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Best of 2023: Believing in the Hope of Heaven (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
December 28, 2023 6:43 am

Best of 2023: Believing in the Hope of Heaven (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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December 28, 2023 6:43 am

In this best of 2023 broadcast, Lee Strobel examines why our culture chases immortality and how we want to make a name for ourselves that survives the test of time. He shared evidence for the existence of the soul—and how science actually backs that up! You’ll also get a glimpse into what heaven looks like through the eyes of those who have had near-death experiences. (Part 2 of 2)

 

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Focus on the Family
Jim Daly

After 11 years, Brett's marriage had grown stale. He wanted something better for him and his wife. Focus on the Families helped our marriage from the standpoint of opening our hearts to see things from the other's perspective and to make sure that God is centered in our marriage. I'm Jim Daly. Together we can give families hope.

Donate at FocusOnTheFamily.com slash gift and your gift will be doubled. When that happens, when you have a brush with death like that and you don't know, am I going to close my eyes and open them in the next world? You don't know. This becomes very relevant. You know, all of a sudden the idea of heaven is not some ephemeral, you know, vague kind of idea that you think about maybe once in a while. It becomes the dominant thought in your mind.

And so I thought, you know, I believe based on the Bible as a Christian what happens when we die, but I'm also a skeptic. That's Lee Strobel and he's with us once again for another best of 2023 episode of Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller. You know, John Lee is so good at digging deeper, trying to find that treasure. And he did that as a journalist. And in essence, he applied those very skills to at first to disprove the resurrection of Jesus, only to find that he was overwhelmed with the evidence for it. And we heard that last time.

If you miss that, get the download or get the app for your smartphone. It was really good and you want to hear it. And today we're going to continue that discussion related to his book, The Case for Heaven. And I'm telling you, I know someone's out there going, Jim, you sound so excited about this.

I am. And I'm animated because I think this is the whole ball of wax, so to speak. You know, if we're going to just kind of get through the motions here on earth and not be enthusiastic about what's ahead of us, getting to heaven, interacting with the Lord personally, hopefully being able to ask questions like, how do galaxies work?

What was that one? You know, my mind goes everywhere and I'm like a little child. I mean, I am looking forward to it. And I want you to be looking forward to it as well.

Not with fear and intrepidation, but trust and faithfulness like a child. He's our Abba father. Let's go. Well, our guest today is pretty compelling when it comes to the research he's found. Lee Strobel has been here a number of times. He serves as the founding director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. He's a best selling author. And we're talking today about a book he's written called The Case for Heaven. A journalist investigates evidence for life after death. Stop by the show notes to find out more or give us a call.

Eight hundred, the letter A in the word family. Lee, welcome back. Thank you, Jim. Appreciate it. Thank you, John. I love it.

And I love this story. And for those that didn't hear yesterday with Leslie, your wife, coming to Christ first, coming home saying, well, guess what? I've become a Christian.

You're going, no. And that did apply a little disruption into your marriage. Oh, man. No kidding.

But, you know, at the same time, I love the challenge that you put to people who aren't believers to say, well, just go disprove it or prove it for yourself. You know, it's an interesting comment I had. I was in Israel doing a trip with Ray Vanderlaan. Oh, yeah. And I remember talking to a person, a Jewish person who would help him set things up, Boaz.

And I remember walking along the trail with him. I said, Boaz is a Jewish person. He was not a Christian, not a believer. I said, what? What's missing in Jesus's resume? And I remember.

Yeah. And he went, you know, I said, you know, goodness, kindness, love, mercy. I said, what?

For the Jewish people, I mean, what's not in the resume? And he said, hmm, never had that question. It's a good question. Let me ask my wife tonight. So he went home.

So the next morning, we're on the trail walking along. I said, Boaz, what did your wife say? And he said, well, we're not saying he wasn't the Messiah. We're just saying as Jewish people, we got a high degree of skepticism and we're not sure. I said, well, that that's a step in the right direction. So, you know, I just told him, I said to agnosticism right there. I said, I just hope, you know, after you do these tours a few times, maybe that light will come on.

And again, it's just such an amazing thing. What what is missing for that atheist or that non-believer in Jesus's resume that that they need in there to prove that he was the Messiah? And for me, as a journalist trained in law, you know, who has investigated history, you know, the nuts and bolts of history tell me that Jesus didn't just claim to be the Son of God.

