Can I Know Heaven Is Real? With Lee Strobel [BONUS]

Heaven Real Lee Strobel

For billions of people around the world—and for me—Heaven is an awe-inspiring place, and I look forward to when I get to experience it in person. But there are so many who doubt that Heaven exists and question if there’s life after death.

Well, on this BONUS episode of the 4:13 Podcast, we get to hear proof from investigative author and theologian, Lee Strobel, as he makes a case for Heaven. He’ll explore the evidence for an afterlife as he addresses mankind’s biggest fear: death. Plus, you’ll get three reasons that you can know Heaven is real.

And if you’re someone who believes—without a doubt—that Heaven is real, then you’re in for a treat! This episode will affirm your faith and give you even greater anticipation of what’s to come!

Are you excited? I sure am!

I can’t wait to dive into this topic, and I’m eager to introduce our guest because I’m a big fan of his work. If you haven’t heard of Lee, let me give you a quick intro…

Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books and curricula that have sold fourteen million copies in total. He currently serves as Founding Director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. In 2017, Lee’s spiritual journey was depicted in an award-winning motion picture, The Case for Christ, which showed in theaters around the world. Lee and his wife, Leslie, have been married for forty-eight years.

I love how Lee approaches the claims of the Bible intellectually because there are so many out there who think the same way he does. They need proof—empirical evidence—as they process the facts logically and rationally.

And that’s the very approach Lee takes in this new film, The Case for Heaven, which follows his most recent book, The Case for Heaven: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for Life After Death.

The Case for Heaven was inspired by his own brush with death and resulted in Lee searching for answers to the most profound questions we all have, about Heaven, hell, and near-death experiences. The film is in theaters on April 4, 5, & 6, 2022, so be sure to see it!

But in the meantime, this podcast episode will give you a preview of the film and just a glimpse at some of the evidence that Heaven is real!

It is real, sister! And I hope this conversation creates a longing in you for your true home. As Lee says, “Heaven is our home.” We’re simply passing through this broken world to a place where we will dwell with the Lord forever.

So, if you’re in the valley right now, be encouraged that your struggle is temporary. Set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2), because He has prepared a place for you in eternity. Remember: Earth is short, Heaven is long!

I pray this conversation will give you hope, and not just hope for an afterlife, but hope for everything else God has promised. You can know Heaven is real, and you can trust in the promises of God because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

The Case for Heaven is releasing in theaters nationwide on April 4, 5, & 6, 2022. Get all the details here, and be sure to take all your people with you!

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: [BONUS] Can I Know Heaven Is Real? With Lee Strobel

Lee Strobel: It caused me to really think, what do I believe happens after I close my eyes for the last time in this world? I mean, I'm a Christian, I believe the Bible, I believe what it teaches about the afterlife. But I'm also a journalist, I'm trained in law, I tend to really seek out evidence and facts and logic and so forth. So I thought, what does the evidence show, what does the evidence of Scripture show? But what does the evidence outside the Bible show about whether we live on after our experience in this world?

Jennifer Rothschild: Heaven, for billions of people around the world and for me personally is an awe-inspiring place, but we only fully understand it once we're there. Well, today we get a taste from author Lee Strobel as he makes a case for heaven. He'll explore the evidence for an afterlife as he addresses people's biggest fear: death. You're going to get three reasons that you can believe heaven is real. So giddy-up, let's go. Well, let's go to the introduction, not to heaven right yet. Let's do the introduction first.

K.C. Wright: Let's do it. Welcome, welcome to a bonus episode of the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Now, your host, a woman who is so excited about this guest and this topic that I'm trying to literally keep her in her chair. Calm down.

Jennifer Rothschild: Calm down.

K.C. Wright: Would you please make welcome Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Calm down. This is a calmed-down Jennifer. Welcome. We are super glad you're here. I'm Jennifer, here to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you live this "I Can" life. And K.C.'s right. Oh, my goodness, you are in the right place right now, my friend. K.C. and I are happy you're here because we are talking heaven. And it is one of my favorite topics, I got to be honest, because the Bible says the Kingdom of Heaven is now. So it is real for them, but it is real for now, and so we're going to talk about it with Lee Strobel, which also is the reason I'm excited, because I love his work.

K.C. Wright: Same.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right?

K.C. Wright: Amazing.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's going to be a really good day. So whatever you're doing, thanks for letting us do it with you, because it's better when we're together. And quick thank you for all of you who have been leaving reviews. It makes such a difference. So thanks for doing that.

