Vision of Heaven and Hell

I shall try to be as complete as possible in my account of the experience which I had on July 11th, 1976, when I was forty-eight years of age.  As a result of this experience, my life was completely changed.

As a war invalid, every year I went to one of our spa resorts for treatment; in that year, 1976, I chose the Mataruska Banja (spa) for treatment from the end of June until half way through July; I had accommodations in the Hotel Zicha.

After ten days of treatment, I had to interrupt it to return to Kragujevac for a one-year memorial service (Parastos) for a close relative.  I left the Banja on July 9th to be in time for the Service on the 10th. 

On July 11th, at about 10:00am, I started the trip back to the Banja in my own car, to continue the treatment.

When I reached the bridge on the river Ibar in Kraljevo there was a halt in the flow of traffic because of an accident near a petrol station further on the road to the Monastery Zicha.  The traffic police were directing a slow movement of traffic around the accident site.

After passing the bridge, I joined the right lane which leads to Zicha.  About ten meters from the bridge there is a bus stop for travelers to Zicha and Mataruska Banja.  There were about twenty people there, waiting for the bus, amongst whom were a nun and a monk, who were noticeable from their appearance.  In this particular spot the terrain had a mild downhill slope, so that I had a good view of what was happening in front.

Driving at a crawl, I looked at the monk, who seemed about average height and about seventy years of age, with graying curly beard, but from the flexibility of his movements, he looked more as if he were fifty years of age.  He was wearing a new black cassock and a 'kamilavka' on his head with a black veil flowing down his back.  On his chest, suspended on a chain or a cord, he wore a shining cross, and another chain or cord he had some kind of medallion or a small icon – like the Mother of God with Christ- it was a female image with child.  The nun, who was standing beside the monk, was dressed in a long black dress, with the same 'kamilavka' on her head, with one difference – the veil fell only to her shoulders.  She was of medium height with large round eyes and was very beautiful in appearance.  Around her neck she too wore the shining cross and the medallion and all this shone and reflected the sun.  At that time I did not distinguish the difference between the monastic ranks and that is why this description is lacking information.

By waving their hands they tried to stop any car in the slow crawling line of traffic, but to no avail.  No-one would stop, although many cars had plenty of room for two or more passengers.  In my thoughts I condemned those drivers who would not stop to take them.  “Why?” I thought, “When monastics are people too, just like we are!  Why is everyone turning their head the other way?”  This general dislike for the monastics was, for me, too much to bear, so I decided that when I came along side of them I would stop and give them a lift, unless someone else before me had already done so.  No-one else stopped and when I came in front of them, they waved their hands at me.  I obliged by leaving the line of traffic and pulling up on the side of the road.  The monk approached my car and greeted me “God provides,” and I answered, “May God help you.” 

It was not my custom to greet people in this manner, because I did not believe in God; I only wanted to please the monk.  He asked if I could give them a lift to the Zicha Monastery.  I replied that I could and opened the car door on the right-hand side, pushing forward the front seat so that one of them might sit in the back seat.  The nun then approached and greeted me in the same manner and I answered, “May God help you.” She was the first to get in and sat directly behind me.  She was followed by the monk, who joined her in the back seat.  Worrying about the discomfort, I asked, “Why crowd one another in the back seat when there is room on the front?”  The monk responded by saying, “It is not too crowded for us Dusan.  Just drive and don't worry.”

After this response I was silent.  I pressed the lock button on the door through which they entered the car and concentrated on finding a gap in the line of traffic so that I could re-enter the traffic.

While I was thus occupied he asked,” Dusan, are you coming from Kragujevac from the Parastos?'  He put this question to me and answered it himself.  I was surprised; how was it that he knew my name and where I had come from.  In confusion I said,”Yes, I come from Kragujevac.  Yesterday we gave a one year Parastos for a relative of mine.”  He listened to me and said, “And now you are going to the Banja in which you never bathe?”   “I am afraid to bathe because the Banja waters are very hot and I might catch cold, which would put me in a worse condition than when I came to it” I answered him.  As soon as the monk stopped talking the nun asked, “Dusan, where were you born?  In Zatuka?”  She answered herself, just as the monk did.  Then she continued, “Dusan, all your close family is alive and well; your father Dimitrie, your mother Darinka, your sister Dusanka and your brother Dragoljub.  They believe in God and celebrate the Slava, but they are unstable and wavering.  When they are angry they swear against all heavenly beings.  Your brother Milovan is highly educated in a specialist field, but he is a great unbeliever. 

When she was silent, the monk continued.  “And you, Dusan, you are more inclined to believe that man was created by God, rather than that man is a descendant of the apes, but you never pray or turn to God, although you have a soft heart and a sense of honor.  Three times you could have obtained great riches but you didn't, because it was dishonest.  You are compassionate toward the elderly and the unfortunate.  Your noble nature compelled you to stop, to respond with God's greeting, and to take us into your car.  You are blessed for having stopped, but woe to those who would not; who turned their heads from us and spat.  It would be better if they had never been born.”

The meaning of all this did not quite sink in, but I had a great fear and I started to tremble.  At that point a driver in the passing lane of traffic signaled that he would pause to let me back onto the road, and I moved in quickly.  Very soon we passed the spot where the accident took place and I was just about to increase my speed to get to the Monastery as soon as possible when a truck, loaded with bricks and other building materials, suddenly came out of a side road in front of us and I was forced to slow down again.  The truck was traveling very slowly in the same direction as we were and I could not overtake him because of the constant traffic coming the other way.  Because of the slowness of the truck I had to drive very carefully, often checking my rear-view mirror for impatient drivers behind me, when I saw a most unexpected sight; the monk and the nun sitting in the back seat, their faces now shining brightly, had haloes of blinding light around their heads.  I trembled with fear, seeing that these two were no ordinary people. 

