Sid Roth - This Atheist Saw HEAVEN
What happens to a Jewish atheist who's transported to the heavenlies, then finds out God and the Bible, they're real. Next on this edition of "It's Supernatural"!
Sid Roth: Hello. I'm Sid Roth your investigative reporter, and I'm here with Gary and Shirley Kivelowitz. What happens when you're 24 years old, and you've "arrived"? Gary, what was your life like, at 24?
Gary Kivelowitz: Well at 24, I was a court stenographer. We were living in Wilmington, Delaware and we had - I had really reached, at that point, the pinnacle of my career. I was - we were living in a very nice large house in the suburbs. At 24 years old, I had more money in the bank than I owed on the mortgage. We bought cars with the extra cash in our checkbook, and went on vacations, bought designer furniture. But what I was looking for in life was just to be happy, and it was all empty.
Sid Roth: Why was it empty?
Gary Kivelowitz: Well it was just working harder and making more money, and life had no purpose. It was empty.
Sid Roth: Not only is it empty, you get a "bombshell". Tell me about "the bombshell".
Gary Kivelowitz: Well it was right at that point when Shirley had come into a relationship with Jesus. And being Jewish, being raised in a kosher home, being raised in the temple, the word - the name Jesus - was such a negative to me.
Sid Roth: But wait a second. When you married Shirley, you knew she wasn't Jewish.
Gary Kivelowitz: Well when we got married, Shirley converted to Judaism.
Sid Roth: Shirley, why did you convert to Judaism?
Shirley Kivelowitz: Well Sid, the reason I converted was because I knew that if I did convert to Judaism, that would satisfy his family, and there wouldn't be a break in their relationship with their son. I knew in my family that wasn't going to happen. So my goal, really Sid, was that our children be the same, that they would know what religion they were, and I believed it.
Sid Roth: But you changed it now.
Shirley Kivelowitz: Well no, I really didn’t, because you see, I believed there was one God. I believed that He was "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", but I didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus at that time; I didn't even know that was possible. But - so really, I wasn't giving up anything. I didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Sid Roth: Okay. Why did you switch back?
Shirley Kivelowitz: Well I don't even think I really switched back. What I really did was I came to understand that that "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" was, in fact, the Messiah that was promised. And when I came into a personal relationship with Him, I - it was - I realized that He wanted to not only for us to know that He existed, but to know that we could relate to Him; that He wanted to have a two-way relationship with us.
Sid Roth: So Gary, did you try to talk her out of this "meshuga"?
Gary Kivelowitz: Well it was very difficult. She - before that point, Shirley was a very afraid lady, very scared of her own shadow, and now her life was coming together; she was becoming self-assured. Her life, by any standard, was getting better. And it was very hard for me because, number one, I was jealous, because I wasn't able to do this for her. And number two, she was talking about this Jesus; that was just such a negative in my life. And so what happened was at that point, I was also very disillusioned with my profession. It wasn't bringing me any fulfillment. And when I grew up, everybody talked about "the American dream", that that would bring you happiness, and I believed that. And here I was at 24 years old and I had "the American dream", and it didn't bring me any happiness; certainly a lot of material things, but no happiness. And so one day I just said, "You know what? I don't want to think this way anymore", and I just started drinking.
Sid Roth: Were you an alcoholic before that point?
Gary Kivelowitz: I would never even - I wasn't even a casual drinker before then. And then, all of a sudden, I became a very severe alcoholic very quickly. I was the kind of alcoholic that if I didn't have alcohol in me, I would pass out. But as long as I kept drinking alcohol, I could still function in the courtroom, I could drive a car, and was in that state for seven years. At the end of seven years, I realized that I couldn't stop drinking, and I was too proud to get help. And at that point I started doing drugs, and continued the alcohol.
Sid Roth: The combination of drugs and alcohol is pretty dangerous.
Gary Kivelowitz: Yes, yes, yes. Looking back on it, it was very dangerous. But we're talking about now, 22 years ago, at that point I was probably doing maybe five to $700 worth of drugs a week and still drinking incredible amounts of alcohol.
Sid Roth: Did that help?
Gary Kivelowitz: No. It just made things worse; it made the depression worse. And I realized, again, that I was too proud to get help. I was working in the criminal justice system as a court stenographer; and I looked at the system, and I looked at the future of children with alcohol and drug-abusing fathers, and I knew that my children had a really bad future. And during those years of drinking and the drugs, I squandered literally all of our money. The only thing I had left was a really good life insurance policy.
Sid Roth: Did it really bother you when you would, say, look at your children, recognizing you were robbing them of any future they might have had?
