After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. (Revelation 4:1-3, N.I.V.)
R.G. Lee served as the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, for 33 years. During his tenure there the church experienced remarkable growth and Lee served four terms as the President of the Tennessee Baptist Convention and three terms as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The term “legend” doesn’t even begin to describe Lee’s influence in Baptist circles.
When Lee was 91 years old, he lay dying in his bed in his home in downtown Memphis. He was surrounded by four men: Adrian Rogers (who was then serving as the pastor of Bellevue Baptist), Tommy Lane (who was then serving as Bellevue Baptist’s Minister of Music), Billy Graham (the world’s most famous evangelist), and Cliff Barrows (the music and program director for the Billy Graham Crusades). Graham and Barrows just happened to be holding a Crusade in the Memphis area at the time.
As the four men stood around Lee’s bed, singing songs and praying, Lee himself remained unconscious. Suddenly he opened his eyes and the first person he saw was Billy Graham. When Graham leaned down to talk to him, Lee put his hands on Graham’s face and pulled him down further toward him. Then he asked Graham, “Have you won the world yet?” Next, Lee said something those four men would never forget. He said, “I saw heaven. I saw Jesus. I saw my mother. I have preached on heaven many times, but I never had the vocabulary to adequately describe it. I never did justice to heaven in my sermons.” He died not long afterward.
The skeptic who hears this story might say, “That old man had been preaching about an imaginary place for decades, and that day he just turned his imagination into a dream.” Well, it just so happens that the Bible teaches in passage after passage that heaven exists! And I, for one, have no trouble believing that as R.G. Lee’s body lay dying, his soul spent some time straddling the line between earth and heaven as God gave him a glimpse of that land of which he was about to become a resident.
Perhaps this glimpse into heaven explains why Lee’s first words to Billy Graham were, “Have you won the world yet?” Could it be that what made Lee so anxious to get the world won to Jesus was the fact that he had just seen Jesus in heaven and wanted everyone else to have that indescribable experience? Oh, and here’s one other thought for you: If heaven is real, if Jesus is there, and if believing in Jesus as Savior is the only way that anyone can go to heaven, shouldn’t those of us who have believed in Him as Savior be trying to win as many people to Him as we can? That logic certainly makes sense to me. I’m sure it did to R.G. Lee, too, and I’m also sure that his soul is in heaven right now and is with Jesus.