I find it fascinating how many people will watch a “reality” TV show religiously and believe every scenario they present, but continue to question the most real situation that happens to us after our death and the ultimate purpose of our lives. Heaven or hell? You ask this and most people will laugh at the fact that you even proposed such a ridiculous thing. As if the idea of there being life after death is the most idiotic belief they’ve ever heard. It saddens me that people take this as a joke; that hell is just a party you go to and heaven is a place for “good” people. It’s so far from that.
A while ago, I was looking online for an inspirational book to gift a friend. I went through Borders which had another section called “Borders Marketplace” where all of their used and discounted copies of books were. Reading material that was usually listed over $15 was as low as a few bucks! Once I placed the book I wanted into my “shopping cart”, it gave me a list of other books I might like. What the heck, they were super cheap so I took a looksie. I love it when a website knows me well enough to recommend further reading material.
I was there for one book and ultimately ended up with FOUR books in my cart. One of them was titled “90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life“. I’d heard of it before and–from it’s description–I justified that it was a MUST READ! This book is a story of a man who died and returned to earth after visiting heaven. After a preacher prayed over his dead body–which had been without life for 90 minutes–he was snatched back to earth. Here is an excerpt from his book about what Don Piper experienced in heaven:
“More and more people reached for me and called me by name. I felt overwhelmed by the number of people who had come to welcome me to heaven. There were so many of them, and I had never imagined anyone being as happy as they all were. Their faces radiated a serenity I had never seen on earth. All were full of life and expressed radiant joy.
As I try to explain this, my words seem weak and hardly adequate, because I have to use earthly terms to refer to unimaginable joy, excitement, warmth, and total happiness. Everyone continually embraced me, touched me, spoke to me, laughed, and praised God. This seemed to go on for a long time, but I didn’t tire of it.
Everything I experienced was like a first-class buffet for the senses. I had never felt such powerful embraces or feasted my eyes on such beauty. Heaven’s light and texture defy earthly eyes or explanation. Warm, radiant light engulfed me. As I looked around, I could hardly grasp the vivid, dazzling colors. Every hue and tone surpassed anything I had ever seen.
With all the heightened awareness of my senses, I felt as if I had never seen, heard, or felt anything so real before. I don’t recall that I tasted anything, yet I knew that if I had, that too would have been more glorious than anything I had eaten or drunk on earth. The best way I can explain it is to say that I felt as if I were in another dimension. Never, even in my happiest moments, had I ever felt so fully alive. I stood speechless in front of the crowd of loved ones, still trying to take in everything. Over and over I heard how overjoyed they were to see me and how excited they were to have me among them. I’m not sure if they actually said the words or not, but I knew they had been waiting and expecting me, yet I also knew that in heaven there is no sense of time passing.”
I don’t know about you, but if I had experienced the glories of heaven I’d be VERY dissapointed in being back on earth. This is the same way Piper felt and questioned why God had brought him back. After suffering several years of recovery and depression, God prompted him to share his story. Through his testimony, countless people have given their lives to Christ and received him as their personal savior.
Let’s look at the flip side of this account. I am a believer in Christ and have no doubt in my mind that there is a heaven…and a hell. The very day I started reading “90 Minutes in Heaven”, I went to the evening service at my church and the series was titled “Hell No! The Final Destination”. The pastor began talking about what it means to live a life separate from God and where you’d ultimately end up. How interesting. It has been over a month since I ordered my books through Borders Marketplace and the day I actually picked up “90 Minutes in Heaven”. That night my church and I were on one accord. Awesome!
The pastor also talked about a man who had been to hell and back and shared his testimony at our church. There have been different testimonies of people who have died, gone to hell, and came back to earth after someone prayed for them. This reminded me of a book I heard of called “23 Minutes in Hell“. As I talked to my friends after service, I mentioned the book I was reading about heaven and stated that I’d probably skip the other one about hell. Just the idea of what might be inside scared me.