He backed up that claim by returning from the dead. You know, it's interesting when in John 10, verse 3, where Jesus says, I and the Father are one, 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 understood what he was saying. They picked up stones to kill him because he said, you, you're just a man and you're claiming to be God. But you know what? Anybody could claim to be God. But if Jesus claimed to be God, died, and then three days later rose from the dead, that's pretty good evidence he's telling the truth.

Yeah, whoops, maybe he was. Exactly. And that's the whole point, right?

Don't miss it. Don't live this entire life. I remember being in college and thinking that. That's what got me back to the Lord. I, you know, accepted Christ at 15.

I'm sitting in a philosophy class going, I'm learning all these things about Aristotle, Plato, all that. And I said, I should actually read the Bible before I reject it, right? And I was just on the bubble with all of it.

I didn't know to believe it or not believe it. So I, that was it. I hung up all the books at school. And for that semester, I got through it. But I spent most of my time reading scripture. And boom, that's when the Lord said, yeah. And you know what the relevance is today?

People think, okay, well, okay, you come to that conclusion, great. How is that really relevant today? It's relevant because if heaven is real, which I believe it is, and that's what my book is about, that heaven is real. If that is true, it's like having a vacation on your calendar. So in other words, if you're at work and your boss is breathing down your neck, and you've got a million projects, and things are difficult, and the family's going crazy, and things are hard right now, things are difficult right now, but you know in three weeks I got a vacation in Hawaii coming up.

My wife and I are going to get away. It makes the present difficulties easier to get through. And when we know that heaven is on our future calendar, we may not know when, but when we know someday it's on our calendar, it helps us deal with the present difficulties. Because we say, as hard as things can get in this world, guess what? I'm going to heaven.

And after 583,362,573,263 perfect days of bliss in the perfect presence of God, I'm not going to remember these present difficulties at all. Wow, that's a big number. How did you come up with that? And that's just getting rolling. That's so good. Lee, let's get into the content of the book.

In there you have a partner you've worked with for years, Chad Meister. Yes. It kind of comes down to Christian worldview. That's what we're describing. I know even now people are saying, ah, it's an antiquated word, worldview. But it's understanding the world through a Christian perspective. That's all that means. Chad has a really good pyramid to describe this.

Go for it. Yeah, now Chad was a guy, an engineer, who was on the verge of suicide, about to pull the trigger and blow his brains out, and God supernaturally intervened. He became a Christian, and now he's one of the world's leading philosophers on subjects of faith on the whole planet.

Wow. But yeah, he has what he calls the heaven pyramid. So picture a pyramid. On the base of the pyramid is the question of truth. What is truth? Well, we know what truth is. Aristotle told us.

Plato told us. Truth is whatever it is, it corresponds with reality. That's what truth is. Then you go to the next level, worldviews. Worldview is the lens through which we view the world. There's only three possible worldviews. There is atheism, there is theism, the belief in a god, and there is polytheism, belief in many gods. Those are really the only three basic worldviews.

And so what we do in the book is we analyze those three worldviews from the area perspective of livability and logic. And we find that atheism doesn't stack up, because under atheism there is no free will. Well, we don't act as if we don't have free will. Under atheism there is no objective morality. Well, we don't act as if there's no objective morality.

There's always a line. There's always a line, and so atheism doesn't make sense. Polytheism doesn't make sense because it blurs the distinction between good and evil, between cruelty and non-cruelty, but we don't live that way. And so what emerges is theism, belief in a god. That takes us to the next level, which is revelation, which is theism.

Then we look at theism, and we see that there is evidence from cosmology, physics, biochemistry, different areas that support the truth that there is a god. And then that brings us to revelation, the Bible, which is unique in its reliability. And then that brings us toward the tip of the pyramid. We get to the resurrection, the evidence that Jesus not only claimed to be the Son of God, but backed it up by returning from the dead. And ultimately the peak of the pyramid, which is the gospel, that we can't earn our way to heaven, that forgiveness and eternal life is a free gift of grace. So that kind of forms a pyramid that points toward heaven. And in the book, we go through that pyramid and show that the only logical and livable worldview is that of Christianity. You know, in that regard, Lee, it's so amazing to think of the distinction with Christianity. And I've had scholars say it to me this way. Christianity is the only faith where it's God reaching to man. All other faiths are doing things to earn your way up to God.

All of them. Pray five times a day. Live this perfectly clean life. Give alms to the poor.

Alms to the poor. All those works, as we would call them, the deeds that are necessary to earn your way in. And that's not... Christianity is the one that says, hey, I don't need your deeds.

