Some people would have described me as shy, but that did not come anywhere near it. If I had to stand up in front of just two or three people I could not even stutter, because I could not say a word. I played in a jazz band in the clubs. I always stood at the back of the group, because of my fear of people. One night, however, the band got me very drunk. To their astonishment, and mine, I became the band’s entertainer. If I was drunk I could entertain and talk. I could do anything, even laugh at my own jokes! Without the drink, I was the silent, back-row guy.
Not too long after this I gave up the drink because I became a Christian and I did not want that kind of life-style any more. I was still the silent guy at the back of the singing groups. After marrying Olive, who was a wonderful classical pianist, I became even more involved in music. But I was still at the back. In the late sixties there was a big convention in our church. Many of the men told Olive and me that they believed we were going to be involved in a world-wide ministry. They believed that we would be travelling to countries we had never heard of, preaching about Jesus. Although I did not want to say it a the time, I thought they were wrong!
On 29 December 1971, I was certain that they were wrong! That day I had a heart attack. My doctor told me it was an acute inferior myocardial infarction. I was taken to hospital. That night I started praying very hard! It seemed that almost everybody I knew came into the hospital to pray for me, but I still felt as if I had an elephant sitting on my chest. Later the pain in my chest greatly increased. It seemed that the elephant on my chest had gone out and fetched the rest of the herd! It seemed that they were all jumping on my chest !
At that point I could not take any more. I remembered the last prayer Jesus made on the cross, ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.’ Just at that moment, my spirit left my body.
The medical profession calls it a cardiac arrest. Your heart stops, and the blood no longer flows through your brain. As soon as my spirit left my body, I saw the ‘City of the Great King’, which we read about in Psalm 48:1-2. I did not go through a long tunnel. I was looking down on the most dazzling sight imaginable. The dazzling sight was beautiful, splendid, picturesque, colourful, and magnificent. But these adjectives are totally inadequate to describe this place. In the book of Revelation, chapter 21, it gives some idea of the size, which is over half of size of the USA. It is some 1500 miles square, and surrounded by walls of solid jasper except for the 12 openings. The walls are as high as they are long, and those openings were 12 gates of solid pearl. Each gate has one single pearl. The walls were very thick. Yet not one shadow was on the outside or the inside of the walls, because the brilliance of the light was so intense, and nothing could cast a shadow.
In the foundations of those walls I saw precious and semiprecious stones like rubies, sardonyx, beryl, amethyst, emeralds, and many others. They were massive stones. I saw 12 columns studied with these same stones. There were 12 different columns, each representing one of the apostles. There were three levels in that city, and seemingly millions of miles of streets. There were avenues of solid gold, not paved with gold, but solid and yet at the same time, transparent. It was the purest, cleanest and brightest gold imaginable, and looked like ribbons of magnifying glasses. Everywhere, through the streets, and as far as I could see, were millions of mansions.
In John chapter 14, Jesus said that He was going to be prepare a place for us. I thought the Lord had called me to be one of His building superintendents, because that was my main occupation at that time. As I looked over the streets on all three levels, to try and see what materials they were using, I realised there was not one still under construction. They were all finished. Jesus spoke those mansions into existence, and He is ready.
Another thing I saw were millions of shining, sparkling, shimmering, scintillating lights that I recognised as the spirits of departed saints, all in the presence of Jesus. I knew everybody, including the prophets, the apostles and the disciples. And they all knew me. We did not need introductions. There are people I know who have gone to Heaven and seen individuals they knew. But what I saw was their spirits, just like I was. The spirits were a reflection of Jesus, the Lamb of God.
What I could see was a family of God, with no denominations. I could see the spirit bodies of the sons and daughters of God himself, who has no grandchildren. I joined in with the songs they were singing. No one was off key, or out of time. Everyone was singing and worshipping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Having gone through all these wonderful scenes and rainbows of colour, my first purpose was to see God the Father. That was absolutely imperative.
In my early life I had family problems which prevented me developing a close relationship with my own human stepfather, who I hated. I have heard preachers preach on Romans chapter eight about how God is, ‘Abba Father’, indicating an intimate relationship. But I could not understand this.