From the extraordinary experiences that I was going through with my passengers, my attention to my driving started to weaken badly.  I could hardly drive my car, and I slowed down more than traffic conditions allowed.  In the meantime, the monk and the nun took turns in recounting my whole life; as far back as I could remember: right up to the present day.  They recounted everything I did – good and bad; even those plans of which no one knew and which I had, at some time, given up.  To my surprise, their accounts were absolutely correct, as if they were reading it from a book.  For the good things they praised me:  for the dishonorable things they admonished me with mild voices.  >From fear and shame I didn't know what to do with myself.  I wished the earth would open up and swallow me or that anything else would happen, just so that I could escape the agony of having to listen.  But there was no getting away; I had to listen and bear all!

I cannot speak here of the very bad and dishonorable things for which they admonished me, for they are of a very private nature.  Later I confessed them all and repented, but as a lesson to others I will mention in detail one admonishment that came from the nun.  “Dusan, why did you not want to speak to your father when you were together at the birthday of your cousin Desa?  I answered here the way it really was.  “My father neglected me in comparison to his other children.  He did not have the right attitude towards us, so with this behavior I wished to show him how much I resented it.”  To this explanation the nun replied, “Who are you, and who are we to judge?  God is the One who judges and deals out justice!  God said in His Commandment – that we should honor our mother and father, and He promised a reward to those who keep His Commandment – that they would live long and happy lives on earth.  Parents, for their children, are an earthly shrine, but it is a blessed thing that you have a soft heart and feeling sorry for your father you went to him the next day and you hugged and kissed him and asked for his forgiveness.  Your father cried with joy and told you, “I forgive you, son!”  I was speechless because everything she said was exactly right.  When we reached the bridge before the Monastery Zicha, the monk said to me, “Dusan, what has happened to you now and what will happen to you today, do not speak of them to anyone for the next three months, and after that time you may tell only your family and friends.”  My answer was very short.  “All right.”  I looked again in the rearview mirror to see if I could make the turn into the Monastery parking area, and I caught sight of them again, and again I was shocked and surprised to see haloes around their heads. 

My mental state was seriously strained from all these happenings and I had an irresistible urge to part from my passengers as soon as possible.

In the parking area in front of the Monastery there were quite a few cars and a large group of tourists who had come to visit.  I parked the car in such a way that the front of it was right against the wall Monastery.  I got out of the car to open the door so that my passengers could get out.  But I was not prepared for so great a shock.  When I looked into the car there was no one there!  Another wave of fear shook my body.  I kept looking at the open door and the door which was locked on the other side.  I could not believe my eyes.  I looked a few more times, very carefully, but still there was no one in the car.  Incredulity, fear and trembling overtook my whole being.  Uncertainty in my very self seized me.  I feared that I had gone mad.  To make sure that I was real I started to bite my arms, to pull my hair and to hit myself hard on the face.  In my terror I did not notice that a crowd of people was gathering around me.  Through my confusion I could hear some people asking me what had happened to me.  Why was I hitting & biting myself? I was in a terrible state; I was shaking as if in violent fever and all I said was, “Go away from me, please!”

I walked away from the circle of people around me, wanting to be by myself so that some kind of order would come to my mind.  In my seclusion I looked at my watch; it was 11:30 a.m.  I started to recall every spoken word of my passengers from the minute I took them into my car until here, where they had inexplicably disappeared.   Of all that had happened, the most perplexing words that stuck in my mind were those when they said that, for three months, I was not to tell anyone about what had happened, nor of what was to happen during the course of the day.  Highly agitated, I began to speak to myself loudly, “My God! What else could happen to me?  I'll go the Banja; I will not have lunch; I'll go straight to bed and rest.  What could happen to me?”  I kept asking myself loudly.  “Maybe I'll die!” But then I remember that a man can't speak if he is dead, and they DID tell me not to speak of this to anyone until after three months.  This conclusion was of some little comfort to me, and I even felt like laughing at myself for having, only a moment ago, gone through a deadly fear for my life.  I was just not fit to comprehend any of this, nor to explain to myself what had actually happened.

After a short rest, I continued my journey to Mataruska Banja and to this day it is not clear to me how I could in that state of high agitation, have made the trip from Zicha to Banja.  I reached the Banja very safely although I felt confused, broken and very tired. 

It was a few minutes before mid-day as I walked past Zicha hotel and saw guests entering the dining room for lunch.  I did not feel any hunger, although it was time for lunch.  All I wanted was rest and solitude so that I could think.

Without taking my clothes off I lay down on the bed.  Very soon after, I felt a severe pain in the middle of my chest; this was followed by something like a needle stabbing straight into my heart.  After this I was completely overcome by drowsiness from which I fell into a sleep.

What happened after this was more real than any other reality.  The door of my room opened wide; the room shone with a strong light.  Into it entered an Angel with wings.  He was of extraordinary beauty; he wore a long, shiny gown, with yet another shinier, sleeveless gown over it.  On his feet he wore apostle-like sandals.  The Angel walked over to me and said, “Dusan, it is your fortune that you were receptive to God, and that you stopped for the monk & the nun.  Do you know who it was that you were driving?”  I shrugged my shoulders, and just as I was about to say that I did not know, the Angel said, “You drove the Holy Apostle Peter and St. Petka Paraskeva – your Slava!”  I immediately remembered that my father celebrated St. Petka and it became clear to me who had been in my car that day. 

Then the Angel led me out of the room and we started up the hill, on the left side of the Banja entrance if one was coming from the direction of Zicha.  For a short while we walked in silence, but shortly after the Angel started to speak;”Dusan, you work amongst people; you are often in company and you all say that all there is for a man is what he eats, drinks, wears and enjoys while he is alive, and when he dies all he needs is a two-meter plot of ground with a little earth on top – and that's all.  I want you to know Dusan that death is not the end of life; it is only a gate and station, through which every man must pass.  God created man from earth and blew His Spirit into him and man became a living soul.”

