Perhaps it goes without saying but a Near Death Experience (NDE) is when someone actually dies and comes back to talk about it informing us of something of the afterlife. I am intrigued and utterly fascinated by what these stories have to tell us.
I thought about what the death experience would be like yesterday as my family and I were walking to the park to see the fireworks. As far as I could tell, my heart stopped for a few moments and I got lightheaded and I fell to the ground while carrying my little girl Emma. After that, I told Catherine to pound on my chest if I fell unconscious again.
It was a reminder that life is fragile. Your heart stops. You have moments before you blank out and that’s it. I’m in God’s hands. I’m not much afraid. I’m not hardly even worried. In fact, I’m kind of excited to go.
We are all going to die eventually… maybe.
Of course now I realize that you don’t have to die to meet and experience Jesus or even learn something of the spiritual world or afterlife.
(WARNING: this post is long. And this is only part 1. BUT, I believe it is vitally important to consider what I bring up here as someone who has wrestled with what to make of the plethora of NDE accounts.)
How My Interest in NDE’s All Began:
This image released by Sony Pictures shows Greg Kinnear, left, and Connor Corum in a scene from “Heaven Is For Real.” (AP Photo/Sony Pictures, Allen Fraser)
In early 2014 the bestselling book Heaven is for Real had been out and was coming to the theaters. It had piqued my interest along with a few random other stories I had encountered.
Prior to this I never was very interested in heaven. It seemed like everyones imaginations or depictions of heaven were extremely lame and disappointing. I just trusted that it would be better than I could imagine.
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT (Taken grossly out of context by the way! Read the following verses!)
It was just enough for me to know I’d go there. Now I know I will. This of course is based on the promises of Jesus and entirely on what he accomplished through the cross and resurrection. I doubted for many years that I would go however. I was still stuck in the performance mode, better-be-good-enough “Christianity”. Of course you can’t truly call that kind of thinking Christian at all.
What helped me overcome those doubts were two things. Jesus personally saying, “You’re going to be with me forever”, over and over again (because I needed him to). And a rapture dream in which I actually got to go!
Now this is not to say that I could not have arrived at these conclusions (that my destiny is heaven in spite of a failed life) without these mystical esoteric experiences, But as the saying goes:
“A man with an experience is never at the mercy of an argument.”
But then, unfortunately, experiences can deceive us can’t they? In fact most of us are deceived by our own experiences. The Bible tells us that believers are new creations destined to do the works of Christ and even greater things.
My experiences. Your experiences. They lie to us every day and must be questioned, challenged and changed if we are to walk in all that God might have for us.
Regarding Spiritual (Mystical) Experiences
But that isn’t to say that God doesn’t speak to us in dreams and visions and supernatural experiences. Of course he does. We should expect that.
I suppose my point is that you need something more weighty than an experience to form a foundation for truth. Muhammad and Joseph Smith supposedly had an esoteric experience upon which they based their truth and have deceived countless millions. So why should NDE’s be any different?
Let’s be honest with ourselves. They aren’t.
But, that doesn’t mean that these experiences don’t have something to teach us or aren’t useful. You just have to weigh them against the standard for truth. This is what the Bible teaches us to do with prophecy.
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Of course the standard for truth is this: ask yourself, how does it make you feel? If it makes you feel good it must be truth. Bad? Then it’s not true.
Easy enough, right? So, moving on… What’s that? That wasn’t a good enough answer for you? Yea, me neither.
Jesus Christ (The WORD) and his Word (the Bible) are the standard for Truth. How have I arrived at this conclusion? I’ve blogged about it and talked about it many times, but the essence of the proof is this: Jesus died and rose again. It is upon the evidence of his resurrection that I base my faith in the person of Jesus Christ and what he said about the reliability of the Holy Scriptures which he said can be trusted down to the tense of a single word.
Now some would challenge the whole notion that NDE’s are even worth exploring. That’s fine. You don’t have to! I might even advise you not to. This post is for those who already are interested and perhaps familiar with some NDE accounts.
