Of the many near-death experiences I have heard or read, Howard Storm’s account is one of the most remarkable and memorable to me. In 1985, Howard was a hard-driving atheist who thought as he was preparing to die in a Paris hospital that it would be a “go to black” moment, the end of his existence. He was in for a delightful surprise, as are we all.
Howard changed careers after his experience, as many experiencers do: He got a theology degree and became a pastor.
Some of the things about Howard’s experience that really resonate with me:
His authenticity and vulnerability
How his ember of faith rescued him
His long interview with Jesus Christ
His impression that Jesus not only loved him but really liked him!
His many insights into other worlds, the next life, angels, and the other side of the veil
This interview is longer than most but worth the listen.
You can find his book, My Descent Into Death: A Second Chance at Life, here.
When I was a young boy, I saw a UFO. I’ve shared my story with a few people over the years. Some have believed my story, some have pretended to believe. It’s disheartening. But I know what I saw. It was real. It wasn’t my imagination.
Maybe this experience is why I tend to be a believer and not a skeptic.
It was in the late summer or early fall. I was a young boy, 5 or 6 years old. One afternoon, I was playing football—or the comical grade school version of it—with three or four friends in a neighbor’s huge backyard. I don’t know who caught sight of it first, but gasps and shouts got everyone’s attention focused on an unusual sight in the sky.
Across the street and hovering a few hundred feet above another neighbor’s house was what most people at that time would call a flying saucer. I could see it between a pair of Lombardy poplars. I remember the place where I was standing and I could take you to the exact spot today.
The craft hung in the sky as if it were observing us. It was a luminous gray color. The bottom of it was wider than the top. The edges were soft and rounded and it seemed to be spinning and wobbling slightly. Below the craft was a small round protrusion with rotating lights of various soft colors—orange, red, green and perhaps a sort of purple.
I don’t think any of us were afraid. I personally don’t remember feeling any fear. We yelled and pointed at it and ran as a group in its direction. After being visible for 10 to 20 seconds, as I was running, it was obscured for a moment behind one of those poplars and it disappeared in an instant, as if a window to another dimension opened up and swallowed it whole.
I have a vague recollection of telling my parents what had happened later that night. I recall my father smiling and dismissing my story as only my imagination. A bit ashamed, I kept the story to myself for many years.
Recently I retold the story to a close friend, one who was there with me that afternoon. He confirmed that he saw the same UFO and remembered many of the details exactly as I have shared them with you.
So why do I tell this story to you, to further embarrass myself? No, I’m not worried about that at all. Am I trying to convince you to believe me? No, not that either. I’m just telling you about an experience I had. You can believe or disbelieve me. That’s up to you.
The truth is the truth, whether we believe it or not. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but I fear our understanding of the truth can trip us up at times. I’ve been tripped up many times, for sure. And I’ve tripped up others. For that I am sincerely and deeply sorry.
We can believe whatever we want to believe. It’s our choice. No one can make that choice for us. No one can talk us into believing anything without our permission and nobody should.
I have always been a believer. I have believed that Jesus was the Savior of the world from the time I was a small boy. It always gave me a warm glow just to think about Him. It still does, but that warm glow has turned into a bonfire of belief.
When you believe something, true or not, you often find confirming evidence because of something called confirmation bias, which can be misleading. The more conscious we can be of our bias, the better. Less tripping up that way.
To some, believing in UFOs or alien beings or Bigfoot or other cryptids may seem contrary to traditional Christian beliefs. Some find it hard to wedge such things in to a preconceived reality.
Here’s how I look at it: Can you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that UFOs do not exist? You can’t. On the other hand, can I prove to you that they do exist? I can’t. But the reality of my experience has proved it to me. I’ll just leave it at that.
I’m the only one accountable for my beliefs and choices. Yes, I’ve been sideswiped many times by other people’s choices as I’m sure you have. Others can influence us, but you and I alone can choose what to accept, believe, and how to live.
You choose to believe what you believe usually based on your experience; I choose likewise. My experience in faith, politics, career, and family is so different from yours that I can’t see the world like you do and you can’t see my world, either. But I trust you and I don’t want to disrespect what you have experienced or believe. I honor you. We are living in different worlds, so to speak, and I refuse to judge the world you live in.