There's a movie coming out called "The Case for Heaven" --

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- based on Lee's book.

K.C. Wright: I've seen the preview. I'm excited.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's going to be so good. And it's in theaters right now or, depending when you're listening, right around now. But I got to tell you my favorite story about heaven, K.C.

K.C. Wright: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: This came from the lips of my oldest son when he was just six years old. Okay. So y'all know -- unless you're new to us, you may not know that I'm blind. I lost my sight as a teenager. So when I had our first child, my husband and I had our first child, Clayton, it took him a couple of years to figure out that his mommy couldn't see. And once he got old enough to really understand it, he began to pray that God would heal my eyes. And this was a real sincere prayer for him. Like, if it was before lunch, before his ham sandwich, or if it was at bedtime, "Dear God, please heal Mommy's eyes." All right? So it was super important to the little man.

All right. You need to know that because one day he and I were playing a game, and we were -- he had picked out a different game that we hadn't played before. And, you know, it's hard to find games that I can play that are tactile enough and not too complex. So anyway, he thought he found this new game. Well, it took just a few minutes before, like, little marbles were rolling and little men were flying. And I've told y'all this story before. If you're a 4:13er, you know, this story. And so I got real frustrated. And I said, "Clayton, you're going to have to pick a different game, because this one's not working. Let's pick one that will work." Well, he's super quiet as he's cleaning up the game. And he folds up the gameboard after he has dutifully put every piece back in their little slots. And then he puts the lid on the game and he said something. And you know how you know when somebody's like -- even though they're really quiet, you can tell their little mind -- he was thinking about a lot of stuff.

K.C. Wright: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: So finally when he put the lid on the game, he said, "Mom, I was thinking. I don't think God is going to heal you here on earth." Well, because he'd been praying so much that God would heal my eyes, I thought that was just spectacular. And I was like, "So why, Clayton? Why would you think that? Why do you think God would not heal me here on earth?" And he said this. He said, "Because if God healed you on earth, you might love earth more, and heaven is best."

K.C. Wright: Oh, wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: Isn't that beautiful? And I remember that day just sitting on that shag blue carpet next to that profound little boy, who didn't even realize how profound what he said was --

K.C. Wright: Oh, my.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- and I thought, Lord, let me live with that mindset. Yes, earth is great. And Jesus came to give us life here and life more abundantly, absolutely, and let's enjoy it to the fullest. But the Kingdom of Heaven is now --

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- and the reality of heaven then can inform today.

K.C. Wright: Come on. Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: And then someday our faith will be sight and we'll be there. And -- heaven is best. So if there's a situation in your life where your longings haven't been met yet, maybe the healing hasn't come yet, maybe God's reserving it for heaven. Because heaven is best and he wants you to love -- have your treasure where your heart is instead of loving earth more. I don't know where you are today, but I do know this. This conversation that I had with Lee Strobel is warm and inspiring, but it's also just so intellectually honest. I think you're going to love it. So I think if we can't get to heaven yet, we at least need to get to Lee Strobel. Right, K.C.? So let's introduce the man.

K.C. Wright: Atheist turned Christian, Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books. And they have sold -- this is crazy -- 14 million copies in total.

Jennifer Rothschild: Can you even believe it?

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: He's got a powerful message.

K.C. Wright: Yes. I heard that Kathie Lee Gifford gave "The Case for Christ" to Evel Knievel and he got born again from above --

Jennifer Rothschild: Hallelujah.

K.C. Wright: -- from reading that book.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, because God is using Lee.

K.C. Wright: Yeah, yeah. Lee currently serves as founding director of the Lee Strobel Center for Evangelism and Applied Apologetics at Colorado Christian University. In 2017, Lee's spiritual journey was depicted in an award-winning motion picture, "The Case for Christ." Which is amazing and you should watch it right now.

Jennifer Rothschild: Mm-hmm.

K.C. Wright: Which followed in theaters around the world. And it's an incredible movie.

Lee and wife, Leslie, have been married for 48 years. Are you ready for this? Settle in. You are going to absolutely love this conversation. This is one for the history books here at the 4:13 Podcast. Here's Jennifer and Lee talking about the film "The Case for Heaven."

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, Lee, it is truly an honor to have you on the 4:13. I have looked forward to this because I love your work, and I especially love what you've done --

Lee Strobel: Well, thank you.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- with this new topic. I really have loved it.

Lee Strobel: I appreciate that.

Jennifer Rothschild: And it's interesting to me because you do not shy away from anything that is complicated and sometimes what seems like it's even not provable. You know, those are your topics. So I'm curious, what made you choose to topic this itty-bitty little subject like death and the afterlife?

