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Greg Laurie and Lee Strobel: The Case for Heaven

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2022 3:00 am

Greg Laurie and Lee Strobel: The Case for Heaven

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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April 18, 2022 3:00 am

Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg welcomes a special guest, Lee Strobel, to discuss Heaven and the afterlife.

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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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Hey, everybody. You're listening to A New Beginning, which is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners. If this program has impacted you, I'd love to hear from you. So just send an email to me at gregatharvest.org. Again, it's gregatharvest.org.

You can learn more about becoming a Harvest Partner by going to harvest.org. And I can't think of a better person to help us understand it more than the man sitting next to me right now, Lee Strobel. Like you, I've traveled around the world and often in very difficult situations. And then when you finally get home and you walk in the door and it feels so good, I think Jesus said, that's the image I want you to keep in your mind. Heaven is our home. This is the day, the day when life begins. Glad you're along today for A New Beginning, a special broadcast coming your way. Pastor Greg, we have a special guest with us today. Maybe you can introduce him.

Sure. But his new book is about the afterlife. Let me ask you, first of all, why do you think we're so fascinated about heaven and the afterlife? Well, we should be because it's, if you're a Christian, your future destination.

It is not the default destination for every person, of course. We decide in this life where we will spend the afterlife. But I think it's a really good thing to know as much as we possibly can about heaven. Paul in Colossians 3 said, set your mind on things above. Another way to translate that is think about heaven or to simplify it, think heaven. But some will say, oh, they're so heavenly minded, they're no earthly good. But I've met people who are so earthly minded, they're no heavenly good.

You know, heaven's a real place for real people where we will do real things. And I can't think of a better person to help us understand it more than the man sitting next to me right now, and unfortunately it's radio, so you can't see. But he's wearing a very nice blue sweater, and his name is Lee Strobel. Now, Lee Strobel has written a lot of books, probably the best known would be The Case for Christ, which was also made into a feature film. His books have sold like 14 million, right? And he's just a prolific author, speaker, apologist extraordinaire, and these are just the things he's asked me to say.

So I think, no, he didn't ask me to say any of those. But Lee's a good friend, and he's a voice of wisdom. And so, Lee, you've written a new book, The Case for Heaven, subtitled A Journalist Investigates Evidence for Life After Death. Why a book about heaven? Well, I think you're right in what you said, that people ought to be interested in the afterlife.

We're going to spend a lot more time there than we will here. And I think in light of the pandemic, people are conscious and aware of life and death issues more than perhaps any other time in my lifetime. I was having lunch with my wife at a restaurant, and this waitress was about 18 years old, and we were talking and she started to cry. And we said, what's wrong? She said, oh, I'm sorry, I almost didn't come into work today.

We just lost a family member to COVID. And I thought, here's a young person, maybe 18 years old, probably never thought about life and death, probably never thought about the afterlife. But now she's full of questions.

Now death has come knocking on her family door. So I think people are more and more interested these days in the question of what actually occurs when we close our eyes for the last time in this world. And I think, frankly, Greg, that extends to the question of hell as well. I mean, you're one of the few pastors I know who's not afraid to talk about hell. And so I have two chapters in the book that examine the issue of hell, and it's an important topic that we need to, I think, as a church, pay more attention to. It is worth noting that Jesus spoke more about hell than all the other preachers in the Bible put together. That's right. That's exactly right.

And, of course, he knows the reality of it. Yeah. And so this is something we need to understand more, the afterlife, what happens, what happens to the Christian, what happens to the non-Christian. Here's some of the chapter titles, Near-Death Experiences, Heaven, a Guide, On the Edge of Eternity.

So you deal with a lot of topics. Like here's a chapter on reincarnation. Right.

Maybe somebody's listening right now and they think they have good karma or bad karma, and they're wondering how that's going to work out for them. Address reincarnation from a biblical perspective. Yeah. I wanted to deal with this question of whether or not we, you know, life is cyclical, as Hindus and some Eastern religions believe. What's interesting about that concept is it's the exact antithesis of Christianity in the sense that Christianity says that we can't earn our way to heaven.

