Our views of heaven will influence our lives on earth.

That’s the message of a couple of books I have been reading recently on heaven.

These writers say if we believe heaven will be boring, we’ll try to pack in everything we can on earth.  But if we believe life with Jesus in heaven will be so much more than we could possibly imagine, our focus will be on God and eternity.

Jesus and the apostles urge us to look forward with anticipation to everlasting life with our loving God.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:20 that we are to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal”.

He adds: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

I must say I have not thought deeply about life with God in heaven for most of my life.  I accepted that it would be wonderful.  But my view of heaven was fuzzy.

Like many Christians, I have concentrated to achieving things on earth and winning admiration from others.  I have wanted to leave a lasting legacy of some kind.

But John Burke, author of Imagine Heaven, points out that we are quickly forgotten after our deaths.  Many of us do not know much about our grandparents and even less about our great grandparents.

Yet his research into near-death experiences of heaven reveal that Jesus knows us intimately and knew us even before we were born.  And he loves us deeply even though he knows our flaws.

Burke says Dr. Richard Eby fell two stories headfirst to his death in an accident and found himself before Jesus who said: “Dick, you’re dead!”

Eby, who was known by everyone except his family as Richard,  says he asked Jesus: “Why did you call me Dick?”

Jesus replied: “When I died for you on the cross, it was a most intimate thing.”

Burke, originally a sceptic about the afterlife and an engineer by training, studied more than 1,000 near death experiences to find out common elements – rejecting the interpretations that people put on them.

Universally, he found that those who found themselves in heaven were overwhelmed by Jesus’ love and did not want to return to earthly life.

They found Jesus knew everything about them – usually playing for them their past lives, showing their impact on others and the repercussions.  He was gentle – telling one person she was going back to live a life of love and forgiveness.

This person said she did not feel ashamed by his knowing her so well, but, she even wanted to tell him everything.

Burke suggests that loving God and loving others is what counts with Jesus in his encounters with people in these near-death experiences – just as the Bible says.

Not all the stories are of heaven.  Burke says almost 25 per cent of reported near death experiences are about frightening visits to hell.

In one such story, an art professor died in Paris and was being pulled against his will into hell when he called out to Jesus to save him and felt the Lord carrying him out.  That changed him for he gave his life to God when he was resuscitated.

Burke notes that people who die look down on their bodies as they leave and often see details of the rooms or the places where they die that they could not possibly have seen in their earthly bodies.  But they are confirmed by others when they come back to life.

In heaven, they are joyfully welcomed by family and friends who died before them and who put their faith in God.

People report that they feel more alive in heaven than they ever felt on earth.  The colours of birds and flowers and trees and grass are brighter than anything seen on this planet.

No wonder they want to stay with Jesus in heaven.


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