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TO HEAVEN and HELL and BACK?
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TO HEAVEN and HELL and BACK? Emmanuel Twagirimana
Out of Africa
Africa is a diverse continent of many nations and even more ethnic tribal groups and clans. Some have described Africa as the ’most evangelised continent’. Once the continent was the place where missionaries from the West were sent — now Africa is sending missionaries to the West. There are good things coming out of Africa — but NOT everything coming out of Africa is good — some, in the West, are accepting almost any claim or story coming from Africa as true or valid — perhaps from a misplaced Western guilt over past mistreatment of African peoples? We need to evaluate what comes out of Africa (as well as out of other continents and countries).
TO HEAVEN and HELL and BACK?
Emmanuel Twagirimana, apparently from Rwanda originally, is being promoted around the world as a Christian evangelist. However Emmanuel is no ordinary evangelist. His claim to fame, as an evangelist, is his story about his visits to heaven, hell and back. He claimed to have experienced the after life whilst being dead for several days.
Emmanuel Twagirimana (ET) claims to be founder of a ministry called: New Life Gospel Ministries. Interestingly he provides no details of this ministry’s beginning or registration - all the more interesting when it is known that others have used this name (generally before him) and groups by this name exist in places as far apart as USA, Barbados, Nepal, Honk Kong and closer to where ET lives: Kenya itself. He is NOT affiliated with any of these other New Life Gospel Ministries.
ET has written a book on his alleged experience ’in Heaven and in Hell’: ’Seven Days in Heaven, Reveals His Amazing Death and Back-to-Life Experience.’
He also has a website with documentation supposedly supporting his claims and warning people about hell and exhorting them to seek heaven. However, it is NOT actually HIS website. The website that promotes his story and claims, and hosts his webpage is actually a website set up by his main Australian/International promoter, Tim Lovett. Tim Lovett is a New South Wales’ mechanical engineer who, with his family, recently spent two years in the USA ’building the [American] “Answers in Genesis” Noah’s Ark exhibition in the Creation museum’. ’Tim plays anointed trumpet and tin whistles.’ ’Helen [his wife] is an anointed pianist, song writer and worship leader... Helen leads authentic worship in the gentle freedom of the Holy Spirit.’ ’Helen & Tim have ministered in worship in NSW and America and are producing a second album for their gifted 13 year old soprano daughter, Elizabeth [better known as ’EJ’ - Elizabeth Joy].’ ’Helen and Tim have six children, all budding musicians and Psalmists whom they home school.’
Tim Lovett dedicated a website to his singing daughter, EJ: http://www.ejsong.com/ - then he added ET’s story to this website: http://www.ejsong.com/7d/index.htm, with a mirror site at: http://www.7daysinheaven.org - as listed in ET’s book: Seven Days in Heaven. A ’Google-search’ of ET’s name will bring up EJ’s website with the addition. Lovett also highly recommended ET’s book as a review on Amazon.com.
In Western Australia, a Nickolai Nazarov promoted an intended visit of ET to Australia early in 2010, and wanted churches to invite him to speak in Western Australia. He advised churches: ’When I first met Emmanuel in 1999 I was hesitating in my Christian faith. Meeting me helped me to become firm in my faith. That is why I would want Emmanuel to preach and do healing and other miracles in your church... I do not get any profit or benefit from it apart from pleasure to serve the Lord Jesus... Since 1999 I support Emmanuel’s mission trips financially so I will cover all expenses related to his coming to Perth and staying here.’
Nickolai also declared authoritatively that: ’Emmanuel is filled with Holy Spirit and his ministries are accompanied by miracles. I personally was healed from chronic bronchitis... Emmanuel is also known to some high-profile people. For example he visited Queen Elizabeth and prayed for her sleeping problem, he prayed for Nelson Mandela to be healed from cervical cancer [!! Nickolai AND ET?? need some lessons in basic human biology!!], he visited Robert Mugabe at the critical time of crisis in the country and advised him against ruthless political actions and how better to run Zimbabwe [apparently Mugabe wasn’t listening too well, or ignored him!!].’
ET claims he didn’t believe stories of people who died and came back to life. However, that all changed when it supposedly happened to him. His story is repeated on several websites and in his book promotions, that: ’Caught in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Emmanuel was struck by shrapnel from a bomb that hit his neighbour’s house... Emmanuel died as a result of his untreated wounds and was taken to heaven and hell during his death experience.’ It was during the days he was ’dead’ that he claims he experienced the afterlife. He claims he went to Heaven where he met Jesus. After a stay in heaven, he saw hell and its awfulness. He then returned to heaven were he was commanded by Jesus to go back to earth to warn people and urge them to repent before God.
He also claimed that ’...a doctor from Australia had been sent by God to find a Christian man with injuries to his left arm and leg, who matches a hand-drawn sketch of his face and whose name was Emmanuel Twagirimana. They met at Centre Hospitalier de Kigali.’
It would appear that ET’s followers take everything he claims about his experiences as entirely fact. What he says about heaven, Jesus and hell, is to be taken as an accurate testimony.
How reliable is the testimony that ET had actually died for several days? One pastor claims ET spoke at his church, but the congregation was a little suspicious of his testimony. Therefore the pastor sought to verify the facts in Rwanda. The ’word’ in villages, towns and at Kigali was one of confirmation - whatever that might mean. Apparently ’church leaders’ substantiated the ’death and back to life testimony’, but on what basis, and from whom? Who was the mysterious and miraculously directed Australian doctor who apparently did much of the major surgery? What hospital records, if any, were checked, especially in the English hospital? Which English hospital, and where was it?