Right. That forgiveness and eternal life are a free gift of God's grace to anyone who receives him in repentance and faith. Reincarnation says not only do you have to earn your way to heaven, but you can't do it in one lifetime. It is going to be so hard, you're going to do it maybe a dozen or a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand lifetimes you're going to have to. And by the way, in this lifetime, as you're paying off your bad karma for the things you did wrong in your previous life, you don't know what you did wrong.

Oh, my goodness. So you don't know how to correct what you did wrong. That's a major problem with reincarnation. You know, if you're suffering and you say, oh, you're suffering because you're paying off the debt from your evil deeds in a previous life. Yeah, but what did I do? Well, you don't know.

So how fair is that? So, you know, there's some problems, some logical problems with reincarnation. Well, that kind of brings up the subject of, you know, someone who says, I believe that all roads lead to God, and I believe that all religions effectively teach the same thing. Which is another way of saying this, I have no idea what I'm talking about. That's right. I've never looked into any of these things because if I had, I would know that that's not even remotely true.

That's exactly right. I mean, you would have to just take a surface-level look at where religions say that they all teach the same thing. They don't. Go to the Qur'an. Surah 4, verse 156 says that Jesus didn't die on the cross. Wow. Well, wait a minute, that contradicts what Christianity says.

Exactly. If he didn't die on the cross, he wasn't resurrected either. The Qur'an says that God does not have a son. The Qur'an says that one cannot bear the sins of another. So the very things we need to believe as Christians are specifically denied in the Qur'an.

So you're exactly right. The world religions contradict each other in so many fundamental ways that they cannot all be true. And interestingly, of all the world religions I've studied, the only one that is based on grace, that is based on salvation being a free gift of God's grace, is Christianity. Every other world religion is based on the do plan. You've got to do something to earn your way to God. Christianity is based on the done plan.

That's right. You know, it is done. Jesus says it's accomplished. He paid for our sins on the cross.

He offers forgiveness out of a gift of his grace. You may not know this, you who are listening not, but I'm speaking with Lee Strobel, who has written a brand new book called The Case for Heaven, but Lee was a journalist. You worked with the Chicago Tribune. Right. You were an atheist. Yes. And your wife, Leslie, came to Christ. Yeah. And you tried to talk her out of it. Yeah.

And tell us what happened. Yeah, I mean, I thought, give me a weekend and I can disprove Christianity. Wow. You were quite confident, weren't you? I was quite confident. Well, yeah, I was trained at Yale Law School.

I had a journalism degree from Missouri and was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. So I knew what evidence was, and I figured, well, golly, give me maybe a three-day weekend. You know, I can disprove it. But even as an atheist, I recognize that the foundation of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus.

Yeah. Because anybody can claim to be God. Jesus clearly did. You know, Jesus at one point said, I and the Father are one. And the Greek word for one there is not masculine. It's neuter, which means Jesus was not saying, I and the Father are the same person. He was saying, I and the Father are the same thing. We're one in nature.

We're one in essence. And the audience got what he was saying. They picked up someone to kill him and said, you're just a man. You're claiming to be God. So Jesus claimed to be God. But I could claim to be God. You could, anybody could claim to be God. But if Jesus claimed to be God, died, and then three days later returned from the dead, that's pretty good evidence he's telling the truth, that he is who he claimed to be.

So I recognized as a skeptic that the resurrection was the linchpin of Christianity. So I used my journalism background, my legal background, and spent two years investigating the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. And interestingly, when I was at Yale Law School, one of my heroes was a guy named Sir Lionel Lucku. Sir Lionel is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful attorney who ever lived.

