At Gateway Church in Austin, John Burke shared on What’s After Life?
Have you ever wanted to be in a movie? Watch yourself on the big screen? That’s a scary thought for some, but for others it’s a dream come true. And, one day, everyone will get their moment to shine. It’s nothing to be afraid of! You will have your very own private screening of your life with Jesus by your side. Many who have had a near-death experience describe it as a “life review.” Even if that brings you anxiety now, our hope is that this exercise will help you understand how the movie of your life can still be a great reward for a life well lived—it’s not too late!
An extended interview is at the bottom of this post.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
MESSAGE NOTES FROM JOHN BURKE:
Ever wanted to be in the movies? Watch yourself on the Big Screen. Well one day, you will! One day your life will replay—the Movie of your life will be shown—and you don’t need to fear that. Even if right now that brings you anxiety—I hope by the end of today you’ll understand how the Movie of Your life can still be a great reward for a life well lived—it’s not too late.
Today, we’re talking about this Life Review that many people have when they experience clinical death, yet modern medicine resuscitates them, and they come back speaking of What’s After Life. If you are just joining us, I’d encourage you to go back on our Gatewaychurch.com message archives and watch the interviews and teaching about the many commonalities of Near Death Experiences (or NDEs) that I’ve discovered over 30 years of studying more than 1000 of them. And I wrote the book Imagine Heaven to show the unbelievable correlation to what God has been telling us through the Jewish Prophets and through Jesus since the beginning of written history, I’ve been summarizing that for you.
So what is this Life Review?
Is it the judgment—what is it? Well, it’s definitely not the judgment talked about in the Bible, first because that doesn’t come until the end of human history.
And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it…I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. – Revelation 20:11-12
So this is not that, because human history has not ended. But it seems to be a preview, and a gift from God to help us learn what matters most—and what lasts forever. So you and I can invest our lives in what lasts.[Fascinating side note. One study done of 500 Indians and 500 Americans to see if cultural/religious conditioning affected their NDE, found they had very similar NDEs—the good and bad. Including Life Reviews, and the experience of these books. Osis and Haraldsson say, “[In Indian NDEs], the man with the ‘book of accounts’ is always pictured as a benign ruler. An aura of sacredness rests upon him regardless of whether he is called ‘the man in a white robe’ or ‘God.’ Indians don’t experience dissolution into formless impersonal Brahma, but a man in a white robe who is God and books of accounts. This Life review is the same around the world.]
The Life Review in the presence of God often has the most dramatic impact on the life of a person. It clarifies what really matters to God as he shows them that every little action has relational reverberation, person to person, and down through the generations. Some people experience their life flashing before them as they are dying, like Ian McCormick as he was dying in the ambulance, or Gary Wood did right when his car crashed:
“I saw my whole life pass before me in a millisecond in flashes of incidents. There was no confusion about what had just happened…[then] I felt myself at the top of the car…Then I was caught into a funnel-shaped cloud.”
Most experience the Life Review in God’s presence as he gently guides them to see what matters. The majority of Life Reviews start with a question from God. They may phrase it in different ways but many hear basically the same thing: “What have you done with the life I gave you?” It’s not said in judgment, but in love, to prompt reflection and learning. Then they re-experience their lives in a 3D panoramic replay—not only experiencing their actions, but how those things affected others—and their secrets and their motives and everything is out there.
This is exactly what Jesus said:
Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. 2 The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 3 Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear! Luke 12:1-3
Jesus is saying, you can’t hide anything from God. The Pharisees thought they were righteous, and they had everyone fooled, but God knew the secrets of the heart.
Jesus told us17 For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.18 “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” – Luke 8:17-18
Notice it’s the attitude of the heart God looks for. Are you listening to what God says? Are you seeking God, or just living for self. Just ignoring God and doing what you please? Paul Ojeda found out it’s a dangerous way to live, and die.
Paul came back from that experience and started trying to learn about this God of Love he encountered, he got baptized for faith in Jesus, and started telling people about the God of Love. He was living on a golf course in Houston, with a very successful plumbing company, saw more and more of his friends and relatives in Austin coming to faith in Jesus as he told them about God’s Grace. Today while still running his plumbing company, he’s the pastor of one of the largest Hispanic churches in Austin. That Life Review changed his life.
But I need to pause here and make something really clear—that Paul also realized. Heaven is a Gift from God.
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. John 5:24
A relationship with God is free for all who want it.
You don’t have to earn it, and you’re not cast out from God because you’ve done wrong. Jesus paid the price to forgive every person of every wrong—if you want forgiveness and you want God in your life. Paul cried out to him humbly, and God responded. Hell, as we’ll talk about in a few weeks, is the only place where God stays out. If you don’t want God in your life, God gives you what you want. Paul was not there yet, just on the way—there is a border or boundary that NDErs know they can’t cross and still return to earth—that’s why Paul could call on God and be saved. So salvation and relationship with God is as simple as a prayer.
Some NDErs misunderstand the Love of God. Like Paul said, they often say “God was not judging me or condemning me, God was just loving me. I was judging and condemning myself.” But that’s exactly what Jesus taught.
For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” – Matthew 12:37
Jesus said he did not come to condemn the world, but save it. But not just get us into Heaven, also, help us get Heaven into Earth while we’re here. That’s why Jesus taught us to pray Father, Your will be done on earth, through me, as in Heaven.
