In 1985, while in France for a trip for his art students, the avowed atheist Howard Storm has a sudden excruciating pain. He is rushed to the hospital and informed that he needs immediate surgery but the doctor needed for the surgery is no where to be found. Over the next day his pain goes from excruciating to the point of making him long for death.
Howard gets his wish and finds himself suddenly standing by the bed in the hospital room, feeling better than ever. His wife and friend are not responding to his calls, however, and if it were not for feeling so good Howard most likely would have panicked. What was going on?
A flurry of voices from the hall began to call for him to follow them, because they had been "waiting for him for a long time". He argues with them for a while and then agrees to follow imagining that perhaps it was time for his surgery. They pass through a hazy hallway, much less clear than the hospital room, and eventually the voices turn foul and aggressive. Before long he they turn violent and he is beaten, assaulted in every way imaginable, and then left for "dead".
Confused, helpless, and both "physicaly" and emotionally scarred in a dark place he does not understand, Howard hears a small voice tell him to "pray to God". After a prolonged attempt to try to remember how to pray, he finally mutters a bit of a Psalm and recalls a hazy memory of singing "Jesus loves me" in Sunday School as a small boy.
As soon as he cries out for Jesus to help him, a small light appears and comes closer and closer until it is so blindingly bright it would make a welding torch seem like a dying candle. It was Jesus, who touches and heals him, grabs him into his arms and takes him out of that hell and on a journey that touches the edge of heaven.
After a long discussion and traveling around time and space, Howard has had an education of a lifetime. He then asks to go to heaven and Jesus and the angels refuse. After an argument in which Howard is told that he has to go back and fulfill his purpose, to "love the person he is with", Howard lands back in his body. Back in pain, back in the hazy real world we live in now, enlightened and confused at the same time.
This is one of the best books I have ever read. It deftly pulls together all the strange things in our world into a set of answers that are satisfying.
One of the difficult things in the last century for humanity has been the increase of knowledge and globalization of ideas. People are struggling with a post-modern worldview that questions the truth of any claims about the metaphysical. The diversity of dreams, visions, and near-death experiences tends to make the discovery of any truth almost impossible to decipher.
Howard's story is desperately needed today. In it, we have Jesus acting as the loving deliverer Christians have worshipped and followed for two-thousand years outlining the answers to questions we did not even know we had.
The book is best read while also pursuing the hundreds of interviews and videos of Howard Storm on the internet. Thanks to YouTube, you can find these easily.
Yes, there are other worlds, other planets, other species. So many, in fact, that it caused Howard to ask the visions of them to stop during his near-death experience. It was so overwhelming and strange. God is a lover of creativity and diversity of life. Many of the lifeforms are peaceful and live in harmony with God and with the angelic beings. But others are worse than earth but with greater power and technology. The complexity is beyond our comprehension.
Yes, there are UFOs. Some of them are from helpful and even similar to angelic. This obviously was the part that I connected with, given my experience. But there is at least one other group of beings that are absolutely opposed to God and are similar to demons that are attempting to cause havoc on the earth. They have discovered a way to inter-dimensionally travel and have no good intentions.
Howard asks which religion is the best one, and the angels respond "whichever one brings a person closest to God". Clearly the ones that bring people closest to God, from reading Howard's other readings and talks, are the ones that point to Jesus as the Way. But many religions and prophets have existed that were inspired around the entire globe to push people toward God. People of all times and ages have had access to these teachings, even outside of Israel influence or Christianity's reach. This brings memory of Acts 10:34-35:
"Then Peter began to speak: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism, but welcomes those from every nation who fear Him and do what is right. He has sent this message to the people of Israel, proclaiming the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all"
Jesus and the angels make the case that the plan of God is that love will conquer the darkness. Each person is judged not on their accomplishments, popularity, wealth, or even their ritualistic devotion to a creed and a religion. They are judged on how they treat others. Loving others and understanding, forgiving, and giving to others is the final measure of our devotion to God.
Howard tells Jesus that when he goes back, he will spend his life building a perfect shrine to Christ to show the beauty and love he has seen, and Jesus says He does not want it. It will not help. God's plan is love.
This is in my opinion the entire point of the book. A person's life is judged by their love for others, and love comes from God. God and the angels are standing by at any moment, ready to help us to learn to love despite the awful things in life. If a person rejects this love, there are a variety of hells outside of God's love where a person is grouped with others just like them in all forms of awful torment and loneliness. But if a person simply accepts God's love and chooses to try and live in accordance with that plan, a heaven of perfect peace and togetherness with infinite worlds and variety to explore awaits that person.