The Angel came to the end of this story as we reached the top of the hill.  At the same moment, just in front of us, a thick cloud descended to the ground and the Angel led me into it, and immediately the cloud started to raise us up high.  While the cloud was thus carrying us the Angel continued to speak.  “Dusan, with your noble heart that loves justice and honesty, you have found great mercy before God, so that the only true road to salvation will be shown to you.”  After these words, the cloud stopped moving and the Angel said, “Look at the earth!”  I looked and he asked me, “What do you see?”  I said, “I see the whole earth, countries, cities, villages, rivers, seas, animals, people and their faces.  I can see them clearly.”  Then I turned towards the Angel and I could see that behind him there were three rows of angels with trumpets in their hands.  They were blinding with an extraordinary light.  Their beauty was impossible to describe!

My Angel- the guide – then said to me: “Dusan, look towards the earth and the sign on the trumpets of the Angels and you will see what the resurrection of the dead will be like when Our Lord Jesus Christ comes to earth to judge the living and the dead!” When I looked towards the earth, the Angels blew on their trumpets and at that moment throughout the whole earth, graves started to open up and the dead began to come out.  I was astonished, but my astonishment knew no bounds when I saw people – women, men and children – coming out of rivers, seas, lakes, fires, from the mouths of animals, and all the many other ways in which they had happened to die.  I was speechless at the sight of this, but the Angel exclaimed to me immediately, “Dusan, why are you surprised?  Whichever way a person ended his life on earth, so will he return to life and the sound of the trumpets, regardless of whether he was swallowed by water, burnt by fire or eaten by animals…with God, everything is possible, because for Him there are no dead; with Him everyone is alive!”

Another thing that surprised me when I noticed it was that over everyone's head was a half-sized piece of paper, on which on which something was written.  On some there was more written than on others.  I wondered what it could be that was written on everyone's forehead.  Although I did not ask, the Angel answered the question for me.  “Those are their deeds from the time when they were living on earth, and with those deeds they come before the Lord Jesus Christ, and according to them they will be judged!”  He also mentioned that even their thoughts were written on there, and that nothing could be hidden.  Amongst those that came out of the graves I saw my relatives, friends, neighbors and many acquaintances that I could remember from way back.  I was happy to see them and they were happy to see me.  They stretched out their arms and spoke to me, but I could not understand their words.  Looking at my relatives and friends, I concluded that families were grouped together because they stood next to each other.  Then the Angel said to me, “Now we'll move further on, but we shall return to this place.”

After those words, the clouds took us towards the east, and much higher up.  As soon as we moved, I saw multitudes of people, like shadows in a shining state, moving in all directions.  Their arms, hands, legs, heads and faces could be seen distinctly.  I wondered what sort of people were these.  Who were these people moving through space? Fathoming my thoughts, the Angel guide answered them; “These are not people, but people's souls.  Because God is light, and the man was created from earth, God has blown His Spirit into man has become a living soul.  That is why the soul shines.  The soul which leaves the man retains its sight, hearing, speech, memory and some other sensibilities which it had while in the body.”  He further told me that the soul leaves the body, for the forty days it passes through all of its earthly life.  It is shown to the soul, everything it did, spoke and thought, and after the forty days it is lifted into the heavens for judgment, after which it goes to the place that it deserves. 

With this observation of the resurrection of the dead and about men's souls, the talk concluded.  The clouds took us upwards, toward higher spheres.  We traveled through space – and I use that term in a general sense, because I am incapable of describing what it looks like!  Its complicated and fearful appearance produced indescribable fear in me; that is why I pressed close to the Angel. 

This torment of mine subsided when we arrived at a beautiful clearing on which there was a partition – something like a wall, without a beginning or end in sight.  In this wall there was a gate in the shape of a Cross.  On the right side of the gate an Angel stood on guard.  That partition and the gate were beautifully decorated and incredibly shiny.

At that stop or station – I don't know what to call it – there were many of those souls which I had seen earlier, moving through space.  Some of them were more shiny and some less so.  Around them there were multitudes of Angels and a tremendous number of demons, in various ugly forms.  The demons tried to get in the way of the souls which the Angels allowed to go through the gate.  I could not understand anything I saw.  I asked myself, “Why did some souls stand in groups?  Why this?  Why that?”  But the Angel guide, without my asking, explained “Dusan you would not be able to bear it if everything was to be told to you.”  After this, the Angel led me through the gate.

The road to the next gate was as straight as an arrow and very narrow.  To the right and to the left of the road, along its whole length, there was an abyss, horribly deep so that its bottom could not be seen.  It was the same between all the stations, the only difference being that the road became narrower and just before the last gate it became scarily a foot in width.

After a short journey we reached another station, more beautiful and shinier than the last.  And there too, there were souls and their Angel guides, demons and the Angel who stood guard at the gate.  Here the demons were bolder in trying to prevent souls from entering the gates, after they had been allowed to do so by the guarding Angel.  With all their might, the demons tried to pull them in some other direction, but without success because the souls once they had been allowed to pass through the Cross-like gate became immune from the attacks of the demons.

My Angel guide went through all of the gates.  All the stations differed in appearance; every new station was more beautiful than the last and the Angels at the gates were dressed differently.  Every passage was narrower on the journey towards the last gate.

At the last station, by the gate stood a most magnificent-looking man very similar in appearance to my Angel guide.  In his left hand he held a book and in the right, a sword.  He smiled pleasantly and bowed to us and we went through the last gate where the passage was narrowest of all.

As soon as we passed this gate, we found ourselves in a tremendously bright light.  Up to the last gate the light was ordinary, earth-like light.  The difference between this new light and the ordinary light was tremendous – something like the difference between a very sunny day and the darkest night.

Surprised at this powerful light, I started to look for the sun, but my Angel guide explained to me that we had passed the system of the sun and that we were now in the system of the Heavenly Kingdom.  He told me that it was from the face of God that the heavens shone so brightly and that there were no nights, but always day.

The fear and trembling which assailed me all the way up to this place disappeared and I was filled with a sense of indescribable peace and warm joy. 