When I went into the presence of God the Father, I can only describe this as like going into the most massive receptacle filled to the top with the most powerful cleansing agent. This agent cleansed in such a way that it made everything pure and clear, like crystal without a flaw. It was as if my spirit was covered in scar tissue that had never been erased. Although God had forgiven me, and I had later asked my own stepfather to forgive me, the scar of hatred remained until I went into the presence of God. That cleansing agent seemed to dissolve those scars, and for the first time in my 52 years I was able to say, ‘Abba, Father’. Romans 8 is now one of my favourite chapters. God has complete and total charge of my life because I trust Him.
Then I wanted to see Jesus and thank Him for dying for me, so that I could have eternal life. I know it sounds strange that we believe Jesus can be up in Heaven and on the Earth, but that is because He is omnipresent – everywhere. Jesus was seated at the right hand of God the Father. He was not any more brilliant than God, yet was distinguishable from Him. I cannot describe His looks or clothes, because He was surrounded by light, like those brilliant arc lights which shine into the Heavens for two or three miles. Each arc light seemed to have enormous power.
Imagine taking several hundred thousand or millions of these arc lights, and collecting them together in one bunch. Imagine that you then tried to look straight into them and distinguish the different filaments. That might give some poor indication of the brightness of Jesus. There is absolutely nothing that can compare with the brightness of Jesus, and I found myself looking and worshipping.
Something else that amazed was that I had Jesus’ entire, undivided attention. Remember, I was a bashful, timid person, an infinitesimal speck of nothing. Yet I was the focus of His glory and love. Jesus then welcomed me into His presence, and I asked him some questions. First of all I wanted to know how it was that there were millions of people constantly demanding His attention, and yet I seemingly had His undivided attention. Even before I could finish asking, Jesus said, ‘Surely you know that there is enough of Me to go around?’
My next concern was concerning the church members. Some of them were my best friends. Jesus told me that He had everything under control. He had never lost a battle, or even a skirmish. He was the victor.
Another question of mine was concerning His coming back to the Earth. Jesus told me that, before He came back, He was going to send an unprecedented visitation of power and glory, the greatest ever move of the Holy Spirit upon the world. I knew I was going to part of this great move of God. I had to return and fulfil the words spoken about me.
I looked back through those streets of gold and though the levels of that great city. Then I saw my body in the hospital, just as if someone had opened up the roof of the building underneath me. I glanced outside the hospital. There speeding towards the hospital it was my pastor, Dr. Ralph Wilkerson.
That day God had spoken to my pastor, not in an audible voice. He felt such a compulsion to get to the hospital and pray for me that he left his study before the morning services – at great speed! He got out of the car and started running towards the hospital. He went up to the Intensive Care Unit, and knocked on the door. He walked over to the bed, and pulled the curtains around. The corpse on the bed was the most grotesque thing you ever saw. It was ash grey, with green and purple mixed in. He did not put his hands on me, but clasped them together and looked up. I heard him quoting the verse about the thief coming to rob, to kill and to steal, but that Jesus had come that we might have not only life, but abundant life. Then he quoted from John chapter 11 where Jesus told Martha that He was the Resurrection and the Life. Then Dr. Wilkerson quoted from Romans 8 that if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwell in us, He would give life to our mortal bodies. At that point he took hold of my cold, clammy, lifeless hand and began to rebuke death. He commanded my spirit to return to my body.
I asked the Lord what I should do. His response was, ‘ What do you want to do?’ If I had my choice, I told Jesus, I would rather stay up in Heaven. Then I thought I could make the biggest deal that was ever made. ‘Lord, I will go back, if You will go with me.’
The Lord stopped me right there. ‘Do you not know what I have told you in My Word? I will never leave you nor forsake you. I am with you until the end of the age. Since you gave your life to me I have never left you for one split second.’
I quickly changed my ‘if’ to ‘when’. I knew He wanted me to come back. I knew He had called me to a ministry. ‘When I go back Lord, will you give me a token?’ He was gracious enough to tell me that if I went where He asked me to, and preached what He asked me to, then people would always come to know Him as their Lord and Saviour.
My spirit came back into my body with an impact. It was cold, and I was shaking. Pastor Ralph started patting my face, and then slapped me. He pulled the covers up around my neck, then began rubbing my limbs to help the blood circulate around my body.
I have never been sorry I came back. God did three miracles that day. Firstly, He spoke to a man who obeyed and came to pray for me. Secondly, my spirit, which had left my body and gone to be with the Lord, came back into my body. The third miracle was that whatever happened to my brain, I liked this new one a whole lot better.