Twenty-seven-year-old Betty Malz had been teetering in the edge of death for six weeks. Though this pastor's daughter seems to have known the Lord from the age of thirteen, her spiritual life had significantly deepened over those critical weeks, causing her to repent of her past ways and enjoy closer fellowship with her Saviour.
Now she was dead. A hospital sheet was pulled over her head. Her family was notified.
For half an hour, medical personnel by-passed her room. The first to re-enter was a black nurse who screamed in terror. But it wasn't a ghost. Not only had the Lord raised Betty to life, He had miraculously healed her. Within minutes, she was refusing medical attention and doing things which, even if she hadn't died, should have been medically impossible. The startled doctor wanted to operate immediately. He didn't. She scoffed down a full meal intended for another patient, something that should have been so dangerous the staff feared the hospital she would sue the hospital over it. Betty should have had eyesight problems. She should have suffered from drug withdrawal and depression. She should never have been able to have more children. And in addition to physical miracles, she found herself instantly cured of racial prejudice.
Mrs. Malz's after-death experience was first made widely known by Catherine Marshall in Guideposts, May 1976. Later, Betty wrote her own account. We will mention only the musical aspects of her twenty-eight minute 'glimpse of eternity.'
She heard singing in eight-part harmony. (Malz, 1982 p131 - Malz, 1977 p86 f is less specific, merely indicating that it was more than four-part and once stating it was in 'many' parts) Many different languages blended simultaneously in song, yet she understood them all. The words fitted together with awe-inspiring perfection. It seemed she would never forget it. Regrettably, she afterwards could recall neither melody nor lyrics, except for the words 'Jesus' and 'redeemed'. (Malz, 1977, p87. In a church service in Africa she spoke of hearing 'beautiful, melodious tones' 'in all the languages of the world.')
The singing induced many positive emotions within her, including
a feeling of creativity. (Malz, 1977, p110) She even joined in.
To her delight, instead of her earthly, deep voice, Betty sang
high, clear notes like she had always wanted to.
(Details of Dr Eby's experiences have been gleaned from his book and from an audio tape of a message he delivered.)
In 1972, termite-infested railing gave way and sixty-year-old Richard E. Eby, D.O., D.Sc (Hon.), D.Ed (Hon.), F.A.C.O.O.G., plummeted to the ground. When paramedics arrived, they seemed to concur with his wife's evaluation of the grey-white body, the large pool of blood, the horribly torn scalp, the ceased flow of blood, the unresponsive pupils: he was dead. (It was later confirmed by a neurosurgeon who wanted to perform an autopsy on the body.) Even prior to the paramedics' arrival, however, his wife, and soon an entire prayer chain, had commenced fervent intercession.
Meanwhile, Dr. Eby found himself in Paradise. With the curiosity of a scientist he examined his new body and his surroundings. He noted the trees, flowers and hills. Heaven's light and fragrance also fascinated him. Several times in his book he refers to the new ability he had there to think clearly and with lightning speed. There was also a sense of timelessness and an awareness of God's unseen presence.
From the moment of his dangerously premature birth, dramatic answers to prayer were commonplace in his devout Baptist family. (For further information about Dr. Eby, see Appendix, Note 2.3)
As a schoolboy, he diligently studied and practised music. He later entered Wheaton College at a time when not only he, but the entire institution, had to trust God for financial provision.
At the college, he was heavily involved in music as a singer, horn-player and manager. Only in obedience to God's leading, did he join the gospel group, the Melodious Messengers. This, added to his band, orchestra and Glee Club commitments, meant that he had three hours of rehearsals every night.
With this in mind we return to the doctor's heavenly encounter.
Throughout his stay in Paradise he heard 'the most beautiful, melodious ... background music' he could possibly imagine. It seemed to emanate from everywhere and from everything. He described it as neither instrumental nor vocal, neither major nor minor. Linking it with the fact that he was in eternity, he said the music had no beat or tempo. Like Grace Murphy, he saw no musicians.
