As a follow-up to last week’s post where we looked at what it will be like in Heaven, I’m doing something a little different this week. Instead of the typical “three things,” I’m sharing with you a list of books that have been the most influential and though provoking, for me, on the topic of Heaven. It’s obvious we have a great fascination with Heaven. All you have to do is look at the New York Times Bestsellers list the last few years to see book after book about Heaven.
As Methodists you and I are encouraged to think about these things and to develop our theology by using Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. What does the Bible say? What has the church historically said? What is your experience? You are encouraged to use your God given gift of reason to look at these things and grow in your faith.
It goes without saying that the Bible is a starting place for learning what Scripture says about Heaven. The Book of Revelation describes Heaven with gates of pearl, streets of gold and land flowing with milk and honey. While this is not a literal description, I believe it is telling us that it will be more beautiful than we could ever imagine, the best of the best where you will lack nothing; all your needs will be met. Sharing a few of my favorite verses about Heaven and encourage you to dig in to find those that speak to you!
In John 14:1, Jesus says, “When you come to death let not your hearts be troubled neither let them be afraid, in my Father’s house or many mansions, if it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you and if I go I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says, “Right now we see through a glass darkly; one day we shall see face-to-face; right now I know in part; one day I will know fully as I have been fully known.”
I believe the Bible tells us clearly that death is simply a veil, a doorway into a new experience where you are born into the arms of God and into the presence of those you love.
PROOF OF HEAVEN, BY EBEN ALEXANDER
Written by a neurosurgeon / scientist who felt there was no room for God in his world until he goes into a coma for 7 days and should have died. No one could tell why he came back, but when he does he has had a near death experience and is changed 180°. He comes back believing that there is something more than just what you and I see and know and think here on this earth. Proof of Heaven is a great book and I highly recommend it to you. I love his statement, “When I try to tell you what it was like on the other side it’s like trying to write a novel with half the alphabet. You can’t describe the things that you’ve never experienced before.” And so it is, you and I have to start taking time to look where we can.
ON DEATH AND DYING, BY ELIZABETH KUBLER ROSS
In 1969, a Jewish woman and Holocaust survivor, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, began studying what happened when people die and wrote the book On Death and Dying. It was a radical book when it came out because most people didn’t want to talk about death. Sometimes we still don’t and yet the time to talk about death and dying and what you believe about eternal life is before you get there and have to suddenly confront it for yourself or a loved one.
LIFE AFTER LIFE, BY RAYMOND A. MOODY
In 1975 Raymond A. Moody came out with a book entitled Life After Life. I remember, so clearly, reading it during my first year of seminary when the book first came out. Everyone was reading the book, the medical community, the scientific community and the theological community. By 1975 medicine had progressed far enough that we were getting pretty good with shooting drugs into the heart, electric shock and starting to resuscitate people who had been declared clinically dead. As medicine advanced, people began having the strangest experiences. There were people who were describing having an “out of body experience” where they could see doctors working on them.” However, when people wanted to talk about their experiences, doctors believed they were hallucinating or going crazy. People did not come forward to talk about these experiences and it was Doctor Moody who decided to try to hunt down all these people who had been resuscitated and ask them about their experience. Some said no, some said yes and if they said yes he simply said, “Tell me about it.” After interviewing 150 people he was able to look at all these things and see common trends amongst all of the experiences
FINAL GIFTS, BY MAGGIE CALLAHAN
In 1992, hospice nurses, Patricia Kelly and Maggie Callahan began sharing stories about their experiences with patients and after realizing their stories all had so much in common, they wrote a book called Final Gifts. I highly recommend it! Final Gifts is all about the stories from hospice nurses, what they saw and learned from one another. By then medicine had progressed so far, science has progressed so far and amazing things were happening to resuscitate people. We started to become a culture that is open to talking about death and near-death experiences because we all want to know: Is there something more? What is it like?
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL: A LITTLE BOY’S ASTOUNDING STORY OF HIS TRIP TO HEAVEN AND BACK, BY TODD BURPO
In this incredible book, the father of a 4-year old boy recounts his son’s experience after having a near death experience and comes back to tell his mom and dad what he saw. As he tells them stories, they begin to interpret what he is saying and write down what he tells them. Several years ago we looked at this book during a Wednesday Night Alive class and it is a very good book.