Lee Strobel: Well, it's because ten years ago I almost died. My wife found me unconscious on the bedroom floor, she called an ambulance. I woke up in the emergency room. The doctor looked down at me and said, "You're one step away from a coma, two steps away from dying," and then I went unconscious again. So I had an unusual medical condition called hyponatremia, which is a severe drop in my blood sodium level. And I lingered there between life and death for quite a while until they were able to save my life. And I found it to be a very clarifying experience. It wasn't all bad. In other words, the good side of it is it caused me to really think, what do I believe happens after I close my eyes for the last time in this world? I mean, I'm a Christian, I believe the Bible, I believe what it teaches about the afterlife. But I'm also a journalist, I'm trained in law, I tend to really seek out evidence and facts and logic and so forth. So I thought, what does the evidence show? What does the evidence of Scripture show, but what does the evidence outside the Bible show about whether we live on after our experience in this world? And that's what launched me on writing "The Case for Heaven."

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, I'm super attached to the concept of heaven. I'm a believer in Christ also, but I also, Lee, happen to be blind.

Lee Strobel: Oh.

Jennifer Rothschild: And it's been interesting to me how blindness has given me this greater attachment toward the idea of heaven, but also to the reality of it, because that's where so much of my hope on the bad days comes from.

Lee Strobel: Sure.

Jennifer Rothschild: But I think it's interesting that you mentioned the left brain of you is looking for the evidence. Okay?

Lee Strobel: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: So you talk about that you did find evidence outside the Bible --

Lee Strobel: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- for the afterlife. So I'm curious, how'd you get that evidence?

Lee Strobel: Yeah. I mean, I traveled around the country and interviewed expert scholars on various topics, neuroscientists on the existence of the soul. But the most fascinating thing to me was the question of near-death experiences. Can they tell us anything really about the afterlife? And I was very skeptical about that. I thought, yeah, sure, these people die and they claim that they met Jesus and he's 5 foot 10 and he has blue eyes. I don't know, you know. There have been fraudulent cases of people who made claims like that.

Jennifer Rothschild: Sure.

Lee Strobel: So I wanted to really research can near-death experiences tell us anything about the afterlife? And I found that there are about 900 scholarly articles about near-death experiences that have been published over the last 50 years in scientific and medical journals. This is a very well-researched area. In fact, "The Lancet," which is the famous medical journal in England, carried an analysis of near-death experiences and said that none of the alternative explanations for these can fully account for what takes place. So I began as a skeptic to say, well, wait a minute. I'm only going to look at those cases where I have corroboration, in other words, where people see things or hear things or experience things during this out-of-body experience that they could not have seen or heard or experienced if this wasn't authentic.

And, you know, Jennifer, what you just told me about your blindness -- which I was not aware of -- there was one study done of 21 blind people, most of them blind since birth, who had near-death experiences. And during those near-death experiences, they were able to see, many of them for the first time. And so you have a woman -- I'm thinking her name is Vicky -- she was blind virtually since birth. She was in a car accident and clinically dead, she had no measurable brainwaves, she had no heartbeat, and yet she said later, "I was conscious the whole time and I was able to see. I was able to watch these people trying to resuscitate my body. And then I saw birds and I saw trees for the first time."

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow.

Lee Strobel: And then what's interesting is in every one of these cases, when they were revived, their eyesight disappeared again.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow.

Lee Strobel: And one researcher said this is medically impossible, it's just medically impossible, and yet it's well-documented in the scientific literature. So those are the kind of cases I look at and say, Wait a minute. This is telling us something, that we do continue to exist in some way after at least our clinical death. These people are not irreversibly dead -- they're coming back, you know -- but they're clinically dead, no heartbeat, no brainwaves, and so forth.

So my favorite case of this is a woman named Maria, who died in the hospital. And she said later that, "Yeah, I know I was declared dead, but I was conscious the whole time." And she said, "My spirit separated from my body, I was watching the resuscitation efforts on my body, and my spirit floated out of the ceiling and out of the hospital." And she said, "When I was revived, my spirit rejoined my physical body." And then she said to the people in the hospital, "By the way, there's a man's tennis shoe on the roof of the hospital. It's left footed, it's dark blue, it's a man's shoe. It's got a little wear over the little toe and the shoelaces tucked under the heel." And so they go up to the roof of the hospital and they find it exactly as she said.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, my gosh.