I'm going to do it for you as a gift. It's the only worldview. It's the only religion on the planet that is based on what we call the done plan. Every other religion is based on the do plan. You must do something to try to earn your way to God. Christianity is the done plan. Jesus has done it for us and offers forgiveness as a free gift.

Okay. As a former atheist yourself, why do people not want to investigate that deal? Well, it's a good question. Is it pride?

I think it is. I think it's because they have lifestyles that they know would contradict the teachings of the Bible, and they don't want to give these things up. I will tell you, Jim, I was a happy drunk when I was an atheist. I lived a hedonistic life, an immoral life, and I liked it. I was a good drunk. I would go into bars. I was the friendliest guy in the bar.

Buy everybody drinks. And that was kind of my hobby, was getting drunk. I didn't particularly want to give that up.

I knew if I became a Christian I would need to, and yet the evidence for Christianity was overwhelming to the point where the only logical thing I could do would be to receive this free gift of forgiveness and eternal life. And then my desires changed. Then God changed my attitudes, my perspective, my worldview, my attitude, my priorities, my appetites, everything for the good.

That's so good. So often, again, we get mixed up in what sounds like antiquated language. So these are the idols in our lives. That's what the Lord's referring to about an idol, something more important to you than me. And again, I just want to challenge, I think the reason I'm inserting this is I just want to reach that person that's going, I don't believe any of this.

I love sitting at a bar. But, man, think about the really important things in life. In fact, you have a man in the book called, his name is Scott McKnight. What was happening with Scott and his heavenly experience?

Scott is a theologian, well-known New Testament scholar. He's written a slew of great books about God. And I went to him because he had written a book about heaven. And I said, let's try to clear up some of the misconceptions about heaven. You know, what are some of the common questions that people have that I have about heaven? And so I sat down with him for a day and just peppered him with tough questions about what the afterlife is going to be like. He said, you know, a lot of people think the afterlife is some ethereal experience, you know. We're ghostly figures. We're on a cloud somewhere playing a harp.

And he said, no, no, no. This is a new heaven and a new earth. This is the renewal of all that is good. This is a very physical experience that we will have.

We have resurrected bodies and we will be participating in festivals and in joyous experiences in the presence of God. And then he said something I'll never forget. He said, Lee, and in heaven every year the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. That can't be true. Do you think the Lord can accomplish that?

No, I'm kidding. Ken, might some things be beyond the ability of God? I've often thought, does he really care who wins the Super Bowl?

I don't know. I think orientation in heaven that first day is, here's the fire extinguishers over there. And then at the end the Lord says, and I really didn't care who won the Super Bowl. Anyway, Lee, one of the major points of apologetics is that with good comes evil. This idea that we know good because there is evil.

Kind of go through that. I think you met with a man named Paul Copan. Yeah, Paul Copan. He's a philosopher at Palm Beach Atlantic University, great Christian philosopher. And I have two chapters in my book about hell because I figured I can't write about the afterlife and not deal with the alternative, with hell. And there's a lot of misconceptions about hell. Again, the Bible uses a lot of figurative language to try to explain to us things that we can't even comprehend yet. And so it uses imagery of flames and darkness.

Well, both of those can't be true at the same time because the flames would light up the darkness. But they're intended to convey to us that hell is the worst possible experience that anybody could ever possibly find themselves in. You know, a mentor of mine when I was in my 20s said to me, hell in his description was where the absolute characteristics of God do not exist. There is no love, there is no joy, there is no peace, only weeping, only sorrow. I mean, that's the torment you're talking about, that God's character is not present there. We can't imagine.

What would that be like? We see in this world, yes, we have a world that has sin stained. We know that sin has affected our world. But his presence is around. But his presence is still here.

There is love, there is joy. Exactly. Take all that away, it's hard to even imagine what that would be like. But it's got to be the worst possible situation. Lee, let me throw you the zinger question. I mean, this is it. If God is good, why would he send people to hell?

You've touched on that. But I want to phrase the question for the skeptic listening. Or you can even include, if there is a good God, then why do people suffer? Why do children die?

Take any of those or all three of those. Well, I don't think God does send people to hell. We send ourselves to hell. We make the decision to not follow Christ, to ignore his gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

I mean, my goodness, what could God have possibly done other than send his own son to die a torturous death to pay the penalty we deserved for the sins we've committed so that we could be offered forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift of his grace. And yet some people say, no, no, no, no, thank you, don't want it, not interested. I'd rather live my life in the way that I want to live it. And so we send ourselves to hell. And I think that's an important distinction.