From the height of the heavenly sky I could see below me a magnificent sight – an enormous city of unfathomable size.  Houses, churches, parks and many other beautiful things, spread out in the infinite heavenly spaces.  Everything shimmered and shone from the unusual heavenly dazzle of light.  My attention was attracted by two huge rivers which flowed slowly through the city; in one of them flowed a yellow liquid and in the other a white one.  This puzzled me and my Angel understood, so he explained that they were milk and honey.  Observing these rivers more closely, I could see that very many small creeks ran from the rivers in all directions, towards every kind of green growth, thus feeding every bush.

Under the influence of this sight before me, I felt a kind of flutter in my soul which filled me with such rapture that, unconsciously I stretched my arms in that direction.  My wish to touch and stroke all this was so great, but my Angel guide took me and we descended quickly into these beautiful surroundings.

There was no end to my joy and surprise when I saw everything around us.  I didn't know where to look first.  Close to us and further away, as far as the eye could see, there was such luxuriant life as cannot be imagined or seen anywhere outside of Heaven.

The ground in Heaven is something like glass which is as clear as crystal and those small creeks flowed under this crystal ground.

Around us, at varying distances, there were many beautiful homes of different sizes and shapes.  Every one of those homes was so beautifully decorated that they seemed to be wearing the most magnificent jewelry.  The most striking part of these heavenly houses was their roofs which, to a certain extent, reminded me of the Russian churches with their domes.  This beautiful architecture was even more enhanced by the light which reflected on them, on every facet of their exterior.

Around there heavenly castles there were large parks, laden with the most beautiful trees and flowers.  These flower centers were filled with unearthly fragrances, which were spread all over by a gentle breeze.  With wonderment I watched the flowers blooming continually and some others changed from one color to another and as their colors changed, so too did their fragrances.

At the same time I saw many different fruit trees, decorated with their fruit as if with the most beautiful necklaces.  The fruit was very large in size and full of juice which could be seen circulating inside the fruit.  The Angel told me that the trees bore fruit twelve times a year.

Apart from the fruit trees I saw many vineyards, especially by the rivers, and some by the homes.  With clear green leaves and warm colors of grapes, I was impressed by the deep lushness.

Amongst all this undreamed of beauty there were magnificent birds, each one more beautiful than the other singing sweet songs. 

Wherever the Angel guide took me through the different places of Heaven, I saw people of all ages.  The appearance of the elderly people was pleasant and very impressive.  Of the different signs of age as we know them, there remained only the grey hair and beards, which were luxuriant in their growth, while their faces were transformed into those of young men.

From the sight of these dear faces, it was even more wondrous to gaze upon the children who, in many respects, were very similar to the Angels.  In the parks and other places I watched them play various games.  Many of them plaited garlands of flowers, while the birds flew down on their shoulders, flapping their wings and sang songs with their meek and gentle presence, and greatly added to the children's play.

I noticed that the children and adults were dressed differently.  There clothes were shiny and differed in color and shape, and in other ways too.  The difference was established by Heaven to match their merits.  Around their heads they had smaller haloes than those of the Angels and saints.  For their pure and God-fearing life on earth, the Lord granted them every contentment imaginable. 

With these heavenly dwellers there were multitudes of Angels.  The beauty of finesse of the Angels faces cannot be conceived by our minds.  They shone stronger than the sun and from their dresses a lightning-like light flowed and spilt over.  The dwellers mingled with both the younger and older Angels, and in many places they celebrated the Lord together in song.

Moving further through Heaven, I was overwhelmed with more and more wondrous sights.  My Angel guide and I moved very easily, and often very quickly.  Then we came upon a most miraculous beauty.  Judging from the power of light and the adornments, this place surpassed everything that I had seen so far.  In that place, not far from us and a little to the front of us, on the right-hand side, there were, lined in a straight row, the higher heavenly ranks.  Also, on our left, many of Gods chosen ones were ranked.  There were short spaces between rows so that the ranks and groups could be clearly distinguished, I concluded later.  For the beauty which my eyes had seen there, there are no adequate words to describe it.

Here my Angel guide slowed his pace, turned towards the right and, pointing with his hand, he showed and explained to me; “These are Angels and these are Archangels.”  Then he turned to our left and said, “These are the righteous, these are the desert dwellers.”  Then he turned to the right and continued, “These are Cherubims and these are Seraphims.”  Then he turned to the left again, and pointing with his hand, told me, “These are monastics and these are martyrs, who together suffered death for the Lord Jesus Christ and became worthy of heavenly glory.”  Then he turned to the right again and said, “These are the Apostles…”  Here my Angel guide stopped his explanations because, from our left side, appeared St. Paraskeva and stood before St. Peter.

The passengers whom I had driven that day from Kraljevo to Zicha now stood in front of us in the greatest glory and light.  On their heads they wore glistening crowns and over their dresses they wore vestments which shimmered with unimaginable adornments of blinding radiance.  Over the right shoulder they wore garlands of indescribable beauty, like a distinction of rank.  Heavenly splendor in their appearance was at its highest peak.

During the time my Angel guide led me through the Heavens, I never thought that I might see them again.  Now, surprised by this meeting and their appearance, I looked at them in ecstasy, without taking my eyes from them.  This state of mind was interrupted by the mild words of the Apostle Peter, “Dusan, do you know whom you drove today?”  Not concealing my joy, I answered in the highest elation, “I know!”  He continued by saying to me, “From today, do not be an unbeliever, but a believer and you must be baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  Then St. Peter crossed himself, showing me the correct way of the sign of the cross.

Throughout my childhood I used to make the sign of the Cross by moving my hand from my forehead to my chin.  Now, by the Apostle Peter's example, I realized that I had earlier crossed myself the wrong way, and how I should do it in the future.  Sensing that I was thinking about the sign of the Cross, he continued to advise me; “Through your prayers, call upon all saints, prophets, angels, archangels, cherubims and seraphims, and most of all, call upon the Mother of God, the Most Holy Mother of God, Maria, because her glory and honor is greater than that of all the angels in Heaven.  She is a speedy helper to all those who call upon her through prayer and faith!  From today, you are to stop the accustomed habits, which have taken a deep root within you, and you are to celebrate your Slava, St. Petka Paraskeva, who prays for all those that celebrate her:” he pointed his hand in her direction.  “This which you have seen, Dusan, and that which you will yet see – which will be shown to you by the Archangel Gabriel – blessed are you for this, and blessed are all those who believe in you.  But this will not be enough unless, after this, you walk the road to Our Lord Jesus Christ.  And to you Dusan, I say that, with the rest of the short life that is left to you, it is possible for you to attain salvation by fasting and prayer, provided you keep all of God's Commandments.”

