We have recently been purchasing and reading a few testimony books dealing with visionary experiences. In a section of our recent series “The City of God” we mentioned one such, entitled “Nine Days in Heaven” by Marietta Davis. This is an exceptionally good book, one that we can thoroughly recommend, containing nothing that in any way contradicts Scripture. It has a “clean” spiritual feel about it, and is God-honouring. The experience that Miss Davis had whilst she was in a coma is quite amazing, and we were uplifted by the whole sequence.
The second book we ordered was entitled “Answered or Unanswered”, Miracles of faith in China, by Louisa Vaughan. A wonderful book, which we recommend to all. Miss Vaughan was in China from October 1896 to January 1912, and ministered to Chinese women with a simple message of the power of the Gospel, backed by believing prayer that God will act when all else is humanly impossible. The way in which God showed His hand in the midst of heathen idolatry and mysticism is most revealing. One comes away with a sense of being washed clean by the Holy Spirit. One chapter in the book concerns a Chinese woman who died, received a vision of heaven, and was restored to life.
The third book was “Visions of Heaven and Hell” by John Bunyan. We were anxious to read this, having quoted it in our Wayside Pulpit 93 in September 2000. The quotation we found in one of H.A.Baker’s books, and copied it from there. But we wanted to read the whole book, purporting to be a vision that Bunyan had as a young man, in which he was taken to heaven, and then to hell, to witness scenes, and be instructed by one whom he called his “conductor.” Oh what a sad contrast this was from the other two books. Our spirits were dismayed by what we read of the scenes of hell, and words of the Conductor, saying that the tortures Bunyan witnessed were “everlasting”, and that there is “no redemption from hell”. For a while we didn’t know what to think about the book, because it seemed to have quite a different flavour to anything else Bunyan wrote. “Pilgrim’s Progress” is perhaps the most read Christian book after the Bible, and contains such beautiful allegorical passages concerning the Christian life that make it a delight to read, and is wholly suitable for young children to learn from it. But the “Visions” book drags one’s spirit down, and leaves a nasty taste.
After a short while of searching and analysing, we were soon to realise that this book could never have been written by Bunyan, but by someone who wanted to use Bunyan’s name to get his own corrupt views into print. This conclusion is absolute, and cannot be denied by anyone who takes but a little time to investigate. The book sells well, and is used by those who seem to have a “delight” in making hell a mega-hell, with lurid descriptions of the torments and tortures experienced by its “eternal occupants.” No one knows who the author was, but the John BunyanMuseum in Bedford lists the work as “spurious.” That ought to be enough, but in case more evidence is required, I thought the following facts ought to be made known.
- The author is called “Epenetus” by a whispering spirit, without any further explanation.
- Epenetus is about to commit suicide, having been convinced there is no God. As he is about to destroy himself, the whisper comes, “O Epenetus, plunge not yourself into everlasting misery to gratify your soul’s worst enemy. That fatal stroke you are about to give, seals up your own damnation. For if there is a God, as surely there is, how can you hope for mercy from Him when you thus wilfully destroy His image?”
- This “angel” then appears to him and takes him on a visionary trip to heaven, and then to hell.
- Whilst in “heaven” he meets the Prophet Elijah, who has much to tell him, (as I recorded in Wayside Pulpit 93, which is now deleted.) But Bunyan never mentions this in all his voluminous writings.
- He claims to have seen “Lucifer enthroned on a sulphurous lake of liquid fire deep in the centre of the earth.” Lucifer tells Epenetus that he has been sent there unjustly. However, the Bible tells us that the Devil is still at large, and will be until the angel puts him in the pit at the start of the Millennium. Furthermore, it is unacceptable to speak of hell as the centre of the earth. Hell is not a place, but a condition of existence.
- He then meets a man by the name of Thomas Hobbes, the atheist, who wrote a book called “Leviathan” in 1651. This is where the author, a forger, makes his most blatant error, and is immediately exposed . Here are the facts.
Thomas Hobbes lived from 1588 to 1679. Therefore, for Epenetus to have met him in hell, it must have been after his death in 1679. But Bunyan’s years were from 1628 to 1688. Therefore this “interview” could only have taken place in the narrow chronological window of nine years from 1679 to 1688. But the author speaks of his intention to commit suicide, and this could never have been the true Bunyan of 1679, who had by that time written numerous Christian works, including Pilgrim’s Progress (1676), and “Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ” in 1678, the year before Hobbes died. One could also mention his great testimony entitled “Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners”, published in 1666. No, there is no possibility that Bunyan (called Epenetus) could have contemplated suicide after 1679, and this settles the matter. It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to see through the scam.
After settling this matter in my mind, I pasted the word “Hell” in Google, and found several sites which encouraged surfers to buy and read “Visions of Heaven and Hell.” In addition I found other sites which painted a gruesome and highly imaginative picture of what hell is like. Those who have read even a few of our articles on Universal Reconciliation will know how we believe all such pictures are not only contrary to the declared character of God, and the saving nature of Christ’s sacrifice, but also suggest a psychologically warped attitude of mind within those who seem quite prepared to act as judge and jury of all mankind, and enjoy the thought of condemning the vast majority of human beings to “Eternal Conscious Punishment.”
But God said at the beginning, “The wages of sin is death“, not “Everlasting Torment.” When a person dies, this judgment is enacted. Each one of us is a sinner, and we all eventually die. Death is the clearest indicator of the truth of God’s word to Adam and Eve – “In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” And ever since then this judgment has been enacted. But Jesus died in our place, and when He was raised from the dead He became “the firstfruit of those who died.” The end of John’s Revelation is clear that, as a result, everyone will eventually be raised from the dead. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. We are then told that God will judge men according to their deeds, committed during their lives on earth. This is far removed from the action of a merciless tyrant. It is rather the just recompense for misdeeds, none of which deserve “eternal torture.” Jesus said that every sin committed by man would be forgiven. Once a man has learned of this great grace, he will then fully expect having to pay for his sins, by acts of restitution, and by asking forgiveness of those he offended. When this is accomplished, then he is indeed liberated, with a free conscience. For some inveterately wicked souls, this may be a very long process, and sometimes we wonder whether during the time of payment, they may even wonder whether there is ever an end to the process, but the Bible is clear that God persists until “every knee shall bow”, and therefore His Kingdom will have a final glorious end. This is a very brief statement of a subject that deserves a lot of thought, whilst prayerfully contemplating Jesus on the cross, the “Author of our Salvation.”
NOTE. The books mentioned in this article may be obtained from Quartermelon. Just put the name in the Google search engine to reach the site.
“Answered or Unanswered” (1920) is $12.44. “Visions of Heaven and Hell” is $8.75 and “Nine Days in Heaven” is $5.17. But after what I’ve written, I don’t suppose anyone will want to obtain the Pseudo-Bunyan work!