He won more murder trials in a row than any attorney ever as a defense attorney. I mean, he understood what evidence is. He understood how to take what looks like an airtight case against his client and find all the loopholes. I mean, this guy understood what evidence really represented. He was a skeptic about the resurrection, as I was. And somebody challenged him and said, why don't you take your monumental legal skills and apply it to the historical record and come to an informed conclusion about the resurrection? So he said, OK, I'll do that. He spent several years doing exactly what I did. And I'll quote his conclusion in one sentence. He said, I say unequivocally that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof, which leaves absolutely no room for doubt.

This from the greatest attorney who ever lived. It's amazing. Yeah. So after two years, Greg, it was a Sunday afternoon. I sat down with all the evidence I'd collected and I kind of went through it one more time. And then I sat back and I said, wait a second. In light of this avalanche of evidence that points so powerfully toward the truth of Christianity, I realized it would take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a Christian.

Yeah. You know, that the most logical and rational thing I could do would be to reach the verdict that Jesus did return from the dead. He proved he's a son of God. And so I came to that conclusion and and then Leslie pointed out a verse to me. John 112 says, But as many as received him to them, he gave the right to become a child of God, even to those who believe in his name. And I looked at that verse and I realized it forms an equation of what it means to become a child of God.

Believe plus receive equals become. So I said, OK, I got the belief part down based on the evidence, but I needed to receive this free gift of forgiveness and eternal life, this gift of grace. And so I got on my knees and I poured out a confession of a lifetime of immorality that would curl your hair.

And then I received complete and total forgiveness through Jesus and became a child of God. And Leslie threw her arms around my neck and she's crying. And she said, I almost gave up on you a thousand times. She said, I met some women at church when I was a new Christian. I told him about you. I said, I don't have any hope for my husband.

He's a hard-headed, hard-hearted legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. He's never going to bend his knee to Jesus. And this one elderly saint named Sylvia put her arm around Leslie's shoulder and pulled her to the side and said, Oh, Leslie, no one is beyond hope. And she gave her a verse from the Old Testament, Ezekiel 36, 26. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit within you.

I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And so my wife, which I never knew this whole two years that I'm on this investigative journey, she every day on her own, on her knees, in private, would pray that verse for me. And God began on November the 8th of 1981 when I received his free gift of grace, began to answer that prayer because my values changed, my character changed, my morality changed, my worldview. I'm all these things, my philosophy, my parenting, my relationships, my marriage, and it transformed my life.

And then to see my children come to faith, and now my grandchildren, one by one, just baptized our two oldest grandchildren within the last couple of years. And that's a heartwarming thing. You know, you hear of the Lee Strobel's of the world, but maybe you don't hear about the Leslie Strobel's. Or you hear about the D.L. Moody's, but you don't hear about the Edward Kimbles. Edward Kimble was a man that worked with young Dwight in his shoe store and shared the gospel with him. Dwight came to Christ and eventually became the great evangelist D.L.

Moody, really, the hologram of his generation. So these people behind the scenes that God uses, but this is a very encouraging word to those listening. Maybe you have a husband that has a heart that is hard like Lee's was, or a wife, or parents, or children, or whoever those people are, and you see that they're beyond the reach of God. And as Lee has just pointed out so beautifully in his own story, no one is beyond the reach of God.

So keep praying for that person. So Lee, you're still though, you know, you still have a great mind, you're still an intellectual, but you're a theologian now too. So you've brought these skills to the study of heaven. And I think it's hard for people to wrap their mind around heaven. And there's caricatures of it in films, you know, like It's a Wonderful Life, people watch it every Christmas, or even cartoons, or songs, and art. You know, so give us a few thoughts about maybe something you learned about heaven that you didn't know before, or something that impacted you about the afterlife.

Yeah, a couple of things. I think that when you look at Jesus and what he talked about when he talked about heaven, he painted the picture to his disciples of heaven being a home. And so it made me think, you know, like you, I've traveled around the world and often in very difficult situations. I remember being in India and, you know, sleeping on the ground and living out of a knapsack and missing home. You get homesick, you begin to long for home. And then when you finally get home, it's, you know, weeks and months later, you finally get home and you walk in the door and it's such a place of warmth and love and security and you get in your own bed.