The gravity of the Apostle's words cut deeply into my heart.  Under the impact of these words I stood motionless, looking and listening to them who are the light and beacons of God.  This state of mind was brought to an end by the Archangel Gabriel, who continued by saying, “These are the prophets of God and these are the martyrs.”  And so he went on introducing them, and with every introduction we were greeted with a meek smile and a mild inclination of the head.

Soon after this meeting the Angel guided me through more areas of Heaven.  I must mention here, that with my eyes, I was able to see great distances and could see the smallest things in the finest detail.  In Heaven I could see at far greater distances and far more clearly than I could when I was observing the resurrection of the dead when we were in the cloud.  This capacity was granted to me by the Lord so that I could see the spiritual world.  I saw multitudes of beautiful shrines made of gold and precious stones.  Their doors were open wide and I could hear majestic liturgies being served to God, accompanied by magnificent choirs of Angels, Archangels and Saints.

Taking me further all the time, the Angel guide would slow his pace only in certain parts when he wanted me to have a better look, but he did not come to a stop.   I don't know for how long we had traveled, when the Angel quite unexpectedly slowed down so much that we almost came to a halt.  In front of us, at a great distance, there appeared a great rise upon which stood a huge Cross.  On the Cross I saw the crucified Lord, and above the Cross, a very large pigeon with his wings spread wide.  >From the Cross itself there emanated, in all directions, rays of blinding light, while at the foot of the Cross I could see many-winged Angels, Archangels, Prophets and Saints as they stood and glorified the crucified Lord.  In the background I could see several huge churches and some other buildings.

All of this I could see was so brilliant and majestic in its beauty that I was stunned by its effect on me. 

The Angel guide stopped me and said, “That is where the Lord's throne is.  You are not worthy to go there.”  Then the Angel took me back and very soon we were out of Heaven.

At the place where the Angel guide took me out there was a cloud waiting for us, into which we entered; it took us somewhere to the west.  This time I could not see where we were going; I had the impression that we did not travel too long in this direction when the cloud unexpectedly changed its course and started to descend with tremendous speed and into some kind of an abyss.  Somewhere deep in that chasm, the cloud stopped and we came out and my Angel led me into some darkness.  After the first few steps the darkness became so thick, so black, that no blackness could be compared to it.  From the depth of this gloom, a horrid smell hit us, as a result of which I could hardly breathe.  I had a feeling that we were facing something horrific, but I could not perceive what it was.  Fear and trembling overtook my whole being and I pressed hard against my Angel guide so that he might protect and guard me on this frightful road.  My darkest suspicions were soon confirmed when we sighted, at a great distance, an endless sea which burned with horrifying flames.  Shortly we reached that place and stopped, not far in front of it.  It was only later that I could see that we stood on some kind of a high wall, of indefinable length, which walled this place of eternal fire and endless horror. 

The horrifying scene which our eyes encountered with full force threw my mind into disorder and my limbs, already weakened from the previous fright, now became completely numb.  My eyes became contorted and a cold shudder which went through my numb body was the only sign that I was still alive. 

When I looked again I saw before us, as if in the bowels of a raging volcano, boiling water sulfuric and evil-smelling with leaping tongues of frightful flames.  “This sea is not of the same depth everywhere.  There, where the flames reach a height of 40 meters, which is where the sea is deepest,” my Angel guide told me. 

In this unimaginable horror, I saw many of the most terrible-looking animals, created to be the most ghastly tormentors.  Huge snakes, some with more vice-like embrace, pulled the sinners into the depths of this seething sea.  There were some other animals of more horrifying appearance from whose bloody jaws protruded arms, legs and other parts of human bodies.  Amongst those, as in a beehive, there were maggots, scorpions and other horrid vermin; propelled by some eruptive energy, they endlessly and wildly attacked the sinful souls in this sea of torture.

Screaming, crying, shrieking and wailing of many human voices could be heard.  In this sea of fire, human souls were as helpless as fish in shallow water.  They were attacked from every direction by these beasts, which bite, tear and shred them to the smallest pieces.  These deformed and mangled bodies are again formed into a complete human figure.

Looking at this ghastly scene from fear and trembling I almost fell into this sea of fire but my Angel guide stopped me and said, “Do not be afraid, Dusan! Now we are in hell!  These snakes and the rest of the vermin which swim in this boiling, sulfuric water have been created by God in such a way that the hot water does not affect them.  They will eternally bite, chew and suck the blood of the sinners.  Altogether they will simmer in this fiery hell, but will never be completely consumed.”

The ghastly sight of the torture of these sinners was unbearable and several times I closed my eyes so that I would not have to look.  Once I turned my head towards the darkness, but there my eyes met with some dark monsters with flaming eyes and wide open jaws.  The roared and shrieked and started to fly around us with frightening speed and from the horrifying din, the hell shook as with a violent thunderstorm.  Feeling that I was in a critical state, the Angel guide said, “Do not be afraid! These are demons who don't like our presence here.  They cannot bear it, but they do not dare come near us.”  Then the Angel continued, “You saw how they suffer Dusan, and that is how they will suffer in the future; all those who do not believe in God; all those who pray to a false and imaginary god, because they love their god and see him in their wealth, houses, villas, cars, jewelry, their luxurious life and in their stomachs.  The ones who do believe in God but when they are asked they are afraid to say so publicly, they too will suffer with these.  Into eternal torment will also fall those who do not honor their mother and father and those closest to them.  They will be joined in this eternal fire by all those to whom sin is more precious  than a righteous life, and those are the liars, those who bear false witness, those who cheat, those who scoff and jeer; the malicious, the envious; robbers, looters, criminals, adulterers, the miserly and many others.  So that you don't end up in this way, it is necessary for you to repent, to confess all your sins when you return to earth.”

