by Dick Innes
Dr. Maurice Rawlings, cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Chattanooga, and his colleagues are constantly treating emergency patients, many of whom have near-death experiences. A study on these cases by Dr Rawlings was reported in Omni magazine.
It is no longer unusual to hear about people who have almost died who speak of seeing a bright light, lush green meadows, rows of smiling relatives and experiencing a deep sense of peace. However, Dr. Rawlings obtains additional information from his patients by interviewing them immediately following resuscitation while they are very much in touch with their experience.
Dr. Rawlings says that nearly fifty percent of the 300 people that he has interviewed have reported lakes of fire, devil-like figures and other sights reflecting the darkness of hell. Rawlings says that these people later change their story because they don't want to admit where they've been, not even to their families.
"Just listening to these patients has changed my whole life," claims Dr. Rawlings. "There is a life after death, and if I don't know where I'm going, it's not safe to die."
But do these experiences prove that there is a heaven or a hell?
We don't really know because these particular people didn't quite make it to the other side. Even if they did and came back, we probably wouldn't believe them, because most of us tend to believe only what we have seen or experienced for ourselves. Furthermore, we tend to see and believe only what we want to see and believe--often in spite of the evidence.
"Just listening to these patients has changed by whole life."
One can only present what evidence there is and then it is up to each individual to either accept or reject that evidence.
And what evidence do we have as to whether there is a heaven and a hell or life after death?
First, there is the evidence from scores of cases mentioned by Dr. Rawlings and others who have written about near-death experiences.
Second, we have the evidence from the testimonials of famous people who shared their last words.
It is reported that Professor J. H. Huxley, the famous agnostic, as he lay dying suddenly looked up at some sight invisible to mortal eyes, and, staring awhile, whispered at last, "So it is true."
Sir Francis Newport, head of the English Infidel Club, said to those gathered around his dying bed, "Do not tell me there is no God for I know there is one, and that I am in his angry presence! You need not tell me there is no hell, for I already feel my soul slipping into its fires! Wretches, cease your idle talk about there being hope for me! I know I am lost forever."
Dwight L. Moody, the famous Christian preacher, awakening from sleep shortly before he died said, "Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go."
"No, no Father," said Moody's son, "You are dreaming."
"I am not dreaming," replied Moody. "I have been within the gates. I have seen the children's faces." His last words were, "This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!"
Thomas Edison, the great scientific genius who was not given to idle words, in his dying moments said to his wife and doctor, "It is beautiful over there."
Third, We have evidence from the experience of someone close to us. One of my best friends had cancer and passed away at age forty-four. As Graham's end neared, with arms outstretched and lifted heavenward, he described how he longed to greet God.
The day before Graham died he went into a coma. While still in the coma he suddenly sat bolt upright in bed and, turning his closed eyes heavenward, reached out his arms as if being greeted by someone only he could see. A moment later his body slumped back lifeless. His wife said. "A great sense of peace and divine presence filled the entire house."
Graham was a committed Christian. He had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He died triumphantly.
How different compared to the experience I had with Rosemary, who also died of cancer. I was asked to visit her in the hospital. Rosemary was not a committed Christian and was terrified of dying. She sat in a chair night and day, refusing to lie down for fear she would go to sleep and never wake up again.
It was difficult to communicate with Rosemary because she kept going in and out of consciousness. We just held her hand and repeated, "God loves you, Rosemary, God loves you."
"It is beautiful over there." --Thomas Edison
"When she brightens a little," I said to her friend, "send for me and I'll come right back."
But Rosemary never brightened. Two days later she died terrified.
Fourth, and best of all, we have evidence from Jesus Christ and the whole of God's Word, the Bible. Speaking about heaven Jesus said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. In my Father's house are many mansions. I am going there to prepare a place for you, and, If I go, I will come back to take you there to be with me forever."1
According to one Bible scholar, there are some 1,845 references about heaven and hell. According to God's Word, Christ is right now preparing heaven for all committed Christians and will, when everything is ready, return to take them to be with him forever.
Nobody can prove that there is a heaven or a hell. Neither can anybody prove there isn't. The evidence, however, confirms that there are both, and I know which side I'd rather be on. If I believe, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. But if I don't believe, I have everything to lose and nothing to gain.
The choice to believe or not to believe is each individual's decision. For those who choose to believe, the key issue is to be sure that you are prepared for heaven and ready to meet God face to face. You do that first, by believing that when Jesus died on the cross at Easter 2,000 years ago, he died to pay the ransom price for your sins; second, by confessing your sin; and third, by responding to Christ's call to accept him into your heart and life as personal Lord and Savior.
The wonderful thing is that God's invitation to heaven is open to everyone. As Jesus himself said, "Whoever will may come."2
Will you accept God's invitation to come to him by confessing your sin and accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Today?
1.John 14:1-3. 2.Revelation 22:17