I am not out—er, I am no longer out—to try to convince anyone about anything. I may share my feelings, beliefs, far out stories, or invite you to consider something new, but I won’t try to “get you” to believe me. Not anymore. Nuh uh.
You’re a sovereign being. You have freedom of choice. I don’t know of a weightier eternal principle than agency, the freedom to choose and believe as you will.
Freedom of choice, however, is not freedom from law, whether we are aware of those laws or not. If you walk off the edge of a cliff, for instance, the law of gravity will remind you, perhaps one last time, that you are not in charge of the results of your final choice.
Angels or wrecking ball incoming. Our choice.
I’ve suffered from bait-and-switch offers. I’m sure you have too. But the results of those choices, harmless or harmful, have shaped my beliefs and, sometimes after multiple failures, have sharpened them to be more accurate perceptions of reality and more helpful to me and others.
What you believe and what you don’t believe makes all the difference. It’s all on you, ultimately. And I choose to love you, no matter what you choose to believe or do.
Behold the Man — the New Testament story of Passion Week, including the anointing, triumphal entry, final teachings, end-times prophecy, last supper, suffering, arrest, trial, conviction, crucifixion, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, combing the four gospel accounts into one
At some time before the Second Coming of Christ, faithful saints—those on earth who are still mortal and those who’ve died—will be caught up to meet Jesus in the sky.
Sounds like something I want to be part of. How about you?
There’s plenty of chatter going on about the rapture online and I thought I would re-explore a Latter-day Saint perspective on it.
So, why is called “the Rapture” and when will it take place?
Definitions of Rapture
In ordinary English, rapture means “an expression or manifestation of ecstasy or passion [or a] a state or experience of being carried away by overwhelming emotion.” To many Christians, the Rapture means being caught up or swept away to meet Jesus in the air at a special time preceding His Second Coming.
The word rapture doesn’t actually appear in any English translation of the New Testament, but a form of it appears in the Latin Vulgate translated by Jerome in the late fourth century AD where is appears as a declension of the Latin rapior.
The Greek word in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, a key New Testament text for the Rapture, is ἁρπαγησόμεθα (harpagisometha) which means “to seize, carry off by force . . . to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly . . . to snatch out or away” (see The Online Greek Bible for 1 Thessalonians 4:17).
With the Trump of God
An important text supporting this event is found in chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians, just mentioned. Here’s verses 14–17:
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:14–17; emphasis added.)
It’s interesting that the Greek word for cloud (νέφος, nephos [ne/fos]) can mean several things: a cloud, a mass of clouds, or, metaphorically, a cloud or multitude of people. This reminds me that Jesus will not be alone when He comes, for Jude quotes Enoch saying that He “cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (see Jude 1:14; compare 1 Thessalonians 3:14).
When the Resurrection Began
The resurrection of the dead began with Jesus on Easter Morning, or as some prefer, Resurrection Morning. He was the “firstfruits of them that slept” (see 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23),but others were resurrected at that time as well. Matthew writes of the time shortly after Christ’s death and Resurrection:
And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saintswhich sleptarose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matthew 27:52–53; compare 3 Nephi 23:9.)
It follows that possibly many saints have been resurrected since that time and, hidden from the knowledge of the world, will continue to be resurrected until they appear when Christ appears “in the clouds.”
Speaking of Enoch, he and his city of sanctified souls were likewise caught up to heaven before the destruction caused by Noah’s flood (see Genesis 5:19–24; Moses 7:68–69). For context, Enoch was translated some 70 years before Noah was born, and the flood occurred when Noah was about 500 years old. Yes, 500 years. People had long lives before the flood—and apparently used their time to get into a lot of trouble.
Enoch’s translation is a type of the Rapture which will likewise protect and preserve believers from the destruction that will occur during what is commonly believed by many as the tribulation, a seven-year period that will include a “great tribulation” before Christ’s foot rests upon the Mount of Olives (see Zechariah 14:4; compare Doctrine and Covenants 45:48–53).
This tribulation is much disputed. Views on the timing of this and other end-time events abounds. Click here to view a section of a Wikipedia article with brief comparisons.
The Savior told four of His disciples in a private meeting on the Mount of Olives that when His followers see a desolating abomination they were to immediately flee Jerusalem:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. (Matthew 24:21; emphasis added).
