Ask Father Paul
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
To heaven and back?
Dear Father Paul: From time-to-time I read stories about people who “died” and visited heaven, then came back to life and recounted their experiences. What do you think about these accounts? True … or phony? — Brad
Dear Brad: Sorry. I count these stories on about the same level that I count the stories from people who claim they were abducted by space aliens and taken aboard a flying saucer, then visited the alien’s home planet, etc. I grant you, however, that these stories sell lots of books, make a bundle for the authors and also make for good TV.
Folks who are taken in by this hokum are for the most part people who do not know much about the Bible and what it says about death.
While it is true that there are a handful of stories in the Bible about people being raised from the dead … the dead being restored to life is not a normal, every-day occurrence either in the Bible or today. Some TV evangelists claim to have raised people from the dead, but offer no medically verified proof. Also, the folks who claim to have had the experience you mention never all claim to have seen or heard the very same thing(s) in heaven. All the descriptions of what they say happened are different. That fact alone should cause us to be skeptical. One recent author says she “saw herself as a three-year-old child when she visited heaven.” Come on … give me a break.
The Bible is very clear on this subject. Hebrews 9:27-28 says this …”And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, (emphasis mine) so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people …” (NLT)
We humans, according to what the God who created us says in his word, except in very special circumstances, as recorded in the Bible when Jesus and a few other godly men did indeed raise the dead … all die only one time and after that we face the judgment of God … period. What would really be neat would be if instead of heaven, God allowed each of us to visit hell for, say, 30 minutes … then come back. I’ll bet there would be some serious amendment of life for some of us.
Religion and anxiety
Dear Father Paul: I am a deeply troubled person. I am filled with worry and anxiety … dread even. Also depressed and disillusioned with life. I take lots of pills, but they no longer help, neither do counselors. Can your religion help me? — No Name
Dear No Name: Sorry, but you will find “religion” of little or no value, if you mean by “religion,” participating in dead rituals, doing “works,” attending classes, giving your money, joining a church, serving on a committee at church, acting pious, etc., etc.
Again, sorry, but “religion” will mostly insure you of misery in this life and a place in hell when you die.
What you need is not “religion.” What you need is what the Bible in Philippians 4:7 calls “... the peace that passes all understanding.” And that peace, true peace, peace that extends down deep into your spirit, is only available in one place — in and through The Son of God, Jesus Christ, the one the Bible calls “The Prince of Peace.” You’ve tried everything else, everything culturally fashionable, why not try Jesus? What have you got to lose except your misery and torment?
Jesus says this to his followers in the Gospel of John 14:27 as he prepared to return to heaven: ”I am leaving you with a gift … peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a peace the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (NLT)
If you want the peace that only a relationship with the God who created you can give, then, again, receive his Son Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Simply pray this prayer (according to Romans 10:9): ”Lord Jesus, I confess (out loud) with my mouth that you are the Son of God, and I believe in my heart that God the Father has raised you from the dead. I repent of my sins and I yield all that I am and have to you as my Lord. Come into my heart to rule and reign and bring your peace. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”
After you have done this, find yourself a good church where the Bible is preached and God is worshipped in spirit and truth … and where the people will love you as a member of the family of God and the pastor will be your shepherd and spiritual father. My God bless you. Amen.
Do you have a question? Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer your question in the paper.
[Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Ga. More information, Fr. Paul’s Sunday messages, service times and directions are at: www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com]