Jim Daly: Amid coronavirus, can we talk about the hope and promise of heaven?

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The escalating daily tally of coronavirus-related deaths is a sobering reminder of the human toll of this global pandemic. We’ve never seen anything like it in our lifetime.

As the figures increase every day, I think it’s important to remember that behind every number is a name of somebody who means the world to someone else. We’ve learned that this virulent pathogen doesn’t discriminate – it’s claimed the lives of people of countless nations and of all races, creeds and color – both men and women, young and old.

By now, some of you may know someone who has succumbed to the virus. If so, I am so very sorry for your loss.

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My heart hurts when I see the rising number of fatalities.  As a Christian, though, I can’t help but think about Heaven whenever I think about death. That’s because I strongly believe that death is not a final destination, but rather a transitionary step along life’s long and never-ending journey.

There’s an old saying that’s been put to music: “Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

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I think that’s true. There’s a built-in will to live for almost all of us. It’s critical – how else would we make it through tough times? Even though many of us look forward to the “sweet bye and bye,” we are simultaneously working toward preserving the here and now.

As my colleague’s mother used to say, “Heaven is my home – but I’m not yet homesick.”

But let’s take it from the ethereal and bring it down to the practical. What is Heaven really like?

My beliefs about eternity are informed mostly by the Bible. I’m also intrigued by some wonderfully descriptive testimonies of people who report having experienced what’s technically referred to as an “NDE” – a near death experience.

First, the Bible. We know from reading the Scriptures that Heaven is a real place – full of real people. Its streets are paved with pure gold. The city described there, referred to as “New Jerusalem,” is so enormous in size that it’s almost hard to fathom.

As we continue to pray and plead for an end to this catastrophic pandemic, I am reminded of the poignant words of the Irish poet Thomas Moore, who once observed, “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.” 

We’re told it’s between 1,400 and 1,500 miles in width, length – and height!  In other words, New Jerusalem is a city with incredibly high walls – yet a city that’s wide open with no closed gate.

Yet, Heaven is a lot more than a wonderfully attractive and massive place.

I can’t wait to get there, because it’s a place with no pain, no sorrow, no tears – and no more death. No more villainous viruses or cancerous tumors that take our loved ones and grieve our tender hearts.

Throughout the last few weeks of this crisis, my wife, Jean, and I have been going to bed each night listening to a wonderful book, “Imagine Heaven.” It’s written by a man named John Burke who has compiled over 100 NDEs and identified several main themes found from a wide array of people.

According to those who have “died” and visited, Heaven is a place of overwhelming love. People repeatedly describe it as being so amazingly wonderful that they almost want to “pop” – that’s how happy and joyous it is there.

Those who give accounts of having been there and coming back also report that all of our senses are turbo-charged – and there are more than the five we enjoy on earth. There’s no cosmic sun – but God’s brilliance illuminates every corner of the celestial kingdom.

From old men to young girls, the NDE holder describe the softness of the grass, the beauty of the trees and the colors and fragrant aromas of the many flowers.

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When you get there, you’re greeted by loved ones along with family members you never even knew existed. It’s the best party you’ve ever been to, with singing and joy at every turn.

Listening to the NDE stories has actually caused my wife and I to not just long for eternity – but to love life here on earth even more deliberately. It’s made us want to live with greater purpose and passion. As the late Dr. Billy Graham once said, “Heaven doesn’t make this life less important; it makes it more important.”

When my time comes, I don’t want to limp into Heaven – I want to run into it with the fervor and gusto of Teddy Roosevelt riding his favorite horse up San Juan Hill.

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My personal faith in Jesus assures me that my inevitable and eventual death will usher in the beginning of the greatest adventure of my life. If you’d like to have that same assurance of life eternal, I’d encourage you to get to know and accept Him as your personal savior.

In the meantime, as we continue to pray and plead for an end to this catastrophic pandemic, I am reminded of the poignant words of the Irish poet Thomas Moore, who once observed, “Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.”

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