I have researched hundreds of NDE accounts for the past year and a half. I’ve watched SO many videos and interviews and read many of the most popular books on the subject. This blog post is to begin to tell you what I have learned, pitfalls to avoid regarding exploring NDE’s, and to catalog the best of the best NDE testimonies for your benefit.
I would like to explain another aspect of what initially prompted my research. My grandfather and half-brother are dead. I don’t have any solid belief that either of them knew Jesus. My grandfather had said at one time, “If I can’t have a part of my own salvation I don’t want it.”
My half-brother died in a high speed car accident after drinking. I never knew him either and I didn’t know his relationship to God.
Fact is, we all know people who have passed on that we suspect are in the prisons of hell or being tormented by demons right now because they rejected their only Savior. Is there anything we could do for them? Is it appropriate to even try? Can we pray for them? Is there any hope for them?
This got me wondering about what the practice of baptism for the dead in Scripture meant, or what exactly happened when Jesus went to preach to the spirits in prison (hell) to rescue them or offer salvation and if he is still in the business of doing that. I wondered if it was a pointless fruitless exercise to pray for those who may be in hell. What I discovered in my research both startled and comforted and challenged me. I must say I have not come to any solid conclusions other than what the Bible clearly reveals. I have over the course of the last year and a half wrestled with ideas of purgatory or some version of hopeful universalism (that any or even all could potentially eventually escape from hell). But the tone of Scripture and Jesus words lead me away from settling on that however. Is there no opportunity for parole from hell?
There were a number of NDE cases where people did die and went to or were on their way to hell but then called on the name Jesus and were rescued from there.
Isn’t it amazing that even right now, in this moment, that God is SO good that when someone just whispers the faintest sincere, “Jesus save me”, that Jesus comes rushing to their rescue!
“Everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved.”
Scripture says in three places. Jesus (Yeshua) is the Name of the LORD (I AM). Yeshua literally means, “I AM Salvation”.
When describing His Name, I AM, to Moses He says, “I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion”.
He decides. I’m ok with that. Thankfully God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Sadly, that does not necessarily mean that all will, for love does not demand its own way. If someone wants to go to hell, I suppose love will let them. Just like in any loving relationship, a person will let the other leave if they want to. Love doesn’t lock them in a room and hold them captive against their will. I prayed that somehow there could be reconciliation for someone in hell. This is heart-wrenching to think about.
Wow, that was pleasant right? Don’t you have the warm fuzzies after considering the torments of hell?
The fact is anyone can be saved from the hell they are currently in right now by calling out to Jesus to be saved. My question, does this extend into the afterlife? Is it a hard and fast rule that the answer must be no? Why not?
While I have waffled a bit in my views between hopeful universalism vs. eternal conscious torment, we have to let the Bible speak for itself on the subject. I have discovered from reading a few books on the subject (and of course the Bible) that the Bible is not always definitive or black and white about this issue and that many Christians (and even those considered “church fathers” – which basically could mean that an influential Christian who lived a long time ago was deceived and skewed peoples theology till the end of time all because this knucklehead came before us and wrote something) believed in versions of hopeful universalism.
I’m not exactly sold on anything I have read or heard and I’m not willing to commit intellectual suicide and rule out that it could very well be ‘eternal conscious torment’. I just haven’t settled this bit of theology in my mind yet… and perhaps never will.
Consider for a moment the fact that I have a strong motivation to be deceived. My grandpa and brother may be there. I point that out because, in researching NDE’s, people will hear what they want to hear and tune out what they don’t want to hear.
People get deceived because they want to be.
There is a Youtube channel whose topic researches NDE’s among other things who blatantly disregards anyones experience of hell. (Like Wesley saying when asked about the ROUS’s, “Rodents of Unusual size? I don’t believe they exist”.)
I tell on myself because I want you to go to God’s Word on this and MORE than that, go to Jesus – the true ‘WORD’.
I have been researching this topic since January 2014 examining hundreds of cases. I haven’t shared much on this since that time and didn’t even log in to my facebook account for a couple months while doing this research. This is a sensitive topic for various reasons. I think most will find other people’s experiences of the afterlife or spirit world very threatening to their ideologies and theologies.
