The cities of Heaven
Every so often in near-death experiences that involve a mysterious "city" of tremendous sanctity and luminosity, a city -- or series of cities -- that seem to be in higher reaches of the levels in Heaven are described.
Most people -- the vast majority who have such experiences -- aren't allowed to approach such places, peering from just outside. Or so it is stated.
Angels are always said to strictly guard entrance.
While so many folks who clinically die and return to earthly life tell us of encountering gorgeous countrysides and fantastic springs of living waters -- roads paved with translucent or crystallized gold, grass sparkling with what seem like diamonds, fantastically colored rainbows and plants that might have various enormous radiant flowers in addition to perfectly ripe and also abnormally large grapes (while music and an aroma of sanctity pervade the air) that seems like the mere entrance to the good side of eternal life, an area far removed from and below the "cities of light" that seem so off-limits to all but an exceptional few.
It appears that the cities are the place where the advanced continue to graduate higher and higher toward God. We think here of Mary of Agreda's classic, City of God.
Some say there is one grand city. Others say they saw several (George Ritchie in Return from Tomorrow). But this is only what they glimpsed during what are usually very brief sojourns to the other side. Two scholars named Craig R. Lundahl and Harold A. Widdison said, "Surrounding the City of Light and separating it from the countryside is some kind of a barrier that limits access to the City. [Some who have this experience] discovered that they were denied access to the City because they had not completed specific obligations back on earth." As they put it, "very few individuals have been privileged to see the City of Light. They report that the glow of the City is not the result of reflected rays of the sun as it would be on earth but as an actual emanation of light from the City."
One of the few who did enter -- it seems -- was a Christian man named Gary Wood who left his body and went beyond his car during a "fatal" crash that left him clinically "dead" for sixty-one minutes.
Wood told a television interviewer that after rising from his body and passing through the bucolic fields so many depict he saw the sky open up and spotted something he described as like a huge golden satellite that he knew instinctively was another part of Heaven.
He also described twelve "foundations" and gates of pearl, each seeming to be hundreds of miles in breadth, with the names of the twelve Apostle one on each one and an angel in front of the nearest: on guard.
Like George Ritchie and others, such as the famous (and sometimes controversial) near-deather, Betty Eadie, Wood said he was led to a tremendous "library." "I saw volumes and volumes of books," he claimed. "There's books of prayer requests, our spiritual growth in the Lord, and souls won to the Lord Jesus Christ, because that's the dearest thing to God." He saw what he called the Book of Life and his name in it. "It said 'paid in full by the Precious Blood of Jesus' so I had a right to be there."
He also saw -- as have others (including the well-known case of a Catholic businessman from Long Island) -- bleachers filled with people who were sort of a welcoming committee who watch matters on earth as people were converted, cheering and celebrating when this happened. There is good will toward everyone. "They weren't looking for the bad," said Wood. "They were looking for the good."
A fellow named Harriet Ovard Lee saw a massive structure of indescribable grandeur the dimensions of which extended beyond her perception.
"Space seemed annihilated," said another. "Apparently we went up, and almost instantly were in another world. It was of such magnitude that I formed no conception of its size. It was filled with innumerable hosts of beings, who seemed as naturally human as those among whom I had lived." This person was informed that it was a waiting area for those who had not yet arrived at their final abiding place. "Their surroundings and manner indicated that they were in a state of expectation, and awaiting some event of considerable moment to them." This alleged witness saw a total of three unique places -- a sort of waiting area, which was a place where there was still some confusion and suffering (purgatory?); a "city of life," and a second city of life. He wasn't allowed to remain because he had not yet fulfilled his mission. The second one (in the words of Lundahl and Widdison) "exceeded the first in its beauty and glory."
It seems (if we accept such testimonies) that the "cities" may be where new tasks and missions are given to those who have atoned, confessed, and expiated -- who have purified in other parts of eternity -- a pleasant but busy place. People there, said Ritchie, "appeared utterly and supremely self-forgetful" -- wrapped up in God's Work. There were what another said were "mysterious errands" and souls running them who seemed "very happy." No evidence of idleness (though some have described places of rest).
Important to God: learning and gaining knowledge that leads to wisdom (as opposed to worldly knowledge). Many in the cities seem to serve as "messengers." This person was told every person has a mission completely unique to that person. He said the Lord told him to come back with the message for others "not to bind to the condemnation of the devil" -- to always look for that bright place beyond.
[resources: afterlife books]