Near Death Experiences and the Bible!

What Should the Christian Make of Near Death Experiences (NDEs)?

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  • When Colton Burpo was four
    • he died and went to heaven, where
      • he met his grandparents and a sister
        • who had been still born.
    • His story was made popular by
      • both a book (“Heaven is for Real”), and
      • a movie by the same name.
    • Colton (now 20) had knowledge about his grandparents, and stillborn sister
      • that could only have come to him supernaturally,
      • that is through an NDE.
  • Recently also, my wife and I saw a documentary called ‘Afterlife‘ by Paul Perry,
    • which details the stories of people who experienced NDEs.
    • Perry clearly sees NDEs as proof of the ‘life after life’ and
    • the experience led us to examine Biblical teaching about the after life and
      • how that aligns with what is known about NDEs.
scenic view of beach
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
  • If you are interested, the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS) website
    • contains a large collection of stories and information about NDEs;
      • the stories sometimes differ in the particulars; but
      • they also share strong similarities:
        • Out of body experience
        • Moving towards an unconditional loving light
        • Heightened senses, consciousness, peace and harmony
          • with the universe
        • Self-awareness – People experiencing NDEs
          • were aware of who they were as individuals
      • But there are others who believe that the experience is

 

  • Some descriptions of NDEs sound like
    • the product of vivid imagination and dreams, or  of
    • delirium, such as when a person is experiences very high fever
      • caused by malaria and other illnesses,
      • (an experience common to many people in the tropics
        • including me, my wife, and I am sure, many others); or
    • hallucination caused by certain types of restricted drugs.
  • Some texts in the Bible appear to relate to NDEs:
    • Paul (2 Corinthians 12) was caught up into the third heavens
      • he said he could not say whether he was
        • in the body or out of the body” (verse 3 ESV);
      • he also saw and heard wonderful things he could not describe.
        • Could this have been and NDE
          • after he was beaten up and left for dead
            • at Lystra (Acts 14.19-20)?
          • Or could this have been after one of the many beatings he had suffered
            • as seen in 2 Corinthians 6.2-10?
    • John the Beloved experienced visions
      • detailed in the book of revelation while fasting.
        • Could this also qualify as an NDE?
        • Please see Revelation 1.9 -20.
    • Many other prophets in the Bible received visions
      • Daniel (10.2 ff); Peter (Acts 10.10 ff; ), Stephen (Acts 7.55 ff) etc.
      • Were these NDEs?  Are NDEs the same, similar to
        • what is called a ‘vision’ and a ‘trance’ in the Bible?
    • Jesus spoke about Lazarus and the Rich Man in the afterlife
      • (the story does not appear to be a mere parable
        • but a description of historical events );
      • how similar are the details of this story
        • to the common elements of NDEs?

SO WHAT THEN?

  • At the minimum, I believe NDEs confirm
    • what the Bible clearly teaches:
      • that Human existence goes beyond the physical realm.
        • In fact humanity generally and instinctively believes this
        • hence the universal prevalence of religion
          • one way or another, all societies ‘pray;
        • although some (atheists, and skeptics, and naturalists etc.)
          • reject this possibility.
  • But NDEs are not the source of our hope; rather
    • the Bible’s teaching of the Resurrection is the source of our hope.
  • We must be careful not to develop doctrines
    • about the afterlife
      • based on NDEs, about,
      • who gets saved, how they are saved etc., or about
    • who God, Jesus Christ,  and the Holy Spirit is;
      • The Bible is our source of doctrine for all things Christian
        • (Jude 4; Galatians 1.7-9; 2 Timothy 3.16,17)
  • God wants us to live by faith and by the already provided word of God
    • Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
      • John 20.29!
    • Luke 16.27-31
      • The Rich man’s brothers must accept the teachings of scripture
        • by faith!
    • Hebrews 11.6
      • Faith not NDEs (or other types of miraculous signs)
        • must be he basis of our walk with God.
    • Paul – 2 Corinthians 5.7
      • “for we walk by faith and not by sight”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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