AN AMAZING FACT: Most Americans are acquainted with Washington Irving’s short story about Rip Van Winkle. It is a tale about an early American villager of Dutch descent who escapes his nagging wife by wandering up in the mountains of New York. After some bizarre adventures, he falls asleep and wakes up 20 years later only to find out that his wife and his best friends have died. Rip Van Winkle is a fanciful fairytale, but there is a real story much like it.
In 1984, 20-year-old Terry Wallis, married and with a six-week-old girl, was involved in a serious car wreck in Mountain View, Arkansas. The driver died instantly; Terry went into a coma. His family hoped it wouldn’t last long and that he’d soon recover. Well, he didn’t. And for 19 long years he existed in a semi-vegetative state in which he had to be constantly cared for. Then, much to everyone’s incredible surprise, on June 13, 2003, Terry suddenly awoke in his hospital bed and uttered his first words, which were, “Mom,” “Pepsi,” and then “Milk.”
Strangely, Terry began talking as if nothing had happened, as if he had been in the coma for just a few days, not 19 years. In his mind it was still 1984, Ronald Reagan was president, the Berlin Wall still stood, cell phones were the size of bricks, the Internet was largely unknown, and the Twin Towers were still standing. He thought that Bill Clinton was still the governor of his state, and that he was still only 20 years old. In addition, the last he remembered, his daughter was an infant, not the 19-year-old young woman who stood beside his bed. Doctors are still mystified regarding this “mental resurrection.”
Sadly, Terry’s body has severely atrophied after 19 years in bed, but the Bible teaches that there is a real resurrection coming, in which all those who have been “asleep” in Jesus will arise to eternal life with new glorified bodies! Paul writes, “… in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Though time has passed, the dead in Christ will feel as if they have only been asleep in their graves for a short time.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 1 Corinthians 15:51