The opening above the saints grew larger and Rayford felt himself suddenly drawn toward it at great speed. As millions of saints from around the world streamed toward the centre of the glass ceiling those (like Rayford and Chaim) who had arrived first were drawn through the big opening in the ceiling. Rayford looked down and could see clouds below him now. They must be several miles up, and still rising.

 

Even after they passed through the opening, they continued to rise at a rapid rate, allowing room for what looked like an unending cloud of saints and angels to follow them.

 

Inside the structure, Rayford discovered that there was no sense of up or down. It was like another world, but with total weightlessness. There was no shortage of oxygen, if, indeed, their new bodies were functioning on oxygen at all.

 

Suddenly Rayford felt guilty. He had become so distracted by the city that he had forgotten about Jesus, the One who had obviously made all of this possible.

 

"Don't let it bother you!" said someone or something. It was like the voice spoke inside his own head. Nevertheless, Rayford spun around and saw an angel smiling at him. "You'll have plenty of time to meet with the Lord personally," he thought he heard the angel say... although Rayford could not see the man's lips moving.

 

"Can you...?" Rayford began. But the answer came back before he could finish the sentence.

 

"That's why I'm here. It's my job to show you around, and to answer your questions."

 

The two men (for the angel looked to be quite human except for a higher degree of brilliance in his robe and countenance) were still moving at great speed through the vastness of the big city that they had entered only moments earlier. The crowd was thinning out, and it appeared that each saint had been joined by one angelic tour guide.

 

Rayford's senses were overwhelmed with all that had happened in just a few moments of time. He had been resurrected from what seemed like a deep sleep, returned to perfect health and youth, shot into space without a vehicle or space suit, witnessed momentarily the return of Jesus in the skies above Jerusalem, and then been swept into a whole new world inside a giant glass pyramid, where everything defied the laws of gravity.

 

"It's approximately fifteen hundred miles high," the angel said, as he read his student's mind. Rayford's head was being filled with information on where he was and what was happening, as quickly as he could process it.

 

"Millions of saints from around the world have been resurrected and flown here at great speed. Jesus is out there waiting to be seen by each of them before they enter New Jerusalem. Yes, New Jerusalem… that's the name of this city. We have all been busy preparing for this exciting moment.

 

"When everyone's inside, by sundown in Israel, we'll gather for the wedding party. No, it won't be dark here. God's presence lights the city constantly. You no longer need to sleep, so the party can go for weeks, in earth time, without let-up.

 

"The crowd? They'll not be a problem. You'll hear him as clearly as you're hearing me now. There'll be screens if you wish to see him up close, but it's not his body that we worship. It's his Truth and Power. We've planned plenty of music and food and dancing. A lot of celebrating. You don't know how much we up here have been looking forward to this."

 

"This is just so amazing!" Rayford exclaimed, relieved that his angel had allowed him to express just a tiny bit of what he was feeling.

 

"We understand your need to express praise," the angel said. "We have the same need ourselves. You'll love the singalongs! It'll be the single greatest act of praise in all history. It really is going to be exciting!"

 

Rayford had a strange urge to hug his angel, and at that instant his angel reached out to hug him. "Call me Bob," he said, and Rayford registered surprise at such an un-angelic name.

 

"A bit common, you think?" asked Bob. "Actually, names are not a big deal up here. We never get lost, and people know when they're being addressed personally -- like I'm doing with you right now -- but Bob'll do, if you feel more comfortable using a name."

 

"Thanks, Bob," Rayford responded. And then his thoughts turned to Irene.

 

"She's here," Bob reassured him. "You'll see her later. But you'll also come to love everyone here as much as you love her. And the Lord... why, he'll be the greatest love of all!"

 

Rayford could instantly see the truth in what Bob was saying. On earth he had had a special relationship with Irene; she was his personal responsibility. But here... everyone existed to love and please God. The "marriage party", as they called it, was a celebration of their corporate union with God. The euphoria that Rayford had been experiencing since he first rose sleepily up onto his knees there in the Temple Mount enclosure was greater than any pleasure he could ever remember having experienced back on earth, including sex. He did not even miss Irene now, or feel impatient about seeing her. He knew instinctively that they were one already... not only with each other, but with all the saints throughout history. They were one in their worship of God. They were entering into a new marriage -- a marriage to God.

 

Rayford's mind took another turn, and once again Bob turned with him.

 

"Back on earth?" Bob asked. "They're pretty upset, I can tell you that!" he said with a laugh. "Ol' Dangchao is trying to tell them that we're an alien starship coming to destroy the earth. Guess we are in a way. But he doesn't dare mention God. If he did, maybe they would see the futility of fighting us, and repent.

 

"Israel's in a mess at the moment. Nearly 7,000 dead already from the quake. But Dangchao is untouched by it. He doesn't think of anyone but himself. Right now he's screaming for military support from every country on earth. Fighter jets, nuclear weapons, rockets, missiles, anything they can find to blow a few holes in our outer shield."

 

"Can they...?"

 

"No. Not a chance. It wouldn't matter if they could. The glass isn't really our shield; God is. We just put it there for effect. Same with all the gold and precious stones you see everywhere around here. Pretty, isn't it?"

