90 Minutes in Heaven
The True Story of a Modern-Day Lazarus
On January 18, 1989, Pastor Don Piper died. Four paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene of a horrific car accident. And yet, he inexplicably came back to life some 90 minutes after the crash. A movie telling the story, 90 Minutes In Heaven, was shown in 800 theaters nationwide in September 2015. Assistant Editor-in-Chief Major Frank Duracher interviewed Reverend Piper for the War Cry.
War Cry: There have been several films in the last few years having to do with Heavenly visitations, for lack of a better term. What makes your story different?
Don Piper: I'm an ordinary man with an extraordinary story. I want people to see hope in their challenges, to see that pain can come with purpose.
WC: You were at the gate of Heaven and saw those who were influential in your life. Tell me about them.
DP: These are the people [that] took me to church, gave me my ﬁrst Bible, witnessed to me about Jesus. I’ve thought a lot about them, wondering what they all have in common, and I came up with two things. First, I’m convinced that each of them was prepared to die and go to Heaven. They certainly did not know on the day they died
that they would, but for every one of them, they were ready. The second thing is that each one of them seemed to be expecting me. They knew I was coming!
We’re told that there’s joy in Heaven over the conversion of one sinner, and that each born again believer has his or her name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Well, then, it stands to reason that our loved ones know about our salvation in Jesus Christ and when we are to arrive at Heaven’s gate, there they are waiting just for us!
WC: Was anyone there that you didn’t think would be there?
DP: Yes, there was one man that fell away from the Lord in his life, but he was there in Heaven. I can only presume that he made things right with God before he passed.
WC: Was anyone not there that you thought would be there?
DP: No, because I don’t believe those in Heaven realize who ended up in Hell. That would make them sad, and there is no sadness in Heaven.
On the other hand, Hell is just the opposite, I think. Those burning in Hell know full well who is in Heaven and that the connection between them, and more importantly the eternal relationship with God the Father, is forever lost.
WC: Did you see Jesus?
DP: I was very aware of His presence and sensed Him as I began to actually enter the gate. I did see a great light and the throne, and I was moving towards that. That was my goal. But at that instant, I was suddenly in darkness, in excruciating pain, and found myself singing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” with who I later learned was [Pastor] Dick, who got as close to me as he could inside the wreckage and prayed with me. He began singing that gospel song and I came to singing along with him.
WC: Are you sorry you didn’t get to see His face?
DP: I know this sounds strange, but I’m glad I didn’t. I ﬁgure, what if I had seen Jesus face to face, only to have that taken away from me by coming back to this life? That would be awful! I think I would have pined away the rest of my life and even died of a broken heart. I’m glad that I didn’t see His face, but I know that I will someday!
WC: Did you see any angels?
DP: There were angels everywhere! Their presence is everywhere throughout Heaven, across the board, and I could hear them singing and glorifying God. But the most remarkable thing about the angels was that I heard their wings! Hearing their wings as they were hovering over and around us in ministry to us blew me away. It was oh so comforting!
WC: Tell me more about the people you saw there.
DP: The ﬁrst one I remember seeing is my grandfather. In fact, I was with him the day he had a massive heart attack. I rode with him in the ambulance and he died on the way to the hospital. He was there at the gate waiting for me. Another relative was my great-grandmother. I saw some of my classmates who had died very young. I also saw some of my teachers.
Also, there was Mrs. Norris, a neighbor of mine who invited me to her church. Every Sunday, she packed her station wagon with kids from our neighborhood and [took] them to Sunday school and church. She invited me and I begged my mom to let me go. It was at that church that I ﬁrst felt the Holy Spirit’s conviction upon me of my sin and my desperate need for Jesus in my life.
WC: Did they look young to you?
DP: The best word to explain it is that they are all ageless. The word adult is an earth word. I saw no children there; instead, everyone seemed to be fully developed humans, as God originally intended us to be in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve were never children; they were made fully formed by God’s hands, and He breathed into their nostrils the breath of life. That is how each one of my welcomers appeared.
WC: Will Giving Films give away some of its profits from this movie?
DP: The word unique is worn threadbare these days, but Giving Films is unique. If Giving Films earns a proﬁt, 100 percent of that money will go to charities. Giving is the heartbeat, the pulse, of Giving Films.
WC: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DP: Yes, I just want to impress on everyone how true and accurate this movie is to what really happened to me. It is not a Hollywood-ized creation, or even a watered-down version. This ﬁlm tells events exactly as they occurred.
WC: What have you taken away from your encounter in Heaven?
DP: That the people gathered there to welcome me represent the sum total of those who affected my life and led me into the Kingdom of God: my grandfather, a teen group that I became very involved with during my adolescence, Mrs. Norris, my Sunday school teachers, the person who gave me my ﬁrst Bible. These are the ones who were there waiting for me.
I also know now that for those of us here in this life, our
responsibility is to get them there. It doesn’t matter if you are a ﬁreﬁghter, a teacher or a businesswoman.
I was greeted by the very people that helped me get there. It made me realize that what we do and say really matters. People are watching and listening. We have an urgency to win them for the Kingdom no matter where we are: the workplace, a school or in your neighborhood.
Don Piper is a New York Times bestselling author and has been an ordained minister since 1985. He has appeared on Today, The 700 Club, James Robison's Life Today, and many other television and radio programs, teaches across the United States and around the world. He and his wife, Eva, live in Texas. Learn more at www.donpiperministries.com.