And it's bold, but it's accurate. I mean, again, it's a free gift. That's right.

You can't get there and say, you didn't give me a chance. Exactly. Lee, in that regard, when you look at where we're at with technology in the world today, I mean, I know there's wonderful efforts of trying to get the gospel, at least, those are the four first books of the New Testament, the story of Jesus, in every language and in every tribal language, and they are making progress. I know the Greens from Hobby Lobby are invested in that in a big way with the Museum of the Bible. But there is a big effort underway to reach that point, because the scripture actually says that this must happen before things begin. History is consummated.

Yeah, and so, bang, I mean, they are working toward doing that, I think, in the next 15, 20 years. And in that regard, the point, and the reason I'm even talking about this, is that people have the excuse they don't know. Well, that's true. And Romans 1, verse 20 says we're all without excuse, because we can all see by creation the power and the wonder of God. We look up at the stars at night, and we think, there must be a God. But, you know, nobody goes to hell because they lack information. I believe that anyone, anywhere, at any time, in any culture, who reaches out with the light that they do have and seeks after the one true God, will be given an opportunity in some way to respond to Him. There are some theologians, and I write about this in my book, I'm not necessarily in this camp, but there are some theologians who believe that those who, in this world, did not get an opportunity to hear the Gospel, or maybe even a child or whatever, or someone who's mentally impaired and can't understand the Gospel, that they will get a post-mortem opportunity to hear the Gospel. In other words, after death, they would get a chance to hear the Gospel.

Interesting question. You know, the Bible says in Hebrews, we are appointed once to die and then the judgment, but it doesn't necessarily mean immediately then the judgment. So, some believe that that might be an explanation for what might happen to someone who lives on some remote island who doesn't get to hear the Gospel. Might God provide an opportunity, either right before death or immediately after death, for them to hear the Gospel? That's been true of some of those near-death experiences. John Burke, who we talked about last time, talked about that, where Muslims are having that experience, where they're having a near-death experience and then Jesus appears to them. I think in his book he talks about one who comes back, becomes a Christian, his wife divorces him because, you know, what are you doing? But again, powerful testimonies of that. So, I don't know theologically.

But we can trust God. He is loving, he is good, and he is perfect. Well, to be honest with you, I'm in the middle of the night, I'm listening. Jean likes to listen to audiobooks and she falls asleep before chapter one ends. I get hooked, I'm into chapter seven, it's two in the morning, and then the next night Jean says, Jean will say, I kind of fell asleep fast, can you listen to that again?

Sure. So, I'm going to hear. But there's that one story that really caught me. And I said, Lord, that seems unfair that this particular person, this Muslim, had the opportunity in that near-death experience to experience you and comes back convicted, becomes a Christian, loses his family because of that.

He became a pastor. So, I remember thinking, Lord, that seems unfair. And what I heard in my spirit, I mean, it was very convicting and embarrassing, that it was, oh, do you set the boundaries of my grace? We don't know all these things. It's not explicit.

We don't know. And what's interesting, even Martin Luther apparently believed in the possibility of a post-mortem opportunity to hear the gospel. That's interesting.

It is. Lee, we wanted, before we end here, we want to talk about Luis Palau, your relationship with him. Talk about your time with him and what you saw in his zeal for heaven.

Yeah. You know, Luis Palau, of course, the great evangelist who had shared his faith with a billion people during his lifetime. And he was dying. And he was my hero and my friend. So, I went out to visit him. I had the last interview with him before he died.

And it was a powerful interview. I asked him if he was afraid of death. And he said, you know, I'm not really afraid of death. He said, the Bible makes it clear to be absent from the body, to be present with the Lord. He said, I'm ready to go.

My bags are packed and so forth. He said his dad, who died when Luis was 10, showed him how to die with a hymn in his heart and scripture on his lips. But Luis said something before he died that I will take with me to the grave. He looked up at me and he said, Lee, I can tell you from personal experience that when all is said and done, when you get to the end of your life, you will never regret being courageous for Christ.

I thought, whoa. And that means different things for different people. It means speaking up in a social setting that's maybe uncomfortable to share the gospel with someone. It means maybe taking a social risk, inviting someone to Easter services or Christmas services at church or whatever.

