I have a friend who is very sceptical about life after death and would like some sort of proof that heaven is real. He says no one has ever been to heaven and come back to earth to tell us about it. What can I tell him?
When it comes to “proof” we have to be very careful.
What we can give is strong arguments for the existence of life after death, but these may or may not convince the other person.
It is the same with the existence of God, where in one sense his existence is staring us in the face in his wonderful work of creation, but this may not convince a sceptic or an atheist.
The most convincing “proof” for the existence of life after death is arriving there and seeing that it really exists. But then it may be too late!
Coming back to your question, the following considerations may prove helpful. The first is that there are people who have been to heaven and have come back to earth to tell us about it.
The most important is Jesus Christ himself, who spoke often of life after death, of judgment, heaven and hell. But why should a sceptic believe that Jesus is God who has come to earth? After all, he was the son of a carpenter from Nazareth and he died, crucified in Jerusalem.
Well, we have multiple testimonies about Jesus in some very ancient writings, written only some 20 or 30 years after his death. They are, of course, the Gospels.
They tell us that Jesus not only claimed to be God but showed it by such remarkable feats as raising three people from the dead, curing a man born blind and prophesying his own death and resurrection, which came to pass.
St Paul too had a vision of heaven (cf 2 Cor 12:2-4) and came back to tell us about it. He found heaven indescribably beautiful and could only write: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9).
If the sceptic wants more recent “proof” of heaven from someone who has been there, we can tell him about Our Lady, who died in the first century and has appeared on earth numerous times since then and has brought about miracles that admit of no human explanation.
One thinks of the image she left at Guadalupe in Mexico in 1531 imprinted miraculously on a cactus fibre cloak, which has baffled scientists as to its origin and preservation, not to mention some of the details on it.
Or Mary’s apparitions in Fatima in 1917, where she told the three children several months beforehand that on October 13 she would work a great miracle. In fact, on that day the miracle of the sun was seen by some 70,000 people.
If there is no life after death or heaven, how is it that someone who died 2,000 years before can appear on earth and bring about such prodigious works?
One can also speak about the numerous miracles approved by the Church, which came about in answer to prayers to deceased people.
Every beatification and canonisation, with few exceptions, requires two authenticated miracles and some of these are truly remarkable.
If there is no life after death, how is it that prayers to a person who no longer exists can have any effect?
And then there are the numerous testimonies of people who have died, or almost died, who have experienced the judgment and have seen heaven and hell.
One of the most remarkable and well-known is that of Gloria Polo, a Colombian dentist who in May, 1995, was struck by lightning, suffered a cardiac arrest and was badly burned inside and out.
She saw her lifeless body on a stretcher in the operating room. She had died in mortal sin and was taken by demons to hell to see what she deserved for her sins.
Then she saw the terrible suffering of the souls in purgatory and finally her own judgment, in which she was condemned to hell.
The sins that condemned her most included aiding and participating in abortion, receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin, fortune-telling, and speaking evil of priests.
She was given a second chance and came back to life on condition that she share her experience with others.
She has done this all over the world and on the Internet, writing her account in the book Struck by Lightning: Death, Judgment and Conversion.
Yes, there is life after death. There is a judgment, hell, purgatory and heaven and we should do everything possible to prepare ourselves for it. Now, before it is too late.