'Where does the music come from?' he asked Jesus.
'My son,' came the reply, 'in heaven everything I created has never been cursed and therefore it all resonates with me. I am the Composer of the new song that you are hearing.'
Dr. Eby says the whole experience drew him closer to the Saviour who suffered for our sins.
That's not quite the end of the story. Almost five years later, the doctor was given a vision of hell which the Lord linked with his earlier experience. In this vision (not associated with unconsciousness or death) Jesus said that He had shown him heaven; now he must briefly visit hell in order to more effectively inform people that because of Jesus' death they could choose heaven rather than hell.
For our study, the most notable thing about hell was the nightmarish
EXPERIENCES WHILE CONSCIOUS
When falling from a great height, disaster may be only seconds away, but for those brief moments, a person is quite healthy. He has not begun to die. In this sense, it differs from experiences so far described. In such circumstances, an enormous number of thoughts and experiences are often compressed into a few seconds. It is widely known that one's life is likely to flash through the mind. What is less well known is that ethereal music is also likely to be heard. The net result is that the victim is often more at peace and more able to cope with the situation than on-lookers. (Grof and Halifax, p132-5)
Dr. Maurice Rawlings treated a patient who had been severely electrocuted. The man remembered hearing beautiful music and a feeling of peace long before he regained consciousness. After waking, however, he could still hear the music. He even asked a bemused visitor where the music was coming from. 'There were several other details that he could not recall,' writes Rawlings, 'but this experience profoundly affected his whole life. Why music should have such an impact, I do not understand ...' (Rawlings, 1978, p91)
When Betty Malz was so ill that she was lapsing in and out of
consciousness for days, she heard the singing of hymns. She thanked
the nurse for the 'wonderful background music,' but there was
none. (Malz, p49-50)
An entire army was sent to capture one man. 'Those who are with us are more than those who are with them,' Elisha told his trembling servant. (2 Kings 6:16) Now that was hard to believe! So the servant was supernaturally allowed to see the invisible. The angelic host did not suddenly 'materialise.' Presumably, they would have still been invisible to anyone else. It was a miracle of 'opened eyes' (2 Kings 6:17) - a private, unverifiable revelation.
The Bible records many instances of the Lord giving people a glimpse of the heavenly realm. The usual means was either visions or dreams. (For example, Numbers 12:6; 24:16; 1 Samuel 3:1; Ezekiel 1:1; Acts 10:3; Revelation 1:9f) Scripture mentions surprisingly few instances when the spirit world was simultaneously observable to several people. Consider Daniel's experience:
'I, Daniel, alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves'. (Daniel 10:7)
Saul's Damascus-road experience is of particular relevance to our interest in the audio aspect of the supernatural:
'Those who were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice that spoke to me'. (Acts 22:9)
In fact, some visions were so private that the person involved was forbidden to divulge what transpired. (For example, 2 Corinthians 12:1,4; Revelation 10:4)
Obviously, we must totally reject any 'revelation' that is inconsistent with Scripture. (Colossians 2:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:2f; Galatians 1:8) However, Scripture clearly teaches that an experience is not automatically invalidated just because it is visionary in nature. An angelic visitation can be of God irrespective of whether it is recorded on audio tape with tens of thousands of living witnesses, as in Nagaland, or whether it occurs only in the privacy of one's mind.
The obvious problem with visions is that we are at the mercy of the truthfulness, sanity and spirituality of the observer. For fear of offending cautious readers, I had originally planned to restrict reference to such subjective experiences outside of the Bible. Yet such selectivity is without biblical foundation.
The following instance, whilst lacking the exceptional objectivity
of the Nagaland example was, nevertheless, considerably more observable
and verifiable than most instances.
A Protestant, missionary-run children's home in pre-Communist China was the scene of an amazing move of God. It was characterised by strong conviction of sin and repentance, followed by assurance of salvation. From the youngest (six years old) to the eldest (eighteen years), the result was transformed lives, fervent intercession, evangelistic zeal, powerful preaching and intense interest in Bible study.
