I’m going to let this story stand alone; no explanations, no sermonizing, no clarifications.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” — John 14:1-3
In one of the churches I pastored there was a lady who began attending with her two little girls. Her name was Becky. Becky had a husband who showed up with her once or twice a year. His name was Pete. He was twenty-seven.
Pete was a good husband but wasn’t at all interested in church. You see, he was a hard-drinking, macho kind of guy and he would rather keep living that kind of life than do the church thing.
One day the unthinkable happened to Pete, especially considering his young age. Pete contracted cirrhosis of the liver, fueled by his extensive drinking, and it landed him in the hospital. So severe was his condition, in a very short time he slipped into a coma.
People in our church were praying day and night for Pete. Several church members went to visit him while he was in his coma. I visited him in the hospital almost daily and each of those days I would pray for him. And when Becky was there when I was, I would pray with her for the full recovery of her husband.
It was a terribly unsettling time, especially for Becky. She was looking at the prospect of losing her husband while she was in her mid-twenties and having to raise two children under five years old by herself. But the most frightening issue for Becky was that her husband was not right with God. He had no desire for spiritual things whatsoever. For nine days she agonized over the possible fate of her husband; and for nine days his yellowish-colored body lay in the hospital bed completely motionless.
Finally, on the ninth day of his coma I received a call from Becky. She said, “Pastor Chris, come quick. Pete has come out of his coma and is asking for you.”
I dropped everything, jumped into my car and sped to the hospital. When I walked into the waiting area near Pete’s room, it was filled with people. There were no less than twenty of Pete’s and Becky’s friends and relatives standing in joyful observance of Pete’s apparent recovery.
When I walked into Pete’s room, he said, “Pastor Chris, thank you so much for coming. I have to talk with you.”
Pete was still yellow in color from the disease that was racking his body, but his face possessed an unmistakable glow that seemed to radiate all over the room. I walked over to his bed and he told me his amazing story.
He said, “Pastor Chris, Becky told me that I was in a coma for nine days. But while I was out, I wasn’t here. I went to heaven to be with Jesus. He showed me all around. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was so beautiful I can’t even describe it. But Jesus told me I couldn’t stay because I wasn’t ready. I hadn’t received Him as my Savior yet. I told Him, ‘But I want to stay.’ He told me he couldn’t permit that, but He would allow me to come back here to receive Him as Savior. Then He told me to have you come to show me how to do that. That is why I had Becky call you. I want you to help me become a Christian. I want you to lead me to Jesus.”
I was absolutely blown away. Never at that time had I heard of a story such as this one.
When I recovered from my amazement, I took Pete’s hand and said, “Pete, nothing would give me greater pleasure. Just repeat after me.”
I led Pete in a simple prayer to receive Christ as Savior, which he repeated humbly and tenderly. When I finished I opened my eyes and looked at him. Tears were streaming from his eyes, not from sadness but from joy. If his skin was yellow from the cirrhosis I couldn’t tell. His face was shining. His cheeks were a red-rose in color and were glowing with delight. And through his tears of joy he was sporting a smile that stretched from ear to ear. He thanked me over and over again for introducing him to Jesus.
In a few minutes I hugged him and told him I would see him later. Then I left. I cried my own tears of joy all the way back to the church.
But I would not see Pete alive again. Later that day he went to be with the Lord…for real.