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Don Piper Challenges Readers to More in 90 Minutes in Heaven Sequel

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

In 14 years of general release, author Don Piper’s autobiographical book 90 Minutes in Heaven has sold more than eight million copies.  His story is a miraculous one, a tale of his astonishing recovery from a myriad of life-threatening injuries suffered in a horrific car accident.  But even more remarkable is that he was legally dead for 90 minutes before he began breathing again.  In the interim, Piper says he spent that time at the gates of Heaven.

Piper’s astonishing story of death and miraculous return to life was eventually chronicled in a major motion picture of the same name in 2015.  Starring Hayden Christianson and Kate Bosworth, the movie went on to earn $5 million dollars at the box office.

In his latest book, People I Met at the Gates of Heaven: Who is Going to Be There Because of You, Piper continues his exploration of the afterlife by revealing the intimate details of people who met him at the gates of Heaven.  His goal is to encourage others to live a life of promise here on earth.

I recently sat down with Piper to discuss why he chose to share such intimate details of his post-death experience, why people are so fascinated with the afterlife, and how a book like this provides such a great amount of hope.

Why do you think people are so fascinated with the afterlife?

The death rate here is 100%. We know that we don’t get to say, and so the human question since the first human was, “What happens next?” Since Adam and Even were thrown out of the garden and/or died, they wanted to know what happens next. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people. It’s God’s place. Even when there was the garden, there was Heaven. God created the Heavens and the Earth in the beginning, so we want to know what happens next. All humans want to know. Now there’s some that have concluded that nothing happens next. But most humans don’t agree with that, even people who maybe don’t have an organized religion going back to early civilization. So we always wanted to know. We’re fascinated with the reality that “Is this all there is, this life?” The Bible calls it “a vapor,” a twinkle in the eye of God. That’s how all our life is. Could this be all? I mean would we go through all of this for nothing? I think the answer is no, we wouldn’t. I think God has a better place for us, and I know we feel it in our bones. We know there must be, and there is a better place prepared for people who are prepared for it. When I got killed in a car wreck, I wasn’t planning to die that day. I was 38 years old. So we have to be ready for this all the time.

In 2015, a theatrical version of your bestselling book was released to general audiences.  Did the movie version of your book take the message of 90 Minutes in Heaven to an entirely new audience?

In some ways, yes, because obviously it can still be seen. It was in the theater, so you had to pay to go see it, but now it’s on television. We get calls in the office, or we’ll get a raft of emails, and it will say I loved your movie last night. Of course, we didn’t even know it was going to be on. We’re not told those things, so it has affected a new group of people in a sense that a lot of people that were exposed to it, because it’s a movie. It’s entertainment from their perspective. But you can’t watch this movie without being convicted, and it was made that way. At the very end of the movie, I make an appearance in it essentially giving the audience an invitation (to accept Christ). I’m saying Heaven is real, and Jesus is the way to Heaven, and we want them there. The movie was made with that in mind.

Your new book is called People I Met at the Gates of Heaven.  It appears to be a work that is similarly themed to your signature book 90 Minutes in Heaven.  Is this latest release a continuation or a departure of sorts?

It’s actually a sequel in the largest sense of that word. I talk about the people I met at the gates of Heaven. But the subtitle of the book is “Who’s Going to Be There Because of You.” I talk about these people in detail and then discuss what impact they had on my life.  I should note that they influenced me for Jesus in some way, and they greeted me at the gates of Heaven. They knew I was coming. Nobody sneaks up on Heaven. Everybody up there knows who’s coming. They were anticipating my arrival that day. So when I arrived, I was reminded of the people who had influenced me to come to Christ at 16. When I got back, and I’m in the hospital bed for months and trying to learn to walk again and trying to function, all I could think about is those people and what happened at the gates of Heaven. I never discussed those people in detail ever, but I’m discussing them now to try to help people understand that what we do matters to others. I was influenced for Jesus as a result of people who gave me a Bible, people who took me to church when nobody else would. I was influenced by people who lived a Christian life in front of me, so I would know what one was. They met me at the gates of Heaven. The question I ultimately came back with after meeting them and having a great, blessed reunion with them was, “Who are you going to greet at the gates of Heaven? Who’s going to be there because of you?” So, I didn’t really need any more motivation, but I think some people do. I think some people lose sight of the fact that, after our salvation experience, we have work to do. It’s not like, well that’s a done deal. I don’t have to worry about that anymore. No, we’re here to help everyone else get there.

I’m sure you’ve thought about this over time, but why do you think it was this collection of people that greeted you over a different group of people that touched your life in some way?

The Bible says that when somebody comes to Christ, there is great rejoicing in Heaven. There’s a celebration up there, and our names are inscribed in a book called The Lamb’s Book of Life. We want our names in this book. It’s the registration desk of Heaven. So there’s a celebration there. Everybody in Heaven knows who is coming to Heaven. And these are the people who greeted me at the gates of Heaven. They knew I was going to arrive that day. I think they’re still there in a heavenly sense, because there’s no passage of time in Heaven. It’s an eternal place. They’ve been joined by many other people that I love tremendously who have gone since. I’ve done a lot of funerals in the past 30 years, and many of those people were people with whom I was very close.  They were people I loved dearly. And I miss them, but I know where they are. So, when I return, the crowd will just be bigger. But here’s the question. What kind of crowd are we going to draw?  Who really will be coming to Heaven because of our influence? 

The writing process always seems to be a really cathartic way to dig deeply into your soul.  What did you learn new about yourself as you were writing this latest book?

In some ways how much those people really did mean to me. I literally put myself in a position where I had to examine their lives, how they lived, the things they did, and I knew then the things that I really hadn’t paid much attention to. I obviously absorbed them, but I wasn’t really looking for them. Now I was looking for them, and I realized that I was taken to church by some people who knew I didn’t have any other way to go. My family didn’t go. I was a little neighborhood kid, and they put me in the station wagon and took me. I looked back at those people and it really convicted me about the way I had lived, what I need to do and how I need to turn the burners up in my own life in ministry as I try to relate to other people. I learned a lot of kind intimate facts about my own salvation, how I came to be convicted and that I knew I needed a savior. It was all a process that all of them greatly influenced, because there are people who are just gloriously saved. One day they just realize they’re lost and they need a savior. But for most of us, it’s a process. We learn more. We study. We read the Bible. We look at the lives of other people. We’re influenced by them. We listen to their words. We might go to church. All of these things come together and coincide until one day we realize, “I’m missing something. There’s something missing,” and it’s Jesus. They all contributed to that. As I went back and studied all of these people, I must say it was a very emotional experience for me. I just wept and in some cases there were tears of joy, because I was remembering them, how much I loved them and the things they did for me. I realized how funny they were and how simple their lives were, and yet lives of great influence. It was a trip down memory lane on that level, but it was also a conviction. For this reason it really is a sequel to 90 Minutes in Heaven.

After people have read People I Met at the Gates of Heaven what would you like readers to get out of the experience?  What is your greatest hope for the book?

I hope they are reminded of the people who influenced them in their lives enormously, positively, think of them happily; and if they’re believers, know that there’s a great reunion coming. I hope that’s very encouraging to people. But I hope they are motivated.  It’s not just a nice, little memory book about some wonderful people. I think the people who read the book will fall in love with these people and probably remember someone like them, but I also hope that it motivates them, that they really think, “Well, wait a minute, I want to be a person like that. I want to be a person who meets people at the gates of Heaven. That’s what I want to do.”

To Purchase People I Met at the Gates of Heaven: Who is Going to Be There Because of You ...

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