Coleman Luck Showreel
For those who have never seen my work in television, we have created a showreel. I don’t think you will be bored.
For those who have never seen my work in television, we have created a showreel. I don’t think you will be bored.
You are invited to read The Singing Place.
It is almost Christmas and two brokenhearted men are about to meet. For years, Jorge Mendoza has been working hard at Children’s Hospital, cleaning restrooms, making beds, doing the things that others do not want to do…and all to bring his wife and little daughter to America. Through those years, Jorge has brought joy to others. He is a puppet maker and he gives away his creations to suffering children. But now, just before Christmas, he learns that his wife and little girl will not be allowed to join him. Eddie Gartman is a young man who is locked in the narrow world of Down Syndrome. His mother has died and his whole world is turning upside down. On his way to a special home for people with his condition, Eddie jumps out of the car and runs. His journey takes him through the streets of Los Angeles, as he searches for “The Singing Place”.
These two men, who do not know each other, are about to meet. In that meeting they will learn that miracles are never free and the greatest miracles always cost the most. This screenplay is dedicated to the memory of Coleman’s little sister, Virginia May Luck, whose life had such an impact on others, though she suffered from Down Syndrome.
Buried in the ancient past are dark secrets that whisper of terrifying things to come and the end of human history. Buried in the ancient past are the keys to world domination and great forces both seen and unseen are searching for them. A giant human-like head is found in an antarctic ice cave and something is buried deep in the ancient skull. So begins a world-wide search for other ancient artifacts led by a young archaeologist named Peter McCray. But the search is guided and funded by a mysterious billionaire whose birth was darkly miraculous. When all the keys are in his hand the world will never be the same.
He was a master mentalist, a warrior of the spirit, an adept in strange arts. And the last battle was about to begin.
The hellish hurricane is coming. As it screams toward landfall, one man knows the truth about its origin and power. One man has seen the Mighty Angel that was called from the depths to wreak destruction and rain new evil onto the Earth. That man is Robert Arthur Dagon, the leading mentalist and magician of his generation. But Dagon is much more than an illusionist, he is a spirit traveler who knows how to leave his body and enter unseen worlds.
This television pilot script is based on the novel by Coleman Luck.
Also, you can listen to the novel in a dramatic presentation by going to this link. https://open.spotify.com/show/5GDH2Yq4bDRkuCT4Zc1A6W
I’d like to share a story with you that I have loved for many years. I wish I could share it as a film, but I can’t. It is a feature script that I wrote a long time ago, the first professionally written script of my career completed when I was a grad student in screenwriting at USC. When it was finished, my prof, Jim Boyle, said to me, “Coleman, do not sell this script for any less than $400,000.00.” And you know what? I never have.
Where did the story come from? When I was a child, my father read books to me. (Thank God we didn’t have a television in those ancient days.) He introduced me to the great fantasy and science fiction writers. One of them was George Macdonald. You may not have heard of him. He lived in the 19th century and his novels were an inspiration to both C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. One was entitled, At the Back of the North Wind. It’s set in Old England and is about a little boy named, Diamond, who meets the North Wind and she becomes his friend. North Wind can appear as a lovely young woman, a charming little girl or a towering creature of darkness and terror that can engulf an entire land.
Macdonald’s book, for all of its charm, is not written in a modern form. Adapting it was a challenge. I added some elements that are not found in the novel. For instance, appropriate for today, the Black Plague comes to London, but Diamond is protected. Why? You’ll have to read to find out.
Over 20 years ago, I wrote about this experience relating it to America of that day. It’s time for a new telling.
I grew up in the Chicago area. In the mid-fifties I was in the sixth grade. During those years I had a paper route. Talk about anachronisms, newspapers were actually read back then. Anyway I had this paper route and it was a miserable job – dogs in the dripping heat of summer, freezing your tail off all winter long, and once a month I had to collect. That meant wandering up and down the streets on a Saturday trying to get jerks to cough up a couple of bucks to keep me in business. That’s right, payment in cash. But I was good at it. In sixth grade, I won an award. I’ve forgotten what it was for, but the prize I will never forget. It was an evening at Riverview.
Now anybody who grew up in Chicago during that period remembers Riverview. It was one of those great old sleazy amusement parks, a bloated carnival on a permanent location with a wooden roller coaster and a pot load of other dangerous rides that looked like they’d disintegrate the moment you sat down on them. All summer long Riverview advertised on the Chicago TV stations. Their main pitchman was a local personality named “Two-Ton” Baker, that’s what he called himself. He was a really large guy who did noonday programs for kids. All summer there’d be these commercials showing old “Two-Ton” taking up two seats on a roller coaster, yelling to display his sheer joy and probably to prove that if the thing held him it’d hold anybody. Anyway, you get the picture.
Riverview was the last gasp of an era. It died with the coming of the giant fake reality theme parks of today where everything is perfect all the time even the plants, which they change constantly to make sure everything is always blooming. Riverview was an honest straightforward temptation. It whispered to kids, “Come wander in my shadows. Come listen to my rats crawling around behind the boards. Come debauch.” We loved it.
Anyway I won this trip to Riverview and the greatest part of it was that my parents wouldn’t be going along. I’d be with a group of paperboy “winners” just like me, young delinquents in training. And, the peak of ecstasy? Our “chaperones” would be the paperboy “supervisors” from The Daily Journal. Now my parents didn’t know it but these guys were absolute losers, basically drunks who had been promoted far beyond their level of competence. Going with them was like going alone. They gave us cash and went off to a bar. Oh joy from heaven. Sixth grade. Money. And Riverview without adults.
Now when I say this was an old style amusement park I’m not joking. On the boardwalk it had a freak show. Can you imagine such a thing today? Try to picture a freak show at Disney World. So after you’ve gorged yourself on delicious little bags of dead meat euphemistically called “hot dogs” and braved all the dangerous rides at least six times, where’s an eleven-year-old boy gonna be found? I don’t need to tell you. So, I bought my ticket and walked in.
I found myself in a stark, ugly little room standing with a small crowd in a roped-off area. There was nothing fancy about this. It was as down and dirty as you can get. Three feet beyond the rope sitting on wood pedestals and little chairs were seven or eight freaks. And they were the real deal. Nothing fake here. It was a collection of poor sad human beings with bodies that looked like they’d been created in a Hollywood visual effects house. The instant you walked in, there was a seriousness about the place. Nobody laughed. Nobody talked. The freaks looked at you and you looked at them and then you left. But while I was there, something happened in that room that I will remember as long as I live.
One of the freaks was a little old woman, probably in her sixties. No more than three feet tall, her face was deformed beyond ugliness and all of her limbs bent in the wrong direction. She was just sitting there and you could imagine that she had done this all of her life. Suddenly into the room walked a man carrying a little girl about three years old. Why this idiot had brought her there no one could imagine. I was eleven and I was appalled. Of course at the time there was no rating system on freak shows so how could you blame him?
Anyway, the man with the little girl stopped in front of the little old woman. The instant the child saw this frightening creature she became terrified and started to sob. It was a horrible moment. Then, as I watched, that little deformed lady started to cry too. Quietly, without a sound, the tears ran down her cheeks. After all the years of being stared at, all the years of loneliness and pain, the humanity in her eyes was overwhelming. Then, that little woman began to talk to the little girl. Softly, with a voice like your grandmother and mine she tried to comfort her, to reach out with words because her arms weren’t long enough and they bent in the wrong direction. It was one gentle heart whispering to another. She said, “Don’t be afraid, sweetheart. It’s all right. Nothing is going to hurt you. See? I am crying too.” Eleven-year-old boys are not known for their deep sensitivity, but if I live to be a thousand I will never forget that scene.
Over 60 years have passed since that night. Riverview is long gone and I was thinking about freaks the other day. Often, we hear that we are a nation ruled by Laws. Untrue. We are a nation ruled by stories. The stories we love reveal who we are and what we are becoming. And, at this dark moment of American history our collective story should be titled, “Freaks Rule.” Not the good, honest freaks of Riverview, the true freaks. Us.
What is the story of our national freakhood? At its heart, is an addiction beyond politics and parties, beyond religion in all of its forms. It is the center of our lusts and aspirations, the hidden claw that rakes our lives, the chimera behind every lying story and every broken dream. Our money shrieks it to us, “In God We Trust” and money is the dark god in which we believe. Beyond all other gods we worship at its altar. From courtrooms to boardrooms, from churches to casinos, from shacks to mansions from whore houses to White Houses, without our green god, we are filled with fear. In money we trust and in our tattered freakhood, we pray desperately that the science money buys will save us from Covid-19. In this diseased and dying nation our doom is smeared on restroom walls. We have mocked the true God who loves us. We have mocked the Righteous Judge whose fingerprints of majesty are everywhere on earth. We have mocked the blood prints of His Dying and risen Son who came to save us and will return to rule.
In this awful year of 2020, to commemorate our mockery, I have written a new American Psalm. It goes like this:
Let’s all mock God together, as a pastime, it’s delightful, and there’s nothing more insightful than sleek souls that are self-satisfied.
Let’s all mock God together, some are sure He’s non-existent, so they disregard that strange, but very persistent, tiny, gnawing fear.
Let’s all mock God together, let’s trust in our blind science, to excuse our cold defiance, as we prepare for the living darkness that lies ahead.
Let’s all mock God together, obsessed with streaming distractions, to make us forget our evil actions, for certainly we answer to no one but ourselves.
Let’s all mock God together, in a culture dithering toward senility, we glorify scurrility, and claim every wretched sin to be a human right.
Let’s all mock God together, while black men die under bended knees and hang from barren trees, above their corpses flies our patriotic flag.
