in the garden. They were to rule over his Creation on his behalf. But because they had disobeyed God, and eaten the forbidden fruit, they had lost their authority, and everything had been given over to the devil. She knew that Jesus had come to restore all that had been stolen by the devil’s lie. Jesus longed for the day to come when he would bring back his family to the Father. Jesus was reclaiming his Bride and restoring her to rule alongside him. Yet something was terribly wrong here.
That was it! The Bride, his Bride—all had access to him. It wasn’t about a system, a priesthood, a person standing on behalf of others, but each person making his choice and having a direct hotline to God.
“Whom do you serve?” asked Zoe, rising from her seat.
“Why, ‘the Maker of heaven and earth,’” replied the queen quoting from the Bible. She paused for just a moment as though weighing her words carefully, and then continued,
“‘…but the earth he has given to mankind.’”
Hmm, thought Zoe. I know the Bible says that . . . but she’s only choosing the part that suits her. I know the bit before it: “The highest heavens belong to the Lord…”
“And who is the Maker of heaven and earth?” Zoe probed deeper, feeling a wave of righteous anger rise up inside of her.
“The lord God, of course, who is forever to be praised.”
“What is his name?” demanded Zoe with such authority that she even surprised herself. She remembered: “Here’s how you test for the genuine Spirit of God. Everyone who
confesses openly his faith in Jesus Christ—the Son of God, who came as an actual flesh-and-blood person—comes from God and belongs to God. And everyone who refuses to confess faith in Jesus has nothing in common with God.”
“God, of course,” the woman stammered, “just God. It’s simple really and he has appointed me to …”
Gripped by the power of the Lord, Zoe stepped toward the now shaking woman, raised her right hand, and shouted, “You are not of the Lord!” She turned and ran down the steps as fast as she could. The lions had started advancing up the steps toward her, but when she proclaimed the truth, they parted before her like melting butter.
Zoe ran with all her might. Her feet barely touched the floor as she bolted for the door. But it was closed tight— there was no way out, or was there? Officials were scurrying in all directions, obviously in a state of confusion. Some were running toward her and some away. The lions seemed to have recovered and were bounding straight for her.
Jesus, she cried silently in her heart, help! You said that you’d always provide a way out and that you’d never abandon me. Where are you now?
“Down!” she heard. The voice was clear and sweet like honey on a warm spring day.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Zoe slammed herself down on the floor.
“I worship you and you alone Jesus. You are the one who has saved me. You are the one who has made it possible for me to come to the Father. You are the one who died for me and rose from the grave on the third day. You are the one who has set me free from sin and death to live in your presence forever.”
Zoe could hear the snarl of the lions approaching. She closed her eyes and proclaimed, “‘My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouth of the lions!’”
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