Touching and Tasting Heaven
By Curtis Peter van Gorder
I am fascinated by the near-death accounts of those who died for a short time and came back to tell us about it. To me, they confirm that heaven and the afterlife is real. These accounts are significant because they remind us that God loves us forever and has a wonderful place prepared for us that is beyond our wildest expectations. I have found that these accounts not only strengthen my own faith but are also a good conversation starter for skeptical unbelievers.
The question that often comes up is: Just how reliable are these accounts? Much research has been done since Dr. Raymond Moody’s groundbreaking book in 1975, Life after Life, which explores this issue. Though there have been life-after-death accounts dating back to 420 BC with Plato in his book The Republic, and continuing throughout the folklore and writings of just about every culture,1 such detailed medical research into this subject has never been done before. There are best-selling books, YouTube clips, and films galore that recount people’s experiences of passing over to the other side and coming back. There is even a radio station that is exclusively devoted to interviewing people who share their near-death experiences.2 Because it has become such a popular topic, more people have been unafraid to talk about their experiences, whereas previously they were often seen to be wonky or merely hallucinating.
Medical professionals who have objectively studied thousands of cases have consistently found some 15 common characteristics often experienced by NDE’ers who:
- Hear music, bells, whistling, or roaring sounds
- Feel outside their physical body and view it from a distance
- Move through darkness or a tunnel, often with a whirling sensation
- Feel intense emotions—most commonly of peace, love, joy
- Experience heightened sense perceptions
- See a great darkness or light
- Perceive a spiritual realm with vividly memorable landscapes
- Encounter deceased loved ones
- Meet spiritual beings of light who guide them and love them unconditionally
- Gain knowledge of the nature of the universe
- Experience a life review
- Feel a sense of oneness and interconnectedness
- Come to a border or gate of no return
- Gain insights into the future
- Try to share their experience and messages regarding life’s purpose with others3,4
To me, the most moving of these experiences involves the intense feelings of peace and joy after encountering an unconditionally loving light, which most people identified as being Jesus. They felt such all-encompassing love, compassion, protection, understanding, and sympathy from the Creator of the universe for them individually. They were so put at ease, enveloped in this warm and loving light, that they often didn’t want to return to earth.
Just to get a sampling, let’s take one of these experiences from Jennine Wolff of Troy, New York, who died after complications from surgery:
Suddenly I was aware of being in the most beautiful garden I’ve ever seen. I felt whole and loved. My sense of well-being was complete. I heard celestial music clearly and saw vivid colored flowers, like nothing seen on earth, gorgeous greenery and trees.
As I looked around, I saw at a distance, on a hill, Jesus Christ. All he said to me was that it was up to me whether I should come back to earth or not. I chose to come back to finish my work. …
The changes in my life? I am now more aware of people’s feelings, beliefs, and needs. I am more compassionate and considerate of others—also more confident in God’s love.
I work with older people now, giving them my love with each touch.5
I was also reminded of this account by Dr. Mary Neal previously posted on Anchor.
Such experiences give us a taste of what heaven will be like—a wonderful place full of loving people, ruled by a God of love who wants us to do the same during our short sojourn on earth. May love rule our lives, as Jesus taught us to pray, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
“What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me. Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”—1 Corinthians 13:12–136
“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waits for him.”—Isaiah 64:47
1 Bruce Greyson, “Near-Death Experiences and Spirituality,” Zygon 41, No. 2 (2006): 41, 394.
3 Raymond Moody, Life After Life (Mockingbird Books, 1975).
4 Kenneth Ring, Life At Death (Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1980).
5 P. M. H. Atwater, Beyond the Light (New York: Avon Books, 1995), 51–53.
7 KJV. (See also 1 Corinthians 2:9–10.)
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