I remember sitting bolt upright in bed, and feeling hideously scared as I was hurled into an absolutely dark circular tunnel in which the temperature dropped very quickly. Eventually a pinpoint of light appeared at the far end, and as it grew larger, the temperature rose to a comfortable level; I was ejected into an enormous circular auditorium in which there were no seats, all of the millions of people there were standing, and a feeling of love and belonging swept across the scene.
The initial revelation was an instant realisation of what takes several minutes to think through, step by step. I experienced an entire night of communion with so many others around God's throne, in a 360-degree amphitheatre of sorts with a floor sloping downwards towards the central "stage", so large that I could see neither walls nor roof. The central area was unbelievably bright, and while little detail could be seen because of the dazzling light coming from it, there was no doubt in my mind that this is God's throne. Now this is not how I have ever pictured heaven before, in my life.
There was continual praise singing, mostly spontaneously by the people there, travelling in waves around the auditorium, and there was a recurring theme of a worship chorus "Blessed be the Name of the Lord" recently introduced to Australia at that time. (Its music was composed by Clinton Utterbach, and you may listen to an excerpt from that chorus here, being part of a chorus demo tape froduced in Melbourne).
I was returned to my bed three times during the course of the night, which lasted from the moment my head hit the pillow until the sky started to grow light in the morning. I was then returned to the heavenlies almost immediately afterwards, without the tunnel experience being repeated. The whole of the next day I was awestruck, and I reminisced to myself over it, typing the detail into my computer within a few hours.
I realised that while there, I "knew" what brotherly love really is - a very precious commodity that can't be sullied by human inuendo - and it was obvious that it is attainable in a practical sense, right now - not just in the nebulous future - and that our individual attendance at that throne can only be in response to our own total obedience and submission to God. The praise and worship of God by all of us was totally spontaneous and without ceasing, and I now am able to understand a remark I heard several years later, that when we are able to add our voices harmoniously with others in praise, we are saying "I'll come with you, brother, and as you lead, so I will follow and join you".
Subsequently I have come to realise that this brief "translation" into the heavenlies would have to have a significance to me and in my life, as I'm sure that God doesn't do anything without a need. Let me elaborate…
First, I believe that because this happened several times during the course of the night, and that it also occupied the entire night, that the reason for the repeats was for me to realise that it was not a dream. This is because I have never dreamed the identical dream twice, let alone three times. Consequently it was for me to understand that it was, indeed, a translation into the spiritual realm, something which is often described as an "out of body experience", although not in any way associated with a life-threatening situation. When I have disturbed sleep, I feel absolutely dreadful the next day or two; in this case my condition can only be described as "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" as I reminisced to myself over all that had happened.
Second, even though I didn't grieve at being returned to my bed, it was, perhaps, to reassure me that in heaven we feel no pain, sorrow, illness, fatigue, or whatever, just a corporate love for the Almighty and those around us. The contrast with the worldly scene is immense.
Third, probably, it was to hold out the sure hope of what being raised in the body will be like, should we continue in what the apostle describes to the Corinthians when he writes about "those being saved", rather than our belief that salvation is applied to us in an inert position, regardless of whether we really want it at the exclusion of everything else.
The night in heaven had followed an unexpected "word of knowledge" a week or so earlier, and which I had acted upon. After two heavy days' lecturing to adult students from overseas, I was unwinding in my study chair, and I had another word, a confirmation of the first. I believe that the obedience and love I demonstrated brought the second word of knowledge which in turn led to the all-night experience, because I knew in that moment in my chair that I should no longer have any further anxious concerns about the congregation I attended, and that the worries I had did not need to be expressed any more to its leadership. An enormous load lifted off my shoulders then and there, as I discovered that He had brought me to worship with them, not only to be a thorn in the side (for their benefit) but also for a progressive education in obedience on my part.
In that microsecond-long instant, I discovered that my time at that church had also been to put back into use the musical talent He had given me, and which like singer-guitarist Barry McGuire I had put away in the cupboard when I came to the Lord, inviting Him to to give it back to me in His timing.
Barry's was released after a year. Mine waited six years, and I make no comparison between Barry's greater talents and mine. Another microsecond later I realised that my re-use of this talent, which had exposed me regularly to a group of three or four others, had led me to an invitation to join their choir and participate in strict harmony part singing after a lapse of more than twenty years. This brought me into close association with more people who I grew to love in considerable depth both corporately and individually. I don't make friends particularly easily, and I suddenly realised that this could all change through not continuing to meet with them if I continued in obedience, which I found quite devastating at the time. Several years before I had received from the Lord part of the scripture which says "the greatest of these is love" in response to prayer about spiritual gifting.
At this very long moment in time, I realised that encouragement by three other people for me to audition for the remaining Adelaide season of one hour long choral extracts from the Australian oratorio "The Jerusalem Passion" was not only just God's will for me, but part of His teaching, the learning experience which many of us call "life".
I had known "of" the Jerusalem Passion for four years, but because that knowledge was in the context of a musical work in which a couple of acquaintances whose musical taste differed from mine, I had never bothered about it, even though my wife and I had bought a videotape of the 1988 Brisbane production which was the work's première. My wife's friends had sung in the Sydney Opera House production in 1991, and because of that I had assumed that I would find the oratorio dull and uninspiring. ("Judge not, lest ye be judged").
After listening to the tape, I bought a score and auditioned, having fallen in love with both the work and the prophetic message it brings. I then realised the importance of that message of the need for real unity among believers, and the necessity of God having to gather His dispersed people together in time for Christ's return - and that dispersion is far greater that the Jewish dispersion or "diaspora" that most people think of in this context. It is also not our job to do the gathering, as is erroneously taught by many preachers.
It was only a few days after my audition and first rehearsal with this 100-voice voice choir that I experienced this very real journey through space and time into heavenly places.
Since the season of choral excerpts of this work finished in mid-1994, three of us from the choir have organised ourselves as a vocal trio to sing a program of highlights for the spiritual support of those in hospices, homes for the aged, and other such establishments, and our presentations have met with encouragement from the institutions, with return visits requested.
You may use this link to visit a private unofficial "fan" website devoted to the "Jerusalem Passion" oratorio
This all night long experience is memorable to me, as are also two very real instances of my own physical healing, which I think is not as frequent as some Christians would have us believe. I was checked out by my doctor after the all-night experience, and nothing unusual was found, a verdict which I fully expected, and which should lay to rest anybody's thoughts that I had been hallucinating.