It is important while engaged in any endeavor such as this to be thoroughly rooted in your relationship with God and be solidly grounded in the Word of God. Just as those who can spot counterfeit money don’t study counterfeit money but become intimately familiar with the real thing, the same is true of the spiritual.
The enemy is the great counterfeiter. That’s all he can do and he already has flooded the market with counterfeits. The enemy takes what is God’s and will twist it corrupt it and sell you a lie. The lie may be so cleverly construed that it appears to be the truth.
Are you any match for the devil? Are you more clever than he? I guarantee you that if you are not intimately familiar with the LORD Jesus and with his Word, you will be deceived. Why? Because your ego craves to be deceived. Your pride wants to survive and God and truth are its greatest threat. This is why most people don’t actually read the Bible.
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (Ephesians 4:14 NLT <– see context to find out why).
WE ARE AT WAR
What I discovered in my research startled me and opened up a whole new world for me. This is a world of spiritual warfare. The war is a war of ideas and beliefs. It’s a war of words and arguments just as the Scriptures say:
“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.” 2 Corinthians 3:3-6 NLT
There are nefarious forces at play here who will more often than not appear like the “good guys” or as angels of light or even as “God” himself.
“Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 NLT (may this not describe any who is reading this right now!)
So the devil masquerades as an angel of light. No doubt he is that brilliant light far outshining the sun and appearing as the “god” that some NDE’ers experience. Their experience may be the lie that keeps them and those who listen to them far from the true light of Jesus. They become missionaries for the enemy.
One lady told of having her spirit yanked out of her body and becoming a chew toy for a dark and powerful entity. The world is, because of the sin that we humans seem so keen on holding on to, currently the devils playground. Deception is his weapon of choice. He will certainly give pleasant and euphoric (some would say “heavenly”) experiences to deceive. He will say, “it doesn’t matter how you live and that there is no need to turn from your sins as Jesus would command. You’ll end up in glory anyhow no matter how you live. All roads lead to heaven.”
Jesus is ignored.
I am not a fear-monger. The last thing I want to do is instill fear in anyone. The devil feeds on our fear. Fear makes him and the kingdom of darkness grow stronger. His world is like the world of Monsters Inc. running on the fearful screams of children at night. He loves to have you afraid and better yet, in terror. But there is a proper place for fear… Fear God!
What does it mean to “Fear God”?
I love the apostle Paul’s wonderful and gloriously liberating position of not wanting to lord over anyones faith. I don’t want to do that! That being said, if you take on this kind of topic such as NDE’s there are dangers to be aware of.
I am not into controlling how or what you think. My typical advice to anyone on matters of spirituality is, do your research and decide for yourself… at the risk of your everlasting soul. Yes, there is a reason why the Bible says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” But even this Scripture was just taken out of context and has been explained that if you want to take your own salvation into your own hands, do so with fear and trembling. Your salvation is better left in the hands of the Savior.
As the lyrics to Amazing Grace say, “twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.”
Where are you in the process? Have you still never wrestled with the true nature of reality and so are naive or complacent? Do you now understand the true nature of reality and are in stark terror? I encourage you to keep going on in your journey. There is a Greater Reality still that will calm and forcefully drive out all fear. For “God is love… and His perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4)
God, though he is perfect love, is no one to trifle with. You harden your heart a few times and he may take the liberty of hardening it for you and making you an object of his wrath to display his power as he did to Pharoah. It has happened to me and this is why I say with Paul, “Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others.” The KJV phrasing sticks indelibly in my mind: “knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”.
Once you have known what it is to make the LORD your enemy and suffering the tragic horrors of “going it your way” you will never want to experience it ever again. My own testimony includes a seven-year stretch in which I was absolutely certain I was on my way to hell. I suffered this stark terror because I insisted on letting my ego rather than Jesus run my life and spirituality, and God, for a time, times and half a time times two, allowed me to.
