A PEEK INTO HEAVEN. Is that what these near-death experience people are seeing?
That’s a follow up question I got to Monday’s Bible Question of the Week: What happens to dead Christians?
One of the popular theories is that Christians are in a deep soul sleep until Jesus comes back to take all believers—dead or alive—to heaven.
Well, some wonder, what about the thousands of people on record who momentarily died, and said they saw heaven?
Some of those folks say they saw Jesus. Others say they also saw relatives and friends.
Remember that recent bestseller about a little boy who died and said he saw a young version of his grandpa?
Pretty cool, if that’s really what he saw. There’s plenty in that book that I’m skeptical about. But not so much the part about his grandpa.
That particular story of his sounds a bit like one I heard from a close relative of mine after he went through drug rehab and a painful withdrawal.
After his toughest night he told the morning shift nurse that he wanted to thank the nurse who had stayed with him all night.
“There was no nurse,” she told him.
Years later my relative saw a photo of his grandmother when she was a young lady. I was there when he first saw the picture. It had come in the mail from a distant relative. He had known his grandmother only when she was elderly. He had no idea what she looked like when she was young. I knew her well, and I would not have recognized her from the photo, either.
The picture shocked him.
It was quite obvious to me, standing there beside him.
Finally, he said: “She’s the nurse who stayed with me.”
My own father had visions of heaven as he approached death. Dad was a simple man. A machinist. Not a fiction writer. But he said he believed he had seen Jesus, and my brother who had lived only a day.
My brother had grown, Dad said. And he had the Miller look.
There were some things about Dad’s visions that he refused to talk about. He simply said he couldn’t tell us about them.
We never pressed him. He was not a man to press. He meant what he said. Period.
Last week I met a lady at the annual convention of Christian booksellers. She was in the area reserved for self-published writers who were trying to sell their books—without much success, as far as I could tell.
The lady was 92-year-old Margaret Swingle Hill. Her book: A Peek into Heaven. My wife had struck up a conversation with Margaret and her daughter before I joined them.
“I saw the banquet table in heaven,” Margaret told me, sitting there in her wheelchair. “It’s ready for us.”
She said that in a series of visions in 2011 she saw heaven’s banquet room. And she said she saw people dressed in white robes helping angels set the table.
I listened as she spoke. For perhaps 10 minutes. Then I left. But not before she signed a copy of her book and gave it to me.
It didn’t feel quite right to say goodbye to Margaret.
“I’ll see you at the banquet,” I said.
Her reply surprised me.
“I’ll be the one with the white rose on the left side of my robe.”
I learned later from her book that she got to see her robe. Embroidered on the ornate neckline: “on the left side is a cloth decoration that resembles a white rose.”
“I’ll look for you,” I said.
What to do
What are we to make of all this? How should we react?
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of it all. But I have to confess that my spirit warms up to some of the stories—especially those from people I know and love and trust to not pull my leg like an orthopedic doc on a mission to switch out a hip.
I don’t know how much stock to invest in the stories. But then, I don’t have much stock to invest anyhow.
Everything I’ve got is tied up in Jesus Christ.
If my ideas of life, death, and the afterlife turn out to be nothing but a pile of hay blowing in the wind, I think that’ll be okay.
I’ll trust Jesus to surprise me.
In the meantime, I’ll listen to the stories.
Given what I’ve come to believe about Jesus, some of those stories sound too good not to be true.