by Pete Garcia–
I died on March 14th, 1999. It was a Sunday and I was just two months shy of my 49th birthday. I grew up in a small town, with normal people. Nothing ‘fantastical’ ever really happened to me. I was ordinary, unknown, and just part of the anonymous unwashed-masses residing in flyover-country USA. I thought I had lived a good life. I wasn’t a “saint,” but I wasn’t “evil” either, doing what I thought evil people did; like killing, raping or robbing people. I went to church most weeks. I worked hard at a good job, took care of my family, and paid my taxes on time.
I never really thought much about death, or what came after. I was busy living my life. I certainly didn’t think I would die at the age of 48. I thought I had a long life ahead of me. I thought I’d live to see my grandchildren grow up and get married. All I remember was driving home one night, and the truck coming towards me crossed over into my lane. I was messing with the radio at the time so I didn’t see it until it was too late, and then everything went black.
I remember seeing my body sitting there in the seat all slumped over and unnatural like. I looked like a crumpled up piece of paper. It didn’t make any sense because I was seeing me, but I wasn’t in me. I looked down and saw myself, but no one else could. The other driver’s body was lying on the ground a bit away because he hadn’t worn his seat belt. But I didn’t see him outside of himself. I went over and touched myself to see if I could wake myself up, but the closer I got, the more I realized that I was dead. There wasn’t any recovering from the damage my body was in, and even if I could recover, I didn’t think I would like it.
A moment later, everything was gone. I was on a plain of some kind, and everything was pitch black. I could tell that the place I was in was vast, but I couldn’t tell how large. It seemed to stretch on forever, but I couldn’t see beyond my hands. There was knowledge though. It seemed that I knew where I was, and why I was. It was like a hallway between life and where I was heading for all eternity, hell. There was a certain, absolute-fatalism in this knowledge that there was nothing I could do to change it at this point. That is where I was heading, and as if on some kind of cosmic conveyor belt, I was making my way there whether I wanted to or not.
When I said I understood why I was there, it was because I knew wasn’t saved. I knew being a ‘good’ person, isn’t good enough. I knew being ‘religious’ wasn’t good enough. I knew going to church wasn’t good enough. I knew that knowing who Jesus was, wasn’t good enough. I knew being a ‘good’ American wasn’t good enough. I knew that I had died in my sins, and that I hadn’t asked Jesus to forgive me, and redeem me. I knew. I knew. I knew that I hadn’t made Jesus Christ Lord and Savior, and that was why I was there.
I also knew I wasn’t alone. Someone, or something put its hands on my shoulder, and pain shot through my body so absolutely that even the tips of my hair could feel it. I turned to see who or what it was, and immediately I was in revulsion at the sight of this monstrosity. The silence was broken by what sounded like someone freaking out, and then I realized it was my own thoughts being broadcasted aloud. Now we were moving fast, faster than I had ever imagined we could move, towards a light. But the light wasn’t comforting like you see when coming out of a dark tunnel. This light seemed full of menace and foreboding. It was the light of fire, and the closer we got, the louder the sounds became. I could hear screaming. I could hear crying. I could hear cursing. The sounds, the speed at which we moved, the pain that shot throughout my body like bolts of electricity were attacking every sense of my being all at once, and I then the only thing I could hear were my own screams as I was cast into the fiery cavern.
I couldn’t breathe the air because of the heat and smoke. I couldn’t think because I couldn’t stop screaming. The heat and darkness was so thick that I could feel it pressing against me. The ground was full of sharp and jagged edges. People were screaming and running by, but I couldn’t see because the fire didn’t give off any light. I could hear growls and voices of things that sounded so unnatural, that my body shook with fear. I began moving because I didn’t want whatever that was to get me, and I knew, that this was where I would spend the rest of eternity.
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Jude 1:21-23
Dear reader, the above death scene is purely out of my imagination. I have attached no significance to either the date, or the age; I just imagined myself as someone who had passed on before their time. The moments after the death account, however, is very much true according to what Scripture has to say on the subject. I have also based some of this on Shawn Weed’s testimonial (here), as to what he experienced before being brought back by God’s divine providence. I know some of you may not subscribe to the idea that a person can be brought back from death. I think most of the accounts of people traveling to hell and heaven are bogus, but I would be foolish to discount them all. For that point, I consider Shawn’s testimony valid and I hope you take a moment to watch it if you haven’t yet already.
