Can you give me tangible, irrefutable proof that there is a heaven? I’ve been thinking about this question a lot this week. But before I go to the events of this week, I want to turn back the clock to when I was 19.
My college dorm father asked me to tutor a Chinese girl who lived down the hall from me. May was thin and graceful. Our tutoring sessions consisted of walking the campus and talking about the history you and I take for granted.
As a sophomore, I took this frail and beautiful Chinese freshman under my wing. A quiet, peaceful young lady, she would ask me questions that she was too shy to ask in class.
She was bright and loved being able just to talk with an American who would take time to understand her questions. Though I had little to do with it, I was especially proud when she made a B on her history quiz.
We had been working together a couple of months when the administration sent May to her aunt and uncle’s home in California. She had been having severe headaches. A few days later, my beautiful friend died.
Her death hit me hard. She was my same age and a Christian. However, one day she was alive. The next she was gone. But where? Where did she go? And where would I go when I died? Was there a heaven? How did I know for sure I’d go there when I died?
I lay awake at night watching the flames rise in the gas heater in my dorm room. The flames reminded of everything I had been told about hell. I won’t lie to you: it freaked me out. I didn’t dare go to sleep.
At the age of seven I had accepted Christ as my savior mainly to avoid those dreaded flames. Now they seemed to be right in the room with me. Having grown up in church, I’d heard plenty of hell-fire and brimstone messages. I knew what the scriptures said.
What I wanted, though, was hard and fast evidence that when I died I’d avoid the flames and go to heaven. I know there’s a moon because a man walked on it and brought back a moon rock. Plus, I could see it up in the sky. But how did I know for sure there was a heaven?
When I asked people on campus, they all gave me Bible verses to prove the existence of heaven, streets of gold, pearly gates, city four-square and all that I already knew. “I know that already!” I wanted to scream at them.
After three weeks, I went home for Thanksgiving break. I was exhausted with getting no answers to my questions. The most honest man I have ever known was my father, who was also an ordained minister and a strong man of faith. I was desperate to hear his answer.
“Dad, can you give me tangible, irrefutable proof that there is a heaven?” Instead of giving me an instant pat answer, he thought long and hard.
His answer surprised me. “No. I can’t give you evidence you can hold in your hand. There are those who claim they have gone to heaven and come back but that’s just one person’s word. Its not provable because it can’t be validated.”
He continued to explain that what he could tell me was that the Bible says there is a heaven. It says that those who believe in, trust on and live their lives for Jesus Christ will go there when they die. He reminded me that Jesus was indeed a living, breathing person who was resurrected from the dead as seen by more than 500 people.
He held up his worn Bible, looked me in the eyes and said, “I choose to believe the words of this book because if when I die there is not a heaven, I will have at least lived my life for a purpose greater than me. It’s a decision that’s much more than just being saved from the flames of hell.”
What he said struck a chord deep within me. His honest answer was the one I was looking for.
“One more thing, you can’t just decide you’re going to believe what the Bible says about heaven and ignore everything else it says. When you believe one part, you have to believe it all. Live your life based on this book and you’ll have a real reason to live.”
Fast forward to this week. Two things happened. First, the son of a good friend of mine died. He was young, in his 30s. Then, my brother-in-law who is not even 50 yet, had a heart attack. He survived, still it was a close call. He coded, not once but twice. Had he been anywhere but the emergency room of a quality cardiac care facility he would not have made it.
Twice in one week I was reminded that life is very short. Then I got a call from a nurse wanting to schedule me for a more extensive diagnostic test. She calmed my fears telling me it was just a precautionary test.
Still at 59, it still gives me pause to think. if I died today will I have done everything I was put here on earth to do?
Then I remember the words of my Dad, “Live your life based on this book and you’ll have a real reason to live.” I know I have had and still have a real reason to live.
If I live another 59 years, I’ll keep doing what I am today, living my life based on the Word of God.
And, one day I’ll have my tangible, irrefutable evidence that there is in fact a heaven.