My father in law lent me a copy of a book called Imagine Heaven by John Burke. The book deals with the topic of near-death experience (NDEs) and paints a picture of heaven based on real accounts of these NDEs. As you might imagine, NDE’s are an uncomfortable and skepticism-producing to discuss and analyze. Sometimes they seem too outlandish to be true. Nevertheless, when people who have nothing to gain by telling their stories do so, it means something.
My first reaction after I made my way through the book is that it had some feeling of The Shack by William P. Young. The stories that are told are vivid, often gut wrenching, and certainly thought provoking, much like that of Young’s fictional story of a man’s encounter with God. Virtually all of the stories contained within Imagine Heaven involve direct interactions with God or Jesus in a heavenly setting. You get the sense from each of them that God is truly loving and isn’t concerned with making us feel bad about our mistakes. It becomes clear that God wants us to realize how good and perfect His love is and how it really is all we need.
One story that I found particularly compelling was a young Indian man’s near-death experience. He had spent his whole childhood trying to see the Hindu man of light. He had endured several trials put forth by some of the religion’s holy men. He had snuck around altars and ceremonies just to see if what he had learned about was real. As a teenager snuck away from home on a pilgrimage with two such holy men. They took him hundreds of miles and then robbed him and abandoned him. This young man was despondent and hopeless and resolved to take his own life. As he laid down on railroad tracks, he prayed one last time to see the man of light. At that moment, he shared that he encountered someone named Jesus who had a message of love for him. The young Indian man was rescued from that situation and became a follower of Jesus despite never having met a Christian or encountering a bible before. Personally, I still wrestle with the plausibility of such a story, but at the same time I believe in a God who’s capable of such miracles.
I’m sure that if you were to pick up Imagine Heaven and read it yourself, there would be stories that would strike a chord with you too. I think it’s important to explore the topics of near-death experiences and what heaven might be like and this is a great book to do it with. If you end up reading the book or have already read it, I’d love to hear your feedback too.