Although I didn’t intend to write this kind of an article, this is what I was led to write on, and perhaps it is necessary to remind ourselves just what we were saved from. I imagined what the Rich Man would have said to his brothers, had he been granted the opportunity to travel back to the land of the living. At that time, the Jews had Christ walking there with them. They had the testimony of the Law and the Prophets, which pointed to Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption.
Before time was created, and before the universe was spoken into place, God knew you. He saw your life and the moments of choice that would come to define you. We may look ahead with fear or anxiety at what lies ahead, but God has already foreseen it. We are only given so many days on this earth, and in that time, what we do, determines how we spend eternity. Even if we were to live for a 1,000 years, which, compared to eternity, is a drop in a bucket…if that bucket were the size of Jupiter. Time is so fleeting that we can barely grasp the present before it slides behind us into yesterday.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
The truth is, that even the greatest of men, are but for a moment. Our deeds ring hollow in this life, but the ring resoundingly throughout the rest of eternity. What did we do with the time God afforded us? Most importantly, is what did we do with His Son, Jesus Christ? Who was He to us? A good man? A prophet? A historical figure? A myth?
Or was He God come in the flesh? Was He your Redeemer? Was He your Savior?
You might think that the punishment of hell is too much for simply rejecting Jesus Christ.
Consider this: As vast, beautiful, and mysterious as the universe is, we are the crowning objects of God’s creation. I’m not the first to point out that God devotes a single passage to the creation of the stars and planets, but many to the creation of the first man and woman. Man was created in the image of God. (Gen. 1:26) The heavenly bodies are perhaps the grandest of all of God’s creations in terms of size, color, and sheer magnitude, but they pale in comparison to a newborn baby, or to the twinkle of an eye between two lovers. The stars pale in comparison to a child’s laughter, or a mother rocking her child to sleep, or to a man on his knees praying for his family. God may have used the stars to declare His glory, but He uses man to declare His righteousness, goodness, love, perfectness, and His forgiveness.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
The stars may shine and declare that life is not accidental, but they can never declare how it is not accidental. They are only proof of order and creation, not an explanation. God did not wrap Himself in the flesh of a star, to die for the stars, or for planets, or for animals, or any other created thing. He came to live, die, and resurrect Himself so that man could be redeemed. God, being infinitely righteous and holy, set His holy laws in place and cannot violate them to make exceptions for man. But man, who is fallen and wholly unrighteous, and being an agent of free will, will almost always act out of his own self-interests. The only way that God could redeem fallen man to Himself, without violating His own laws, was to become a Man, live a holy and perfect life, then make Himself a sacrifice to pay for the penalties that you and I accrue over the course of our lives, in order to redeem us to Himself.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:13-15
Technically speaking, we are all dead men. If you have not received Christ as your Savior, you are dead in your sins. You have not been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and are essentially waiting to die and then spend eternity separated from God forever in hell. If you are born-again, then your old nature has died, and you now are hidden in Christ. At this point, you are awaiting either death or the Rapture, and you will be changed into your glorified, immortal body in which you will spend eternity with God. Either way, our time here in this life is short. If you are a born-again Christian, death is merely a stepping off point into a glorious eternity. If you are not, death transitions into the second-death, and eternal destruction awaits you.
You are not saved from hell by being good, going to church, being religious, or by being spiritual. You are born again (saved) by having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ by trusting in His death, burial, and resurrection. You are saved by believing that Jesus Christ can save you from your sins. You are saved by placing that faith in what Christ has already done at the Cross of Calvary.
That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation Romans 10:9-10
The world we live in is full of paradox and irony. The paradox is that we live as if we’ll never die, and we die when we least expect it. Ironic, isn’t it? That this world and life we put so much stock and effort into, is so easily taken from us. This life that we cling so tightly to is so effortlessly slipping through our fingers one second at a time. We are all dead men walking, but who we are dead too will make all the difference throughout eternity; are we dead to self, or are we dead to Christ?
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4