Let’s all mock God together while frightened families are torn asunder, we continue to oppress and plunder the poor who pick and carve the food that gives us life.
Let’s all mock God together, in our well-insured complacency, with frightening indecency, we watch sufferers without help go bankrupt and die.
Let’s all mock God together, while we FUND the skilled aborters, the dead baby sorters, who cut out souls, then chop and sell.
Let’s all mock God together, maskless shrieking offenders, freedom’s great defenders, infecting all with the spitting selfishness of hell.
Let’s all mock God together, toilet paper hoarders with excremental disorders flushed through texting fingers to screens throughout the world.
Let’s all mock God together, porno cyber suckers, groaning, spermy muckers with minds that reek of rotted flesh.
Let’s all mock God together, while wealthy men buy someone’s daughter, to use, abuse and slaughter, hell awaits their final day.
Let’s all mock God together, while we bloat like good consumers, pushing shopping carts of tumors, blind to the cancer that eats our souls.
Let’s all mock God together, with ventilators wheezing, millions go on pleasing the little god that gasps between their ears.
Let’s all mock God together, while patriotic churches worship mammon, their souls are starved in famine without a morsel that will save.
Let’s all mock God together, though His judgment is long in coming, we can hear the death march drumming for nations too evil to repent.
Let’s all mock God together, I’m sure He doesn’t hear us, and we have Amazon to cheer us while America grinds slowly to her grave. Yes, let’s all mock God together.
That, my friend, is our tragic national story. And stories rule. But in my heart I wish I could write a different story. It would be so radical that everyone would freeze in shock. It would start this way. Into the Oval Office, rancid as it is with tweeted droppings, I would bring a new person to lead our land. For her, the President’s chair would be too large and the desk would be too high. There would be no rose-garden signings jammed with the fatuous elite. Her arms would be too short and they would bend in the wrong direction, so putting her name on our great laws she could not do. When the TV cameras focused on her many would be filled with horror and revulsion. They’d demand to know why such an aberration had been allowed to live, why her mother hadn’t ended her in a merciful abortion. But she wouldn’t listen to the ranting rage. Every slithering insult, every denigrating whisper, she had heard a thousand times before. In fact, she wouldn’t talk to us at all. Instead she’d speak softly to our terrified little children. And with her words and tears maybe they’d be able to see beyond her ugliness into eyes filled with love, beautiful beyond comprehension, because in her suffering she had seen the Face of God.
If only we had a true, honest freak in the White House to lead us to national mourning and repentance instead of national death. It wouldn’t take long for that little grandmother to touch hearts that hadn’t yet turned to stone. I can tell you, at that freak show in Riverview so long ago, it took only five minutes for her to touch the heart of an eleven-year-old boy.
Cry for our beloved country. The evil freaks rule.
At this moment, desperate people are about to go over the brink. In their despair, many of them do and lose their lives. Psychiatrist Daniel Brinkman will do anything to save them.
Three case histories all true, but the names are changed.
Three military veterans on the brink. They represent the heart of this series.
Robert Sanchez: Mexican American, early 40’s. He did three tours in Afghanistan as a Marine sniper and has over 50 kills on his record. A year ago, he was paroled after three years in a federal penitentiary. When Robert left the Marines, he was recruited by MS13 to be a hitman. Out of desperation because he couldn’t find any other work that would satisfy his shaky adrenalin addiction, he took the job. As a hitman, he was the hunter, but also the hunted – by other gangs and law enforcement. Robert was successful and very well-paid, but nightmares started coming. Over the years, they got worse and worse. Finally, during his last assignment, he was hit himself and left for dead. But he lived. He was caught and convicted, not for murder, but for conspiracy and membership in the gang.
The plea bargain took a fifteen-year sentence down to three years. During his time in prison, Robert changed dramatically. He met a good woman, a teacher who taught in the prison, and they married. Now they have a baby daughter. The last thing that Robert wants is to go back into the old business. But suddenly, he is being pursued to do so by people who don’t like to be refused. And the nightmares have returned.
Miriam Lubaton: Filipina American, 37. An extremely successful surgeon who earns in the high six figures. As a surgeon in the reserves, she was activated and did a long bloody, front-line tour in Afghanistan. Coming home, she was never the same. Every time she enters an operating room she has horrible flashbacks to the most terrifying experience of her life. In Afghanistan, her surgical unit came under mortar attack. Several of her team died in front of her, blown to pieces and she was seriously wounded. Now her life is falling apart. She drinks, her husband, also a surgeon, is leaving her and taking their two children with him. Miriam is becoming more and more self-destructive. Recently, in the middle of the night, she drove her Porsche at 120 miles an hour down a freeway. The car spun out and crashed. It is a miracle that she is alive. But what will happen next time?
Douglas Schroonback: African American, 93. When he was 18 years old, he was an Army infantryman who fought through the hell known as the Battle of the Bulge and then fought across Europe. At the end of the war, Douglas came home and began a “normal” life. Working hard in spite of terrible discrimination, he became very successful as a welder. In 1950, he married. Evelyn, who is still his wife, loves him deeply. Douglas has been a good man, a faithful husband and father. In spite of this, she has known that something was deeply wrong. Something very dark is bound up inside him and it has been there from the first moment they met. Through an iron will, he has controlled it, but in old age, nearing death, things have grown much worse. Douglas carries a terrible secret from the war that he hasn’t been able to share with anyone and it is eating him alive.
True stories and there are thousands more.
Veterans on the brink.
At the huge Manhattan VA Harbor Healthcare facility of New York, one of the bravest and most skilled psychiatrists in America stands with these suffering people. His name is Daniel Brinkman. His patient clients all love him and call him “The Brink”, because of the way he keeps so many of them from falling into a dark abyss.
Brinkman is a graduate of Harvard and Johns Hopkins, but he holds to no particular school of psychotherapy. Many of his professional colleagues do not like the way he works because he is willing to do anything and everything necessary to save lives. Along with traditional therapies, he uses hypnotherapy and is considered close to an equal with the greatest hypnotherapist who ever lived, the late psychiatrist, Milton H. Erickson. Also, Daniel has used strange, new therapies such as Rapid Eye Movement and others. His work is not just in an office. He goes out into the streets, where so many lost veterans live.
From long experience, Daniel Brinkman knows that sometimes you must take a man or woman back into the darkest and most terrifying moments buried deep in memory. Above all else, he knows that every combat veteran comes home with a broken heart. True healing can be found only through forgiveness, both giving it and receiving it.
As he helps so many others, Daniel carries heavy burdens of his own. At 54 years old, he has only been head of psychiatry at the VA hospital for three years. For many years before that, he was the highest level psychiatrist with the CIA and director of the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, a joint task force of the FBI, CIA and DoD, charged with the ethical and legal interrogation of suspects who pose a potential threat or have information regarding such threats to the security of the United States. His Mobile Interrogation Team traveled to many of the world’s worst and darkest places to interrogate violent detainees.
Through two-decades of intelligence work, Brinkman grew deeply disillusioned. He lived through the years when physical torture was encouraged by the American government. As a young psychiatrist, he witnessed many awful sessions and the memories will not go away. He counseled interrogators who had done horrifying things to other human beings and were haunted by what they had done. Brinkman nearly lost his career due to his strong objections to torture. At one point he took his objections all the way to the President of the United States. Finally, he was given permission to form his interrogation group to show that there was another, far more effective and non-violent way, to get information. He based his system on what is called The Scharff Method, perfected by a German interrogator during WWII who very successfully got information from American Pilots without torture.
However, in spite of all the evidence, many in the military and elsewhere believe that torture is the only way. There are even leaders who want to go back to the secret techniques of MKULTRA and the “Terror Doctors”, whose highly classified files Brinkman has studied. It was a constant battle and finally, Brinkman had enough. He wanted to help people, not manipulate them to get information. Though he left the CIA, for several reasons he cannot fully disengage. A strange man named Ernest Lansing, a CIA Assistant Director comes to Daniel for help whenever there is a devastating crisis. It could be a high-value interrogation or a troubled, dangerous operative in the field. It could even be a suicidal U.S. Senator. The other reason he can’t disengage is his daughter.
Because of his globe-trotting years, Daniel Brinkman has paid a heavy price in his personal life. He is divorced. His ex-wife, Ella, an African American, is a pediatrician with a wealthy practice in Hartford, Connecticut. She blames him for the lives of their two oldest children. Their daughter, Harper, 28, is a fast-rising young field officer in the CIA. Her father’s name helped her get into the agency right after college. Harper is very bright, very beautiful and very skilled. Ernest Lansing is quite willing to try to manipulate her to get what he needs from Daniel. This is not easy. Their son, Daniel Jr., 25, was a Navy SEAL. Tragically, he is serving a long sentence in the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for a crime that he swears he didn’t commit. Their youngest child, Eric, 17, is adopted and has cerebral palsy. He lives with his mother and has no interest in anything relating to government, the military or medicine. He wants to be a comedian and YouTube star like his hero, Zach Anner. The kid really is funny with a biting wit which can drive his parents crazy.
Daniel Brinkman has lived his entire professional life walking on the razor’s edge of a moral and sometimes physical, abyss. Always, he is on The Brink. Now it is for others.
Layout of the Series
Structured like The Equalizer television series, the first priority will be stories about crises involving veterans. There are over 20 million living veterans in the United States. They and their families have given much to this country. Many of them are suffering. Veteran stories will include action flashbacks to the past and dangerous situations in the present. Hypnotherapy will offer unusual storytelling opportunities. With these will be season-long arcs dealing with Brinkman’s past, his current CIA involvement and his family. Over these season arcs, there will be the very slow reveal of the ultimate antagonist.
