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Marco Polo's Journey Parallels the Glory of Heaven

His Italian mother named him after the gospel writer Mark in the hopes that he too would tell the gospel truth. But 13th Century Europeans found it impossible to believe Mark's tales of faraway lands. He claimed that, when he was only seventeen, he took an epic journey lasting a quarter of a century, taking him across the steppes of Russia, the rugged mountains of Afghanistan, the wastelands of Persia, and over the top of the world through the Himalayas. He was the first European to enter China. Through an amazing set of circumstances, he became a favorite of the most powerful ruler on planet earth, the Kublai Khan. Mark saw cities that made European capitals look like roadside villages. The Khan's palace dwarfed the largest castles and cathedrals in Europe. It was so massive that its banquet room alone could seat 6,000 diners at one time, each eating on a plate of pure gold.

Mark saw the world's first paper money and marveled at the explosive power of gunpowder. It would be the 18th Century before Europe would manufacture as much steel as China was producing in the year 1267. He became the first Italian to taste that Chinese culinary invention, pasta. As an officer of the Khan's court, he travelled to places no European would see for another 500 years.

After serving Kublai Khan for 17 years, Mark began his journey home to Venice, loaded down with gold, silk, and spices. When he arrived home, people dismissed his stories of a mythical place called China. His family priest rebuked him for spinning lies. At his deathbed, his family, friends, and priest begged him to recant his tales of China. But setting his jaw and gasping for breath, Mark spoke his final words, "I have not even told you half of what I saw."

Though 13th Century Europeans rejected his stories as the tales of a liar or lunatic, history has proven the truthfulness behind the book he wrote about his adventures—The Travels of Marco Polo. 1300 years before Marco Polo wrote about China, another man, the Apostle John, went on an amazing journey to heaven itself. At times we jaded postmoderns shake our heads in disbelief at the Apostle John's vision and other biblical witnesses to the glory of heaven. But the biblical writers who describe heaven would declare to us, "I have not even told you half of what I saw. Heaven is more joyful, more glorious, and more beautiful than you could ever imagine." May their God-inspired testimonies and descriptions move us to long for God's gift to us in Christ—the glory of heaven.

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