Another crucial reason I need to spend time in His Word and fellowship closely with Him is because it is where He encourages me to write. He shares with me His topic of choice. I have been in His word faithfully for the past two days. Lo and behold, He has placed the desire within me to share with you what He has shared with me.
My son and I were travelling down the highway on Saturday morning listening to The Bait of Satan CD Series by John Bevere. In one of his teachings, Mr. Bevere shared the story of an 8-year-old who had died. This child’s father was devastated, as any parent would be. He cried out to God. He told God if He would bring his son back to life, then he would dedicate the child to God forever. By this time, the child had been dead for 45 minutes. God heard the cry of the father and breathed life back into the child. Here is where it gets real interesting ... The boy is now a grown man who preaches out of California and pastors a large church. He had an opportunity to share with John Bevere what occurred to him during the time he was eight and had died. Without having to go back and listen word by word, basically the boy said he had left his body the same way you slip your feet out of a slipper. The slipper is still there but you are outside of it. He felt he was outside of his body. During this time, he was being pulled downward towards the pit of hell. As he got closer, he heard the battle cries raging from two parties. Each party was claiming to have ownership over his life ... one being satan and the other being God. God demanded satan release the boy immediately. Satan, on the other hand, was refusing to do so and thus the boy drifted further and further downward. When it seemed as if his destiny was carved out for him and he would spend eternity in hell, God reached down and saved him. It was through the prayers of this little boy's father which determined this child's destiny. Of course, there is a great deal more to this story, but I think you get the overall picture. (Note: Some may be struggling to believe a loving God would send an 8-year-old to hell in the first place. I, too, have difficulty understanding this concept. However, I am not sure this child was destined for hell as much as God was using him as a vessel to convey a message. The Bible, as far as I have read to date, does not specifically give an age of accountability. I have determined through my studies of the Bible that a child is accountable for his destination when he understands the difference between right and wrong.)
At this point, I turned the CD player off. I asked my son what he thought of this. Did he believe this story? We chatted for awhile about all the books which have come out over the past few years detailing people’s experience with the afterlife. They too had died, but were returned to this life. In so doing, it opened up the door of opportunity for them to share their experiences. Not all of the stories which have been shared paint the same picture of their journey, but ultimately they all share the basic fact that there is a heaven and a hell. They experienced one or both firsthand. They share their story to glorify God. But, could there be more to this?
My son and I feel there is. We came to the conclusion it is because of God’s great love for us that we are hearing so many of these stories. The end time is getting closer and closer. There is no denying it. If you have studied your Bible at all, then you can look out into this world and see prophecy coming true almost daily. God knows His return date. He knows it is nearer than ever, and He does not desire anyone to perish. Could He be sending us desperate cries through the testimonies of others in an effort to save us? Are these afterlife stories God’s way of showing His undying love for us? I am sure His heart is breaking more and more as He watches the things of this life play out. He sees so many living in sin ... so many who do not know Him ... so many who are being deceived by false prophets ... so many living for the things of this world ... so many who deny His existence! It is tearing His heart apart because He loves us so very much. Could these stories of an afterlife be His desperate pleas to awaken us to His truth? Are you listening ... are you hearing ... are you taking hell and heaven seriously?
In Luke 16:19-31 is the basic truth of it all. Here is how it is described in the book I am reading entitled “Believe” (General Editor, Randy Frazee): “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
First off let me clarify a few things: (i) this is not saying all rich people will automatically go to hell; and (ii) this is not saying all beggars will automatically go to heaven. This is not what it is about. It shares with us the fact that if we have chosen to live outside of God’s design for our lives, then we have freely chosen to go to hell. It illustrates just how desperate the rich man was to save his family from eternal damnation. The rich man could not turn back his life, but he so desperately wanted to save his family. However, just as the rich man had - and just as you and I have every opportunity to give our life to Christ, everyone has the same choices in life. I have said it before and I will say it again ... it cannot be said enough ... heaven and hell are real. Where will you be spending your eternity?
What legacy are we leaving for our children ... our grandchildren? Have we brought them up in the Word so they have a fighting chance in life? Have we set examples for them of God’s love? Have we been the light which shone so bright it was hard to deny God’s existence in our hearts?
Listen, we are all sinners. However, you can tell a true Christian by the fruit of their walk. If I, who gave my heart to Christ over 16 years ago, were still sinning in the same ways I did back then, you would have to question my walk? If I were still spewing profanity from my lips, you would have to wonder if I knew Christ at all? If I still carried around with me the luggage I carried back in those days ... the bitterness I hid in my heart ... the jealousies I toted around ... the insecurities I denied ... you would doubt I ever truly knew Christ. Though I still sin and will never reach His perfection, He has changed my heart ... He has taken away sinful desires I once carried around ... He has given me a new countenance which shows I am His ... He has removed the horrible person I was and renewed my heart and mind. It was not overnight ... it was not instantaneous ... it was gradual and continues to be. He is not finished with me yet. When He calls me home, I will still not be complete. As the saying goes, “God is not finished with me yet!”
How would we feel knowing we never gave our family ... our children ... our grandchildren ... the opportunity to truly know the One who can save us from eternal damnation? We are not always able to save our loved ones, but are we praying for them daily? Are we encouraging them to study His Word ... to read the Bible ... to seek His face?
I believe the stories of an afterlife shared by people who have been returned to us is not just dreams. I truly believe in my heart they are warnings. Warnings from God in a desperate plea to save the ones He loves so dearly. Will you heed the warning signs today?