Pilot Episode Concept
A montage of nightmares. Day in a city in Afghanistan. Carefully hidden in a tower, a Marine sniper and his spotter execute a perfect kill. They are half a mile away from their target, a brutal-looking man. They take him out with one shot. The shooter is Robert Sanchez. Quickly, the team packs up and leaves. Night in New York City. Three men are torturing a young man who is hanging by chains from the ceiling. Suddenly, out of the darkness appears Robert Sanchez. With three shots he kills them. The images speed up. More kills in Afghanistan. More kills in New York. Faster and faster they come in screaming horror … until the shot that almost killed him. Robert Sanchez lurches awake covered with sweat. He’s in bed with his wife. Sleeping near them is their new baby daughter. His wife wakes up. This has been happening almost every night and she’s deeply concerned. Robert won’t tell her what he is dreaming about. He has never told her that he was a hitman. All she knows is that he was in a gang, but isn’t anymore.
Sanchez is sitting in a circle with ten other tough-looking veterans at the New York VA hospital. Leading the group is Daniel Brinkman. Robert is very emotional as he tells the story of what happened when he was in the Marines and afterward. In Flashback, we see him recruited by MS13. It was a frightening experience. But he can’t tell the men what he did for them. All he says is that he spent three years in a federal pen for his involvement with the gang. During that time, his life changed. He’s been out a year, but bad things are starting to happen and he is desperate. He would rather die than endanger his wife and little daughter. The way he has screwed up his life, maybe death is the answer. That’s all he will say. Everyone in the group is very concerned. The other men try to talk to him, but he is a stone wall.
The truth comes out in a private session with Brinkman. Together, they go to the place where Sanchez was shot and almost died. Brinkman faces three problems in trying to help this man. First, he must find out why he chose to be a sniper and how the kills changed him, leading him to kill for MS13. Second, he must find a way to free him from the guilt that is destroying his life. It means confronting the truth of what he has done. Third, somehow he must release him from the grip of MS13. Accomplishing all of this will take Sanchez onto the ragged edge of sanity and both of them into physical danger. But they aren’t alone. Other combat vets will stand with them. “We never leave anyone behind.”
Season 1 Brinkman Personal Arc: Daniel Jr. in Fort Leavenworth.
As Brinkman deals with veterans in crisis such as Robert Sanchez during the week, on the weekends he begins traveling to Kansas to have regular visits with the veteran closest to his heart, his son. Daniel Jr. swears that he did not commit the horrible crime for which he was found guilty, but his memory is very foggy about a number of important details. He has terrible nightmares and sometimes feels as though he’s losing his mind. Though the loss of memory through PTSD is not uncommon for soldiers who have been in brutal combat, Brinkman senses that something far worse is going on. Though he doesn’t want to do it because it goes against his basic ethical standards, he feels he has no choice but to start therapy sessions with his son. This includes hypnotherapy to find out what might be buried in his subconscious memory. Daniel Jr. is extremely reluctant to do this, but his father assures him that wherever his memories take him, and those memories will be very real, not like dreams at all, he will be there by his side. (This will bring powerful visual storytelling, as Daniel Jr. is taken back into terrifying situations that he lives through as though they were actually happening, but also observes from the outside with his father beside him.)
Step-by-step through season one, Brinkman will discover increasingly odd memories buried deep in his son’s mind, fragments, pieces of horror, some of which are so frightening that he won’t let Daniel Jr. remember them when he awakens from a hypnotic trance. What becomes clear is that his son has been powerfully manipulated by mind-control. But who has done this and why? Ultimately, what he learns, takes Brinkman on a journey into the darkest, most evil corners of psychology and psychiatry. And into very real danger.
The Ultimate Antagonist
Imagine an antagonist who can make terrible things happen to innocent people but who never leaves a trace of his crime. This is because he is never present when the crime takes place. He is hidden deep in the minds of those he manipulates to do whatever he wants. Because of his prestige and authority, he is never suspected. Quite the opposite, often he is brought in to help solve the crimes that he has perpetrated. Meet Nathaniel Margrave, Doctor of Psychiatry, who holds the Distinguished Exdon Chair of Psychiatry at Cambridge University. His reputation for skill in psychotherapy is world-renowned and he has authored many books and professional studies. Privately, Margrave has been a counselor to Prime Ministers and Presidents. As founder and director of The Ilford Institute, he is a member and consultant to every powerful group from the Bilderbergers to the Council on Foreign Relations.
His institute, with offices in London and New York, but with secret “research facilities” in oppressive countries, is a dark center for the most dangerous psychological experimentation. Using every technique from torture and hypnosis to mind-altering drugs, Margrave has gone light years beyond the primitive, mind control experiments of MKULTRA, MKSEARCH, BLUEBIRD, and ARTICHOKE. His great knowledge and willingness to quietly sell his expertise to any person or nation willing to pay his fee makes him one of the most dangerous men in the world. His goal is power, and money is the measure of that power. Yet Margrave considers himself a great philanthropist and that is the way the world sees him. Through the charitable wing of the Ilford Institute, he gives millions to suffering people.
In every way, Nathaniel Margrave is the exact opposite of Daniel Brinkman and views Brinkman as a tremendous threat to his activities. On the outside, Margrave presents himself as Brinkman’s friend and distinguished colleague on important projects, while secretly working to destroy him. As the Ultimate Antagonist, his true identity will not be revealed for several seasons. But his shadow is buried deep in Daniel Jr.’s mind where not even Brinkman can find it.
With a bedrock of episodes confronting veteran crises both in the hospital and in the street and a larger battle with darkness that is encroaching into his life, Daniel Brinkman walks ever closer to The Brink.
(Note: Everything relating to mind control involving hypnosis, drugs, stress, etc., which will be presented in the series, will be based on specific research information obtained from the CIA through the Freedom of Information Act along with the personal statements of men who were involved in such operations. Reality is much stranger than fiction.)
Who are we?
Best known as the Showrunner and an Executive Producer of the classic series, The Equalizer, and the creator and Executive Producer of Gabriels’ Fire that brought an Emmy to James Earl Jones, Coleman Luck knows combat veterans because he is one. He spent 1968 as a First Lieutenant, an infantry platoon leader with the Mobile Riverine Force of the Ninth Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam. Because of his military experience and family, he has a deep concern for the welfare of other veterans, and active-duty personnel and their families, many of whom suffer in silence. A frightening number of veterans are committing suicide. Coleman believes military families will love The Brink and the new national awareness it will bring.
Coleman’s son and co-writer, Coleman Luck III started working in television when he was a teenager, writing coverage for his father during staffing season. After earning his degree in English Literature, he worked as a writer, story editor and co-producer on six television series and wrote and was co-producer on one feature film.
In my last post, we looked at a terrifying subject – the reality of hell, the center of Satan’s kingdom. It is a place beyond human description where people who have rejected all truth about themselves and their lives await final judgment. Witnesses have been given to us, people who have experienced brief moments in hell and come back to tell about it. But those voices are almost overwhelmed by the many, many near death experiences that seem to prove that hell is not an issue that anyone should worry about.
Beginning with Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and Dr. Raymond Moody, dozens and dozens of books have been written that tell stories of people who appear to have crossed over into the afterlife and no matter what their backgrounds or beliefs, they are met by a loving being of light who affirms them. Many experience a life review and when it’s over they are sent back, with vague messages of universal love that urge unity and an end to violence. They tell us that we’re destroying the planet and we’ve got to take care of it.
Most of all these messages tell us that everyone is heading in the same spiritual direction, growing through various stages of spiritual development. They tell us that there’s nothing to fear about death. Ultimately, everyone is going to Heaven. In all of this literature extremely rare are experiences of hell.
If hell is real and if the warnings of Jesus are true as I quoted in my last article, as heartbreaking as it is to say, the vast majority of the human race will not be going to Heaven at all. Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 7:14 that narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it? According to Jesus, tragically, the vast majority of the human race are going toward eternal death. Which of these diametrically opposed messages is true? Of course, if you are an atheist you think none of it is true. But that is a statement of blind faith without the slightest evidence and it goes against the eye-witness accounts of former atheists. I’d call that a high risk.
I believe that Satan (who is a very real and powerful being) is deeply concerned that God’s eye-witnesses who have experienced hell be overwhelmed by false visions created by his Angels of Darkness. Jesus called Satan a Liar and the Father of Lies, but his lies are very subtle. To the best of his ability he will copy anything that he sees God doing. And as much as possible he will salt truth and beauty into his lies. That’s why temptation is so tempting. We see something that he presents and we want it. We know it’s wrong, but it’s painted so beautifully with all sorts of twisted logic giving us selfish reasons why it would be good for us.
Doing so over and over makes us spiritually blind and stupid. We start doing the one thing he wants for us more than anything else. We start worshiping ourselves and our own desires. We become our own little gods. As this happens, we give up the ability to understand any deeper truth, especially truth about who we really are. This the heart of every sort of addiction. Facing truth about ourselves makes us very uncomfortable. It can cause deep pain, so we run and hide in a thousand ways. If we honestly confront who we are we would have to repent and our pride refuses to let that happen.
As I have studied the literature of near-death experiences, I have come to the conclusion that Satan uses two strategies that couple with our natural inclination to run from reality. These blind us about the truth regarding hell.
His name was Maurice Rawlings. He was a medical doctor, a cardiologist. In the early 1970’s Rawlings was definitely not a Christian. That changed in 1977 because of a disturbing experience. He was working with a team of nurses who were doing a stress test on a man who was having chest pain. Rawlings instructed them to work the man harder until the pain returned. While he was on the machine the patient had a heart attack. His heart stopped beating. As Rawlings worked to resuscitate him, a strange thing began to happen. Several times the man revived, but then his heart would stop again. And each time he regained consciousness he started screaming in absolute terror, pleading for the doctor to save him because every time his heart stopped he was in hell.