Gary Kivelowitz: Oh I went into severe depression. I drank more; I did more drugs; it was a vicious cycle. And I loved my children, I loved my wife, and I could do nothing.
Gary Kivelowitz: But Shirley, why couldn't you help him? You must have seen what was going on.
Shirley Kivelowitz: It was a very difficult time for me, because I was in an awkward position, because I had a relationship with the Lord, and now 95 percent of my - what was my life, my husband didn't want to hear about. And I did try to talk with him about the drinking at one point, and he just got very angry. And so I decided that the only thing left to do was just to pray.
Sid Roth: Now when you would talk to him about Jesus, how did he react?
Shirley Kivelowitz: Not well; not well. And I remember one morning he was shaving, and our five-year-old Stephen came into the bathroom, very innocently, and he started saying, "Daddy, when I die, I'm going to be in Heaven. Are you going to be there, too"? And at that point I just thought, "I’d better back out", so I backed out of the room, and I just prayed.
Sid Roth: How did you react to that?
Gary Kivelowitz: Well I remember telling Shirley, "If you ever bring Jesus up again, we're getting divorced. This just can't work". And I didn't want to hear that name mentioned in my household. That's how.
Sid Roth: Why?
Gary Kivelowitz: Well growing up in Brooklyn, I remember getting beat up because our - because us Jews, "we killed their God", and that's the atmosphere I grew up in. And I grew up in a household where my uncles were liberated from the death camps in World War II, and they showed me pictures of people being tortured alive, and they said, "This is what people - this is what Christians do to Jews".
Sid Roth: Hold that thought. We'll be back in just a moment, because such a miracle happened to Gary. I mean, it's really supernatural. Be back in just a moment.
Sid Roth: Hello. I'm Sid Roth your investigative reporter with Gary and Shirley Kivelowitz. And what would happen, you're Jewish, and your wife converts to Judaism for the sake of the family; and then all of a sudden, she falls in love with another man, "Jesus the Messiah", she says. And so Gary, in the meantime, is at the top of his career. They have all the money, all the nice things, but there's an emptiness. It just - he's angry; he’s angry at his wife believing in this Jesus, because of all the Anti-Semitism that occurred to Jewish people. He's angry because he's jealous his wife has some peace. He starts drinking; never drank before. He becomes dependent on alcohol, then he goes into a drug addiction. He's really despairing; things were getting - how bad? The worst day of your life; tell me about it.
Gary Kivelowitz: Well it was so bad, I just didn't want to think any more. I remember - this is going to sound really terrible - but I remember just even buying Sterno and straining it, and drinking it. It was - I wanted to kill myself and...
Sid Roth: What would have happened to you, as far as you thought, if you had succeeded? If you had died, where do you think you would have gone?
Gary Kivelowitz: I believed that life - that when you were dead, there was no hereafter; nothing after life.
Sid Roth: You cease to exist.
Gary Kivelowitz: Correct. That's what I believed, and I was looking forward to that.
Sid Roth: Why? Life too hard?
Gary Kivelowitz: Well it was just too depressing, and there was way out. I couldn't - you know, I didn't believe in the Bible, and I didn't believe in Heaven, but I believed in Hell, because I had that here on this earth. Life was the worst it could be.
Sid Roth: But weren't you a little concerned about leaving your little children?
Gary Kivelowitz: Well I thought it would be better for them because they would be rid of this alcoholic, drug-abusing father. Shirley would be rid of this husband who was drinking and a bad father. And the only asset we had left - since I had squandered all of our financial assets - the only thing we had left was a very good life insurance policy. And so I got in the car one day, and was up in the northeast; I was in New Jersey. I was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike going 65 miles an hour. I put the car in cruise control, and I was headed for a concrete abutment, and I was happy to do that. And keep in mind, I didn't believe in the supernatural; I didn't believe in the hereafter; I didn't believe in the Bible. I thought God was a figment of people's imagination. And as I went off the road...
Sid Roth: Excuse me, did you realize he was that desperate, Shirley?
Shirley Kivelowitz: I realized that he was very depressed and in a bad way, but I didn't realize how bad it had gotten for him.
Sid Roth: So you headed towards this embankment.
Gary Kivelowitz: Concrete abutment dividing the highway; it’s where the highway divides. And at that point - it was Exit 9 on the Jersey Turnpike; three lanes go to the left for cars, and three lanes to the right for trucks, and in the middle is this big concrete abutment. And the car was headed for it, and literally seconds before it hit that, I got lifted out of the car into the presence of...
Sid Roth: Wait a second. Who lifted you?
