God is ultimately concerned about the way we live our lives while on earth. We are to share God’s love, share the gifts God gives us , knowing we create our own heaven or hell here for others and ourselves while we are alive. Those who have experienced life review report God’s one commandment is to live in love. ~John W. Price
When I was contacted to review Revealing Heaven by John Price, I thought to myself, No. No way, not my type of read. Yet, since Heaven and Hell are the focus and since so many seem to be sharing “Near-Death” Experiences in mainstream media, perhaps, just maybe I should take a look. I always like to consider a person’s perspective, especially when they are sharing how they have come to the conclusions they hold.
So I began reading this former hospital chaplain and current Pastor/Spiritual Director’s perspective.
Which kind of starts off like this…
A Priest that doesn’t believe in Heaven, yet leads an Episcopalian congregation,is convinced ultimately that Heaven exists but seems a little unclear about how you get there. For sure. Or maybe he has a clue but it might not be what you think or the way he thought at first. Besides most of the Priests in his circle are not convinced of the after-life anyway. Whoa.
Let’s back up, here. I am not one who likes to dabble in these types of books. Although near death experience seems to be the current trend in publishing in both Christian and Secular circles, trends just get my red flag flying on any day but when you are talking about areas which are going to rely on anecdotal stories, I tend to be cautiously curious and skeptical.
It did not surprise me that there were varying beliefs about the afterlife in the religious order and circle that surrounded Reverend Price at the time he began to explore this phenomenon. In the days that Jesus confronted the Pharisees, Sadducees and religious sects, they could not agree on what they believed about life after death either. As a matter of fact for the most part, Christ came to make the way that God’s chosen teachers were blocking.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
Matthew 23: 13-15
Christ came to set the record straight. God came down and said that there was a way. One way.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
I digress. Back to Mr. Price’s book. He is asking us to consider the accounts that he has personally heard (for the most part) from those who have had a NDE (Near- Death Experience) and have come back to share their vision of God, Jesus, Heaven or Hell as the case may be. I am not one to dismiss the personal accounts of others, having had my own personal experience of the conversion kind. I have seen miracles and have experienced a few not so easy to explain situations. I think if we want to be heard or understood we need to be willing to do likewise.
In the two parts of the book we hear the stories of those who had heavenly experiences encountering the after life interviewed as well as the personal story of John’s journey of growth in his own perspectives about faith, spirituality, life, death and pastoral responsibility.
The second part of the book delves into the specifics of the NDE which seems to characterize almost all of the returnees. Here is where we find the Hellish experiences and impact on the returning person’s life as well as those who have had positive experiences and the impact on the lives they now live.
My first thought was to share this book with my Pastor and I will. The second thought was for you to read it yourself especially if you are skeptical about the reality of Heaven, Hell or Near-Death Experience. Aren’t we all guilty of sometimes drawing conclusions without carefully listening to a view that might challenge our own point of view? I propose that before you dismiss something, consider how you feel when someone dismisses your thoughts, feelings or conclusions. I tend to want to avoid those things that can’t be logically explained. But consider that we (Christians) want others to consider something that isn’t logical at all. Wouldn’t it be wise to at least be willing to treat someone who holds a view different than yours or that you are skeptical about with the same consideration you want them to offer you?
Here is what I liked about this book:
The fact is, this is an amazingly intriguing read. The author is sharing something which obviously has become his life’s work. I found it hard to put down as he shares his first hand conversations with those who have allegedly gone to Heaven or Hell and been pulled or sent back for whatever the reason. I can respect someone’s thoughts, opinions and conclusions whether I agree or disagree with their position.
I think John Price wrote well and I appreciate and respect his dedication in seeking to understand something that is possibly beyond the realm of human understanding this side of eternity. Mr. Price has dedicated his life to this endeavor and shares candidly both his initial ignorance and epiphany moments along the way. The stories of the Near-Death Experience returnees are riveting.
Here is what disturbed me:
This book is a compelling read.
If you are a Evangelical Christian, I think you are going to have a hard time accepting some of his conclusions. As I read the book I started to find myself feeling hopeful and the author’s own quest for truth and understanding resonated within me to the core. When I put the book down, I had to acknowledge the (not so) subtle message that came through to me most was the works based philosophy underlying the main point. Live a good life, go to heaven. Meanies go to Hell. When in doubt I must, as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, default to what He said about Heaven, Hell, Life and Death. I turn to scripture not experience. I am not denying that people have these experiences. Nor am I implying that Mr. Price is wrong to seek to understand them in the context of those he ministers to and serves. What I am saying is that we should listen to what others say regarding their spiritual experience and beliefs, especially if we want them to return the courtesy to us. I conclude with a quote by Elisabeth Elliot, “If God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn’t be big enough top be God”. In the end God is Sovereign
. As far as all else.
I will let scripture speak:
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.
From the Publisher: In Revealing Heaven: The Christian Case for Near-Death Experiences
, the Reverend John W. Price, a longtime Episcopal priest and member of the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation, tackles a subject that’s been long-ignored by clergy. For the first time, Price offers a pastoral perspective on near-death experiences, illustrates how NDEs can be used as both a ministry tool and a catalyst for personal spiritual development, and explains why we should see them as gifts from God. Beginning with a life-changing experience as a young National Guard chaplain, and offering numerous examples from the over 200 near-death experiences related to him in his 40+ years of church service, Price offers some surprising and hopeful lessons for Christians struggling with death and grief: One does not need to be baptized a Christian to go to heaven—anyone who lives a good life and practices kindness can experience heaven. Sins we commit in life are forgivable even in death.
God has a plan for all of us, including a specific “time” for each of us to continue our lives in heaven.
In Revealing Heaven, Price offers a compilation of experiences by “returnees” along with biblical evidence to contend that NDEs are both valid and fully consistent with Scripture. A resource for a Christian audience looking for answers about life and death, this book will also appeal to anyone seeking a greater understanding of what the afterlife means for us in the here-and-now.
I received this book from TLC book tours and Harper One in return for a an honest review.
The opinions and thoughts expressed are my own.
Thank you TLC and Harper One!