Many of you know John Burke as pastor of Gateway Church here in Austin, TX, or you may recognize him as author of Unshockable Love, No Perfect People Allowed, and Soul Revolution. His latest book, Imagine Heaven captures the love of Christ from a different perspective.
All of us long to know what life after death will be like. Burke is no exception and in his book entitled Imagine Heaven, compares over 100 gripping stories of near-death experiences (NDEs) to what Scripture says about our biggest questions of Heaven: Will I be myself? Will I see friends and loved ones? What will Heaven look like? What is God like? What will we do forever? What about children and pets?
The central theme of the Bible is God desiring a relationship of love with you and me and every person created. But love requires several things — freedom, risk, and choice. God pours out his heart to Jeremiah the prophet when the people he loves keep rejecting him to love and worship other things.”
“I have loved you with an everlasting love I have drawn youth unfailing kindness… Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 31:2, 20)
One of the greatest indications that the God NDErs describe is the God of the Christian Scriptures is how they depict their life review in His presence. Despite vividly seeing all their deeds, good and evil, and all the relational ripple effects of both, they do not experience a Being who desires to condemn. They experience a compassion coming from the Being of Light.
Many NDErs experienced the same love and some realized they had been living for their own agenda and repented. Jesus is the God of light, of love, of forgiveness. Burke reminds us, He wants all people from all nations to turn back to him, but He won’t force us. He respects our free will. The book also records NDE interviews with those who did not experience the light but ultimate darkness. These interviews did not experience beings of light but beings of darkness and their deeds of depravity.
Some NDErs are well known and others are not. Some NDE experiences have been made into movies and others have written books. Mary Neal, the surgeon who died kayaking, asked this questions: “…when I was speaking with Jesus in the sun-drenched field, I asked him why everyone on earth wasn’t given the same experience that I was having…His amused response reiterated Jesus’ comments to Thomas, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ (John 20:29)
Burke reminds the reader, “God’s promise is that all who seek him wholeheartedly will find relationship with Him, because God created you and me for a uniquely special relationship. We don’t have to wait for eternity. You enter into that relationship by faith.
Other NDEs recorded are renowned surgeons, professional pilots, established businessmen who have returned with the same experience of the love of Christ. We all want to know what happens after death. This book records experiences of the NDEr who came back from death with an experience of love or despair. John Burke reminds us, there will be a day of judgement and those who deny the love of God while on earth will live eternally as they’ve chosen to live on earth. Their existence will be without the presence of God and His light. This book asks the ultimate question, says Burke, “Are you prepared for life after death? People can’t imagine heaven, so they don’t live for it.”