Several of the characters in my novel Hearts Set Free wrestle with difficult passages of Scripture, not so much from a desire for intellectual understanding, but rather out of the urgent need to love God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. The following passage is narrated by Luke, who leaves the Alaska Territory in 1926, on a quest with his mother to find the father who’s deserted them. His journey eventually leads him to a small railway stop in Nevada called Las Vegas, where he meets Julia, who has the uncanny ability to know when rivers will suddenly appear in the desert waste.
“When the Lamb opens the fifth seal,” said Julia, “and the martyrs cry out, asking how long they must wait till their blood is avenged by their Sovereign Lord—that’s always bothered me. We’ve been told to forgive, time and again, told by the Lamb of God Himself. Yes, vengeance is the Lord’s, but to yearn for God to strike the blow is still to yearn for vengeance. Does forgiveness then end at death? Or will the martyrs be properly rebuked?”
“They’re only told to wait until others join them,” I said, after thinking for a moment. “But forgiveness must last beyond the grave, for we’re to love even our enemies, and to love is to forgive, it’s eternal life itself.”
“I think you’re right,” said Julia, “despite Revelation’s hundred-pound hailstones and seas of blood. I think what Jesus revealed to John is that forgiveness and love aren’t always gentle and sweet, that they can be terrible, they can come like a trumpet blast that shatters the heavens, they can cut like a double-edged sword…”