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Pastor Dies and Lives to Tell About It

On January 18, 1989, [Don] Piper was returning home from a conference in Galveston, Texas, when his car was struck head-on by a tractor-trailer truck, killing him instantly.

Ninety minutes after the accident, Dick Onerecker, a pastor who happened upon the scene, felt led by God to pray for the dead man. He did so, and Piper immediately returned to life. But for 90 minutes, as his lifeless body lay inside his car, Piper claims to have been in heaven.

Piper's recollections of heavenly glory have since been chronicled in 90 Minutes in Heaven, a book which has sold nearly 2 million copies and become a long-time fixture on the New York Times bestseller list…

"It was like nothing I could have ever imagined," Piper recalls. "When I was killed, I was immediately transported to heaven's gate. It was an instantaneous thing."

Piper refers to his heavenly detour as a "smorgasbord for the senses," being embraced and welcomed by friends he had known throughout his life, angelic choirs, and even a "pearly" gate—sort of.

"Although I didn't have a body as we normally think of one, I didn't see a single person who I didn't know," he explains. "There were relatives, there were friends who had died in high school, there were some of my teachers—there were people I had known all my life who had gone to glory. They were smiling, embracing me, and welcoming me.

"Then, as I looked over their heads, I could see the looming gate. To say it was beautiful would be a serious understatement. It wasn't 'pearly' as people say, it was more like it had been sculpted from mother-of-pearl. Then there was the light, a light I couldn't fathom as a human being, and there was an angelic choir that seemed to be singing every praise song conceivable all at once."

But almost as soon as Piper's heavenly excursion began, it ended, thanks to the power of answered prayer.

"My first conscious memory was 'What a Friend We Have in Jesus.' Here I was, in this crushed vehicle, staring at a tarp that had been thrown over me, holding someone's hand, and I'm singing a song. What in the heck is going on?"

Onerecker had prayed that Piper would have no internal injuries and no head injuries. Then he started to sing hymns, and Piper started singing with him…

Piper was transported to the nearest trauma hospital in Houston, where he spent nearly four months recovering from his injuries. His left arm and leg were almost completely severed, and had to be surgically repaired and reattached.

"I spent so much time in such terrible pain, and having seen glory, I wanted to go back," Piper says. "The trouble was so many people were trying to help me, and praying for me, that I realized I was here because people were asking God for me to be here"…

Today, Piper travels nearly two-thirds of every year, giving talks about his experiences, speaking to audiences of practically every type.

Condensed from an article in Today's Christian © 2008 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit Today's-Christian.com.

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