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Encountering Heaven and the AfterlifeTrue Stories From People Who Have Glimpsed the World Beyond
By James L. Garlow Keith Wall
Bethany House PublishersCopyright © 2010 James L. Garlow and Keith Wall
All right reserved.
Chapter OneYour Personal Invitation to ...
Adventures in the Afterlife
Let's take a hypothetical excursion: Suppose you and your spouse completed the paperwork for a new life insurance policy—but health care being what it is these days, the company requires more than just a stack of signed forms and an at-home blood draw from a visiting nurse. So this morning you are scheduled for a physical at your doctor's office.
Once there, you find yourself being poked and prodded by your physician. She presses a stethoscope to your chest, wraps a blood-pressure cuff around your bicep, and asks about your family history and other potentially embarrassing questions. So far, so good. But this kind of physical requires something more: You've got to complete a brisk walk on a treadmill, with electrodes taped to your chest and attached to a nearby monitor.
Okay, you can do this. You consider yourself to be in reasonably good shape. What's a little uphill climb on a moving conveyor belt?
But twenty minutes into the test, with the treadmill's speed increasing as quickly as your drops of perspiration, something seems wrong. You feel pressure in your chest. Tightness. Like someone has put a bigger version of the blood-pressure cuff around your upper torso and started to inflate it. Then you notice a tingling sensation in your left arm. Suddenly lightheaded and nauseous, you stumble off the treadmill and collapse on the cold tile floor.
Fade to black.
The next thing you know, you are in a different place. It's not your doctor's office, but it still feels medical—stark walls, antiseptic odor, chrome-plated instruments, fluorescent lights, and lots of scurrying, unfamiliar people wearing white and green. They're also wearing concerned expressions. Furrowed brows, narrowed eyes, clenched teeth.
It's you they are concerned about. You realize you've been taken to an emergency room. A tall woman with graying hair utters the words myocardial infarction. Huh? Someone else says, "heart attack." Oh, that.
You notice that you're lying on a gurney, metal guardrails at your sides, a spider web of tubes and wires tangled around your limp body. Strangers frantically turn knobs, push buttons, jab needles into your flesh. Then you hear it ...
You've heard the sound in movies and lots of those hospital dramas on TV. It's the EKG machine that suddenly spews out a shrill, hitch-pitched blaring noise, reminiscent of your smoke detector at home. You look over just in time to see the once-jumping, squiggly line go flat.
Fade to black once more.
Now the questions begin. Assuming the above scenario really happened to you (and it's certainly a possibility for any one of us), what do you think comes next? The physicians and other medical personnel swarming around you, despite their best efforts, declare you dead. Now what? You're going to have the adventure of your life, that's for sure.
Yes, some people are lucky enough to get resuscitated. But what if you weren't among the fortunate who "died" and lived to tell the tale?
Researcher Dinesh D'Souza asks the question that has been on the minds of human beings for millennia:
Is death the end, or is there something more? This is the ultimate question. It has been the defining issue for entire cultures from the ancient Egyptians to the present. And in truth, there is no more important question that any of us will face. It is the issue that makes every other issue trivial. If you have doubts about its significance, go to a hospital or a funeral or talk to a parent who has recently lost a child. You will discover very quickly that the apparent normalcy of everyday life is a sham.
What happens the moment you die? Where will you end up? How will you get there? When you arrive, will you know people? Will angels escort you to your next destination? What are heaven and hell really like?
* * *
The scene described above is not far off from a real-life drama that unfolded in the life of Earl Foster, pastor of Faith Community Church in Shady Hills, Florida. For him, the prospect of flatlining on a gurney was anything but hypothetical. On March 16, 2006, Earl, age sixty-three, lay on a table at New Port Richey Hospital while medical personnel began a blood transfusion. Suffering from diabetes and a condition that causes low blood counts, Earl had accepted this procedure as a necessary requirement to keep him well.
But something went wrong. Terribly wrong.