 

The beautiful structures in New Jerusalem had contributed to Rayford's overall feeling of pleasure. There were perfumes that breathed peace into his spirit too, and a kind of sub-conscious awareness of music humming inside his head. A river of water flowed this way and that through the vast city, but it flowed without banks to hold it in. It was either in a transparent channel, or just held together by its own surface tension. Rayford reached out to touch it. Sure enough, it had no outer covering. It was wet and cold.

 

There were areas of vegetation that had the feel of jungles without a jungle floor. You could move up, down, or through the beautiful flowers, ferns, vines, and other foliage. Plants tended to lack stalks, although there were beautiful and ornate leaves, and a few vines that laced individual blooms together.

 

The precious stones that Bob had referred to were more or less strewn along their path. Structures within the glass pyramid were not exactly "buildings" in the sense of a building on earth. There was little need for walls or floors, as people here had nothing to hide, and they were able to view others from above and below as easily as they could from the side. Some semi-transparent structures did serve to separate general areas of the city, so that activities taking place on one side of the walls would not disturb activities on the other side. Precious stones and plants featured on these partitions.

 

If there was one thing the saints found difficult about life in New Jerusalem, it was living without their normal concepts of time. You could not talk about "tonight", or "tomorrow", or how many days until something would happen, because there were no nights, and people did not sleep.

 

They would, however, take time to recline amongst the many gardens, and just soak in the peace and beauty of their new environment from time to time.

 

In earth days, the marriage party went on for several weeks. Rayford met up with Irene, Elaine, Chloe, Raymie... in fact, all of the original Jesans and the twelve judges. They compared notes on what had happened while they were apart, what their reactions had been when the great resurrection began, and what they had so far learned of life in New Jerusalem.

 

"We're going to rule the world when the 'battle' is over," Raymie announced. He was twenty-two years old now, and he would continue to age in New Jerusalem until he was approximately thirty. "The assignments," he said, "will be given out after the celebrations."

 

Rayford prepared them for the possibility that they would have only minor assignments compared to the ones they had carried out during the last seven years. "It always seems that we get slack when we're leading, and God spots the greater faithfulness of humble followers. So we'll probably see some of the little people given the top jobs here," he said.

 

Neville was there too, and he had some exciting news to announce about something he had learned from his angel.

 

"You know how we were able to send and receive email without a service provider?" he said. "Well, it was all being processed through a control room up here. This whole place can disappear into another dimension. It was out there all that time, tapping into the worldwide web to process our mail. That's why we never received a bill from Web Wonders after they destroyed it.

 

"And another thing! It was these guys who vaporised the Web Wonders office, not Dangchao. They did it so Dangchao's men couldn't get our files.

 

"I've been learning so much about how things work up here. It's not magic or anything like that. There are just a lot of laws of physics that people back on earth haven't learned yet. Things like how to overcome gravity and how to read minds. Even our new bodies operate much like our old ones did. Just newer models. They don't need sleep; they don't age, and they're immune to disease. We'll still eat and drink, but most of our power comes from God himself. It comes to us through the Light that fills this pyramid. Outside the pyramid, we would still age, the same as anyone else.

 

"There's just so much to learn," he exclaimed. "Isn't it great?"

 

Each saint found delight in something different. Mary loved observing the changes in others now that they were all young and healthy. She found as much pleasure in watching and listening to Neville as he found by what he was learning of divine physics. Just looking at Sheila Armitage and Mary Teresa, who were also thirty years old now, intrigued Mary. Everyone was so beautiful! And so full of energy! She wanted to talk to everyone and to hear their stories about what God had done for them.

 

Fran, Luis, Mike, and Martin all got into playing games with their new flying skills. They were like little children, although they had to be cautioned a couple of times about the dangers of reckless flying.

 

Matthew Baker and John Doorman spent a lot of time in the archives, going through videos and other records of their own lives and the lives of others. They were able to gain a better appreciation of what was happening spiritually at various times in their lives. They would locate a time when they prayed for something and then press a button and get an account of what had been the actual effect of the prayer. They were impressed with how God and his angels had managed to work around the intricacies of each person's free will and other natural restrictions that God had placed on himself.

 

Reinhard's greatest pleasure was just in wandering around the great city, examining the vegetation, decorations, and some of the strange animal-like creatures that lived there.

 

There was obviously more than enough to keep everyone fully occupied and fully happy for the next thousand years, which was how long they would be ruling over the world. What was to happen after that, they would worry about when the thousand years were drawing to a close. But in the meantime, they would all have duties to perform in ruling the world under the guidance of Jesus and his angels for the next thousand years.

 

Even while they were celebrating, God was pouring out his "Wrath" on the world below. All the suffering that the saints had just been through was nothing compared to what was happening outside at that time. The armies of the world were gathering their forces together for one final assault on New Jerusalem. Dangchao had a plan to fly nuclear weapons in through the same opening that the saints had used. But the saints were going to join with the angels in blocking that assault... an assault that is more popularly known as the "Battle of Armageddon".