After these words the Angel guide took me by the hand and, with great speed, led me out of hell.  At the exit, the cloud was waiting for us and we entered it.  This time it took us to the same place from which I watched the resurrection of the dead.  Now I was close to earth.

All the resurrected people that I had seen before were now sorted out into three huge groups.  In the first group, on the right, the people had bright, smiling faces.  To the left of them were people who looked miserable and dark around the face.  There were many more in the second group than in the first.  At the extreme left there was a numberless mass of people with black and nasty faces.  When I looked at those people, the Angel guide explained to me, “These on the right-hand side with happy faces are the righteous ones; a heavenly reward for their righteous living on earth awaits them.  Those in the middle with dark faces are the innocent sinners; these are people with small sins.  For these people, prayers and good deeds should be offered in their name that their sins might be forgiven them.  Prayers and good deeds are of great merit before God.  These that you see on the extreme left, they are great sinners.  Because of their filthy lives on earth, they receive the image of their sins, for which they will be thrown into the eternal fire.”

The sight of the great sinners was horrifying.  Their whole bodies were swollen and covered in big, open sores, which ran with dirty pus.  Inside the sores, swarms of maggots were eating away into their bodies; from their opened mouths hung their swollen tongues, which they could not pull back.  They all held something in their hands to indicate their line of work on earth; the baker held a loaf of bread; the butcher held a meat chopper; the criminals held daggers or guns and were covered in blood.  Shopkeepers and others held scales to show how they had cheated with them and attained riches dishonestly.  Doctors were there too, showing how they had demanded bribes and when they were not paid, they left their patients to die in great pain.  There were those who demanded bribes to employ someone. There were some who, when a job was applied for by women or girls whom they found desirable, gave them a job or a better position after forcing them into a sinful life.  I saw fortune tellers and magic makers looking at cups, cards and palms – always looking to break marriages, split loved ones and unite them with evil.  They had done all this for monetary gain and I could see piles of money at their side.  In this group there were prostitutes, fornicators and debauchers.  There were harlot-like women, who had killed their children in various ways, mainly by poisoning them so that they could lead their lustful lives.  They all looked deformed with big swellings and huge, open sores.  Their genital organs were so swollen that they reached to the ground, covered in pus, while snakes and vermin crawled upon them.  Their tongues were greatly swollen and hanging out of their mouths.  There were cases of incest fornicators and they were unbearable to look upon!

I was very surprised to see those that spent their earthly life in churches and monasteries.  These were grouped into orders of bishops, clergymen, deacons, monks and nuns, and they looked no different from the misers, fornicators, cheats, bearers of false witness and other sinners.  Knowing my thoughts, the Angel guide said, “Don't be surprised, Dusan, to see them too, amongst the great sinners.  It was of their own free will that they swore on the Cross and the Holy Bible that they would faithfully serve God, and that they would walk the road of the Lord Jesus Christ, that they would, with their teachings and examples like the holy apostles, lead the people to the path of the Lord, so that the churches might be full and that the people might save themselves.  But they led a life contrary to this.  Instead of what they promised, they cut short the services of baptisms, of weddings, funerals, Parastos, blessing of water, blessing of the Slava Bread, and shortened the Holy Liturgies.  They said one thing and did another.  They became money-hungry, overcharging for their services often charging the poor more than the rich and influential.  They committed adultery, grew to love swearing, drinking, gluttony, gambling, rich homes and cars.  They were hypocrites and enviers.  They undermined one another to promote themselves.  By their behavior they turned many people away from the Church, away from God and away from any sense of decency, leading them thus on the road of sin.

Remember this, Dusan:  to turn a man from faith is the same as murder!  If these clergymen led a life of good example, many people would have come to God and his Church, and thus be saved.  That is why these church people, apart from their own sins, also carry the sins of all those people who, because of them turned away from faith and from salvation.  They will suffer from all of those sins.  These sinful church-people have brought to ruin many souls and that is why God has grouped them with the worst and the blackest sinners.  Dusan, you saw the appearance of the righteous ones and the appearance of the sinners; that is exactly how they will appear before Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Judgment Day, when they will be judged according to their deeds!”

The righteous ones were also holding the tools of their profession or trade.  In the case of those holding scales, the scales always tipped in favor of the customer.  They gave to the poor, the hungry and the unfortunate without charge.  They received tired travelers into their homes; they were God-fearing and obeyed His commandments. All their sins had been wiped away by fasting, confession and communion in the Body and Blood of Christ, merciful charity and other good deeds.  They forgave everyone, so God forgave them everything.

Amongst the sinners and the righteous ones, I recognized my relatives and friends, but the Angel guide warned me: “Dusan, you are not allowed to mention by name the appearance of any of your relatives or friends; you may only say and reveal the appearance of sinners and the righteous ones.” 

After these words were uttered by my angel guide, the Archangels blew on their trumpets and the whole scene disappeared.  My Angel guide explained to me that, on the Day of the Great Judgment, all the people who are still living will be, in the blink of an eye, joined to the resurrected ones and will be transformed as if they have resurrected themselves, with written deeds on their foreheads.  Then the Archangels with trumpets disappeared also, and only my Angel guide and I remained in the cloud.  He continued to speak:  “Dusan, you are an honest and compassionate man and your noble heart has guarded you from thieves and hypocrites; you are not a mocker or jeerer; no money could ever buy you; your belief in God was only superficial, as you remembered it from childhood; you did not believe that man evolved from the ape, but you avoided convictions because you did not know anything about God.  You are talented in singing and you like to read the cups and tell fortunes.  You commit adultery and you desire every woman that catches your eye and is not your relative.  You were very successful in fulfilling your desires through singing and fortune-telling.  You lied only when fooling women, especially your wife, to whom you swore oaths about your faithfulness to her.  You saw what is awaiting fornicators and fortune-tellers.  From now on, do not look into cups.  Every young woman that you meet, honor and respect her like your sister, and older ones like your mother; every young man as your brother, and older men as your father.  Never use swear words.  Pray to God and repent all the sins that you have committed.  Love all people, but dislike their sins.  Forgive others so that your own sins may be forgiven.  Your love of good and your noble heart are weightier than your sins.  You must confess and take communion in one of the Orthodox churches.  When you have confessed and received communion in the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord will forgive your sins.  From today, do not sin anymore and be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