Being a good scientific materialist, Rawlings assumed it was just hallucinations. But his patient’s shrieks kept on and they were aggravating. When he was conscious, the man pleaded with Rawlings to pray for him. The doctor felt insulted. He wasn’t a priest or a psychiatrist. Finally, just to shut him up he made up a make-believe prayer. He told the man to say, “Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Keep me out of hell and if I live I’m on the hook. I’m yours.”
Of course, the words were all a fantasy. Rawlings didn’t believe any of it. But the man did as he was told and, suddenly, the strangest thing happened. No longer was he a screaming, wild-eyed lunatic. He became relaxed and calm. The terror vanished. Seeing such a transformation frightened Dr. Rawlings. Ultimately, it led to him ask Jesus to forgive his sins and be his Lord and Savior.
Over the following decades Rawlings entered into deep research about near-death experiences. As a cardiologist he had many opportunities to witness people die. From those experiences he wrote several books including Beyond Death’s Door and To Hell and Back. During his years of observation Rawlings noticed some very strange phenomena. First, he observed people who had clear and terrifying experiences of hell and communicated those awful visions during the crisis of resuscitation. But very quickly as they recuperated, something odd occurred. The memory of hell that they had witnessed so clearly entirely vanished.
Rawlings concluded that there was a logical answer. What happens when we go through other experiences that are deeply shocking and traumatic such as brutal car accidents? To protect us, our conscious minds simply refuse to recall the trauma. The whole event submerges into our subconscious where it remains inaccessible, but it still affects us. Rawlings came to believe that this natural tendency toward psychological protection is the first reason why near-death experiences of hell do not appear with great frequency in the literature. The vision is so horrible that the majority of “experiencers” automatically wipe it from their conscious memories.
But Rawlings discovered another reason why we don’t read more about near-death visions of hell. As the years passed and he accumulated more and more records of these events, he contacted Dr. Kubler-Ross and other leading writers in the field, offering to share his files with them. They didn’t want to see them. They didn’t want to write about such negative visions. This led Rawlings to believe that near-death experiences of hell are being consciously suppressed by many in the medical community. And it’s understandable. Medical personnel are frightened of them and prefer not to think about them. And for those who are writers, you sell a lot more books by telling people what they want to hear and making them feel good.
But there is a third reason why near-death experiences of hell are not common. One day Rawlings was doing a questionnaire with a patient who had been shot in the chest. One of the bullets had nicked his heart and before he was resuscitated he had a near-death experience. In it he was taken up into a loving white light where he was welcomed and affirmed. No serious life examination took place at all. The white light did not mention that three years previously he had murdered two people during a robbery. All he felt was peace and love.
He had been in a bar and had started dancing with what he thought was a beautiful, young woman. But very quickly, he discovered that his partner was a cross-dresser. He hated homosexuals so he had beaten him up. The man had gone behind the bar, pulled out a gun and shot him.
So what did this man say to Rawlings about his near-death experience? These are his words: “Well, it felt good to be in this beautiful place, but I kept wondering why the light never asked me about beating the heck out of the cross-dresser. And the light never mentioned the two killings from the past. I was glad he didn’t ask me about those things, but if he was from God, why didn’t he? I thought about bringing it up, but I said to myself, why knock a good thing and kept my mouth shut. I knew I should be in hell instead of this nice place. Doc, does God ever make mistakes?” What had happened? Did God make a mistake or just overlook this man’s awful deeds?
If you want to read some darkly hilarious literature I suggest reading books that come from “advanced spirit beings” that “channel” their wisdom through a human “medium”. One of the classics of channeled literature is a book called Seth Speaks. According to the jacket, (and I quote) “Seth is a personality no longer focused in physical reality.” (I have known a network executive or two who fit that description.)
In 1963, a woman named Jane Roberts and her husband started playing with a Ouija board. Suddenly, messages began coming from it. This led Jane to become a trance medium in order to channel the wisdom of an entity who called himself Seth. Was Jane really channeling “Seth” or was it all just regurgitated from her imagination? I think there is good reason to believe she was actually in touch with something beyond herself. The voice and the style of speech were entirely different from her own. What it said was completely out of character for her. What she experienced was spirit possession. If you don’t believe in that I have a shelf of books that you should read. I’d be happy to share titles.
When you read so-called channeled literature you are wading in a swamp of mental goop right up to your eyeballs. But in the middle of all the asinine blather you may come upon a fragment of fascinating information. Seth had a very big mouth and he loved to boast. He wanted everyone to believe that in him resides the wisdom of the ages. In his book he spends a number of chapters telling people what will happen to them after death. Needless to say, nothing that he shares agrees with Jesus and the Bible. But buried in the blather a scintillating factoid is dropped that I think represents truth.
According to him, all advanced beings are deeply interested in helping poor benighted humans like us. Seth informs us that one of their most important activities is to assist people at the moment of “transition out of the body.” It is one of their regular assignments. Seth and his associates have a great concern. It is their desire to meet the spiritual expectations of every human when we “die”.
Seth wants us to know that all human belief systems are just hallucinations. Once we are dead, he and his friends become guides to help us transition through and beyond our infantile religious beliefs. According to Seth, in order to facilitate this important work he and his entity cohorts become whatever “god” you expect to see. Let’s read his own words as “channeled” through Jane.
“The situation is rather tricky from a guide’s viewpoint, for psychologically, the utmost discretion must be used. One man’s Moses, as I discovered, may not be another man’s Moses. I have served as a rather creditable Moses on several occasions – and once – though this is hard to believe – to an Arab.
“The Arab was a very interesting character. Let me tell you about him. He hated Jews, but somehow was obsessed with the idea that Moses was more powerful than Allah and for years this was the secret sin upon his conscience. He was killed by the Crusaders in the most horrible way. They forced his mouth open and stuffed it with burning coals as a starter. As he died, he cried to Allah, then in greater desperation to Moses. And as his consciousness left his body, Moses was there. He believed in Moses more than he did Allah and I did not know until the last moment which form I was to assume.”
With consummate pride, Seth tells us that he and his associates staged a grand pageant for this Arab’s benefit with Allah and Moses fighting each other for his soul because, for some unknown reason, that was what the man expected. Beneath all this asinine hilarity, a chilling statement is being made. When St. Paul writes in II Corinthians 11:14 that Satan can masquerade as an angel of light, we should take that very seriously. Before his fall, Satan was in God’s Presence. As one of the most powerful angels, he is able to mimic the Light and Love of God. Now I’m sure what he creates is a very poor copy, but for people who have never experienced the original it is an alluring counterfeit. He can make it feel as though you are in God’s presence, then tell you anything he wants.
In many near-death experiences, people meet whatever god they believe in and are sent back with messages of false hope. Most of all, the focus of those messages is this: Jesus is not who the Bible says He is. He is just one of many great teachers and avatars who have appeared throughout history. He is not the only savior of the world. Certainly, He is not the only way to Heaven. Most of all, Satan does not want you to know and believe that Jesus really did come and give His life to save the human race from hell.
Satan knows very well what happened in the heart of his kingdom almost two thousand years ago. I fear that an understanding of what happened in the kingdom of hell has been lost in the church of today. It’s time we reclaimed it. Here’s how it began.
Luke 22:63-23:47 Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him. And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?” And many other things they blasphemously spoke against Him. As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.” Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”
Then Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” So Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no fault in this Man.” But they were the more fierce, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place.”
When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked if the Man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused Him. Then Herod, with his men of war, treated Him with contempt and mocked Him, arrayed Him in a gorgeous robe, and sent Him back to Pilate. That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other.
Then Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people, said to them, “You have brought this Man to me, as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no fault in this Man concerning those things of which you accuse Him; no, neither did Herod, for I sent you back to him; and indeed nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. I will therefore chastise Him and release Him” (for it was necessary for him to release one to them at the feast).
And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas” — who had been thrown into prison for a certain rebellion made in the city, and for murder. Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them. But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, crucify Him!”
Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.” But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested. And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
Now as they led Him away, they laid hold of a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, who was coming from the country, and on him they laid the cross that he might bear it after Jesus. And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”‘ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?”
There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God. “The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.” And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.'” Having said this, He breathed His last. So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
I’ve read the story of Jesus Christ’s death so many times. I’ve seen films about it, and probably you have too, the Son of God taking the sins of the world upon Himself. It’s clear from the Biblical record that behind the human conspiracy that led to Jesus’ crucifixion, Satan and his Angels of Darkness were working feverishly. If you remember, during the Last Supper, it says that at a certain moment Satan himself entered into Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. Satan desperately wanted Jesus to die.
Now, I am not a theologian. Neither am I a professional Bible scholar. I’m only a Hollywood storyteller. But every good storyteller asks logical questions. As writers, we have to understand our characters, their motives, their hopes and their dreams. Especially this is true when we create antagonists. As evil as an antagonist may be, if your story is going to make sense, the villain has to make decisions out of a logical framework based on his view of reality. Even if he is insane, he has some kind of consistent viewpoint. He wants something and he has reasons for wanting it. Though the world may view him as horribly evil, in his own eyes he is the hero of the story, a victim of cruel injustice who is terribly misunderstood and maligned. In his self-pity, he sees everything he does as fully justified. In every great antagonist there is a logic of self-preservation. Certainly that would be true for the most formidable antagonist of all, Satan.
