The Bible has always claimed that Heaven is real, and now thousands who have died and returned believe it too.
After researching nearly 1,000 accounts of people who died, were resuscitated, and lived to report a near death experience (NDE) of the afterlife, I wrote my book "Imagine Heaven." In it, I showcase 120 stories that illustrate the commonalities of these accounts, correlating them with an in-depth look at the Bible’s picture of Heaven. What results is an exhilarating, imaginative journey into the life to come—an encouraging perspective for us all as we enter into a new year.
When I examined the similarities of the actual NDE reports across ages and cultures, they affirm each other and scripture. These are accounts told by surgeons, college professors, commercial airline pilots, bank presidents—people who have nothing to gain, but credibility to lose. Their experiences align with reports from around the globe, from children, even from blind people who claim to “see” this same awe-inspiring picture of Heaven.
People report that when they clinically died, they found themselves above their bodies in a new body. They felt more alive than they had ever felt before—not only with five senses, but more like 50 senses. They describe the spiritual body outlined in scripture (I Corinthians 15, Philippians 3:20-21).
Additionally, many met loved ones previously deceased, reminding us of the great reunion Jesus promised to his close friends in John 14.
People often describe a place of exquisite beauty, not unlike the earth, with mountains, forests, flowers, and streams, yet alive in new dimensions of time and space—illuminated by a light that radiates life and love. Even a few NDErs who were blind from birth also “see” the same exquisite beauty. They describe this same mystical light that doesn’t shine on, but out of, everything, affirming the Bible’s explanation that there is no sun or moon in Heaven, but the glory of God is its light (Revelation 21:23-24).
Around the globe, people encounter a brilliant Person of Light, brighter than the sun, yet not difficult to look at in Heaven. People intuitively know he is God and say he exudes an unconditional love unlike anything experienced on earth. He knows their every thought and motive, yet they feel so at home with him, they never want to leave. The biblical writers Daniel, Paul, John, and others also describe this same Person of Light (Daniel 10:4-6, Acts 9:3-5, Revelation 1).
In the presence of God, many people experience a life review—a panoramic, three-dimensional re-living of their entire life in an instant. Every thought, motive, and action is laid bare, and they experience the profound way their actions affected others. In the presence of unconditional love, they see all the good and evil, cause and effect, and they realize it is love that matters most to God. This is consistent with the teachings of Moses and Jesus, who say that loving God first and loving people second sums up all the commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).
Because some may find all this hard to believe, I also research skeptical doctors who were convinced by their patients reporting verifiable observations while outside their lifeless bodies. The corroborative evidence of details reported has been chronicled in academic journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association and The Lancet. "Imagine Heaven" explores all these experiences in great detail, so that by the end of the book, you feel like you’ve been there.
Ironically, some Christians have dismissed NDEs as tales of hallucination or the last flicker of a dying brain. However, I believe most of these are divine experiences—gifts from God—pointing us to the hope of Heaven as detailed throughout scripture.
This hope is something we can grab hold of today as we review our lives and set goals for the new year--to change the way we view and live our lives, to love other people and make a difference in their lives, as we set our sights on our futures in Heaven.
John Burke is the New York Times bestselling author of "Imagine Heaven" and the founding pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas. To explore more, visit ImagineHeaven.net.