Identifying NDE Venues
The venues NDErs visit seem to be determined by what they need most at a deep level, as will be discussed later. Identifying these venues becomes seminal to understanding the NDE as a whole. In turn, this facilitates maximum benefit when returnees reflect upon the experiences that occurred there.
A major stumbling block to this vital process is the misidentification of afterlife venues by NDErs and researchers alike. Paradise is often misidentified as Heaven, and Hades as Hell, the consequences being unnecessary confusion and personal difficulties for the returnee.
A brief examination of what happened to Jesus after his death throws light on these venues, together with their different features and purposes.
Paradise is not Heaven
The thief crucified beside Jesus asked whether he could become part of Jesus’ future kingdom.
Jesus made a startling reply. ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise’ (Luke 23:43).
Note that Jesus did not say, ‘Today you will be with me in Heaven,’ because his spirit was not going to Heaven, and nor was the thief’s spirit. Jesus, who was always careful with his words, stated that he personally was going to Paradise, and that the thief would be there with him.
This was a kind and thoughtful answer to a man about to die, who had just acknowledged that he deserved to be crucified because of the life he had led. He had been looking to Jesus for some distant redemption: ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’, but Jesus instead offered him immediate comfort: ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’. Neither of them were going to be re-embodied that day to enter Heaven or anywhere else – their bodies remained hanging on the crosses till removed later for burial. By then their spirits had long since departed and gone to Paradise.
What was the Paradise Jesus was going to that day, with the thief, if it was not the same as Heaven? The word ‘Paradise’ derived from an ancient Persian (Iranian) word found in the Avestan language, and simply meant a garden, generally one that had been walled in. If you have a garden at home, especially if it is walled or fenced to separate it from others, then that is your Paradise. It often referred to a royal garden, such as the hanging gardens of Babylon that were king Nebuchadnezzar’s Paradise. In the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, we learn that they were in God’s garden – the Paradise of God on Earth, and that God was often found in that garden. Some kings had several gardens at different palaces, different paradises that they owned, and it appears from scripture that God does too. Note that in the particular garden for Adam and Eve that God designed, there is no record of buildings – God presumably controlled conditions there such that even clothing was not necessary for them until Adam and Eve were expelled from that particular Paradise and entered the world at large, where temperatures fluctuate and clothing becomes helpful. Conditions in the Paradise to which millions of spirits travel nowadays are also reported to be very pleasant, having adequate warmth and light that some NDErs report as streaming from Father God himself, and from Jesus.
Jesus was obviously not offering to take the thief back to that original earthly Paradise of God’s, because it no longer existed on Earth, so where was this garden that he was offering to take him to once he had died? One thing we can be sure about is that it was not located inside Heaven itself, because they were going as spirits and not yet as resurrected beings. The heavenly city is a place for those who have incorruptible, resurrected bodies that are comfortable within buildings. Based on the accounts of NDErs who have seen it in the distance, the city is situated amongst wonderful scenery including gardens that run right up to its walls.
God was to be found and related to in his earthly garden by Adam and Eve. Similarly, God the Father has related with millions of NDErs in his gardens of Paradise in the afterlife. He is most often described by them as a Being of Light. Jesus is also reported to meet with many NDErs in Paradise.
God is not limited; therefore he can present himself in any form he chooses to any number of individual spirits in Paradise simultaneously.
According to NDErs, there are no houses in Paradise. It appears that spirits do not need houses to live in.
Paradise is huge and described slightly differently by NDErs depending on what part their spirit may have travelled to, but common characteristics include wonderful colouring and even shades of colour not seen on Earth, exotic plants and trees, grass that is extraordinarily green, perfect and ‘alive’, typical garden structures such as fences, benches, patios, sparkling clear streams, rolling hills and mountains, and the prevalence of a beautiful light unlike any light on Earth, but which pervades everywhere. Paradise is picturesque but more awe-inspiring than any gardens on Earth, since spirit existence is incomparable to physical existence. There is some evidence from NDEs that Jesus enjoys Paradise, as when Richard Wright 1 met him:
I was standing on a huge grassy hill with a big green valley below, beautiful forests on both sides, and a crystal blue lake in the distance. I was amazed. Then I looked to my left and there stood Jesus! I was astounded, and He looked down at me, smiled, and said, ‘Pretty impressive, isn’t it?’
All my fears were gone, and I laughed.
Rev Royston Fraser’s 2 NDE is helpful for our comprehension of Paradise. Killed during mission work in Chile, he met both his deceased mother and sister in Paradise, although he had not yet known of the death of either. Then he met previously deceased missionaries and some prominent people – all in Paradise, none yet in Heaven. Finally he met Jesus. He takes up the account:
I asked what might seem a strange question, ‘Where am I, Lord?’
His response was, ‘You are in the Paradise of God’.
I told Him I thought I was in Heaven!
But He replied, ‘No man has entered Heaven except He that has come out of Heaven’ (John 3:13).
I said I had not really thought about it, but I did recall reading it.
‘Do you not remember what I said to the thief on the cross?’ He asked me.
Of course I did: ‘This day you will be with me in Paradise’.
This distinction between Paradise being for the spirits of the dead now, with Heaven being a future venue after the Judgement, was important enough for Jesus to emphasise to Royston.
Furthermore, this distinction holds up in word studies of the scriptures. In addition, it was understood and taught by the early church.
Unless this difference is clear, NDErs may think they have been to Heaven and not to Paradise. So what? We find a potentially disastrous attitude creeping in – ‘Uncle Joe was a drunk and beat his wife, but I saw him in Heaven, so obviously nearly everyone is going to Heaven’. Not so. Only at Judgement will God assign who goes where. Just as the Earth itself is wonderful but not everyone living on it will spend their eternity with God, so it is with Paradise. Nearly every book with the word ‘Heaven’ in its title should have it replaced by the word ‘Paradise’ instead.
This is a key to understanding NDEs:
Pleasant NDEs described by adults did not generally take place in Heaven, but in Paradise.
Unfortunately, the distinction made by Jesus and the Bible has become confused in the literature. It would become tedious were I to try to draw attention to this in the titles and quotes I use throughout this book.
Nevertheless, I ask the reader to keep in mind this important distinction while reading, as it at once clarifies much of the confusion surrounding NDEs. At death, the spirits of adults who enjoy a pleasant NDE have travelled to Paradise – not Heaven. Interestingly, though, the spirits of young children often have different NDE experiences in Heaven itself – as we will come to later.
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