By Tim Hawk
Interest in near-death experiences has risen over the past few years. The subject has found its way on the daytime talk shows and in numerous news stand publications. Many are fascinated by near-death experiences. It is a subject people sometime wonder about. Recently, I was asked by a Christian, “What does the Bible say about near-death experiences?” In this article we will attempt to answer that question.
Near-Death Experiences Defined
“According to a recent Gallup Poll, eight to nine million Americans have reported strikingly similar mystical experiences while temporarily ‘dead’ or on the verge of death … they describe a sense of peace and inexpressible joy. Many are reunited with loved ones who have died before them, and encounter a ‘Being of Light’ who radiates pure love and acceptance. While most people yearn to remain with this light forever, they are sent back to life to fulfill certain responsibilities. Scientists have termed this extra-ordinary journey a `near-death experience,’ or NDE. Although the experience varies somewhat from person to person, it is consistently recounted as joyful and profoundly real.
“The Gallup Poll further indicated that NDE’s can hap-pen to anyone. It found no relationship between the occurrence of NDE’s and a person’s age, sex, race, occupation, education, area of residence or, significantly, his prior religious beliefs or practices. While a religious person might interpret his experience differently than an atheist, the experience itself remained consistent” (Amy Sunshine Genova, “The Near-Death Experience,” McCall’s February, 1988, 103).
Near-Death Experiences Described
“Sitting in the family room of her red-brick home in Rockville, surrounded by nine Himalayan cats, Jane Fandey recalls the morning nineteen years ago when she died.
“The memory is vivid, she says — `more vivid than memories of getting married or giving birth.’
“At the time, Fandey had an undiagnosed case of Addison’s disease, a failure of the adrenal gland. After a series of fainting spells, she was admitted to Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring. Shortly after that, her blood pressure plum-meted and disappeared. `I knew I was dying, and I was very sad to give it all up. I raised my hand to wipe the tears out of my eyes and realized I couldn’t move.’
“As the nurse ran for help, Fandey felt herself rising out of her body and surveying the hospital room from near the ceiling. ‘Then I entered an infinite blackness with no boundaries at all. I was traveling so fast. I didn’t see or feel anything. But I knew I was not alone. I felt like I was going home.’
“She came to a stop at a fence that surrounded a bright light. Billowy clouds were floating over the fence. Gently, a spirit informed her that she could join them, or could return to her husband and two young sons. She chose to go back and instantly was returned to her hospital bed, just as the floor nurse was reviving her.
“Fandey, who is 44, has no doubts about what happened to her that day. `I knew I had died and come back,’ she says calmly.
“For a long time she didn’t discuss the experience with anyone, not even her husband. She held the memory within — and she felt herself changing. She understood the world in a different way. Her feelings toward living things became so strong that `the mistreatment of animals now brings me physical pain.’ She could no longer abide organized religion, because she had seen that anyone who has led a decent life — those billowy clouds — gets to heaven” (Carol Stevens, “I Felt Like I Was Going Home,” The Washingtonian) September, 199I, 82).
What do we Know?
In this section of our study we will be asking and answering some questions. By asking and answering these questions with Scripture, we will be able to determine that these experiences near-death are not from God.
1. How does man today come to believe in the “afterlife”? Not by what one thinks, or hears, or sees, or experiences alone without God. The Bible both warns against and gives numerous examples forbidding man trusting in himself in-stead of God (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; Jer. 10:23; 2 Kgs. 5:1-14; Jn. 16:1-3; Acts 26:9-11). How then is true belief established in the afterlife? By reading and/or hearing the written word of God (Rom. 10:17; in. 20:30-31; 1 Jn. 5:11-13; 1 Pet. 1:3-4; Rev. 21:1-22:5).