An eyewitness account of these remarkable events forms the bulk of a delightful book by H. A. Baker.
A main feature and cause of the revival was a large number of visions, which took the Bakers by surprise. The missionary couple never had any of the visions themselves. They simply observed and cross-examined the forty ex-beggars involved. Occasionally, several children simultaneously had the same vision, even when they were in different rooms. After careful consideration, the missionaries concluded that the visions, spread over a period of several months, were beyond any psychological explanation and were completely consistent with the Word of God. The spiritual transformation in the children's lives was so profoundly a work of God, and the visions were such an integral part of the revival, as to render it almost inconceivable that they could have been a delusion.
Although usually not the main theme of the visions, the children frequently saw angels in Paradise joining companies of the redeemed dancing, singing and playing harps and trumpets. (Baker, p54, 71) Occasionally, a solitary angel would stroll by, singing to his own accompaniment. (Baker, p70)
The children learned through visions that after death they would each be given a room in the celestial city. In every room was a golden harp and a trumpet. (Baker, p58) (I gather from this that everyone in the city was endowed with the musical ability to play both string and wind instruments.) In other visions the children were taught to sing and play these instruments like the angels. Sometimes they would join in with the music of the angels and the redeemed. (Baker, p55 f, 71)
While in trances the children often moved and spoke in a manner
consistent with what they were experiencing. They were frequently
seen by objective observers singing and going through the motions
of playing instruments. At times, several were seen unitedly singing
the same song. They even danced together with closed eyes, keeping
time to music outsiders could not hear. Occasionally the children
would decide to sing a hymn 'they used to sing down on earth.'
Otherwise, both the language and the tunes coming from the entranced
children were unknown by the missionaries. (Baker, p56)
It was a revival in the fullest sense. A few weeks previous, the Spirit had begun to move in a very special way in a rural area in Pakistan. Now, in June, 1966, Rev. Geoffrey Bingham was conducting his last service before returning to Australia. Throughout that open-air meeting, the Lord was touching people in remarkable ways.
In a later chapter I will relate a musical miracle occurring this same evening that involved everyone present. This particular experience, however, is one that the missionary assumes no-one else shared. For several minutes, Rev. Bingham heard singing that was far superior to any human music. It was in harmony and pitched fairly high, though not extra-ordinarily so. The lyrics were apparently in an angelic language. They were certainly not English or Urdu. The song seemed to emanate from a specific location in the meeting and seemed to be directed to God in worship. He could sense an angelic presence but could see nothing.
Most witnesses indicate that celestial music is indescribably beautiful. I'm sure the actual experience would be beautiful, but I wondered whether 'awe-inspiring' might be a better description of the actual music. Theoretically, such music could be so alien and above our own that we fail to discern its beauty. Even with earthly music, many of us fail to appreciate the music of a different culture. Many of us even have difficulty having a musical appreciation that can span both the classical and popular music of our own society.
Rev. Bingham allowed me to question him closely on this point. He assured me that the western ear would find both the ethereal music and voices exquisitely beautiful, far surpassing any other music.
Nevertheless, appreciation and ability to describe are vastly different things. Anything from another realm would most likely be so foreign to all previous experience, that we would be at a loss to comprehend much of it. As would be expected from an authentic experience, especially one that had occurred very many years before, coupled with a desire to be totally accurate, Rev. Bingham was unable to confidently respond to many of my questions. A lack of musical expertise made it doubly difficult. So this man of God was unable to say with certainty whether instruments were accompanying the singing and whether, if human singers heard it often enough, they could master the music. Definitely, fallen humanity could not match the quality of the voices. The celestial strains were 'powerful, beautiful, edifying ... so glorious.' The unforgettable experience left him with a feeling of peace and an assurance about God's nature.
Geoffrey Bingham, highly regarded in evangelical circles, has an outstanding teaching ministry. The former Anglican missionary and Bible College Principle has a vast number of books in print.
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