So here is the question that bothered me. Why would Satan want to kill Jesus Christ? He’s the Son of God. Satan knows that. He’s taking on the sins of the world. Satan knows that. He’s tried to tempt Him to a different course, to personally sin, to be disobedient to God’s laws and purpose and it hasn’t worked. Based on that alone, then this has got to be the logical reality from Satan’s viewpoint. “If I kill Him, he’s going to Heaven and His death will redeem the human race.” It’s in the Old Testament. Satan is an expert on the Bible. He knows Isaiah 53 and all the other passages about the suffering Messiah. And he knows the passages about Him being a conquering King.
Given this understanding, if you were Satan wouldn’t you want to keep Jesus alive in this world forever? Wouldn’t you protect him so He would die a natural death in old age, not giving his life for anyone? Why would you want to facilitate your own destruction? So what are we missing here? What is going on that we have overlooked? Let me present an idea. What if Satan had an entirely different understanding about what would happen to Jesus when He died? I believe that Jesus Himself gave us some hints about Satan’s motives.
Let’s look at a fascinating parable. Matthew 21:33-46:
“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
They said to Him,” He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.
Clearly, first of all He is talking about the hypocritical religious leaders who are in His audience. These men wanted to kill Him. In a number of places He calls such men children of their father, the devil. Strong words. It means that to Jesus they were the human representatives of Satan and the kingdom of hell.
But let me ask a question. As much as they hated Him, did those religious leaders view Jesus as the Son and Heir of their Kingdom? Absolutely not. In His trial they wanted to crucify Him for claiming just such a thing. So on a deeper level, who was Jesus talking about? Who did know that He was the Son and Heir and who did want to kill Him because of that? Satan and all of his fallen hosts. What does the parable say about the motives of the murderers? They believed that if they could kill the son the vineyard would be theirs.
So what might Satan have believed? First, he believed the eternal truth stated in Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death. St. Paul wrote those words. What is he saying? What does death mean in this context? Just physical death? If that’s true as soon as our hearts stop beating the price for sin is paid and we all ought to go to Heaven. But it doesn’t mean just physical death. In Luke 12:4-5 Jesus warned that we shouldn’t fear the one who can kill the body. We should fear God, the One who can cast the soul into hell.
The Bible teaches that because of sin, the curse of death is a two-part experience. First, comes physical death. That is the minor part. After that there is the death of the spirit in eternal suffering apart from God. The Bible calls this the Second Death. So what might Satan have believed about the moment when Jesus’ Spirit left His body? The perfect Son of God who has never sinned has come into this world to do what? 2 Corinthians 5:21 says it clearly: For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin (to be) sin for us. Those two little words “to be” do not exist in the Greek. They’ve been added to make it more readable in English. What it says is that God made Jesus sin for us. He didn’t make Him commit sin for us. He turned Him into sin for us. It was the ultimate sacrifice mirrored in the entire Old Testament system of sacrifices. The animal hadn’t done the sinning, it was the people. A substitute for the sinner took on the sin and paid the penalty.
What sin? Whose sin? John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…” What sin? The sin of the whole world. By God’s decree, Jesus became guilty of all the sins that have ever been committed from Adam and Eve down to the last child who will ever be born. No wonder in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus cried out, “Father if it is possible let this awful cup pass from me.”
The Law of God is clear and immutable. The soul that sins must die. Not just physical death, spiritual death in hell. So what must happen to Jesus? In becoming the sin of the entire human race, He is transformed into the most the most vile, wretched and filthy man who has ever lived, guilty of everything from the murders of the Holocaust to child rape and on and on. God will not be able stand the sight of Him. If we had seen it all, we couldn’t have stood the sight of Him. Satan would understand that into hell Jesus must go to suffer the second death and remain under his evil control. With the Son in hell, what will happen to the world? It will belong to the Prince of the Power of the Air forever. The “vineyard” will be his. Suddenly, it is brutally clear why Satan may have wanted Jesus to die.
And at His death, into hell Jesus went. One of the oldest statements of faith in the history of the Church is the Apostle’s Creed. It says, “He descended into hell.” It doesn’t say He was dragged there. He went there. What is this statement based on? What does the Bible say happened when Jesus entered hell? Let’s look at some mysterious passages.
Ephesians 4:7-10 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended” — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) Those are the words of St. Paul.
Among the Jewish people of Paul’s day the concept of the lower parts of the earth never meant simply a grave in the dirt. It meant going down into hades – into hell.
Colossians 2:11-15 tells us this: In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
Disarming principalities and powers, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them, these are words of absolute violence. The people of the Roman world would have understood what Paul meant. They had seen such things. They had seen Roman generals going into enemy territory and fighting terrible wars. When the enemy was defeated a Roman general would chain up all the soldiers left alive and lead them in a humiliating parade to show how he had triumphed over them. That’s what Paul is saying Jesus did. What other time for this to have happened than when He descended into hell, when Satan thought he had power over Him?
Remember that “time” does not mean the same thing in every dimension. An hour in this world could be ten thousand years in a different reality. So Jesus could say to the thief on the cross, “This day you will be with me in Paradise” and be true to His word, while remaining in Satan’s Kingdom for what felt like an eternity. I believe that in that war…in the heart of hell…the Great Victory was won. All Satan’s evil hosts were defeated by Jesus alone through the Power of God’s Holy Spirit. He didn’t destroy them. That comes later. But He bound them, limiting their power.
But before His great victory what happened to Jesus in hell? For some unknown period did He suffer there the Second Death for the sinners of the world? The Bible does not tell us. But I believe that’s what Satan expected to happen.
1 Peter 3:18-20 says: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.
God would not leave Jesus, His Only Begotten Son, in hell. The Spirit made Him alive. And after His victory over Satan, He preached the greatest sermon in the history of the world to a vast audience locked in darkness. Based on that victory, how does Jesus describe Himself now? You can read it in Revelation 1:18 “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” He won those keys by the giving His Life for you and me.
Where are the words? There is no greater responsibility for a Christian storyteller than to try to communicate what Jesus’ death, His descent into hell and His resurrection really mean for humanity? How can we communicate the sin and evil that He became for us, the sin and evil that we do and that we are as a race? How can a storyteller communicate our “utter lostness”?
I tried to do this in a chapter of a novel that I wrote entitled, Dagon’s Illusion. I have turned that novel into a dramatic podcast of the same name. Below you will find a link to Episode 35 that I called The Dark Parade. While it comes in the middle of the novel, I think you will find that it stands alone. Every evil described in it has actually been committed by we humans at some point in our history. I invite you to listen.
The writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews asks the ultimate question:
That is a question that you need to ask yourself right now. My friend, our lives are so short. Before you know it, yours will come to an end. As you have read already, the message of the Bible is clear. God loves you more than you could ever know. No matter what you have done, no matter what sins you have committed, Jesus gave His life for you to give you His Eternal Life forever. You are invited right now to lay your life at His feet, to give your life to Him. Be honest with Him about the things you know that you have done that are wrong. Ask Him to forgive you and become your Savior and Lord. He will do it. His Life can be yours. There is no other path to Heaven.
If I can be of help to you, email me: Colemanluck@gmail.com
Back in the late 80’s I was the co-Executive producer and Showrunner of the television series, The Equalizer. It ran for four years on CBS and starred the wonderful actor, my friend, the late Edward Woodward. Since then, the series has aired around the world. While we were in production, as Showrunner I decided to commission an episode about a street gang in New York that was terrorizing a high school.
In the story, Robert McCall, The Equalizer, takes on the task of turning these young men from their dangerous and destructive lives. It would be a kind of “scared straight” episode. A freelance writer was assigned. When the script came in it just didn’t work. So, I took on the task of re-writing it myself. That’s what is called a “page one rewrite.” Basically, you start all over. In the episode, McCall does the traditional “scared straight” things. He takes the gang to see the autopsy of a former gang member. But as I wrote, none of this was enough. In our day, street gangs see death all the time. I struggled with the script and I prayed. Then I remembered a story that I had read years before.
I wrote a scene such as had never appeared on television. It broke every rule of TV writing. The scene was pages long and it was just one man talking – no cut aways, no nothing. It was a scene about a hit man who had been hit himself – shot in the head. It was about his journey into hell and back.
I turned in the script on a Friday afternoon and thought, “Well, this is it. I’ve done a lot of stuff on this series, but I’m never going to get away with this.” It was a long weekend of waiting as I knew that everyone was reading that script. I went in on Monday morning prepared for the war I thought might come. I was utterly shocked to discover that everyone loved the script. Talk about amazed relief. Suddenly, our only problem was finding an actor strong enough to carry such a heavy cameo.
Actor after actor was read in New York. And we couldn’t find anybody. It came to the day before it was supposed to shoot. I made the decision that if it couldn’t be done right I would cut the scene. At the last minute we found our actor. And what a great actor he is. His name is David Strathairn. No one could have done that scene better than he did it. A few years ago you saw him in the feature film, Good Night and Good Luck. In it he played the legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow. He did our cameo and the name of The Equalizer episode became Sea of Fire. The true story upon which I based that scene I want to share with you right now. It has haunted me for many years.
The experience happened to a man named Thomas Welch on July 1, 1924. Thomas lost both his parents when he was 11 years old and was raised by an aunt and uncle who were kind to him. But no one could replace his parents. At an early age, he stopped believing in God. As a young adult, he had Christian friends who took him to church. He heard the message of Jesus many times and it never moved him. His heart was hard.
Thomas got a job at a saw mill in Oregon as an engineer’s helper. What happened took place on his first day of work. The mill was sawing giant squares that were flumed down a trough of water to the Colombia River. There was a dam at the mill and a log pond. The trestle over the dam was 55 feet above the water. Thomas went out on the trestle to straighten out some timber that had become jammed causing the conveyor to stop moving.
