A Question I Was Asked:


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NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES: Can One separate the wheat from the chaff? I am convinced there is truth to establish out there somewhere. Where do you stand?

UK Apologetics Reply:

At the Present Time God Has Not Chosen to Reveal Everything...

Some Christians worry about 'near death experiences,' and 'out of body' experiences. They really should not; we just need to accept that God has not yet chosen to reveal everything, or all matters in heaven and earth to His people. At present we know what we need to know. Eventually, God's called and chosen who finally inherit Heaven and Earth will indeed know and understand much, much more. We have to accept God's greater knowledge and timing in these things.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29).

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12).

There are now seemingly hundreds of near death type experiences which one may read about; probably hundreds on YouTube alone. Many of these seem outstanding and probably some are entirely acceptable from a Christian theology point of view, but many others appear at least partly questionable, a few seem to be spiritualism-inspired, containing some odd things, maybe some dubious comments and slants; in certain cases they appear to have been embroidered by a spiritualist or occultic worldview with maybe things being added later. One such lady on YouTube claims to have had three such events in her life, after the third one she found she had psychic communication with her deceased son. Is she genuine? Sure, as far as she is concerned, yet there is the suspicion that things are being added, probably entirely subconsciously. Personally I am suspicious of those ones in which people claim to have come back from heaven with a 'pact' with God. Also, in one or two such cases people claim that during their heavenly visit God gave them a preview of what is "coming soon to planet Earth." This seems to amount to a kind of prophecy. Hmm. I'm not sure, could be, but does not Scripture tell us that the age of the prophets is now complete? (Hebrews 1: 1-2).

Okay, here is how I address all of this and I recommend this approach:
you and I are not required to judge all of the claims right now; just read them with interest, not in a condemning manner. Whilst never loosening your grip on the great doctrines of the church, keep an open mind. This is the approach which my fellow Apologetics writer/lecturer Gary Habermas suggests (about which more later).

A Past Approach

Around the 1980s I found that evangelical Christians - at least here in the UK - seemed to reject every one of these claims - lock, stock and barrel. This was surely too draconian, after all even Paul the Apostle makes reference to a similar experience:

2. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know - God knows. 3. And I know that this man - whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows - 4. was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:2-5).

Did Paul speak of himself? The phrase "in Christ" means nothing more than that this man was united to Christ or was a Christian; see Romans 16:7. The reason why Paul did not speak of this directly as a vision which he had himself seen, or experienced, was probably that he was accused of boasting, and he had admitted that it did not become him to glory. But though it did not become him to boast directly, yet he could tell them of a man concerning whom there would be no impropriety evidently in boasting. It is not uncommon, moreover, for a man to speak of himself in the third person. John in his Gospel speaks of himself, John 13:23-24; John 19:26; John 21:20 in such a manner. John did this on account of his modesty, because he would not appear to put himself forward, and because the mention of his own name as connected with the friendship of the Saviour in the remarkable manner in which he enjoyed it, might have savoured of pride. For a similar reason Paul may have been unwilling to mention his own name here; and he may have abstained from referring to this occurrence elsewhere, because it might smack of pride, and might also excite the envy or ill-will of others. 2 Corinthians 12:7 probably means that this was undoubtedly Paul speaking of his own experience (though we cannot be certain). Okay, back to our main topic:

The Usual Pattern

NDE researchers, such as Dr Raymond Moody and others, insist that thousands of people from all cultures have had similar experiences over the ages and that there is a marked tendency to colour the experience in the religiosity of one's own culture. I think we can all accept that that is likely to happen. Yet the similarities between most of these 'near death experiences' certainly remain very striking. Here is what most (not all) of these experiences seem to relate:

1. One's soul or spirit moves outside of the body at a time of great suffering or stress, and is frequently able to look down upon one's own body. At this time all pain goes away and there is peace. Very often it is later confirmed that there was no heartbeat or even brain activity at this point. In some cases this is as far as the experience goes and the spirit, or soul, later re-enters the body as physical life is restored.

2. In many, or even most cases, there is a second stage in which one experiences great light which has the sense and feeling of great and abundant love; at this point one experiences being pulled at great speed through an apparent long tube or tunnell which connects to heaven. Upon reaching heaven, or even before, many claim an incredible feeling of peace, joy and security. Sometimes incredible colours - not like anything on Earth - are mentioned, both on the journey to heaven and in heaven itself.

3. Upon reaching heaven, many claim to have met Jesus (maybe, but of course, this could well be a higher angel representing Jesus). There is often a life review before the soul who meets Jesus (or the higher angel acting with Jesus' authority), is told that they must go back because their time has not yet come. Most of these souls describe their huge disappointment at having to return to all the pain and stress of life, especially the pain and stress of having to fight back through the pain of their illness (which presumably caused this heavenly encounter in the first place).

The similarity between these experiences is far too strong to dismiss out of hand; people who had been blind for years could describe colours they saw, others could describe what they heard people say and so on. In a few cases these people were even able to describe items which they saw on the roof of the hospital, with these things being later confirmed.

The Experience of Heaven

The Bible speaks of three places which can be called 'heaven,' almost certainly the heaven which these souls experience is not the third heaven, the place of God's very throne. In my earlier article on this topic, I suggested that there may well be a sort of heavenly 'clearing house' where all deceased souls will initially go upon death. It appears to be a beautiful, joyous and peaceful place with wonderful sights to behold but it may well not be the final destination. As Christians we must also understand that 'The Great White Throne Judgement' lies beyond that - this can help explain why one or two claimed atheists have received an NDE and later said things like, "I went to heaven and God was okay with me." Maybe God is more gentle and merciful with such people than we can imagine but the actual place of final judgement will of course lie well beyond that. Maybe again God knows that a particular atheist would eventually repent and move away from his/her foolishness.

The Gary Habermas Lecture on 'Near Death Experiences' - Worth Checking Out

Gary is a Bible-believing evangelical just as I am. He has, for example, done some really good work on establishing the veracity of our Lord's resurrection.

The Lecture

This is from YouTube; be aware that this link will also throw other things at you after the item completes. I'm afraid that the quality of this video does tend to break down towards the end.

Robin A. Brace. June 14th-21st, 2019.