Gary Kivelowitz: I can't even explain it, Sid, except that I was no longer driving the car; I was no longer in the car. I was in the presence of, at that point, what I knew to be the Creator of the universe, who - a split second before - I didn't even believe in. And He showed me the silhouette of a mountain, and He said three things to me. He said, "If you want to be with Me like this for all eternity, you need to start climbing the mountain". He said that the Bible was His Word, and that I should start reading it. And then He said I should listen, because He was going to begin to speak to me. And then immediately I was back behind the wheel of the car.
Sid Roth: What happened to the car while you were up there?
Gary Kivelowitz: I have no idea, Sid. But I started laughing and crying, and pounding the steering wheel. And I said, "If nothing ever happens in my life again, this is enough to last a lifetime". And I went back, and I clocked how far the car had gone, and it had gone eight miles without me. And I was on my way to see my mother. My mother is in the mental health field, and I said, "I can't go see her, because if you tell people a story like this, they put you away". And so I turned around and I went to back home to see Shirley, and I walked in the house. Now keep in my mind, she had been praying for her alcoholic husband for seven years. I walked in the house; she looked at me.
Sid Roth: Stop. Stop. He walks in the house. You look at him. What goes on in here, Shirley?
Shirley Kivelowitz: Sid, I just said, "Something has happened". He's different. I realized...
Sid Roth: What was different?
Shirley Kivelowitz: It was almost like - it was almost like a glow. I mean, he had been so depressed, he had been so down, and his countenance was lifted up. And I just - I knew something had happened, and I couldn't imagine what. Because I hadn't seen him smile, really smile, for a long time.
Sid Roth: What did you say to her?
Gary Kivelowitz: I walked in the room. She looked at me and said, "What has happened to you"? Now I had determined I wouldn't tell her because I figured nobody would believe this. She said, "What happened to you"? And I looked at her, and I said, "Shirley, I've been with God", thinking that she would laugh at that. She said, "Gary, I believe you". And then she said, "But you know what, Gary, there's more". And of course, you know, being from Brooklyn, and I was just so arrogant. I said, "More? What do you know? I've been with God; you haven't". She said, "Well Gary".
Sid Roth: Now you're "the expert". From an atheist to the expert.
Gary Kivelowitz: She said, "Well Gary, the Bible says there's more". And I said, "I'll believe anything in the Bible". And so she went and got her Bible, and she opened it to the New Testament, and I stopped her. I said, "Shirley, that's a Gentile Bible. I'm not a Gentile. God's not a Gentile. I'm not looking at a Gentile Bible". So then she had great wisdom. She went and she got the Bible we got married with, which was an Old Testament Bible with a Star of David on it. And I said, "Yeah, that's a Jewish Bible. I'll believe anything in there". And she just started to show me the scriptures from Isaiah 7, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 53. And I said, "My gosh! Look! It's in there! The virgin birth, and all the things". And at that point I asked Emmanuel into my heart, and to be Lord, and I instantly got set free from any need of drugs and alcohol, never having a problem again, never having to go to a meeting.
Sid Roth: But you had to drink. Drinking was your survival, your lifeline.
Gary Kivelowitz: Sid, if you knew how much I drank before that moment. Just to give you an example, every day I would drink a fifth of Scotch and a couple of six packs of beer, plus all the drugs.
Sid Roth: A fifth of Scotch?
Gary Kivelowitz: Every day.
Sid Roth: Hold it. We'll be right back. Instantly set free of depression, instantly set free of alcohol, instantly set free of drugs. But there's more. Be right back.
Sid Roth: Hello. I'm Sid Roth your investigative reporter with the Kivelowitz's. And before we go back to this amazing miracle - and it gets better. I mean, you think that was something! Being caught-up out of the automobile; the automobile going by itself. Oy vey! You need an imagination like this. But the changes that happened in their life, you don't need imagination for that. That's real. I want to go to the control room right now and find out who our guest is next week. Janie, who's up?
Janie DuVall: Sid, you'll be interviewing Lauri Mallord and this woman is a beautiful five-foot-six woman, but she was 95 pounds. She's an artist, an architect. But she was 95 pounds because she suffered from anorexia and bulimia, and she used to mutilate herself. But an amazing miracle happened when she cried out to God and she could feel the breath of God, and that totally changed her.
Sid Roth: She, in looking over the notes, Janie, she literally would jam her hand down her throat to vomit and then she would, she would have scars on her knuckles in her throat. I mean, she was really, it's life threatening. And from what I understand this is a serious problem throughout the world.
Janie DuVall: Well the statistics are that one in hundred young women suffer from anorexia and then with the bulimia, it's at least five percent of young women suffer from bulimia.
Sid Roth: And how about just being overweight? I mean, it's all, the bags, it's all together.
