Afterthoughts About HEREAFTER

A response to Clint Eastwood’s latest film

 Years ago, actor Clint Eastwood made a name for himself in Hollywood by portraying violent gunslingers and gritty, trigger-happy cops. It was Eastwood who played the hardboiled detective Dirty Harry. Looking down the barrel of a .44 magnum pistol at a criminal, he uttered the famous line,

“Go ahead, make my day.” You might say that the movie was about death and dying—since so many of its characters met an untimely end. “Make my day” meant: “I’m itching to send you to the other side.”


Now that Eastwood spends most of his time behind the camera directing, he has returned to the subject of death in his latest film HEREAFTER, starring Matt Damon. But where most action movies leave off—at the moment someone’s heart stops beating—this one picks up. It asks: Is there really life after death? Judging from surveys that measure the public’s interest in the subject, that’s a question most people dearly want an answer to. The movie tells the fictional story of three people who have a firsthand brush with death and who experience things while “dead” that lead them to believe they’ve found the answer: “Yes! There is an afterlife, and we enter it when we die.


Here’s another question for you: Is it necessary to rely on a screenwriter’s imagination for evidence that the afterlife is real? No, it isn’t. Last year I co-authored a book with journalist Keith Wall called Heaven and the Afterlife. We took a hard look at the latest scientific research into the survival of the human soul—surveying topics like the near-death experience, after-death communication, heaven and hell, demons and angels, and so on.


This year, we followed with a second volume, Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife. This book is a collection of more than thirty stories gathered from ordinary folks all over the world—culled from nearly 500 accounts people sent in response to our call to share their true-life experiences with us. Even many years after the original afterlife encounter, they spoke with fresh intensity and amazement, as if it were only yesterday. There was no doubt in their minds that what they’d experienced was real—in some cases even more real than daily life.


As we listened to their stories about what had happened in moments of medical crisis, or grief over the loss of a loved one, or when angels paid them a visit—it became impossible to reach any other conclusion but this: The afterlife most certainly is real, and it awaits us all when we die.


Anyone who researches NDEs in depth finds a number of astonishing similarities in the accounts of people from every walk of life. That fact alone is compelling evidence that these are not merely hallucinations or the last biochemical gasp of a dying brain. Though few NDEs contain all these elements, each of them appears often enough to form a coherent picture of what typically happens when we die. People we interviewed in our research reported:

  • The sense that they had left their body, with heightened awareness and the ability to “know” things instantaneously.
  • A feeling of rapid movement through a tunnel or cave to emerge into a place filled with marvelous light.
  • Being met by someone who comforts and guides them—a deceased loved-one, an angel, or other religious figure.
  • Feelings of overwhelming bliss, joy, and peace.
  • An eagerness to remain there.


By contrast, others reported ordeals that were dark and foreboding—even horrific. Where others said the experience convinced them that heaven was real, these people were just as adamant that hell truly exists, and that they never want to go there again.


Just recently I stood at the bedside of 93-year-old family friend as he neared death. I prayed for him, releasing him to “pass on.” He lost consciousness then, but told me later he’d “gone to heaven” as I prayed. “It is for real!” he said with joy in his eyes. “Heaven is real! Tell people it is for real!” A few days later, my friend died—or I should say he “relocated” to heaven.


Telling people that heaven and hell are real, and that there is more to life than meets the eye, is the reason Keith and I wrote Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife. If you see the movie HEREAFTER and it causes you to wonder “Could it be true?” you don’t have to stop there with nowhere else to turn. Evidence abounds that the answer is a resounding Yes!


Editor’s Note: James L. Garlow is the coauthor of “Heaven and the Afterlife,” “Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife,” and “Cracking Da Vinci’s Code,” with a half million copies in print. He is the senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, chairman of Renewing American Leadership, based in Washington, DC, and a nationwide speaker. Jim has master’s degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Asbury Theological Seminary, and a PhD in historical theology from Drew University. He has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX, and NBC. His daily radio commentary, The Garlow Perspective, can be heard on nearly 850 radio outlets. Jim and his wife are the parents of four children and live in San Diego, California. For more information, visit: www.jimgarlow.com.