A few things should be considered here. Firstly, why ask someone to preach in your church before having the facts verified? The neutrality of this pastor is questionable. Secondly, who and how many in all the towns and villages (which/how many) supposedly verified this story? Even if they actually did, is it possible the story had become a kind of ’urban myth’ — were there any who denied to the testimony? Aside from vague confirmations from ’church leaders’ we are still left asking: who are these witnesses and where are they? The lack of any medical verification should raise alarm bells. Another thing we would ask people to consider (before taking on board ET’s story) is, how one can verify the reliability of ET’s after life account. We only have his claim that he went to heaven and hell, no one else accompanied him and returned with him to tell the tale! Many people are too quick to believe every miracle claim at face value.
Numerous other Christians have claimed to have told stories of similar experiences to ET, some with almost identical details of heaven and hell to those claimed by ET (mostly written before he wrote his book).
Should Christians be promoting the possibility of this kind of after life experience with such stories?
The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian Church of someone being ’caught up to the third heaven’ (which scholars generally believe to be a reference to Paul’s own experience). One might argue if it happened to him, it could happen to others. However, Paul did not emphasise this experience or use it as a foundation for evangelistic efforts. It barely rates a mention! Instead he told his readers that this experience is of such ’inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell’ (2 Cor 12:4 ). What Paul says here calls into question people who give detailed accounts of supposed experiences of heaven or hell. It is humanly impossible to describe heaven to people living in the limitations of this earthly life.
It is further significant that the Paul refuses to boast in his heavenly experiences because it is more important that he rather boast in his sufferings for Christ than those inexpressible visions (vss. 5-10). Hence we can safely assume Paul would not want Christians to get too easily carried away with alleged visions, especially of heaven or hell.
ET’s accounts of heaven and hell are detailed. The stories seem rather fanciful. He says he had ’another body’ when he went to heaven, where he claims to have met an angel and spoken with Jesus, who showed him his scars from the crucifixion. It is here, he claims, that Jesus commissioned him: ’I am Jesus Christ who died for the church and bought it in order to forgive everyone who deserves salvation. I have come to show you heaven and the blessings that the children of God will be given and show you many things here and in hell and send you back to earth to tell the world what you have seen.’
Predictably ET claims he walked on ’streets of gold with splendid flowers alongside the roads.’ He claimed to have seen white-clad angels ’with guitars made of gold... When thy smiled their teeth looked like they were made of gold.’ Apparently Jesus didn’t speak to ET in French, though this is commonly spoken in Rwanda, but Jesus spoke to him in Kinyarwanda. ET claims he was taken to the earth where he saw his dead body and his family mourning over him. They couldn’t see him but he could see them.
ET was also shown hell. He claims people there were ’naked’. Some of his descriptions are bizarre. According to ET the people in hell are overworked and harassed by Satan who has them ’working on tobacco plantations’. The ’harvest’ was then brought ’into the fire, then it’s packed and brought to earth. They carried it on their heads and backs... They bring plenty of tobacco and beer on earth and never in short supply. The supply is brought in by demons with human bodies looking like beautiful women’. Those on earth who smoke it are able to drive away the Holy Spirit. ET tells numerous other stories of what he ’saw’ in heaven and hell.
At times he seems like he ’copies and pastes’ his stories from the book of Revelation. He claimed to have eaten ’the scroll of the book’ (the Word of God) that tasted like honey (cf. Rev. 10:8-9). He said he saw a table where all who enter heaven shall ’eat together from the tree of life’ (cf. 22.2). Is his ’testimony’ even original or is it plagiarised?
If we, for argument sake, suppose it was possible that ET experienced everything he said he did, even then the credibility of his experiences is invalidated by the message he now preaches to people (Christian and non-Christian). The message he brings to people is not one of grace but one of legalism. This is one of the dangers with people who claim to have these kinds of experiences. They use their own self-authenticated testimony to manipulate and put burdens on other people.
ET says ’those who are Christians and are not paying tithes will not go to heaven.’ He also warns that those who do not ’pray and fast may not enter heaven’. He goes on to say ’You fail to pray and fast because you declined in your righteousness.’ How does this message align with scriptural teaching that salvation is by grace, and righteousness is received by trust, not by works?
One final point.
Christians should question the necessity for a person to experience the afterlife to motivate people to choose their destination wisely. Why does it require a person to observe the ’awfulness of hell’ to warn others when the bible does this already? Why do we need a person to tell us about the beauty of the age to come when, again, the bible does this already? Furthermore, will one’s testimony of ’seeing hell’ persuade others not to go there? Not likely — the parable in Luke’s gospel about the rich man and Lazarus suggests as much (Luke 16:19-31). In the parable, the rich man has been enduring the torment of hell for seeking pleasures in this life time rather than seeking God. This leads him to appeal to Abraham to allow him to go back for a moment to warn his family so they would not join him in that place. How did Abraham reply? ’They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them’ (v. 29). The rich man replied by saying if someone who died goes to them then they will surely repent (v. 30). Then Abraham replied: ’If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets [Scripture], they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’
(READ also our articles: The Subtle Seduction of Stories and Out of Africa - What An Act in our magazine, TAKE A CLOSER LOOK, May-July 2009)
(From TACL Vol 31 #3 June/Aug 2010)