In our walk with Christ, we can and should expect miracles.
Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven” somewhat fits that bill. In January of 1989, Piper was involved in a horrific accident that nearly took his life. Considering the description of the injuries suffered, it is truly by God’s grace he survived.
I was very intrigued by this book mainly because it is the first book I ever read or heard of that a Christian had a near death experience(NDE). I have read and watched interviews of people who have experienced this phenomenon. Never has the subject of faith or religion ever brought up by the subject. Piper’s experience make up about 25% of the book. The remainder speak of his struggles and the ministry that resulted from it.
In reading the book, I was very moved about his humbleness to admit his struggles with the physical pain and his lack of desire to live. He openly and courageously tells of his ordeal. Even a man called to his ministry( the accident occurred on his way home from a pastor’s conference) can be very human. Piper believes God has allowed this to happen so he can share his experiences with others to give them hope and the certainty that heaven exist.
How can we verify that what happened to him is true? While God performs countless miracles every day, and deserving of praise from our lips, one must be careful not to worship an experience. The most important question regarding the subject of going to heaven and coming back to tell about it; what does God’s word say about this?
The scriptures tell us nothing about near death experiences. The one thing that bothered me about this book was not what Piper experienced, but it was his insisting that he died. Hebrews 9:27 states very clearly, “ And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”. As I write this today, Don Piper is still alive, therefore, he did not die. The bible does mention more than once about people being raised back to life after physical death. These were miracles by God and are as follows: Elisha and the son of the Shumanite woman(2 Kings 4:8-37), Jesus bringing back to life the son of a widow(Luke 7: 11-15), Lazarus (John 11: 32-44). Following these resurrection miracles performed by God and Jesus, not one of these listed came to profess anything they experienced while in the grave. The apostle Paul was given a glimpse of the third heaven, the abode of God, and Paul was inflicted with a thorn in the flesh to be kept humble(2 Cor 12:2-7) Taking this into consideration, what make Don Piper privileged to make such a claim. If the greatest evangelist in the history of church “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter”, I can’t see Piper given any special treatment.
There have been attempts to explain NDE with physical science; LSD, hallucinogenic drugs, endorphins, hypoxia, and memories of birth, body going through traumatic stress due to physical injury have been suggested. This is a phenomenon that can not be explained. According to God’s word, all physical death results in a separation of body and spirit. Piper himself notes he has researched near death experience with the British Medical Society in 2001. He insists his experience is nothing compared to what others have claimed, that his experience is unique. My research brought up the fact the NDE has ties to the New Age movement, pioneered by Raymond Moody and Melvin Morse. Piper’s experience are very similar to vast majority of cases we hear about; an entrance to a shining hole, seeing a “light” bright beyond words, a peaceful feeling, the “light” got bigger as one approaches it, this being of “light” never identifies itself(Piper insists this was God), and one is hesitant to share the experience with others.
One other thing that bothered me was the mention of a woman who was dying of cancer. This woman did not want to talk about God, religion, or salvation. Then she listened to a tape recording of Piper’s testimony of his experience. Afterwards, she professed to believe in God. What was contained in the tape is not mentioned. God’s word has the utmost authority to winning a soul for the kingdom, not a testimony of one’s experience(see Luke 16:19-31).
In conclusion, Don Piper surely experienced something. What it is, I can’t explain and neither can God’s word. In the foreword section of the book, the publishers claim this experience Piper had does not add nor take away from God’s word. I always felt that determination is for the reader, for we are to be Bereans, studying God’s word and referring to it to say what anyone teaches or preaches is according to the scriptures. We must be very careful of what is our object of our faith. Jesus Christ is the object of our faith, and He being the living word, must be in the content of His word. We must always look to the bible to validate one’s experience. Peter says “ we have also a more sure word of prophecy; where unto ye do well that ye take heed”. Let these words inspired of the Holy Spirit guide our lives.
I have read this book and I believe every word of it. I have read and listened to many that have had near death experiences so I have no doubt of the truth. It is amazing to me that some of those who claim to know God and His word have such a difficult time believing these events. Jesus is alive and he (his body) died. He was resurrected and if He can raise himself from the grave, it should not be a difficult thing for him to either bring back or send back someone whose body had died. Keep in mind the spirit and soul of man NEVER DIES. We, our real selves, live forever. A spirit never dies. Don't let your education keep you from just simply trusting God. GOD BLESS YOU