I was sixteen when I watched my dad slowly waste away into a bag of bones in the downstairs guest room—dying of lung cancer. Watching the man that I once saw as strong and unshakable crumble with each step left me urgently seeking a new foundation to build my life upon. I needed hope.
I took the book off my mom’s bedside table and skimmed the first chapter. It claimed to be about those who had clinically died, but had later been resuscitated and lived to tell of how they left their bodies, watched the resuscitation attempts from above, yet felt more alive than ever before.
I was not a believer. I was skeptical about God and running from Him because I knew how I was living was wrong. But now my father was dying.
I took the book back to my room. Sitting on my bed with my back against the wall, I finished the whole book in three hours. I was blown away! Modern medical technology seemed to make resuscitation from “clinical death” more common, and here were one hundred cases of those who claimed to have had a vision of the afterlife.
Some of these Near Death Experiences (NDE’s) talked about encountering a Being of Light, whose brilliance outshines the sun. They knew that with earthly eyes, they would not even be able to look at Him, yet as they gazed on Him in their new spiritual body none wanted to leave His presence. They were home. Loved and embraced with warmth that made them never want to leave. But they all had to return.
I don’t know how I knew, but I knew. “That’s You, Jesus, isn’t it!?” Maybe it was that some of them said it was Jesus. Or maybe in some of my early mandatory church attendance, I remembered Paul’s encounter with the blinding light on the Damascus road: “Who are You, Lord?” Paul asked. “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” Or maybe I remembered Jesus’ own words, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Or maybe He just drew me and let me know Himself, but that night I said, “Jesus, if that’s You, I want to be with You when I die.”
It was one year later that I got into the small group learning what the Bible taught about God’s Grace, and I professed faith in Jesus. Along the way, I discovered so much evidence for Jesus’ claim that He was God’s self-revelation (see all my messages about it on http://www.gatewaychurch.com/foundations/). Since that time, I have read the Bible cover to cover numerous times, studied it in depth, and got a Master’s degree in it. I’ve also read hundreds of books by people claiming to have had Near Death Experiences. Some seemed whacked, and some seemed genuine, but despite differences in interpretation (which all are interpreting an experience), I saw a core of commonalities I couldn’t ignore.
Last weekend I saw the movie, Heaven is for Real, about Colton Burpo—a four-year-old who journeyed to Heaven and saw friends and Jesus, the Father, and Spirit. I had read the book (the book is MUCH better, but the movie’s worth seeing). I have had this growing sense all year long that I’m supposed to write about Heaven, and Colton’s story would be part of it. Several months ago, I sent a proposal to my publisher called, Imagine Heaven: True Stories, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You.
They accepted it!
I’ll tell you more about it in my next post, but I’m super excited to write it. So many Christians have a negative view of Heaven, and I think that’s why we live such materialistic lives. Scripture tells us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2-3). I want to help Christians and skeptics see through God’s Word, NDE testimony, and our imaginations the exhilarating future that awaits you!
If you know of people who have had Near Death Experiences, please let me know as I’d love to interview them.