For centuries, much has been made of the tribulation—also known as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (see Jeremiah 30:7)—by scholar and laymen alike. Some believe that this tribulation has been happening since the time of Christ; others see it concentrated in a seven-year period, during Daniel’s seventieth week, so called, and immediately preceding “the day of vengeance” (see, for example, Isaiah 63:4; see also “day of vengeance” under Vengeance in the Topical Guide).
During this season, the “tribulation saints” and others who remain on earth after the Rapture will be tried and tested “such as was not since the beginning of the world” (see Matthew 24:21 above).
I’m unsure of the Lord’s timing and I try to not get wrapped around the wrong axle, but it is clear a rapture of both resurrected and living saints will precede Christ’s decisive return to the earth. How much before, I don’t really know.
Modern Revelation about the Rapture
The Doctrine and Covenants also speaks of this amazing day:
And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—they are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God. (D&C 88:96–98; compare D&C 109:75; see also D&C 78:20–21; emphasis added.)
So when Christ comes again, He will come with “tens of thousands” of saints and will be joined by many thousands, probably millions, of saints who are yet mortal or who have not yet been resurrected. Those who will be resurrected at this time will be “first caught up to meet him” (emphasis mine).
A Spectacular Moment
The Lord hinted at this dramatic time in His Olivet discourse when He said:
Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. (Matthew 24:40–41; emphasis added.)
What a spectacular moment this Rapture will be! Imagine when potentially millions of the faithful are caught up to heaven: people taking a test at school, working in factories, riding on a bus, flying in airplanes, going about their normal business. Gone.
But an even more important moment is this moment. What can we do, you and I, right now to better prepare ourselves for this mind-blowing time we’re living in?
P.S. I’ve collected over a hundred online stories about Rapture and end-times dreams and visions; you’ll find them here. Yes, not everyone has the purest motives when sharing dreams or visions and the impressions of other persons have little bearing on you; however, there is some consistency in the details and timing, and hundreds, perhaps thousands are sharing. Given the times, they’re something interesting to consider.
Our King is the King of the Jews, the King of Israel, the King of righteousness the King of all the ages, the King of Heaven, the King of Glory, the King of Kings and Lord of lords.
I wonder, do you know Him? Do you really?
He was a prophet before Moses, a priest after Melchizedek, a champion like Joshua, an offering in the place of Isaac, a king from the line of David, a wise counselor above Solomon, a beloved, rejected, exalted son like Joseph.
The heavens declare His glory, and the firmament His handiwork, He who is, who was, who always will be, the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and the Tau, the first fruits of them that slept, the “I AM that I AM,” the voice out of the burning bush.
He is the Captain of the Lord’s host, He is the conqueror of Jericho, He is enduringly strong, He is entirely sincere, He is eternally steadfast, He is immortally graceful, He is imperially powerful, He is impartially merciful.
He is the greatest phenomenon to ever cross the horizon of this world.
In Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead, our Kinsman-Redeemer, our Avenger of Blood, our City of Refuge, our eternal High Priest, our perennial prophet, our reigning King.
He’s the loftiest idea in literature, He’s the fundamental doctrine of theology, He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism! He’s the Miracle of the Ages, the superlative of everything good.
We are the beneficiaries of His love letter, written in blood on a wooden cross, erected in Judea 2,000 years ago. No means can measure the limits of His limitless love.
He was crucified on a cross of wood, yet He made the hill on which is stood. By Him were all things made that were made, and without Him was not anything made that was made, and by Him all things hold together.
What held Him to that cross? It wasn’t the nails! It was His love for you and me.
He was born of a woman so we could be born of God. He humbled Himself below all things so we could be lifted up. He became a servant so we could be heirs with Him. He suffered rejection so we could become His friends. He denied Himself so we could freely receive all things. He gave Himself so He could bless us in every way.
He’s available to all, to the tempted and the tried, He blesses the young, He cleanses the lepers, He defends the feeble, He delivers the captives, He discharges the debtors, He forgives the sinners.
He franchises the meek, He guards the besieged, He heals the sick, He provides strength to the weak, He regards the aged, He rewards the diligent, He serves the unfortunate, He sympathizes and He reaches down to save.