Janie DuVall: Right. So the statistics would be a lot higher.
Sid Roth: Supernatural answers. Thank you, Janie. Now Gary and Shirley, you don't want to see the New Testament, and so Shirley reads to you from the prophets; from Isaiah, the Jewish prophet. And what did you think when you heard this? I mean, didn't you hear this, coming from a Jewish background?
Gary Kivelowitz: No. I was raised in the temple. I was raised in the conservative temple, and it was our life. And when I read the scriptures in Isaiah, I thought to myself, "They lied to us. What they told us wasn't true". And so when I saw that, I started reading the Old and the New Testament; started reading it all.
Sid Roth: Now one of the things that I like about you, is you said that you started believing everything you read, and you started praying for people. Give me an example of someone you prayed for, and what happened.
Gary Kivelowitz: Well what happened was I just believed. Because I had no background in this, when I would read in the Bible, I just believed it. It said "… lay hands on the sick, and they [would be healed]". And so people were sick, and we would just put our hand - I didn't know what "lay hands" meant; I figured it meant touch them - and ask the Lord to heal them. And when we did that it started happening.
Sid Roth: Tell me one specific person.
Gary Kivelowitz: Well we've now been serving God for, I guess, about 22 years. But the most dramatic that I could remember was I was preaching in a large meeting in Haiti, and there were 6,000 people there. And when we got done, the interpreter said, "Preacher, the power of God is here. Don't you think you ought to pray for people"? And I said, "Certainly". And so we went in the crowd and we just started praying over people - I mean, disease. We laid hands on one woman, and maggots would run through your fingers; that's how awful it was. But in that meeting, a man who was blind from birth - for the first time in his life - saw, and he saw clearly. At that meeting, a woman who was deaf got her hearing. And in that meeting, there was a woman who was 22 years old; had not walked in her entire life; was carried in on a mat. We prayed, she got healed, rolled up that mat, and ran around the meeting for hours.
Sid Roth: Shirley, you've been healed. What were you healed of?
Shirley Kivelowitz: Well Sid, I've been healed of a couple of different things. I've been healed of hernias. I was scheduled to have surgery, and before the date of that surgery, a friend invited me to a service where there was a Catholic priest who had a healing ministry. And I thought, "Well Gary had said to me, ‘You know, if you got healed, I guess I'd believe in God.’", you know. So I went to this healing meeting before he became a believer, and I was healed. I mean, I...
Sid Roth: Instantly healed?
Shirley Kivelowitz: Instantly; instantly.
Sid Roth: Did you go back to the doctor?
Shirley Kivelowitz: I did and, you know, it - they have a convenient way of explaining away miracles. But I know that I was healed because hernias don't just go away, and I had at least two, and they were very painful for me. And I was scheduled to go for surgery, and never went. I cancelled the appointment and, you know, I just never went. And I'm fine; I have no hernias. I was healed of varicose veins.
Sid Roth: Most important, I want you to look at your husband for a second and tell me what he's like today, as opposed to what he was like before. Tell him; tell him.
Shirley Kivelowitz: You are awesome. You're my best friend. I can't believe what God has done in your life - how He has turned you from a man who was really floundering, a man who really had a great, great need - to a man who is meeting many, many needs of many pastors, wives, leaders. Gary, you're precious to me, and I appreciate so much the gifts that you are. And it was worth the seven years’ wait.
Sid Roth: Gary, you almost blew it. Your children, when you look at your children today, and see what you could have been, and what you chose...
Gary Kivelowitz: Do you - every time I look at Shirley and I look at my children, and now our grandchildren, I am so grateful for what God has done, and giving me another chance, and just to enjoy life. And you know what, life is better than any dream I could ever dream up.
Sid Roth: God wants to give you another chance. Yes, it's not an accident that you're watching us right now. You see, you are special. God wants to change your chaos, just as He changed Gary's chaos. Are you depressed? Are you an alcoholic? Are you into drugs? Are you just feeling frustrated? Do you sense there's got to be something more? There is. If you will call out to God, with a sincere heart, say, "God, I've made many mistakes in my life, for which I'm so sorry. Please change me. I don't like the way my life is right now. I believe that Jesus died for all of my mistakes, and I want His blood to wash away my sins. I want to be clean in Your sight, God. You're too good. I want to know You. I really do. I believe that Jesus is my Messiah and Lord. And Jesus, come inside of me. Take over my life. I make You Lord over every area of my life". If you say a prayer to that effect - it doesn't have to be the exact words - and mean it, it's not an accident you're watching me right now. It's because you are loved. You are loved. I mean, you are loved by God. You're special. You really are. He sent me here to tell you that.