And it feels so good. Jesus said, that's the image I want you to keep in your mind. Heaven is our home and those qualities of love and security and grace.

And so when we think of home, we ought to think of those things when we think of heaven. And somebody else said something to me, something recently that I thought was really kind of profound. He said, you know, heaven is kind of like having a vacation on your calendar.

I said, what do you mean by that? He said, you know, when things are hard at work, when you're working long hours and customers are difficult and your boss isn't breathing down your neck and the money's not coming in and things are hard. When you've got a vacation on your calendar coming up in a few months and you go, you know what, I'm going to Hawaii.

I'm going to Maui in a couple of months with my wife. And just knowing that's on the calendar helps you get through the tough times. And heaven is like that. It's like having something on the calendar, we don't know the date, but in our future that can help us get past the difficult times in this life. Because we say, yeah, it is hard, it is difficult, but you know what, I'm going to heaven. And it's going to be wonderful and beautiful and like a home, like I've never experienced it. And just having that in the future I think gives us courage and gives us perspective in dealing with the present. You know, I was thinking about how heaven is like, I likened it to what would you think if you were at Disneyland and you were waiting in a long line in the blazing sun.

And suddenly the CEO of Disneyland Park comes right up to you and says hello, he introduces himself, says I want to take you to the front of the line and skip all of the lines in the park and go on the best rides and eat in the best restaurants and this is my gift to you. Now if you were brought to the front, everybody else would resent it, but you would be a happy camper, right? And I think about when someone is maybe called to heaven early. You know, an early death means an early crown. And we think, oh, you know, I'm so sad.

Well, of course we're sad because if we love them, we miss them and that's real. But if you look at it from their perspective, to go from this world to the next world, to go from this difficult life to the beauties of the afterlife on that vacation, that permanent vacation that you just described, I mean, that's really the picture. And I don't think anyone in heaven, if given the choice, would want to come back to earth again.

I do not think they would want to. Well, we're talking with Lee Strobel today, the bestselling author of the new book we're making available called The Case for Heaven. Pastor Greg, you've made the point before that after your son went to heaven so unexpectedly, it really piqued your interest in heaven, didn't it?

Yes, it did. I wouldn't say I'm an expert on heaven, but I would say I'm a student of heaven. I've always believed in it, obviously. I've always taught on it, but that took on a new tone when our son was called unexpectedly home to heaven because I wanted to know more about where he was, what he was doing. I think one of the things that's so hard when you lose a loved one, especially if it's unexpectedly, is you miss communicating with them. And I understand why people want to try to communicate with their loved ones on the other side, but of course that's forbidden in scripture. And so when I hear people say, oh, you know, my son, my daughter, my husband, my wife who died is with me. I felt them today and they're guiding me.

I hate to tell them that that's not true. They're not guiding you. They're not speaking to you. As David said when his son died, he cannot come to me, but I will go to him. So one day you will be reunited with your loved one if they died in faith and you will be with them. So they're not just a part of your past, but also a part of your future. But when my son went to be with the Lord, I just really started digging in like never before into the topic of heaven, wanting to know more details, have a better sense of it, something I could almost imagine.

It's very hard to imagine, but try to wrap my mind around it a little bit more. And so I'm always interested in talking about this subject, learning about this subject. And that's why I'm so excited that my friend Lee Strobel has written a book, The Keys for Heaven. And the cool thing about Lee is, you know, Lee, I think it's true to say that there's still a skepticism in you. And I think there can be a healthy skepticism. You know, it's been said, skepticism is not necessarily a sign that a man is wrong.

It may be a sign he's thinking. And Christians can be gullible and just believe what anybody says. Oh, someone says, I went to heaven and saw X, Y, and Z and I wrote a book about it, and they may just believe it.