His offices are manifold, His reign is righteous, His promises are sure, His goodness is limitless, His light is matchless, His grace is sufficient, His love never changes, His mercy is everlasting, His Word is more than enough, His yoke is easy and His burden is light!
He’s indescribable, He’s incomprehensible, He’s irresistible, and He’s invincible!
The heavens cannot contain Him and man cannot explain Him, The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him and found they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find fault with Him, the witnesses couldn’t agree against Him. Herod couldn’t kill him, death couldn’t handle Him, and the grave couldn’t hold him!
He has always been and always will be. You can’t impeach Him and He isn’t going to resign! His name is above every name and at the name of Yeshua Mashiach every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, who reigns in power and glory, forever and forever. Amen and amen.
I found the fascinating near-death experience of Tricia Barker yesterday morning. Her joy is contagious, so I am sharing it with you today.
At 22, Tricia was on her way to run a 10K race in Austin, Texas when she was hit head on at 65 miles per hour. She died for two and a half minutes during surgery, but came back with the story of an incredible encounter with angels and God who gave her a very clear mission.
I bought Tricia’s well-written book on audio immediately and listened to the entire recording in one day. It was heart crushing, as profound, devastating, and haunting as it was redemptive.
I was amazed and even shocked by what she has been through in her life. Some people make incredible sacrifices to be able to teach others how to live life joyfully. I believe Tricia Barker is one of those people. Her YouTube channel is Near Death Experience: Healed by the Light.
We often hear that “no man [or woman] knows the day or the hour” of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This phrase comes from Jesus’s Olivet Discourse, recorded by Mark and Matthew:
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son,1 but the Father. (Mark 13:32; see also Matthew 24:36).
What is less common is a grasp of what this and other phrases reflect about a traditional Jewish wedding.
At the time of Jesus, when a bridegroom legally betrothed a bride, the last thing he would say to her is, “I go to prepare a place for you.”2 Well, that sounds familiar. Jesus echoed these last words of the bridegroom during the Last Supper:
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2; emphasis added.)
After the betrothal, the two were legally married but the bridegroom would not see her again until the marriage feast, which would happen immediately after he was finished building a house where the two would live. It often took a year to build the new home and was usually attached to the house of the bridegroom’s father.
It is also commonly understood by Christians that Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church represents His bride. He is already betrothed to His bride but the marriage feast—His Second Coming—has not yet happened, but perhaps soon will.
Back to the marriage tradition. A friend of the bridegroom would often visit the bride and update her on the progress of the couple’s new house. She, her family, and those close to her would then know when the time was short and would be prepared for the announcement of the wedding feast.
The bridegroom’s father would inspect the construction of the new home and once it was completed to his satisfaction, the marriage feast could take place. In this sense, no one knew the day or hour of the wedding feast except the bridegroom’s father, as he was the one to ultimately decide when the house was ready and worthy of the bride. (Reminds me of the parable of the marriage of the king’s son in Matthew 22:1–14.)
Once ready, heralds would shout the good news that the bridegroom’s procession would soon arrive to lead the bride to her new home:
Yea, let the cry go forth among all people: Awake and arise and go forth to meet the Bridegroom; behold and lo, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Prepare yourselves for the great day of the Lord. (Doctrine and Covenants 133:10; see also v. 19.)
The waiting period between the announcement and the procession’s arrival was no later than a half hour.3 This is reminiscent of the silence for half an hour before Christ’s glorious appearance at his coming (see Revelation 8:1; Doctrine and Covenants 88:95). This means that the bride had to be well prepared and ready for the bridegroom shortly after the announcement came to her ears (compare the parable of the ten virgins, Matthew 25:1–13).
Likewise, the time to prepare for the coming of the Bridegroom—our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—is now. I believe the time is short. We have had plenty to warn the senses in 2020, have we not? When will the Father declare that His Son’s house is ready?
Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. (Revelation 22:12.)
It is my faith that if we take the Holy Ghost as our guide, and repent of what is keeping us from having the Spirit with us from day to day, we will be prepared:
And at that day, when I shall come in my glory, shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten virgins. For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day. (Doctrine and Covenants 45:56, 57.)
The Joseph Smith Translation deletes the phrase “neither the Son.” The other synoptic gospel, Luke, does not record this verse.