2. Do near-death experiences fall under the category of man trusting in himself instead of God? Yes! Why? Because near-death experiences contradict Scripture. The people who claim to see the afterlife during near-death experiences are people outside of Christ. The Bible tells us that only those who are in Christ have the hope of heaven (1 Pet. 1:1-4; 1 in. 5:11-13; Gal. 3:27). Would God permit a non-Christian to see heaven through a near-death experience, who does not even have the hope of heaven? Would this not be deception on God’s part? Would he not be giving false hope to that alien sinner (Heb. 6:18; I Cor. 14:33; Heb. 5:8-9)?
When Paul was caught up to the third heaven, he was for-bidden to reveal to the Corinthian’s what he experienced (2 Cor. 12:1-9). Since God forbade an apostle of Christ to discuss his vision of the afterlife would he allow a non-Christian today to see, hear and discuss the goings on of Paradise?
We have many examples in the Bible of people being raised from the dead (1 Kgs. 17:17-24; 2 Kgs. 4:31-37; 13:20-21; Matt. 27:52-53; Lk. 7:11-17; 8:49-56; 7n. 11:41-44; Acts 9:36-43; 20:9-12). What is interesting about all of these ac-counts is not one of them describes the goings on of the afterlife! Why? Because this would not be man’s means of learning about the afterlife (Lk. 16:27-31).
Someone might argue, “What about John in the book of Revelation?” Yes, it is true that John was permitted to hear and see many things (Jn. 16:13; Rev. 22:8). Yet, at the same time, John was limited in what he was permitted to record and reveal to his readers. John only wrote when told to write (Rev. 2:1; 14:13), and on at least one occasion was told not to write what had been revealed to him (Rev. 10:4). Obviously, God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to limit man’s knowledge of the afterlife. How is our limited understanding of the afterlife to come today? By reading the written word of God (Rom. 10:17; Jn. 20:30-31; 1 Jn. 5:11-13; 1 Pet. 1:3-4; Rev. 21:1-22:5), not by direct revelation in the form of near-death experiences (1 Cor. 13:8-10; 2 Pet. 1:3).
When do we go to the afterlife today? Not near death, but after death (Jas. 2:26; Lk. 16:22-23). Can we return to this life once we have crossed over? No (Lk. 16:26-31; Heb. 9:27)!
3. Is Satan behind near-death experiences? No. He does not cause them to happen to man. I believe near-death experiences can be explained by science. But, when man chosen to believe and teach that near-death experiences are of God, he is believing and teaching false doctrine and is deceived by Satan (Jn. 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 2:9; Eph. 6:11).
Side Effects of NDE’s
Following a near-death experience, people often go through changes which are not favorable from a biblical perspective.
“Someone might argue,
`What about John in the book of Revelation?’
Yes, it is true that John was permitted to hear and see many
things (Jn. 16:13; Rev. 22:8). Yet, at the same time, John was
limited in what he was permitted to record and reveal to his readers.
John only wrote when told to write (Rev. 2:1; 14:13), and on at least one
occasion was told not to write what had been revealed to him (Rev.
10:4). Obviously, God, in his infinite wisdom, saw fit to limit
man’s knowledge of the afterlife.”
Jane Fandey no longer considers organized religion as being essential to her eternal salvation. “For a long time she didn’t discuss the experience with anyone, not even her husband. She held the memory within — and she felt herself changing… She could no longer abide organized religion, because she had seen that anyone who has led a decent life — those billowing clouds gets to heaven” (Carol Stevens, “I Felt Like I Was Going Home,” The Washingtonian, September, 1991, 82).
But the Bible teaches being a faithful Christian, a member of the church of Christ, is essential to one’s eternal salvation (Mart. 16:18; Rom. 16:16; Acts 2:47; Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:23-28).
Jane Fandey does not welcome a biblical examination of her near-death experience. “We don’t appreciate being questioned and doubted when we know what happened to us,” Fandey says. `I’ve found it’s the religious Fundamentalists and Scientists who have the biggest problem believing me. Fundamentalists don’t like the idea that my experience didn’t conform with all the rules in the Bible”‘ (Carol Stevens, “I Felt Like I Was Going Home,” The Washingtonian, September, 1991, 134).