Suddenly, he fell off the trestle between the timbers. An engineer saw him fall. He landed on his head on the first beam 30 feet down, then tumbled from one beam to another until he landed in the water and disappeared. The pond was ten feet deep. The mill shut down. There were 70 men working that day and all of them joined in a search for his body. It took almost an hour to find him. He was submerged for that entire time. While that search was going on, this is what Thomas Welch was experiencing in his own words:
“I was dead as far as this world is concerned. But I was alive in another world. There was no lost time. I learned more in that hour out of my body than I could ever learn while in this body. All I remember is falling over the edge of the trestle. The next thing I knew I was standing near a shoreline of a great ocean of fire. It appeared to be what the Bible says it is in Revelation 21:8 “The lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” It was the most awesome sight one could ever see this side of the final judgment.
“I remember more clearly than any other thing that has ever happened to me in my lifetime every detail of every moment, what I saw and what happened during that hour I was gone from this world. I was standing some distance from this burning, turbulent, rolling mass of blue fire. As far as my eyes could see it was just the same. A lake of fire and brimstone. There was nobody in it. I was not in it.
“I saw other people whom I had known that had died when I was thirteen years old. One was an uncle of mine who died of consumption. Another was a boy I had gone to school with who had died from cancer of the jaw. He was two years older than I. We recognized each other, even though we did not speak. They too, were looking and seemed to be perplexed and in deep thought, as though they could not believe what they saw. Their expressions were those of bewilderment and confusion. The scene was so awesome that words simply fail. There is no way to describe it except to say we were eyewitnesses now to the final judgment. There is no way to escape, no way out. You don’t even try to look for one. This is the prison out of which no one can escape except by Divine intervention.
“I said to myself in an audible voice, ‘If I had known about this I would have done anything that was required to escape coming to a place like this.’ But I had not known. As these thoughts were racing through my mind, I saw another Man coming by in front of us. I knew immediately who He was. He had a strong, kind, compassionate face, composed and unafraid, Master of all He saw. It was Jesus Himself.
“A great hope took hold of me and I knew the answer to my problem was this great and wonderful Person who was moving by me there in this prison of lost confused judgment-bound souls. I did not do anything to attract His attention. I said to myself, ‘If He would only look my way and see me, He could rescue me from this place because He would know I never understood it was like this. He would know what to do.’ He passed on by and it seemed as though He would not look my way, but just before He passed out of sight He turned His head and looked directly at me. That is all it took. His look was enough.
“In seconds I was back and entering into my body again. It was like coming in through the door of a house. I could hear my Christian friends praying minutes before I could open my eyes or say anything. I could hear and I understood what was going on. Then, suddenly, life came into my body and I opened my eyes and spoke to them. It’s easy to talk about and describe something you have seen. I know there is a Lake of Fire because I have seen it. I know Jesus Christ is alive in eternity. I have seen Him.” (End of statement)
There were many witnesses to the miracle that Thomas Welch experienced. It was written up with sworn statements by several of those witnesses including a statement by a physician who attended him.
After his terrible ordeal, Welch was taken to a hospital and his scalp was sewn back on. His broken body was sore all over and he was in bed for several days. All that time he was talking to Jesus. The Lord told him that he had been spared to tell his story to the world. Thomas decided that he couldn’t do that in a hospital bed, so he got up and left on his own. Wrapped in bandages, he went to a friend’s house and pulled out all the stitches on his head with tweezers. There was no bleeding. His body had been healed. You can find Thomas’s story on the Internet if you search for Oregon’s Amazing Miracle.
This is one of the most difficult things I have ever felt compelled to write. Hell has become a joke, a meaningless swear word. But if you do any serious study of it at all you come away horrified with a broken heart. You wouldn’t want your worst enemy to spend a minute there.
Most people, including many who consider themselves Christians, don’t believe in a literal hell. They think that when the Bible talks about hell it’s just being metaphorical, a kind of scare tactic to make people live right. Surveys have shown that the overwhelming majority in the United States who believe in an afterlife are sure they are going to Heaven when they die. Almost no one thinks they are going to hell. Those who do, joke about it as though it were a giant sports bar where all the most fun people hang out forever in an endless party.
Beneath all of this is a deadly serious question, “Why would God, who is supposed to be a God of love, send anyone to hell?” Before we deal with that, we should ask another question. Is hell real at all? Now, either it is or it isn’t and if it is real what we believe about it doesn’t affect its actual existence in the least. When I lived in Illinois I could have said that I don’t believe in earthquakes. If I had thought that, when I moved to California there would have come a rude awakening. The same is true about hell.
People who never read the Bible have the common misconception that Jesus was just a humble teacher of love. They need to do a lot more study. Did He believe in a literal hell? Let’s read some of the things …and He said a lot on this subject:
Matthew 5:21-22: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ (which means worthless one) shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Matt 5:27-30: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
Matt 10:27-28 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Matt 18:6-9: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.”
Matt 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Luke 13:22-30: And He went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from? Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out. They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last.”
Finally, one of Jesus’ most unusual parables: Luke 16:19-31 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.'”
This is one of the strangest of Jesus’ parables. It is the only parable in which He names a person in the story. The implication is that it may not be simply a story at all. Jesus could be describing something that actually happened. And with that story comes the most solemn warning.
Many people will consider you a primitive, judgmental fanatic living in a dark, fantasy world. But if you really care about people, that’s a risk that must be taken. I believe that if we could see the reality of hell right now and the great mass of humanity that is suffering there, we could never say the word “hell” again without our eyes filling with tears. Most of all we would be desperately concerned that not one more soul go there. I don’t want you to go there. That’s why I am writing this.
Over the years I have read dozens of eye witness accounts of people who were shown the reality of hell and came back to give a warning. A number of years ago, I spoke to a group about the reality of Heaven and hell. When it was over, a woman told a story.
She was a Jewish believer in Yeshua (Jesus) as her Messiah. Life had not been easy for her. Her mother was an atheist who did not believe in an afterlife at all. For years, she had mocked and derided her daughter for her faith. Finally, the mother’s life approached its end. But a few days before she died, something happened. She had been in a coma. Suddenly, she awoke. What she told her daughter was stunning.
Though unconscious in this world, she had been completely alive in another one. In fact, more alive and aware than she had ever been. First, she had found herself outside a gigantic city larger and more lovely than anything on earth. It had huge entrances with beautiful gates. From inside the city came sounds of incredible joy, as though the greatest party in the universe was taking place. But she couldn’t go in. The gates were closed.
Then, the scene changed. The city vanished. She found herself standing outside an ominous door darker and more forbidding than anything she could have imagined in a nightmare. From behind that door came wails of agonizing sorrow and raging cries that utterly terrified her. More than anything, she didn’t want to go in there. One thing was certain to her, whatever this was, it wasn’t a dream.
Her daughter explained to her what she had seen from the Bible. The city was the New Jerusalem, the Messiah’s home. She told her that Yeshua, Yahweh’s Only Begotten Son, had paid the price for her sins with His death on the cross. If she believed in Him, the gates to that beautiful city would open for her and she could live there forever. The dying woman placed her faith in Yeshua and a few days later passed from this world.
There are those who would tell us that all such “visions” are just excretions from a dying brain. What they don’t explain is why the brain would create such specific images. In the brain of an atheist, where would they come from and what would be the purpose for them? In my library are many books that deal with “Near-Death Experiences”. Almost all of them focus on the beautiful and positive visions that many report. Very few deal with the kind of reality that I am sharing with you. And a significant percentage of people have such terrifying experiences. What is going on? We’ll deal with that in my next article, Flight Out of Darkness Part II.
Right now, I want you to understand that according to the Bible, hell is not the Lake of Fire that is described in the Book of Revelation and that Thomas Welch saw. God created the Lake of Fire as a terrible and eternal punishment for Satan and his Angels of Darkness. It wasn’t created for people, but there will be many, many people who are cast into it. For all those lost ones, Satan’s Kingdom of Hell, the center of his power, is a waiting place, an awful prison that holds them in his power until the Final Judgment. He wants as many people as possible to go with him into the Lake of Fire which is his future. Why? Because every lost person breaks the heart of God. And that brings him pleasure. Remember the words of John 3:16. “God so loved the world…” That means every one of us. Satan hates whatever God loves.
From many reports it is clear that the Kingdom of Hell is a huge dimension with a vast number of areas where levels of suffering and punishment vary. This is why people have different experiences in this horrifying place. Here is another one:
Howard Storm was a professor of art at Northern Kentucky University. When he was 38 years old he and his wife were leading a group of students on a tour of the art museums in Paris. He had been having some gastric pain, but over-the-counter medications had been taking care of it. Then one morning he was talking to a member of his group, when suddenly, it felt as though he had been shot in the stomach. But no one had shot him. He didn’t know it, but the wall of his stomach had been perforated and acid was flowing into his abdomen.
In agony, he was taken to a hospital. But it was a weekend and the ineptitude of the French medical system kept him from seeing a doctor for hours. Finally, he was in such pain that all he wanted to do was die. He knew that was the only way to get relief. Storm was an atheist. He didn’t believe in God. He didn’t believe in an afterlife. He viewed such things as foolish fantasies. So in the hospital bed he drifted into darkness, a sleep that he thought would lead to annihilation. He recounts what happened in his book, My Descent Into Death. I’m going to relate some excerpts from it. Here is what happened to Howard Storm.
The darkness vanished. He found himself standing up in the hospital room next to his bed. Clearly, this was all wrong. All he wanted was oblivion, anything to be free from the horrible pain he was experiencing. He told himself that this must be a dream. But it didn’t feel like a dream at all. He was totally aware of everything around him in a way that he had never been in his whole life. All of his senses were extremely vivid. He felt the cold floor under his bare feet. Strangest of all, his entire environment seemed alive.
