heavely doorsBy Dr. H. David Schuringa

Last Christmas I had what many would say was a near-death experience. Our annual holiday gathering for the immediate family was in full swing; it was a special time for Mary and me since all four kids with their spouses and all fourteen of our living grandchildren could be there. I was sitting in my chair viewing the festivities as the grandkids were tearing open their gifts with delight.

I got up to get a glass of juice. Returning to my chair, I took a sip and set it down on the lamp stand. When I took a second sip, for some reason it all went down the wrong tube. All of it. I couldn’t cough it up. I couldn’t breathe. I realize now that I was literally drowning. Getting up to leave the room, I fell to all fours and everything went black.

I was transported to another place, immediately finding myself on my hands and knees in what looked like the bustling main street of a Middle Eastern town. The scene was bright and as vivid as life. There was a large crowd of all ages, all dressed in long white robes, all heading together from my right to left—going somewhere. A man with a beard and a huge smile stopped by me, motioning with his hand. “Get up and come with us!” he urged.

Then I felt myself being pulled back, though I didn’t want to leave. It turned dark again. I remember asking, “Where am I? Where am I?” I heard Liz’s voice coming from somewhere: “You’re home, Dad. You’re safe.”

Still on my hands and knees, I looked up. I saw figures that were blurry. Slowly, my vision cleared and I recognized two of my grandchildren looking down at me. As I came to, I remember that I was absolutely stunned that the Christmas party was still going on! I felt that I had been away for an eternity.

The kids helped me to a chair. Somewhat disoriented, I just mumbled that I had been to another place. They said the whole ordeal had lasted only a couple of minutes. Mary and my sons insisted on taking me to the ER for a checkup. The doctor said that I was okay and that it would probably not happen again.

If this experience was a brief trip to the other side, perhaps I better understand the passage where the Heidelberg Catechism says that when we die our soul shall “immediately be taken up to Christ” (LD 22). And I can testify to the tension of wanting to be here and there (Phil. 1:23).

As I reflect on my experience, I wonder, what better Christmas gift can we give to people in prison than to prepare them for life’s ultimate reality? Joy to the world!

Dr. Schuringa serves as the president of Crossroad Bible Institute.