A few minutes into the procedure, his heart stopped, and in an instant he found himself up in a corner of the room watching as physicians tried to shock him back to life with a defibrillator. From his hovering position, Earl felt a vague sense of disappointment at their attempt to revive him, and he wasn't sure why exactly.
A split-second later, he discovered himself no longer in the hospital room, but somewhere indescribably beautiful. An overwhelming sense of peace swept over him. He knelt beside a stream to drink the cool, clear water from his cupped hands. Across a lush meadow, he saw his old dog, Ram, running as fast as he ever did and leaping over the meandering brook to greet his owner. Earl's long-lost cat, Puff, came scurrying up behind. As Earl reached out to meet them, he spotted his sister, Margie, with both legs perfectly okay and working fine—even though she had died with only one leg.
Following her down the grassy hill were his mother and father, happy and healthy, with no signs of the heart attacks that had ended their lives on earth. Soon Earl was surrounded by his grandparents, looking much younger than he'd ever seen them, and a welcoming horde of aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Everyone appeared so robust and full of unmistakable joy.
"Right then I realized that complete healing lies ahead for every child of God," Earl said. "The blind will see exquisite vistas, the deaf will hear blissful music, cancer will disappear, and the illnesses and ailments of old age will vanish."
It suddenly occurred to him why he felt disappointed that the medical personnel were trying to jump-start his heart. He didn't want to return to his earthly life. Now he knew he never wanted to leave this place. But soon enough, he woke up to find himself back on the hospital table. Thanks to the miracles of modern medical technology, Earl had no other choice but to conclude: Heaven can wait.
Earl's near-death experience (NDE) and glimpse of paradise echo thousands of similar stories. His vivid recollections—as clear in his mind as yesterday's golf game or trip to the coffee shop—give us all a foretaste of things to come.
For most people, one NDE would be astounding. A life-changing event, to be sure. For Earl, though, a repeat performance lay ahead, only with a different encounter on the other side.
A year and a half later, on August 26, 2007, Earl was back in the same hospital for another "routine" blood transfusion. Apparently for Earl such commonplace procedures are anything but routine. Once again his heart stopped and, as he was later told, he had no measurable signs of life for two minutes. This time, he immediately felt surrounded by light and propelled forward.
Suddenly he was stopped by someone who stepped in front of him. Earl recognized his brother, Robert, who had died the previous year of cancer. He put up his hand and said to Earl, "It's not your time. You have to go back. You have to endure. You must continue on with your life."
Disappointed, Earl asked, "Why do I have to continue on? You didn't."
"You still have work to do, and I squandered much of my time," Robert said. "You still have work to finish. You have to keep on."
Then Earl asked him, "How will I know when I am finished? Will it be soon?"
Robert said simply, "You will know!"
Earl desperately wanted to ask what it was he had left to finish, but he abruptly regained consciousness on the treatment table. A physician stood over him, paddles in hand, while nurses bustled about. He had—once again—been shocked back to life.
* * *
In the pages ahead, we'll present to you more than thirty stories like Earl's, and not only about near-death experiences leading to a glimpse of heaven (or hell). We'll also tell of deathbed scenes where the final visions of dying people open a window, ever so briefly, into the next world. We'll share the experiences of men and women certain they were visited by deceased loved ones. We'll highlight the unexpected visions and spiritual insights that offer unique perspectives on the afterlife. We'll show that angels and demons travel from the spiritual world to our physical world, either to help or harass human beings. We'll even share tales of ghost appearances.
This isn't a book filled with comprehensive explanations, convincing elucidations, or cogent expositions from the Bible. Rather it is an eclectic collection, offering an intriguing look into the lives of ordinary people who have had extraordinary spiritual encounters. But you'll find much more than poignant and gripping tales: You'll gain a peek into the (usually) invisible world that surrounds us every second of every day.
Excerpted from Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife by James L. Garlow Keith Wall Copyright © 2010 by James L. Garlow and Keith Wall. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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