But no, we need a reliable source, which of course is the Scripture. But you go with the degree of skepticism, looking at these things, and you do research to, well, sort of like you're in a courtroom and it's a case. And tell us about how your brain works when you come to a subject and specifically the topic of heaven. Yeah, I mean, I spend a lot of time trying to determine who are the best experts in the world to talk to, because, you know, I can't be an expert on everything. But as a journalist, you seek out people who have spent a lifetime investigating these issues. And so I have interviews in this book with Dr. Sharon Diercks, who's a neuroscientist with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, talking about the existence of a soul, that we do possess a soul that continues after the demise of our physical body. I interviewed John Burke, who studied a thousand near-death experiences and has written a profound book about them. I interviewed Clay Jones, a professor who wrote a book called Immortal, which deals with how people try to cope with their fear of death. So I interviewed Chad Meister, who was interestingly a young man who was on the verge of suicide. God miraculously saved him from that. He became not only a Christian but now is a leading philosopher, and interviewed him about the evidence from philosophy that points toward the truth of Christianity and the truth of heaven.

So I had Scott McKnight is in there. He's a well-known theologian. Paul Copan, who's an expert on hell, interviewed him. I interviewed probably the most profound interview. I wanted to interview someone who was headed for heaven soon. And so I sat down and had the last interview before he died with Luis Palau, who was one of the great evangelists of our generation, shared his faith with a billion people around the world. He knew he was dying. He had stage four cancer. And I sat down with him to say, what's it like knowing that you're going to be going to heaven like any time now?

He'd already exceeded the lifespan that they had expected him to have. And so we had a profound conversation, and that is in the book. I think that'll encourage a lot of people, because even Luis Palau said, in these last days, Satan whispers in your ears, oh, you've pointed millions of people toward heaven, but you're not going. You've been disqualified. You're never headed for heaven. And the pilgrims wrote about this, the Puritans, that Satan will whisper in your ear in those last moments. And Luis said, you know, he had to come against it with the word of God and say it's just not true. And so he gives some great insights into what it's like to be on the precipice of entering into heaven.

Beautiful. That's all in this new book, The Case for Heaven. A journalist investigates evidence or life after death, and we are offering this book to you for your gift of any size. They help us continue to teach the word of God and proclaim the gospel here on A New Beginning.

This is one of the best things we've ever offered. It's a brand new book. It's powerful, and it's something that's going to help you be ready for the next life. Again, it's called The Case for Heaven by my friend Lee Strobel.

Yeah, that's right, and we have a copy waiting for you here at A New Beginning. As you can tell, Lee researched these subjects in depth, speaking with experts in their fields, people who have been studying their respective topics for most of their lives. And the findings are exciting and convincing.

Think of your friend who truly believes that the facts weigh against their being an afterlife. What great insight to share with him. Again, it's the new book by bestselling author Lee Strobel. You may be familiar with his earlier book, The Case for Christ. Let us send you this new release called The Case for Heaven. It's our thank you gift when you partner with us to help keep these daily studies coming your way. And your support also helps us reach out with the gospel, as we'll be doing this weekend in Idaho. Have you heard about the Boise Harvest? Get the details at harvest.org.

But we hope to hear from you today. You can call us at 1-800-821-3300. That's a 24-7 phone number, 1-800-821-3300. Or write, A New Beginning, Box 4000, Riverside, CA 92514.

Or go online to harvest.org. And be in prayer for the Boise Harvest this weekend, would you? Pastor Greg welcomes special music guests Jeremy Camp, Chris Tomlin, Andy Mineo, and Jordan Feliz. And of course, he's preparing some powerful messages of hope. Pray the Lord prepares the hearts of those who will hear Pastor Greg's gospel presentations. And if you know a friend in Idaho, well, be sure to tell them about this event.

Again, it's this weekend, and you can get the details at harvest.org. Well, next time, Pastor Greg dives deeper into this discussion of the afterlife with best-selling author Lee Strobel. Join us here on A New Beginning with pastor and Bible teacher Greg Laurie. A New Beginning is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners, helping people everywhere know God. If this show has impacted your life, share your story. Leave a review on your favorite podcast app and help others find hope.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-30 10:18:11 / 2023-04-30 10:29:09 / 11

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