As I kept thinking about it I figured if there is indeed literature that describes Hell and a person’s real account of being there, why shouldn’t I be informed? I’d be more concerned if I had to go there for real! The next day, I was on my way to my bedroom and passed our home office where there was a stack of books by the window. In the middle of the stack was “23 Minutes in Hell”. You’ve got to be kidding me, right? We just so happen to have a copy of that book and I just so happen to see it that day? In reality, there is no such thing as an event like that “just so happening”. It was confirmation. If you don’t know what that means, please refer to my post titled “Confirmation Station“.
That night I decided that I would read the book. The sun had already gone down, and I thought of pushing it to the next day when I had some daylight to comfort me. However, at that moment I had time to read it. Here is an excerpt of what I read in some of those pages that described the author Bill Wiese’s experience in Hell:
“As I lay there on the floor of that cell, I felt extremely weak. I noticed that I had a body, one that appeared just as it is now. Lifting my head, I began to look around. Immediately I realized that I was not alone in this cell. I saw two enormous beasts, unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Suddenly they turned their attention toward me. They looked like hungry predators staring at their prey. I was terrified. Like an insect in a deadly spider’s web, I felt helpless, trapped, and frozen with fear. I knew I had become the object of their hostility, and I felt a violent, evil presence such as I had never felt before and greater than anything I could imagine. They possessed a hatred that far surpassed any hatred a person could have, and now that hatred was directed straight at me. I couldn’t identify what these beasts were yet, but I knew they meant me harm.
The second beast, with its razor-like claws and sharp protruding fins, grabbed me from behind in a bear hug. As it pressed me into its chest, its sharp fins pierced my back. I felt like a rag doll in its clutches in comparison to his enormous size. He then reached around and plunged his claws into my chest and ripped them outward. My flesh hung from my body like ribbons as I fell again to the cell floor. These creatures had no respect for the human body—how remarkably it is made. I have always taken care of myself by eating right, exercising, and staying in shape, but none of that mattered as my body was being destroyed right before my eyes.
I was horrified as I heard the screams of an untold multitude of people crying out in torment. It was absolutely deafening. The terror-filled screams seemed to go right through me, penetrating my very being. I once heard about a television special where a news reporter spent the night in a prison just to experience prison life firsthand. The prisoners were crying, moaning, and yelling all night long. He stated that he couldn’t sleep because of all the noise. This place where I now stood was far, far worse.”
Within a couple of hours I was done reading. Instead of being fearful and shaken up, I was extremely grateful…and humbled. Grateful because instead of looking forward to a place of terror, loneliness, and torture, I would be welcomed into a place of worship, joy, and beauty in the presence of God! My humility kicked in once I thought about my Christian walk. Something my pastor was saying about those you might be surprised not to see in heaven are those Sunday Christians who help out, sing in the choir, and tithe but have NO communication or relationship with God. I began to question myself and wonder if I was one of those who would arrive in Hell with a shocked expression on my face after God says He never knew me. I can’t take that risk. I needed to evaluate myself. How often do I talk to God? Do I even desire to read His word? Am I doing ANYthing about the infinite amount of souls being thrown into the pit of Hell each day?
I think it’s amazing how much grace and mercy Christ gives to us. It’s not an opportunity to sin or wait until tomorrow as tomorrow turns into today. Reading these accounts–and there are many more than these–has prompted me to take my Christian walk even more seriously. Not only for myself, but for my friends and family who do not know Him. You don’t have to believe in God or trust in the words of the author right now, but I urge you–if you don’t already know Christ–to search for Him. See if He is real and He WILL reveal Himself to you. If you truly open your heart and earnestly seek Him, you will find what you so desperately need.
What do you have to lose? If you don’t believe and your theory of life after death is that there IS none, you might run into an answer that surprises you. I think it would overwhelm me to know that this life is pointless. That there is nothing to look forward to but decay. Can you really risk going to Hell? What if there is that chance you are wrong? God loves you and He wants nothing more than to spend eternity with you in heaven. I’d like to see you there as well.
I pray these words find you well.
[If you have any questions about what you’ve read or would like to give your life to Christ, please let me know.]