Lee Strobel: Yeah. So something is going on here. And what's really fascinating to me is I interviewed, for the book and for the movie, John Burke. John Burke is the pastor of a wonderful church, a large church in Austin, Texas, but he's also a near-death experience researcher, and he's researched 1,000 cases of near-death experiences over the last 30 years. And his conclusion -- he's actually written a book about this called "Imagine Heaven." But his conclusion -- which he documents this stuff. His conclusion is that when you look at what actually takes place during a near-death experience -- not how people interpret it, but what actually happens -- it is consistent with Christian theology. So that is a breakthrough bit of research that he did in that area.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

Lee Strobel: So to me, this indicates that -- the Apostle Paul said to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. So we know biblically that when we die, our spirit, our soul, our consciousness separates from our physical body and we are either in the presence of the Lord or away from him during this interim period, this intermediate state. And then when history is consummated, when Jesus returns at the end of history and we are reunited with our now resurrected bodies, we go through final judgment and then we spend eternity in either a very physical heaven or a very physical hell. And so what these near-death experiences tell me is that the evidence outside the Bible supports this description of what the Bible has.

Jennifer Rothschild: Which is such an affirmation to the truth of Scripture. And it's such hope. It's such hope to the human heart. You know, even if they have not yet chosen Christ, it's still hope that there is something greater. And I think we've all been even more sensitized lately because of the pandemic.

Lee Strobel: No question.

Jennifer Rothschild: We've been so aware that we're fragile, you know. It's made more people curious, like what in the world comes next?

Lee Strobel: Absolutely.

Jennifer Rothschild: So I'm curious, did that affect or influence the way that you've dealt with this evidence?

Lee Strobel: You know, it was in God's timing that I did this project as the pandemic was unfolding. My older brother died at the beginning of the pandemic. And many of us -- 29% of Americans know someone who died during the pandemic. And my wife and I were having lunch at a restaurant in Houston, and we got in a conversation with the server, who was like an 18-year-old young woman. And all of a sudden, she started to cry. And we said, "What's wrong?" She said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I almost didn't come into work today. We just lost a family member to Covid." And I thought, here's a young woman -- she's probably 18 years old, probably never thought about death. Why should she? She's got her whole life ahead of her. And yet you could see the anxiety, the apprehension in her eyes.

And so I think, Jennifer, you are absolutely right, I think this is a time in history when so many of us have felt fragile, have felt exposed, have felt like we could end up closing our eyes for the last time in this world, so how do we know what really takes place after that? And you used the one word that I hope people walk away from from reading the book or seeing the movie, and that's the word hope.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Lee Strobel: I hope both believers and nonbelievers walk away with hope.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Well, it is, it's such a source of hope, the reality of heaven. So I'm going to finish up, Lee, with two questions. Okay? And they're really simple to ask --

Lee Strobel: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- but quite more complicated for you to answer. So we're going to just try it. Okay? So here's the first of the last two questions. All right?

Lee Strobel: Okay.

Jennifer Rothschild: What happens when we die?

Lee Strobel: Yeah. Well, when we die, at that moment of clinical death, physical death, our spirit, our soul, our consciousness continues to live on. It separates from our body. We know that because Jesus told the person being crucified next to him on the cross, "Today you'll be with me in paradise." Apostle Paul said to be absent from the body is to be present from the Lord. So our consciousness, our spirit, lives on. Now, this is contrary to what some atheists say, who say we don't have a soul, we don't have a spirit, we don't really have a consciousness. It's an illusion. We don't really even have free will, we're just a bunch of neurons firing in our brains. I think that's belied by the evidence that I talk about in the book.

And then we continue during that intermediate state to live on. If we're a follower of Jesus, we're in his presence during that time. If we're not, we are separated from him. But it's an intermediate step, it's not our final destination. That comes when the curtain of history is finally pulled shut, when Jesus returns, when we're reunited with our resurrected body and when we go through final judgment. And then our eternal destination is sealed forever. We're either in the presence of the Lord or we're separated from him in a place called hell.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. So I just have to ask. Even though I said I had two more questions, I'm going to throw this in. Have you read "The Great Divorce" by C. S. Lewis?

Lee Strobel: Yes, years ago, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. Because what you're describing -- I find how it's just such an informed, imaginative picture of what you're describing. And I would also highly recommend that to our listeners, too, because I think it just informs your imagination more.

Okay. But here is our very last question.

Lee Strobel: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Why can we believe that heaven is real? Why can we believe that?

