And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell (II Corinthians 12:3,4).
The soldier was wounded. But he didn’t think he was dying until the chaplain told him to prepare to meet God. He reports that shortly afterward, “A wall of light like a silvery screen appeared against the jet black background. A kaleidoscope as well as a multi-colored projection of my entire life cycle, from my very birth and babyhood up to that moment when I received the news.”
The vision continued. He saw himself flying through the universe, past planets, stars, and galaxies, but then his whirlwind path through the cosmos bends and he returns to earth. There he saw himself pass through a narrow little window into the hospital ward, and back into his own waiting body. What was that? Hallucination? Dream? A near-death experience? The soldier said, “I don’t know.”
The Apostle Paul had a similar experience. His trip was not through the solar system, but up into heaven. There he heard things he could not express. As to if this was an out-of-body experience or not, the Apostle wrote: “I do not know.” What he did know was that God allowed him to have an in-heaven experience. At times, we too may experience things that we cannot explain. People have seen things, and felt they have done things, that are humanly impossible. Sometimes this greatly bothers them. Sometimes it scares them. Many times, it occurs in connection with a traumatic event. But not always. Maybe this has already happened to you. If not, maybe it will. Or, maybe it will happen to a loved one.
What are we to do when we do not know what is happening? What are we to think when what we see doesn’t make sense? What should we believe when it seems that we have come face-to-face with the li
fe beyond? The same thing we have been doing all of our Christian life. We fear, love, and trust in God above all things.
What should we be afraid of when this life does end? The smiling face of Jesus? Surely not! And certainly, not the place in heaven that the Savior has prepared for the one he loves! Many are the times in life we may need to say, “I do not know.” But not regarding the love of God or his plans for us.
Concerning whatever he reveals to us we must always say: “This is most certainly true.”
We can join in the words of Job:
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military