He looked down at the hospital bed. A body was lying under the sheet. He bent over to look at the face. To his horror, it bore a frightening resemblance to him. But how could that be? How was it possible? He was standing over it, looking down at it. And the face was utterly lifeless. Everything that was “him”, his consciousness and physical being, was standing next to the bed.
Then, he heard voices calling from the distance. They were coming from outside the hospital room in the hall. “Howard, Howard…” He heard friendly male and female voices calling in clear English, which was very weird because none of the hospital staff spoke clear English. He was confused. What was going on here? His wife, Beverly, who was sitting in a chair next to the bed, didn’t appear to hear them at all. Storm called out to them, asking who they were and what they wanted. All they said was, “Come out here. Let’s go. Hurry up. We’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”
He told them that he couldn’t leave, he was sick. They responded that they could get him fixed, but he had to come now. Then they asked, “Don’t you want to get better? Don’t you want help?”
Storm was afraid of them. He moved closer to the door. The hall outside the room looked very odd. The terrible thought came to him that if he walked out there he might not be able to get back in again. He tried to speak to his wife, but she didn’t seem to hear him or even be aware of his presence. The voices called out telling him that they couldn’t help him if he didn’t come out to where they were. He knew he needed surgery, so he began to think they were there to take him to an operation.
Once in the hall, he felt very anxious. The light was strange and hazy. The people were off in the distance. It was hard to see them, but he was sure they were adults, both male and female, tall and short, old and young. But they didn’t look right. What they were wearing was gray and their skin was pale. He started walking toward them, but the closer he got the more they withdrew into the fog. He felt like he had to follow, but he never got closer than ten feet.
As he walked, he asked them a lot of question, but he never got any answers. They just kept urging him to hurry up, move faster. Again and again, they repeated that if he followed them his troubles would be over. They walked for a long time. Gradually, the fog got very thick and turned dark. He demanded to know when they would get to where they were leading him. Over and over, he told them that he was sick and couldn’t keep doing this.
The voices changed. They grew angry and sarcastic. In Storm’s words, “The more questioning and suspicious I became the more antagonistic and authoritarian they became. A terrible sense of dread was growing within me. Everything I had experienced before this was a dream compared to the way that I was now experiencing reality. I was frightened, exhausted, cold and lost.”
As he kept walking, he realized that people were moving around him in the dark fog. And there were a lot more of them. How far had they travelled? He was sure it had been miles. In spite of that, when he looked back he could still see the doorway to the hospital room. He could still see the body on the bed and his wife sitting in her chair as though frozen.
Then, without warning, the light vanished. To his horror, he was in total darkness. And with the darkness came a crushing hopelessness such as he had never known in his entire life. He was overwhelmed with it. Calling out, he told the people to leave him alone. He said they were liars and he wouldn’t follow them anymore. They started raging at him, shrieking insults. Then they began pushing and shoving him.
He fought back, which started an insane battle of screaming, mocking and hitting. He fought like a wild man, swinging and kicking at them. They bit and tore at him. Most hideous of all, it was clear they were having fun doing it. Though it was totally dark, he knew there must be hundreds all around him. The more he fought the greater was their glee. They were in no hurry. Each new attack brought shrieking laughter. They started tearing off pieces of his flesh. In his words, “To my horror I realized that I was being taken apart and eaten alive slowly for their entertainment.” There was no one in control of them. It was a mob of raging beings whose only pleasure was endless cruelty.
Though he couldn’t see, he could hear and feel everything with the most awful intensity. The noise alone was a horrifying assault. Hundreds of people were yelling, laughing and jeering in their excited lust over his torment. The harder he fought, the more they loved it. Finally, he was lying on the ground with his attackers swarming over him like huge, ravenous rats.
It sounded like his own voice coming from inside himself, but what it said wasn’t a thought of his. He knew he hadn’t spoken it. The voice said, “Pray to God.” Storm’s first thought was what a stupid idea. Being a good atheist, he knew that wouldn’t work. It would be nothing but a cop-out. Even lying in pitch-black horror, he didn’t believe in God. And what did it matter anyway? He was far beyond hope or help whether he believed in God or not. He just didn’t believe in praying, period.
The voice came again, “Pray to God.” It was his voice, but he hadn’t said a word. Desperately, he thought, “Okay, what should I pray, how should I pray?” In his whole adult life, he had never prayed. A third time the voice said, “Pray to God.” He was stumped. When he was a child he had heard adults pray, but it was always something fancy. He tried to remember prayers from his childhood in Sunday School, but it was just so long ago.
Storm says he “murmured a few lines – a jumble from the 23rd Psalm, the Star Spangled Banner, the Lord’s Prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and God Bless America.” What happened next amazed him. The cruel beings that were shredding him to pieces grew absolutely enraged by his pitiful prayer. “It was as if they were throwing boiling oil on me.” They screamed, “There is no God. Who do you think you’re talking to? Nobody can hear you. Now we are really going to hurt you.” They shrieked obscene language worse than any kind of blasphemy he had ever heard on earth. But, while they shrieked, they began pulling away.
As he lay there the voices grew more and more distant. He realized that saying things about God was driving them away. He became much more forceful. Slowly, they receded into the darkness where he could no longer hear them. But he knew they could return.
Storm says that lying there torn apart, inside and out, he knew that he was lost. He would never see the world again. He was left alone to become a creature of Eternal Night. Then, a song from childhood started playing through his mind. It was his voice, but him as a little boy singing the same words over and over. As he describes it, “The child that I had once been was singing full of innocence, trust and hope, Jesus loves me. There was only that bit of the tune and those few words that I could remember.”
Then an incredible thought came to him. “Somewhere out there in that vast darkness there could be something good. There is someone who might love me. I didn’t have any theological interest about what it meant. It was simply a spontaneous recollection from my Sunday School days. Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me. I desperately needed someone to love me, someone to know I was alive. A ray of hope began to dawn in me, a belief that there was really something greater out there. For the first time in my adult life I wanted it to be true that Jesus loved me. I didn’t know how to express what I wanted and needed, but with every bit of my last ounce of strength, I yelled out into the darkness, “JESUS, SAVE ME.” I had never meant anything more strongly in my life.”
As Howard Storm stared into the darkness, far away he saw a little pinpoint of light like the faintest star in the sky. Why hadn’t he seen it before? As he watched, every moment, it grew brighter and brighter. At first he thought it was a thing, not a person and it was streaking toward him at frightening speed. Finally, it was huge and brilliant and he couldn’t stop looking at it. He was afraid it might burn him up. Storm relates that, “The light was more intense and more beautiful than anything I had ever seen. It was brighter than the sun, brighter than a flash of lightning.”
With all of its unspeakable brilliance, it wasn’t just light. It was a “luminous being approximately eight feet tall and surrounded by an oval of radiance.” As the intensity of the light swept through his body, ecstasy swept the agony away. Storm says that, “Tangible hands and arms gently embraced me and lifted me up. I slowly rose up into the presence of the Light and torn pieces of my body miraculously healed before my eyes. All my wounds vanished and I became whole and well… More important, the despair and pain were replaced by love. I had been lost and now was found. I had been dead…and now was alive.”
Once more he entered his physical body and healing came. But Howard Storm was never the same. He had met Jesus Christ, his Savior and King, who loved him so much He had given his Life for him. For much more, read Howard Storm’s book, My Descent Into Death.
Especially about hell. I have read many reports of near-death experiences. Satan has many lies that he wants you to believe about death. The first one is that there isn’t a hell. And if there is one, only Hitler and few other people have gone there. He wants you to think that everybody’s going to Heaven. It doesn’t matter what you believe. He wants you to think that all religions are just different paths up the same mountain heading toward the same destination. God wouldn’t condemn a person to hell.
And within the literature of near-death experiences, there seems to be evidence to support all of these lies. In that literature, so very few people report experiences of hell. So many report a positive, wonderful experience traveling up a tunnel into a loving presence of light, where they are validated no matter how they have lived or what they believe. I’m going to deal with those lying manifestations in my next article. But what you have read right now is the most serious warning. Hell is real. And it is real whether you think it is real or not. If you go there it will be the most real thing that you will ever experience.
Why would a loving God send people to hell? In the Bible we are told clearly that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance for their sin. (II Peter 3:9) That means confess what you have done, turn away from it and ask for God’s forgiveness. If you read the Bible, one fact becomes startlingly clear. God, the Creator of the Universe, has a broken heart. In our lives, too often broken hearts come because someone we love has betrayed us.
Over the years, I have known of many husbands and wives whose spouses have cheated on them. Some have written to me. The agony they felt was like a burning fire. And it didn’t stop. In so many cases, it led to endless anger, bitterness and hate. The damage was so deep they could never forgive. But imagine someone who had been cheated on over and over, who had a broken heart, but continued to love, who continued to pursue the cheater offering forgiveness if only they would turn back. That is the God of the Bible, who loved us so much that He came in the Person of His Beloved Son to offer healing and life and a new relationship of eternal love to all of us selfish, adulterous cheaters.
In his book, The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis writes that “The gates of hell are locked from the inside.” Those in hell are locked in eternal self-justification, self-righteousness, self-pity and rage. Whatever they chose to enslave them in this world is in total control. Not even in their agony would they repent. Their pride and hate will not allow it.
That choice starts here and now in this world. Don’t let that be your story. It doesn’t have to be. The God with the broken heart loves us so much that He came to suffer with us in the Person of His Son, Jesus, the Messiah, who gave His life to pay the price for all our sin and evil. Hell is the place where people insist on carrying their own sin, instead of letting Jesus carry it for them.
