Easter’s over, but no series on mortality would be complete without a few words about Heaven.
Our planet recently lost two prominent citizens. Reverend Billy Graham died on February 21, and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking on March 14. How could two such brilliant minds have held such opposing views on the afterlife? Compare these statements:
Hawking: “We are each free to believe what we want, and it’s my view that the simplest explanation is: there is no God. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.”
Graham: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
Was one of these men completely wrong, or is the truth somewhere in the middle? How can we know? It’s been one of the top questions of humankind since our beginning. It’s the reason people are drawn to mediums who claim they communicate with the spirits of the departed. It’s what makes songs like Mercy Me's I Can Only Imagine and the movie behind it so popular. It’s why we’re so fascinated by those who’ve had near-death experiences (NDEs). We want to know. We want assurance that something better awaits us, or at least nothing far worse.
Books about people who’ve had NDEs abound, and their stories share too much in common for us to dismiss. One of the most powerful I’ve read is by Dr. Eben Alexander, a highly trained neurosurgeon who firmly believed NDEs are fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress—until he experienced one himself. For seven days, Alexander lay in a coma with the part of his brain that controls all thought and emotion shut down completely. His recovery is a medical miracle, but the real miracle lies in the journey he took during that time, through a sphere where neither time nor place mean anything.
Before he underwent his journey, Dr. Alexander could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul. Today, he is a doctor who believes true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real, and death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition. In his book, Proof of Heaven, he tells the story of meeting and speaking with the Divine source of the universe itself. He says it is the hardest story to tell, because our limited language has no words for what he experienced.
|Delta Beach, not Heaven. Not even close.|
This falls in line with the words of Jesus’ disciple, John, who received a glimpse into Heaven and recorded everything in the book of Revelation. The book is difficult to understand because it was difficult to write. We have no words.
My favorite promise of John’s, though, is from Revelation 21:4-8: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away…”
There’s more, and I hope you’ll look it up for yourself. It’s why we sing with great gusto one of my favorite songs, Come as You Are by Crowder. The best line? “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.”
We can only imagine.