But the Bible commands us to examine every teaching to see whether or not it is from God (I Thess. 5:21-22; 1 Pet. 3:15; 1 Jn. 4:1; Gal. 1:6-9).
Valerie Hampson has lost interest in making small talk. “Valerie Hampson says she has lost interest in making small talk. `The mundane things in life don’t interest me much anymore. I’ve had to make a real effort to regain some basic social skills, like talking about the weather”‘ (Carol Stevens, “I Felt Like I Was Going Home,” The Washingtonian, September, 1991, 136).
But the Bible commands us to teach the gospel and set the right kind of example around people (Matt. 28:18-20; 5:14-16). In order to reach people with the gospel and be a light unto the world, we need to be sociable.
Many now stress an underlying unity of all religions. “In a follow-up survey of 111 NDEers, Kenneth Ring found his subjects’ lives radically transformed . . . while many defined themselves as `more spiritual’ than `religious,’ they reportedly felt `inwardly closer to God’ than before and embraced a broader Theology that stressed the underlying unity of all religions” (Amy Sunshine Genova, “The Near-Death Experience,” McCall’s, February, 1988, 105).
But the Bible has something much different to say. Jesus said, “1 (Jesus, emp. T.H.) am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” On. 14:6). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in your all” (Eph. 4:4-6).
Barbara Harris left her husband. “Barbara’s newfound self-esteem required her to make painful choices and changes in her lift Before her NDE, Barbara had lived with her very tradition I husband in a wealthy suburb, wanting nothing more than to blend into her community and appear ‘Normal.’ `After my NDE, my true personality began to emerge. I became respiratory therapist because I wanted to work with sick people. I had so much love to give. My family and friends couldn’t accept it, but my patients could.’ Sadly, Barbara’s marriage ended ten years later, after 23 years. `I drove away with nothing but my stereo speakers and my clothes,’ she recalls. `I left behind a lot of financial security, but the spiritual security I was finding inside me was much more solid.’ Today Barbara works as Dr. Greyson’s research assistant” (Amy Sunshine Genova, “The Near-Death Experience,” McCalls, February, 1988, 105).
But the Bible commands, “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. . . And I say unto you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matt. 19:6,9).
Slane Durham-Winner says now there is no reason to fear death. “All of us who have had NDE’s have known rough times but we all agree it was worth it,” Durham- Winner adds. Now, she explains, there is no reason to fear death — and every reason to look forward to the peace, love and light that waits each of us” (Alan Ebert, “A Glimpse of Heaven,” Redbook, July, 1991, 128).
But the Bible says non-Christians will go to hell (2 Thess. 1:7-9). This is a very good reason to fear hell (Matt. 10:28).
Millard and Elisabeth Nachtwev are now mediums at seances. “Together they embarked on a spiritual journey that has included parapsychology, becoming mediums at seances, and practicing therapeutic touch and massage” (Carol Stevens, “I Felt Like I Was Going Home,” The Washingtonian, September, 1991, 133). But God condemns the occult (Lev. 19:31; 20:6; Deut. 18:10-13; Rev. 21:8).
Jane Fandey is worried her near-death experience might encourage suicide in others. “The only thing I worry about is making these experiences sound so beautiful that some people might misunderstand me and think I’m encouraging suicide” (Carol Stevens, “I Felt Like 1 Was Going Home,” The Washingtonian, September, 1991, 136).
But if someone is suicidal and gets a hold of near-death experience testimony and does not know the truth about near-death experiences, he could commit suicide. That would be a tragedy (Rev. 21:8).
Dear reader, if you know anyone who has questions concerning near-death experiences, please encourage him to read this examination of the subject along with an open Bible!
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 7, p. 16-17
April 1, 1993