If Jesus Christ is not your Lord and Savior death is a door into eternal darkness, utter hopelessness and endless suffering. That future does not have to be yours. Jesus came and suffered the penalty for your sin so that you wouldn’t have to.
These are the most important words you could ever read: John 3:16-20 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
If you do not know Jesus, if He is not your Savior and your Lord, but you want Him to be, read this beautiful prayer written by a pastor named Dr. Louis Evans, Sr. As you read it, make the words yours:
Jesus, I believe you died and rose from the grave to purchase a place in Heaven for me. Lord Jesus, I hear you standing at the door of my heart and knocking. I now open the door and ask you to come into my life. Take control of my life. Forgive my sins and save me. I repent of my sins and now place my trust in you for my salvation. Lord Jesus, I accept your free gift of eternal life and I ask you to give me a new beginning today. And the new life which you give to me I will give back to you to use in whatever way you see fit. Come into my life, Lord Jesus. Amen.
On this day, nine years ago, the wonderful actor, Edward Woodward, passed away. The week after he left us, I wrote the following tribute:
This morning came the word that my old friend and great colleague Edward Woodward had passed away. He was 79 years old. Over recent years, our contact was pretty much limited to the exchange of Christmas cards. The one he sent last year carried the note that he was still working at 79 and wasn’t that a wonder?
I didn’t create the classic, American television series, of which Edward was the star. It was created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim. Michael was a busy writer/producer and Dick was a top-level executive at Universal Television. After the pilot was written and produced, because of their commitments, neither could join the on-going staff of the show. It was turned over to others.
I came on board the team as the junior writer/producer in the fall of 1985. It was show eleven. I had worked on only one other series and that one had lasted for just eight episodes. When it ended, I was offered an exclusive deal at Universal TV. I was thrilled to be there, but for months there wasn’t much for me to do. Then came a call. Would I like to join the staff of a new series that was in production called The Equalizer? The concept sounded interesting, so I said yes.
Almost immediately I ran into a false conception that plagued the show from beginning to end. When I told a woman writer friend that I was joining The Equalizer she looked disgusted. Why would I want to write for a show about a vigilante? To this day, that’s how many people perceive The Equalizer. But for those of us who worked on the series, it wasn’t about that at all.
When I joined the staff, I discovered that things were in chaos. Most new series go through a painful first year, but this was particularly bad. The writing staff and the “showrunner” were in LA, while the whole production team was in Manhattan. And there was war between the coasts. The New York team hated the scripts they were getting, while the LA team felt they were writing cutting-edge material that took the concept to a whole new level. I decided to be of help wherever I could and try not to make enemies on either coast. That was a challenge.
The writing staff was trying to deal with a number of scripts that had been done by freelancers. All of them needed major revisions to make them ready for production and deadlines were not being met. With my usual suicidal tendency, I went into the showrunner’s office and asked for the most difficult script he had. He gave it to me. It was a story about a street gang and it needed what we call a “page one” revision, basically a whole, new script. And there wasn’t much time to do it.
In the story, the Equalizer had to stop a street gang that was terrorizing a neighborhood. For some reason I got it into my head to make that script an homage to the classic movie, “The Warriors.” (When I see that episode today, I just want to cringe.) But something strange happened as I wrote it. Here’s the way it went down.
As always before taking any action, Robert McCall did his homework about the situation that he faced. In the episode, his research took him to Spanish Harlem. One day on a street, he passed a poor little barbershop. Glancing in the window, he froze. His eyes locked with those of the barber. Amazed, he walked inside. The barber and McCall stared at each other. They were old enemies from the days when McCall was a top CIA operative. The man motioned for him to come into the back room where they could talk.
McCall couldn’t believe that his old enemy was here in New York cutting hair. When last they had met, he was one of the leading Generals in Fidel Castro’s Cuba and head of Castro’s secret police. How in the world had he gone from that to this? The “barber” told him.
In a time of paranoia, Castro had ordered yet another sweep to cleanse the population of his enemies. Among the thousands pulled in was a little farmer, just a common man. But very quickly it became apparent that the best interrogators couldn’t deal with him. He broke them. In frustration, the General took on the case himself. He tortured the man mercilessly, finally killing him. But that little farmer destroyed his life. And how had he done it? “…Because through all the torture no matter what I did to him, he forgave me. What I experienced was the worst thing that could ever happen to a good Communist. I began to believe in the Love of God.” This and other factors in the story led Robert McCall to do something that he had never done before. To win against the gang, he had to lay down his gun and face them defenseless and alone.
After I wrote all that, I had absolutely no idea how it would be received. Definitely, it wasn’t your garden variety vigilante story. I was certain of only one thing. In the history of American television never had such a scene been written for a hard-edged, prime-time action series. I was in LA with no direct knowledge of what was going on in New York. I didn’t know it, but later I was told that Edward was ready to walk off the show because he was so unhappy with his character as it was being portrayed. But when he read the script that I had written he said, “This is it.”
Thus began a wonderful odyssey for me. The story of all we went through producing The Equalizer could fill a book. Beginning with the second year, the writing team came together. A number of wonderful writers passed through the show adding their unique perspectives. Many of us are still close friends. For two of the four years, the showrunner was a great friend who gave me amazing freedom to write whatever I felt. His name was Ed Waters and he passed away several years ago. Then there was Jim McAdams, the Executive Producer, who became a dear friend of decades. Jim died a little over two years ago. Supporting us were the executives at Universal TV led by Dick Lindheim. Without their encouragement, nothing that I wrote would have been produced. I am grateful to them all.
As time passed it seemed that I had a kind of symbiotic understanding of the unique character created by Michael and Dick and portrayed so brilliantly by Edward. Consequently, most of the episodes that dealt with McCall’s deeper background and relationships fell to me. By virtue of the fact that I stayed on the show longer than any other writer, I wrote more episodes than anyone else. And what a wonderful opportunity it was. Never again on any series, even those I created, was I allowed such freedom.
What makes a television series successful? Of course, you need good scripts and good production. But most of all the audience has to love the main characters. They have to want them to come back into their homes week after week. That’s why casting is such an art. Casting Edward Woodward as The Equalizer was brilliant and unpredictable. Think of it, a British actor virtually unknown in the US, to play a former, top-level, CIA agent on a major network series. The world can thank Michael and Dick for such a choice.
I’ve thought often about what Edward brought to the part. In my opinion it was great strength, resolution and energy, coupled with an underlying sorrow. There was tremendous honesty in his performance. The character he played was a brilliant and brave man who had done terrible things for which he carried a heavy burden of guilt. The series was about the costliness of redemption. Robert McCall brought redemption to others, but to do so always cost him. And while he brought that redemption, he could never quite find it for himself.
I don’t think you will ever see another series like The Equalizer. There are specific reasons for that. First, Robert McCall was the ultimate father figure. He would kick your butt when you needed it, but when the chips were down and life was fading away, he would be there to save you. When he came, you knew that if it were necessary, he would give his life for yours. Hollywood is not a fan of those kind of fathers. Lovable, stumbling buffoons are much more popular. But there’s another reason you’ll never see a series like this again.
Over the years there have been a number of attempts to copy The Equalizer. They have failed, because Hollywood misunderstands the meaning of redemption. Hollywood’s definition of redemption is found in the wonderful movie, “The Shawshank Redemption.” As excellent as it is, it isn’t about redemption at all. It’s about revenge. Redeem yourself by making somebody else pay. And therein lies the fatal flaw. With true redemption someone is willing to pay the price to save your life, even if you don’t deserve it. If The Equalizer had carried Hollywood’s definition of redemption, it would have been just a vigilante show.
Why did I have an understanding of the mysterious character of Robert McCall? Was it my experiences in war? Maybe in part. But there is a deeper reason. I too am a man who has done terrible things in my life. But unlike Robert McCall, I found redemption because Someone else paid the price for me. Because of Jesus Christ, I know what redemption is and the burden of guilt is gone.
People always want to know how much of the character that an actor portrays comes from inside. They want to believe that the real person is a lot like the character they love on the screen. Edward both was and wasn’t the Equalizer. First, he was a whole lot funnier than Robert McCall. And he could sing. He had a wonderful voice and made a string of records. A number of years ago, Carel and I visited Edward and Michele in their home near Portsmouth, England. It was a delightful time. We had great meals and went antiquing. Our gracious hosts showed us the area, with its fascinating history. And Edward kept us in stitches. Not only was he a consummate actor, he was one of the greatest raconteurs of his generation.
Edward was much like Robert McCall in at least one way. He cared about people. The star of a series controls the tone of a show on the set. Too many series are chained with stars who are narcissistic, spoiled brats. And some are truly evil. They bring agony on all those around them. That was not Edward Woodward. Our production team, that had to work with him day and night, all loved him. He was a true gentleman. Though we never talked about it, I’m sure at a deep level Edward understood Robert McCall in the same way I did. If he hadn’t, never would he have accepted the scripts that I wrote for him and given me such enthusiastic support.
I was a grown man when my father died. Even so a strange sense of vulnerability came at his passing. Someone I trusted deeply wasn’t there anymore and the world was a lonelier place. I think Edward portrayed a father very well. Our prayers are with Michele and all the children.
Rest in peace, my friend.
After I wrote this, I sent a copy to Edward’s wife, Michele Dotrice, herself a wonderful actor from a famous family of British theater, film and television. A short time later, I received a gracious note of thanks from her. In it she said, “Edward believed as you do.”
Indeed, after nine years, continue to rest in peace and joy, my friend. We will meet again.