Standing on the Brink of Hell (and Paul’s Perspective)

Another excellent post from my friend David Vincent.

Standing on the Brink of Hell

Last summer I had one of those rare dreams that are lucid and tangible, and leave you wondering if you were somehow actually there. 

And there I was, with the Apostle Paul. My perspective angle looked on from six feet and as close to him as a shirt sleeve. I was both an observation and the experience. 

He looked just like they say. A most unlikely character who could not possibly have survived all he went through.

In blistering chains we stood, bare foot, at a precipice of rock outside of a city. I felt like I was covered in two weeks of dirt and sweat. And the sun glared down. Two prison guards led us to a gap in the rock. They were the meanest! Over the gap was a wooden setup of pulley and plank held by rope. Standing over the cave we felt the heat from fires kept down inside. We watched the red glow on the darkness of the cave. And we heard men crying out down below. 

I stepped onto the plank alongside Paul. One of the guards laughed as he turned a crank until we hung over the oven of a gap. 

The dream sort of paused there. How many ways can you define “gripped with terror”? I thought of how unfair the whole thing was. I did not have a say. I was given no opportunity to defend myself. Personal rights did not exist. There was no way out. 

My Panic

The gap in the rock was less than the width of your shoulders. The sounds told you it was close quarters; hot coals and sweat; groaning and thirst. How many other prisoners would we join? How long would we be down there? My mind was beginning to spin out of fearful control when I looked to Paul.

Paul’s Surprising Response

Paul looked down into the cave prison with a big smile of exhilaration. Whether spoken or in thought I do not know. But, he talked of how he was honored and blessed that God would give him this opportunity to bring the gospel down into that cave of prisoners who may have had no other way to hear of the cross. 

God’s Message in the Dream

This dream slapped me awake. It’s been slapping me since. It has also taken me three weeks to try to write it out in such a way that it slaps you too. 

Dreams are sometimes tools of summary. I’ve spent years reading through Acts and Paul’s letters, and years of listening to Paul’s expositors.  This dream pulled it all together for me — our conclusions of who Paul was.  

My short moment with Paul showed me a great contrast between the ways of a Christian and–and my ways? Where in the world do I find myself?! As with most of scripture I find my way far from God’s way. We are supposed to leave our ways behind, and count them as nothing. All that trouble I was into with Paul? It was irrelevant to him. What mattered was the kingdom of Christ and gathering more people into His kingdom. 

Philippians 2:17

“Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.”


Image of the cave via Wikimedia Commons — Creative Commons

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