What’s sometimes troubling, and honestly, gives Jesus a bad name—is when Christians think praying a prayer is like fire insurance to keep you out of hell—and what you do doesn’t really matter. That’s missing the point completely. Relationship is a gift, but your experience going from this life to the next is continuous—and your deeds go with you—they matter more than ever. The Life Review reminds us of these things that Jesus taught.
When Jesus was asked for the Greatest Commandment, he gave 2. He was asked for 1, but the second can’t be separated from the first.
37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36-40
What’s amazing is that people of all cultures across the Globe, when they have an NDE and a Life Review in the presence of God—they come back knowing 2 things clearly God is Love, and how we Love each other matters most. And I’ll be honest, I’m afraid there will be too many Christians from our generation who felt really good about what they believed and being moral (and yes, that matters) but they thought they were better than others and were not kind or loving to those who struggled in ways they didn’t, and I think this life review is going to be a shocker. Jesus told us what mattered most to him, but sometimes we lose sight of its priority.
Howard Storm, who you met last week, just like Paul, cried out to Jesus to save him from the midst of a hellish NDE. Last week you heard him describe the love he felt from Jesus, and he said Jesus’ love was unconditional even as Jesus showed him his Life Review.
A relationship with God is free!
It’s God’s eternal gift to us—but how we live our lives is our gift back to God. When you come to know the loving Character of God, you want to please him. You don’t want to hurt him or do anything to disrupt the love and joy and peace you experience as you walk with God.
God does feel—just like Howard said—Isaiah also said this in 780 BC. Which this passage is amazing because Father, Son/Savior, and Holy Spirit are referred to by this Jewish Prophet:
I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord…He said, “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me” [Father]; and so he became their Savior [Jesus means savior].9 In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.10 Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. – Isaiah 63:7-10.
Father, Son/savior, Spirit desiring children to be true to him, distressed in our distress, in love and mercy redeems us and carries us through the tough times, yet it grieves his Spirit when we rebel. That’s the motivation to not sin again God, because He loves you, and you love him. Not so you’ll be thought of as good or bad, not so you won’t get punished, but because you love God and don’t want to hurt him—you want to please him.
And here’s the more amazing thing about this Life Review—it’s not to punish those who love God, or rub our face in our mistakes—God washes those clean by Jesus payment on the cross.
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” – Matthew 16:26-27
The Life Review is a preview of Heaven’s Award’s Ceremony.
Paul says it like this:
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. – 1 Corinthians 4:4-5
Think hard about this—everything you do, God wants to praise and reward one day in eternity. All the little unseen things that the world doesn’t “count” matter forever! Every act of kindness, every unseen motive done to please or honor God, doing the right thing when it only hurts you, every dollar given to God’s work or people in need, every little thing—one day—God is going to show you, had a ripple effect across humanity. That’s another thing Jesus told us, and the Life Review confirms.
Jesus said, 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ – Matthew 25:34-36.
And they asked him “When did we do these things for you, Lord. whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40
Dr. Mary Neal experienced a life review where Jesus showed her the ripple effect of every kind action, as well as the truth God promised that when we follow him, and remain faithful to him through the hard times, that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
It all matters, every choice, every decision. We all have a purpose for being on this earth. We all intuitively know that—that’s why we easily succumb to lies that our lives are worthless because we know they’re supposed to be purposeful. But how do you live your purpose? It’s the biggest question people ask. How do I know I’m doing what I was created to do? How do I know I’m living my purpose, my destiny? You ready—cause I’m gonna tell you how to know for sure. I learned it from Moses, Jesus, and NDErs confirmed it.
First, your purpose is to love the people God leads into your life—starting with your family, and yes, even that aunt or relative you can’t stand.
That’s the beginning of living your purpose. But then you have also been given gifts, resources, unique experiences (good and bad) and God wants you to use all of that to love and serve God and to love and serve humanity. So you can be a rich CEO, Dr. or Lawyer and do that (yes even lawyers can learn to love and serve people—we have 3 on our Overseer team who prove it daily), or you can be in poverty or struggling to get by, yet be the most successful person in God’s eyes ever. And here’s how to be sure you’re living your purpose. It’s exactly what Jesus said:
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing… “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…. – John 15:5, 9-10
We can be world famous, rich, powerful and actually accomplish nothing lasting—nothing of eternal significance. But conversely, it’s not that hard to know you’re living the purpose you were created for.
Practical if you want to Live Your Purpose to one day feel great about your Life Review:
1). Learn about God Daily—read daily in the bible and daily talk to God. Join us every Sunday and get connected to others in a group as we help each other grow.
2). Learn to walk with God – Walk daily with Jesus. Read his words daily from the Bible, talk to him in prayer—get good at talking over everything with him in your mind—and if you know you’ve sinned, gone against his will, admit it—don’t hide, don’t pretend He doesn’t know, don’t justify—just turn back (that’s what repentance means)—thank Him that he’s already forgiven you 2000 years ago on the cross when he paid for it—and now in love, walk the next hour more connected, more open, more willing to do what you sense God wants. 60:60 reminders to stay connected, ask God about the decisions of the day—it you’re wanting to follow God and live the purpose you were created for—You will! He promised and he won’t let you down. Do that—you won’t get out ahead of him or try to do it apart from him—He never created you to do life without him
3). Serve Others Daily – get in a habit of asking God daily for one person you can love or serve in His honor, and it will start to re-orient you about the main thing you’re here to do with your gifts and resources. This is how we bring heaven to earth! And do all you do out of motivation to love and please God first, then to love and serve others with all you’ve been given. You will live your purpose. And it will be the most satisfying life you can imagine.