Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Howard Pitman’s Near Death Experience, August 3, 1979
I first heard part of this story on www.theedgeam.com web radio station, but I found myself frustrated because the interviewer had to pass on many questions sent in by the listeners as Howard spoke. It interrupted the flow of the story and, in my view, wasted time. So on June 17, 2006, I called him in New Orleans and got the rest of it. I wasn’t so interested in all of his theology, which could be his own interpretation of the Bible, as I was his actual experience. At the time of his shave with death, Rev. Pittman had been a preacher for over 30 years and a foster parent of 32 children besides his own three. His life had been full of good Christian works. He attended a typical fundamentalist Baptist church that likes to emphasize the positive side of the Gospel message, God’s love and mercy. He had also been a policeman in New Orleans, and had attended seminary.
Like many fundamentalists, he was laden with theological certainties and was rather legalistic. He didn’t believe in modern miracles, and he didn’t know anything about demons. He believed in a rapture of the church, but felt that the Christians would not have to go through the Great Tribulation. He was God’s man, uncompromising, the head of his household, the spiritual ‘covering’ for his family, a pillar in his denomination, and an authority on the Holy Word.
Howard was at a meeting in 1979 when he passed out. An aneurysm had burst in his body and he began to bleed internally. He was placed in an ambulance and rushed to a small hospital, but they weren’t able to help him, so they sent him 45 miles away to a larger facility.
On Friday afternoon, 4:45 p.m., on the way, he died. The EMT radioed that information to the hospital, which was prepared to take him for resuscitation the minute he arrived at 5:00 p.m. They worked on him from 5 p.m. until midnight, cutting his chest open and infusing fresh blood directly into his veins. He lost 9 pints of blood, which were replaced with 11 more. At midnight they moved him from the ER to the ICU. At 6 a.m. Saturday, he began to fade again. He was still in the hospital on Sunday.
When he died for 15 minutes in the ambulance, his spiritual journey began. The first thing he experienced was total darkness. It is a typical beginning to many NDE’s, both positive and negative. Howard called that ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’
There he saw an object turning before his gaze. It was the Scriptural passage, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” (Heb. 9:27 NIV). It turned before him 3 times before he began to plead for an extension of his life. He heard a beautiful, seductive voice suggesting that he just quit breathing and he would receive peace and all the wonderful things he ever wanted. Howard was certain that such a lovely voice must be the voice of God, so he tried to obey and tried to just give up and let go. Suddenly, he realized that he had just asked for an extension of life and that the voice might be the devil, so he said No! and rebuked it and began to fight for life again. The spirit of the voice fled.
In fact, quite a few who were in peril of final death and a negative eternity encountered some sort of a lure. I can think of 3 cases off the top of my head in which a dying man saved his life and got a second chance at living it right by realizing that they had to resist what the voice was telling him to do. The Howard Storm story, found at http://www.near-death.com/storm.html, is just one of them, and it clearly identifies the malicious intent of these spirits.
Suddenly Howard sensed light, and angels appeared to accompany him to what he calls the second heaven. He had no sense of travel and no sense of time. For Howard, the first heaven is this physical world with its finite limitations. The second heaven is just across the dimension dividing us from the realm where the devil is ‘the god of this world’ (2 Cor. 4:4). Howard explains that the Greek word for ‘world’ is aeon, which really means ‘time’ or ‘age,’ which includes our own time-space continuum. Paul tells us that Satan is the prince of the powers of the air, which for Howard is the ‘firmament’ or dimensional barrier which separates the first heaven from the second.
In that dimension, he was allowed to see a panoramic view of 5 classes of demons acting out plotting to make war against Christians. He wasn’t talking about a future end times war, but the everyday warfare that Christians go through and must overcome by faith. He explains that non-Christians don’t experience this type of warfare because they are already ‘prisoners of war’ (2 Timothy 2:25, 26).
The highest order was a soldier-like creature reminiscent of Greek mythology who would be very tall on our earth, but Howard explains that these images are probably figurative, because our finite minds cannot really comprehend what life is really like in that realm. (I agree with that thought.) Another order was just like a ‘good old boy,’ looking perfectly human. One represented the mystery of disease. Another one was like an ugly misshapen frog. In our phone conversation, he told me that that particular demon followed him throughout his journey. When I asked him what it represented, he answered, ‘Perversion.’ There were many other beings in that realm of all shapes and forms. He didn’t communicate at all with these entities, but the tall demon came to him and leered in his face. Howard felt no love at all in this realm, just hatred of Christians and fear of their demon masters.
Next he was at the huge, double gate of the third heaven. (Many Christian NDE’s include a city surrounded by a wall with a large gate. Some actually pass through the gate and still come back. I have been amazed at how many describe streets of translucent gold.) Howard was told that if he went in, he could not return, but if he wanted to live, he must plead for his life. So he began his plea, reminding the Lord of all the good works he had performed as a foster parent and preacher.
Suddenly a voice answered him. It was the voice of God, sounding like thunder, and surprisingly, sounding wrathful. He wound up on his face as God began to rebuke him. He said, “Your faith is dead, your works are in vain, and your life of Christian service is an abomination to me. What made you think that I would accept such an offering from a Laodicean type Christian? Untold millions live in the same lukewarm state, and they stand in danger of my wrath.”
Howard protested, “No, you can’t be speaking about me! I’m a preacher. I preached the gospel in the church, the home, the jail, the street. I raised foster children.” Suddenly his life passed before his eyes and he was amazed to see so many negative things. God said, “I was there when you did those good works, my works, but they are vain because you did them for a false god.”
Howard answered, “I called you Lord.”
God said, “You called me Lord, but you didn’t make me Lord.”
Howard: “But I did these things in your name.”
God: “You did them in my name, but you did them for yourself.”
Howard was so shaken up that the angels took him back to his hospital bed for a bit to regain his composure. At his own request, he was brought back for a second chance to plea. Suddenly the scales fell from his eyes and he realized that he was pleading for the wrong life. He began to plead for the inner, eternal life. That’s when God answered his request. He told him that He was sending him back to deliver a message, which Howard lays out in 5 points.
A. We are in the Laodicean church age now where people honor God with their mouth but don’t honor him with their lives.
B. The devil is personal and powerful and we tend to underestimate him.
C. If we want miracles in our lives, we need to walk the true Christian walk.
D. The end times will be like the days of Noah where people lived for pleasure and wealth.
E. God is recruiting an army. He is looking for a church without blemish or wrinkle.
While Howard was standing at the gate, he saw 50 people go in. He believes that this was during the 15 minutes when he was dead that these 50 died and went to heaven. However, 1, 950 other people died and went the other way. That’s about 2.5% that went through the gates. Howard feels that God was showing him the state of the earth in 1979.
The big change in Howard’s life was that he needed to be more loving. God as Father was more real to him, and his limited view of spiritual influence on this earth (both negative and positive) was transformed. A fuller version of this story can be found at www.howardpittman.com. Pittman’s book ‘Placebo’ can be purchased from there.