At the same time the Angel guide crossed himself, showing me the proper way of doing it.  “In your prayers, call upon all the Saints, especially your Slava Saint, all the Apostles and Prophets, Angels, Archangels, Cherubims and Seraphims” said the Angel guide to me, “but most of all and in the first place, call upon the Most Holy, More Pure, Most Glorious Mother of God Maria, Mother of God the Christ, because her esteem, honor and glory is greater than all the Angels in Heaven.  She is a speedy helper to all those who reverently call to her for help.

And Dusan, always remember this too; that every sinner who sincerely repents and prays to God to have his sins forgiven, and in his prayers calls upon all of us in Heaven, we all join him and pray to God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that his sins might be forgiven.  When this happens, there is great joy in Heaven.  From now on, you are to celebrate your Slava, St. Petka Paraskeva, as your father does.  She prays for all of you who celebrate and revere her.  Dusan, I tell you what the great Apostle Peter also told you, Use the short life that is left to you to save yourself and that can only be done by fasting, prayer, Holy Communion and good and charitable deeds.  All of God's Commandments keep like a law by which you must live to the end of your life.  Do not speak of this experience to anyone for three months, and after that you may tell your relatives and some of your friends. 

Remember this too; when you pray to God, pray with concentration and earnest humility and when you fast, do not be sad about it, but be bright and happy.  No one should know about these efforts of yours.  Be friendly with people as you have been before.  With the joyful, be happy in moderation, with control over yourself; with those that mourn, cry and console them.  Respect the State and authorities and fulfill your obligation to them.  Pray to God and place Him before everything.  If you need spiritual guidance and advice, turn to Christ's Church.  When we part, go straight to Monastery Zicha and when you enter the Church, you will see a place where they sell candles, icons, books and other items.  There, on a shelf by the door, you will find books; buy the first, second, third and fourth in that order, and when you return home from the Banja, take also the one that you already have, from the collection of Vuk Stephan Karadjic books.  That book is the Holy Bible of the New Testament.  You tried to read that book before but you gave up because you did not understand its beginning, where it says, 'such and such gave birth to such and such, etc.' and you rejected the book as insignificant.  From now on, you are to read this book regularly.”  After these words, the Archangel Gabriel made a sign of the Cross upon me and then disappeared.

The moment the vision vanished, I woke up in a cold sweat.  I felt so tired that I could not move.  The clock showed that it was 6:00 p.m.  Under the impression of this vision, I was filled with both fear and joy and I thanked the Lord for granting me this revelation. 

While I lay there helplessly, thinking of everything that I had seen in the last six hours, my hand moved and I crossed myself.  The tiredness which nailed me to the bed completely disappeared and I got up, happy to be freed from the heavy weight.  After tidying my appearance, I left to go to Monastery Zicha for the books which my Angel guide told me to purchase.

In the Monastery Church there was no one except a monk of pleasant appearance.  Later I learned that he was Father Gerasim.  After I kissed the icons and lit the candles, I approached the bookshelf and asked Father Gerasim to give me the first four books in the row.

Apart from those books, I bought two others – the “Orthodox Missionary” and the “Bell of St. Sava,” the cover of which had the picture of the Most Holy Mother of God with Jesus Christ on it.  When I started to leave, the monk asked me very politely, from where did I come?  Out of fear that I might reveal my experience, I, to my great regret, replied very rudely, “What business is that of yours?”  I turned my back on him and left the Church.

The books which the Angel advised me to buy were –

1.       The Orthodox Prayer Book

2.       The Life of Jesus Christ

3.       Apologetic Reading – Discussion on Faith

4.       The Small Canon's Book –

5.       Akathist to the Holy Mother of God.

6.      Canon to the Angel Guardian.

7.       Canon of Repentance

As soon as I returned to the Banja, I had a good look at the books which I had purchased.  I read the Prayer Book and the Small Canon's Book right through the same evening.

The next day, which was the Feast Day of St. Peter and St. Paul, I went to the Monastery Church at Zicha for my prayer meeting.  Ardently I listened and followed every aspect of the Divine Liturgy, while the singing of the nuns awoke warm and beautiful memories of the singing of the angels in the heavenly shrines.  My heart was filled with the sweetest spiritual joy.  I repeatedly thanked the Lord for changing my sinful life.  I repeatedly thanked the Merciful God for showing mercy to me, the sinner.  I continually thanked Him, while I had momentary visions of my past life – murky, sinful and frightfully empty.  There was no light anywhere in it, no comfort, not a moment of peace.

The memory of my past life provoked a feeling of very deep sadness.  I could bear it no longer when the majestic “Cherubic Hymn” rang throughout the Church to herald the highest moment of the Divine Liturgy.  It was as if something burst inside of me, as if something tore away from my chest.  I held my heart in control, but my eyes, like the last wall of a dam, would not hold.  Tears burst out and I felt as if an angel was washing down my soiled soul.  The tears down upon my open sores, while my soul sang: Glory to You, O Lord, Glory to You!  When I left the Church, I felt lightness, peace and spiritual comfort.  A spiritual balance was established in me.

The rest of my stay at the Banja was directed towards my spiritual transformation.  My past custom of taking walks, listening to gypsy music and other bad habits, I deserted forever.

For the rest of my holiday I spent the time praying, reading and thinking about everything that had happened to me.