HELL IS REAL
Many would probably judge me for what I told you about what sparked this research into the afterlife and what I could learn from NDE’s to begin with. I was honestly searching for a loophole for my grandfather who rejected Jesus and my half-brother who died in a car crash likely not knowing Jesus.
It is hard to cope with the thought that they are most likely suffering in hell right now. I wanted to be deceived. I wanted to believe that they could eventually escape their fate, that it isn’t too late for them. That perhaps after a thousand years or perhaps a million years or even after an eternity that they would be rescued, restored, and redeemed. Why did they choose to reject their Savior?
I suppose that for those who want nothing to do with God, there is a place that has nothing to do with him. I don’t want a single soul to go there.
The Bottom Line
What it came down to for me with all the accounts of people experiencing heaven or hell and were permitted to return to tell about it was an issue of authority. (The hellish experiences are way underreported for obvious reasons. I mean, who wants to admit that they flunked life and were flushed down the toilet bowl of the universe?)
Who is your authority? Who gets to define reality for you? Do you define your own reality or are you submitting to God’s?
I share this video of David Platt’s talk about NDE’s because this is what most Christians who take the Word seriously would believe. David Platt, however, would have you believe that ALL NDE’s are figments of people’s imaginations, hallucinations, or demonic deceptions. Is he right?
But then in his talk he names four biblical people who experienced heaven and came back to tell us their stories: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John. He says however that these weren’t trips to heaven but visions, even though the above mentioned prophets said they were heavenly visits. Paul specifically says it was so real he didn’t know if he was in his body or not.
He cites Proverbs 30:4, “Who has ascended into heaven and descended?”
And, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.” John 3:13
There is a great deal more going on in these verses that I don’t have time to get into (or even understand) but does it categorically disqualify anyone from experiencing heaven and returning? No, it just means you are not going to accomplish it without Jesus who has and still does ascend the heavens and come down on perhaps a far more frequent basis then you or I can even fathom. There are multiple Scriptural accounts of Christ appearing after the ascension. Paul’s conversion is one of them. I’ve experienced encounters with Jesus. I’m sure many of you have as well.
Ok, so true experiences of heaven come about through and in and only because of Christ Jesus. He is truly the gatekeeper. No one gets in except through him.
“I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
So, any experience you hear about that denies or ignores Jesus and makes claims of experiencing heaven, I would be suspicious of. Remember, the devil is a great counterfeiter and he has flooded the market. Does this mean then that people who talk about “God” but not specifically Jesus are sharing false deceptive experiences? Perhaps not. Does this mean that everyone who talks of meeting Jesus really did and are conveying messages from him? Perhaps not. All of this requires great discernment… in fact a discernment that we, in and of ourselves, are completely incapable of (this actually applies to all of life as well). We need God’s Spirit residing in us to be that island of truth in an ocean of diarrhea (the enemies lies).
So here is my perspective: I do believe that many have in and through or because of Christ experienced heaven and come back to tell us of it. In fact I believe that 99.9% of experiencers are telling the absolute truth of what they experienced whatever it may be. But as I have said before, it doesn’t make it “true”. And also, as arrogant as this may sound, many are misinterpreting their own experiences. How could I have the nerve to say this??? Well, because there is a standard for truth remember? I have something to weigh what is being said and shared against… the Bible.
Also, I do believe that many have, because of their lack of Christ, experienced hell and come back to tell us of it. Or were given tours of hell as a Christian. Personally I am done watching videos or reading interviews about hell. I’d rather investigate the heavenly accounts. But at least being aware of the hell accounts might be advisable however and here is why:
It’s kind of like watching those People Are Awesome videos on Youtube. If that was all you saw and never once viewed the epic fail videos where people broke legs and such you might be inspired to go out and try some of the things they do that would land you in the hospital with perhaps an NDE of your own or worse, the morgue with no more chances at life.
My point in all that is to say, consider where your life and faith are at and where it will land you. Where will you end up? Where is your faith taking you? Is your faith in the right person? Is your truth grounded in Reality?
I know I’ve promised more than I should probably include in one blog. That’s it for now. Consider this the preamble. Leave a comment and let your voice be heard.