But are we being courageous for Christ? And I said, Luis, if you could send a message back from heaven to every Christian on planet Earth, what do you think it would say? And he said, I think it would say, go for it. I said, what do you mean go for it? He said, go for it.

Tell people the good news. He said, the Holy Spirit is your partner. His job is to convict him of sin.

Let him do his job. But you, you can bring him the best news in the world, that there is redemption, there is hope, there is eternal life. And he said, I would just say to my Christian friends, go for it. Let me ask you right here though, there's got to be a person that's saying maybe, okay, the evidence is there.

I'll believe Lee because he was this investigative journalist and he's done the hard work and he's proven it to himself. He convinced himself that Jesus is who he said he was. But you don't know who I am. You don't know what I've done. You don't know the depth of my sin.

Speak to that person at the end here to say, you're okay. You know, Philip Yancey, the great Christian writer, once said, there's nothing you can do to make God love you more. And there's nothing you can do to make God love you less. God loves you because God is love. And yes, you may have lived a sinful life.

Guess what? So did I. And I lived a hedonistic, immoral, drunken, profane, narcissistic life. But I found forgiveness and grace through Jesus Christ.

And he not only redeemed me and opened the doors of heaven for me, he changed my life in this world and gave me new perspective, new worldview, new attitudes, new relationships, new priorities, to the point where I go, why would I ever want to go back to that life I was living before? So true. You know, the Bible is 800,000 words.

It's a big book. But you can sum it all up in one verse, Romans 6.23. For the wages of sin is death. In other words, what we earn, what we deserve is death or separation from God because of our sin, our wrongdoing. But it says the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. The forgiveness and eternal life is a free gift of his grace.

And we receive it like we receive any gift. We receive it out of an attitude of repentance and faith. And when we do that, we become a child of God forever. John says in his gospel, believe plus receive equals become. In other words, as many as believed him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name. And that forms an equation of what it means to become a child of God. To believe, but also to receive this free gift of grace. Then you become a child of God forever and the doors of heaven are flung open for you.

And Jesus is waiting to embrace you and welcome you to dwell with him forever. Well, that concludes our conversation with Lee Strobel on this Best of 2023 episode of Focus on the Family. I love how all the experts Lee interviewed validated God's word and gave us a glimpse of what we can expect when we are forever at home with the Lord. And to you, our listener, I hope this has strengthened your faith and given you hope.

You know, this is why Focus on the Family exists. We want to give you the tools you need to build a solid, vibrant relationship with God and live in his presence both now and in eternity. If you're needing some guidance, please get in touch with us. We have lots of resources we can put into your hands to help you, whether you're seeking God or you've been a believer for years. We also have the amazing book by Lee Strobel, The Case for Heaven, a journalist investigates evidence for life after death. It is full of solid evidence and exciting thoughts on what we can look forward to as believers in Christ.

And Jim, I think there's never been a time where we need to be looking toward heaven like now. There's such a demand for the help Focus on the Family offers. We hear from thousands of people on a daily basis who need help with fragmented marriages and parents really stressed out by challenging circumstances with their children, so many others. Lots of families seeing financial strain, and certainly you don't have to look far to find upheaval in the culture and society and around the world.

So many uncertainties. There are so many people who need encouragement and hope. Well, at the end of 2023 here, it's the perfect time to share the hope we just mentioned, the hope Jesus Christ came to give us all.

And I want to invite you to join us, as John said, into the ministry to come alongside your brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing these difficulties and challenges. You can give families hope through your support of Focus on the Family. We ran the numbers this last year and discovered that less than 1% of the listeners actually contribute to the work being done here at Focus.

Less than 1%. So what if we could double that this year and double the impact we could have for the kingdom of God? I believe that you want to do that, so let's do it. Just $5, $10 would be a great start. And we'll make it super easy for you. Donate today, a gift of any amount, and we'll send you a copy of Lee's book, The Case for Heaven, as our way of saying thank you.

Let's get this done. We also have a special team of folks working this upcoming weekend to take your end of year donations. So please contribute and get your copy of the book, The Case for Heaven, when you call 800, the letter A and the word family, 800-232-6459, or visit the link in the show notes. Well, tomorrow we'll have another Best of 2023 episode featuring Dr. Erwin Lutzer helping you as a parent to pray for your child.

To put it simply, there are many parents who want good kids, but not necessarily godly kids. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. We'll talk with you, pray with you, and help you find out which program will work best. Call us at 1-866-875-2915.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-28 08:56:21 / 2023-12-28 09:08:35 / 12

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