When I returned home I stopped reading the cup, telling indecent jokes and indulging in long, useless conversations.  I continued to be friendly and bright with people, but I preferred solitude to any kind of socializing.  My experience was always with me, and ever present in my heart and my mind were the words of St. Peter the Apostle, that I should use the rest of my life for my salvation.  I was very careful not to say anything of my experience to anyone before the three months were up.  I couldn't sleep at nights.  I would get up, cry and read the Prayer Book.  I was very faithful in my fasting.  On the eve of each Wednesday and Friday I would ask my wife to prepare fasting food for me, but that she and my son were free to eat whatever they wished.

It is amazing that, in all that time, my wife never once asked me why I started to fast since returned from the Banja.  The first time that she did ask was two days before the three months of my required silence were completed.  At lunch, my wife asked me; “What has happened to you?  It is three months since you became a different man.  I can't recognize you.  I have been married to you for eighteen years and in that time you did not fast for one day, let alone every Wednesday and Friday of every week.  You don't read cups anymore.  You've stopped inviting the women from the neighborhood for the socials, when you were the main entertainer.  What it is that has prevented me from asking you all this time, as I prepare your food separately?”  It was the Power of God that prevented my wife from asking questions until the three months were up.  I told my wife that I would tell her everything the day after next.

Two days later, my wife and her sister and my son sat down to listen to my story.  I told them everything in the order in which it happened.  They were amazed and overwhelmed with wonder.  They believed everything I told them.  Not asking for their opinion I said to them; “From now on, you are no longer to use swearwords.  I advise you to pray to God and to go to Church regularly.  I am informing you that from now on, we will regularly celebrate or Slava, St. Petka.  I advise and beg you also to keep the fasts and to take Holy Communion and not to grumble about me when I fast every Wednesday and Friday and all other fasts, not to disturb my prayers at home.”

My wife and son promised that they would stop swearing, that they would believe in God, that they would make the sign of the Cross before going to bed, and that they would celebrate the Slava.  They did not agree to all the fasts, nor go around to all the churches, nor to pray every morning and every evening.  My wife said that she would receive Holy Communion once a year and that both of them would fast on Good Friday, the day of the Life-Giving Cross and the Beheading of St. John the Baptist.  I did not want to press them into a greater zeal if it did not come of their own free will.

A few days after I made a trip to the Monastery Zicha in order confess and to receive Holy Communion.  Before leaving I gave a lot of thought to which church I should attend.  I came to the conclusion that it would be best to go to Zicha because that was where my experience occurred.

When I arrived there, I asked a nun to announce me to Bishop Basil because I wished to confess and receive Holy Communion, and that I felt the need to confess before him.  In a condensed manner I recounted to her all that happened to me and because of this I asked her to beg the Bishop to see me.  The Bishop was on his feet when he received me.  I bowed to him and greeted him with, “May God help me,” and he replied, “May God help you son.”  Then I kissed the cross in his hand and then his hand saying, “Your Grace, bless me.”  “May God bless you son,” answered the Bishop. 

He noticed that I was uneasy so, in a gentle voice, he offered me a chair.  He asked me where I was born.  I answered that I was born in Zatuka but that I had been living in Kragujevac for quite some time.  He smiled gently and said, “You were born in my Diocese.”  In further conversation the Bishop asked if I had a family, where did I work and, at the end of this introduction, he begged me to tell him of my experience, slowly and without excitement.  I told him everything from the beginning to the end, just as it had happened.  While I spoke he looked at me carefully and listened attentively.  At times he made the sign of the cross, was amazed and often thanked God for His mercy and the gift that He had granted, saying, “Lord have Mercy! Lord have Mercy!” and “Great is Your Mercy, Power and Might.”

When I concluded my story, he told me that, judging from my account, it would appear that, while I was going through my experience, I was in a state of death.

“And now let me ask you, are you spiritually prepared for confession?” the Bishop said.  As my answer was in the affirmative, he told me to kiss the cross and the icon and to kneel.  Then the Bishop covered my head with his stole (epitrahilj) and said, “Dusan, my son, now confess all your sins.  Don't hold back.  I will listen to you and afterwards recite the forgiveness prayers over you and then you will receive Holy Communion – the Body and Blood of Christ the lord, who will forgive you your sins.  Speak freely of all your sins committed by deed, word or thought, throughout your life to this very minute.  Do not be afraid that I might speak to someone about your sins.  Only the Lord and I will know of them.  We who receive confessions are obliged to keep them a secret.”

These words gave me confidence and I told him of all of my sins.  During this confession I began to cry, to sob while begging the Lord to forgive me, and the Mother of God because I had uttered swear words against her and the Lord too.  After I had confessed everything I knew about my sins, the Bishop read prayers over my head for a long time, often pausing to ask me if I was repentant of all of my sins.  Through my tears I answered that I repented from the depths of my heart and soul, and promised that, in the future, I would guard myself from committing any sin.  When the Bishop finished the prayers, he removed the stole from my head and I again kissed the cross and the icon.  After this the Bishop anointed me and began to read the prayer before Holy Communion.

When I received Holy Communion I felt an indescribable warmth and lightness.  It is a state which is attained only after a true and sincere confession and which fills one with happiness, joy, satisfaction, lightness and a sense of peace.  When I told the Bishop how I felt, he said to me; “Dusan, my son, this is a sign that the Lord has forgiven you all of your sins that you have committed up to now; from today sin no more.  You have heard and seen grand things and I believe that now nothing will lead you astray, and you are a blessed person for this.”

At the end the Bishop gave me much thoughtful advice.  He told me to think often of death, because the thought of death diminishes our inclinations to sin.  He told me not to be afraid of the shortness of the earthly life, which was the same advice given to me by the Apostle Peter and the Archangel Gabriel.  Because they thought of this life as being very short in comparison with eternity, even if I lived to be a hundred years old, I should pray every day as though it was to be my last day on earth.

I am overjoyed that, by the mercy of God I have been returned to the life of faith and that I can, with all my heart and soul, thank the Lord for all His rewards, warnings and punishments which He directs towards me in His Holy Wisdom.

I pray to the Lord that everyone who becomes acquainted with my spiritual re-birth might believe my account of it, and that it might help them to discover the true path for the salvation of their souls.

May God bless you and grant you the peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.