Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘what happens when I die’

Heaven is for Real. Who told You?


This weekend moviegoers will be able to enjoy the Hollywood version of a best-selling book Heaven is for Real.  Many are encouraged that yet another Christian story has come to the big screen.  For my part, I am discouraged that so many church people needed something like this to assure them that Heaven is an actual place.  Since it was written by a Christian pastor, we can assume that the book is a Christian book, whatever that means.  But I have two questions: 1) Is it true; and 2) Why does it matter?

If you wanted to know something factual about India, whom would you trust? Would you believe the accounts of someone who came here after living in India for years?  Or would you be more likely to take the word of someone who had never visited India, but had once spent an hour at the airport in nearby Pakistan?

If you want to know about Heaven, where should you turn?  Will you prefer the descriptions of someone who came  from heaven after living there for a long, long time; someone who performed unearthly miracles no one else has ever accomplished?  Or would you get more excited about a stranger who survived something known as a Near Death Experience and is now marketing a book?  No, it’s not rational, but tens of thousands of church people feel much better about Heaven now that  a Nebraska pastor has written a book about his son’s NDE. Many months afterwards, the boy was able to describe what his parents were doing in different rooms while he was unconscious, without a heart beat in the surgical ward. Later he recognized a youthful photo of a deceased relative he’d never met, based on his hospital encounter, and lots of Christians find this to be compelling evidence for life after death.

Go figure!  I have always believed Heaven is for real because Jesus talked about it.  He lived there for the longest time before coming down to Earth for a while. He told us about the Kingdom, its upside down value system, angels ascending and descending, and the Heavenly Father who occupies the glorious throne room there. He assured his followers that we should not be anxious because he has prepared a place there for each of us, and will ensure that we reach that destination one day.  And then he said something else quite telling:

“No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:3)

Christ explained that no one before him had ever gone up to Heaven and returned to tell  us about it- near death or otherwise.  I take this to mean that no one else has done that since the resurrection either.  If I really needed someone to confirm what Christ has already said on the subject, I would look for a book by Lazarus!  But strangely, whatever he experienced in his three days of genuine death is never divulged in Scripture.  I presume that means we should get our heavenly real estate info from the Lord himself.

While some are comforted by this new confirmation of Heaven, one should frankly be disturbed by the kind of eternal bungling that would be necessary for such things to occur.  I realize that US politicians are helpless to secure our borders from outsiders determined to sneak in, but  do you seriously believe our all-knowing God allows people to arrive in Heaven prematurely and must then correct his errors by deporting them back to Earth? If you really believe that, why is it reassuring?  If some people mistakenly arrive in Heaven at the wrong moment, what other mistakes have been covered up or hidden? Maybe some people have erroneously arrived in Hell!  Medical experts have serious reservations about so-called Near Death Experiences, and you should too.

If you’re still intrigued enough to see this movie you may find it wholesome and entertaining: The Chronicles  of Narnia combined with Poltergeist III; all this plus a PG rating!  So if it’s Friday night and you’re bored, Heaven is for Real will surely be less profane than The Wolf of Wall Street.  But if you need to know about Heaven, read what Jesus has to say. Don’t wait for the movie.

And lift up the Cross!





The Last Taboo

The National Geographic Channel features a program called Taboo.  Last month I noticed a commercial for an episode that would explore the lives of men who have “intimate relationships” with inflatable, life-sized dolls.  What?  A program like that would have resulted in a public outcry and a boycott of sponsors just a few years ago.  A family magazine would never have dared to be associated with such a presentation- much less advertise it.  But in today’s culture, having a TV show like that piped into tens of millions of homes doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.  There’s hardly a taboo that has survived.

You know the drill.  Characters in movies hardly ever go to work, but have you noticed how often you see them standing at urinals, sitting on toilets, or taking a leak outdoors?   These days our popular movies and  TV shows are awash in adultery, orgies, gay sex, graphic autopsies, appalling violence, and instructive drug use.  Because television tends to lend respectability to any subject, things that were formerly taboo are now normalized and mainstream.  The shock value is gone.

That’s why it’s important to notice what you never hear discussed in the popular media.  In a medium where writers and directors dare to explore sex with animals or polygamous marriage, you see and hear very little about what happens when you die.  Sure, there are fatal shootings, stabbings, decapitations, and car crashes; and CSI autopsies show all the blood and tissues, but you never hear popular characters discuss what lies beyond death.  One of the most riveting topics throughout all of human history has become forbidden territory in our Age of Openness.

That’s because what might happen after you die is the last taboo in American culture.  Nobody wants to talk about it because nobody wants to hear what the secular world has to say.  In Hollywood, death is only slightly more terrifying than turning 50- nonexistence!  There is no possibility, no hope, no expectation.  You just lie there in nonexistence and meaninglessness until your body decays.  And then you continue to not exist.

That’s why the historic resurrection of Jesus Christ continues to offer hope and confidence to those discerning people who have finally discovered that everything the world has to offer, is not enough- not nearly.  Young Americans don’t often ponder what it means to die: they believe they will live forever.  But once in a while when reality breaks through and the obvious intrudes on the media illusion, men and women come face to face with the question of the six foot hole.  Now what?

There’s a brand new movie called Hope Springs  in which Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones portray a fading couple who are shocked by the discovery that there is still life (and sex) after 50.  Now somebody needs to let Hollywood in on another secret that people in Flyover Country have known for generations: there is also life after death.

In 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, Paul explained to jaded cynics in his own age, “If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone!  But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Walking with Jesus is not only about life in the hereafter; it’s about life in the here and now.  But one day when the here and now is done and gone, life in eternity will be the only thing that matters.  Be sure you have what it takes!

And lift up the Cross!

Not Really

He was an outstanding young man; a high school student who loved his family and walked with Christ.  He lived the kind of life that would make any parent proud; always a joy to be around.  Then suddenly last summer he was taken.

His parents were notified there had been a tragic accident.  An out of control vehicle had crossed the median in the highway and slammed head on into his car.  Tommy had not survived.  Needless to say, his mom and dad were stunned.  The next twenty-four hours were an endless blur.  Maybe they would wake up from this nightmare.  Of course, there was no waking up.

The day after the wreck, Tommy’s dad ask to visit the scene of the crash.  Friends discouraged the idea, but he insisted.  Finally someone drove him over to the place along the highway where his son had met his death.  There wasn’t much to see.  The grass alongside the road was disturbed. There was some residue of broken headlights scattered around.  Then the grieving father spotted something familiar.  There was a bumper sticker lying there along the edge of the road.  It looked almost new.  In fact, he’d seen his boy put it on his automobile just a few days before when he’d brought it home from a church camp.


Dad picked it up and smiled wistfully.  His son had been so proud of this that he’d placed it on the car immediately after returning home a few days before.  N.E.R.D: he had never even asked his son what it meant.  But he carried this small memento home with him and showed his wife.  But what does it mean?

Then they went online to do a little research and discovered the meaning behind the acronym.  It wasn’t about computer technology.  It was about faith.  Seeing those letters online and realizing what the acronym and the logo actually meant, two grieving parents felt the tremors of grace beginning to work in their hearts.  Their son had left them a message. And suddenly without warning, healing had begun.

The week before Tommy’s sudden death, he had placed a N.E.R.D. sticker on his car: No one Ever Really Dies.

The story is true.  So is the Resurrection.  Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Lift up the Cross!

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