Lee Strobel: I think for three reasons. Number one, we do have a soul that can survive our physical death. Yes, our body is declared clinically dead, or it's declared dead, but we're not just a body. And in my book and in the film, we make the case that we are a hyphenated creature. That is, we're a body, but we're also a soul or a spirit. The Bible assumes that. I mean -- you know, there's a couple hundred references to our soul in Scripture, but it never sits down and defines here's what a soul is. And the reason is we all intuitively know that we're not just a physical body, we have a consciousness, a soul. So that's number one.

Number two, near-death experiences tell us with confidence that at the time of death, our spirit, our soul, our consciousness does continue to live on. Now, near-death experiences can't tell us for how long, but I think they're confirming of what the Bible tells us.

And then third and most important reason we can trust what the Bible tells us is that we have strong historical evidence that Jesus not only claimed to be the Son of God, but he backed up that claim by returning from the dead. Consequently, he is an authority on the afterlife. He not only is an eyewitness to the afterlife, because he was dead himself, but he created the afterlife. He is God himself and so we can trust what he tells us about the afterlife. And what does he tell us? Well, the Bible uses a lot of figurative language because -- the Bible says, "No eye has seen, no ear is heard, no mind has even conceived of what God has in store for those who love him." We can't really understand how beautiful and wonderful and secure and grace filled it will be.

But Jesus uses metaphors. And I'll end with one of my favorites when he's talking to his disciples. And he uses a metaphor of home, that heaven is like home.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.

Lee Strobel: And I don't know if you've ever traveled internationally, maybe to a third world country where things are -- conditions are difficult. But I've been to India, I've lived on, you know, a sleeping bag on the ground and eating foods that were strange to me. And you do that for a period of time and you begin to develop a homesickness. You begin to long for home. And when you finally return home from this trip and you walk into the door of your home, it is such a place of wonder and warmth and security and grace that you're just overwhelmed by it, and you crawl into your own bed and it feels so good. And Jesus is saying to his disciples and to us, that's the metaphor I want you to hang on to. Heaven is like a home. It's like a real home. This is not in our world. This is not our home. We're just passing through this world. Heaven is like home on steroids. And so we will experience those qualities of grace and joy and wonder and appreciation, and I believe adventure and creativity, as we spend eternity in the presence of God.

Jennifer Rothschild: Heaven is home. So let's go. I'm ready. Whenever the Lord is ready, I am ready, because we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. So if you're in the valley right now, you are not alone. Your Shepherd is with you. His rod and his staff, they will comfort you. He has prepared a place for you, and you're going to dwell there forever, forever and ever.

K.C. Wright: It is home. Jesus said, "Hey, if it wasn't so, I wouldn't have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." He's building a mansion for you. And, you know, I wonder, when Lazarus died and his sisters begged Jesus to do something, Jesus called, "Lazarus, come forth." And I bet Lazarus said, "Really? Do I have to?"

Jennifer Rothschild: Seriously.

K.C. Wright: "I mean, now?"

Jennifer Rothschild: Right. Because heaven is real.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Seriously, y'all, it is as real as the air that you are breathing right now. So get to the movie. It's in theaters right now. It's called "The Case for Heaven."

K.C. Wright: Yeah. "The Case for Heaven" is releasing in theaters nationwide April 4th, 5th, and 6th, 2022. Take all your peoples.

Jennifer Rothschild: All your people.

K.C. Wright: Heaven is our hope. And because heaven is real, you can trust that everything else God promised is real, too. That includes his power. So remember, you can today, in this moment right now, do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

Jennifer and K.C.: And you can.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, you can.

K.C. Wright: (Singing) Let's go to the movies.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oooo, that's good.

K.C. Wright: (Singing) Let's go see the stars. Let's go to the movies, Annie. Okay, sorry.

Jennifer Rothschild: No, it's so good. I need popcorn. I need popcorn. This is good.

K.C. Wright: Yeah. Yeah, we need Skinny Pop, we need --

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. I need my La Croix because I don't drink Coke anymore.

K.C. Wright: Oh, I'm so proud of you. I'm a big fan of that. Ellie and I actually went to the movies not too long ago and we watched Sing 2.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.

K.C. Wright: I hadn't been to the movies for a long time, and I walked out looking like one round circle. The junk food that we ate during that movie, I'm still repenting for it. But when I checked in, I had won all these things because a part of the movie club. And I got a kid's meal and a popcorn and some candy and a fruit snack and a -- oh, it was bad.

Jennifer Rothschild: And then you got indigestion.

K.C. Wright: I just rolled out, rolled out of the movie.


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