After Death Experiences

Most of us have heard or read of those who died and have returned to life to relate what the experience was like. Here is a composite picture of what people say it is like to die and then return to life. “After being pronounced dead, I moved through a long tunnel and saw the efforts to resuscitate me. I was outside my body, though I knew the body was mine. I was greeted by relatives who had gone on before me. Suddenly I encountered a long grid and in the middle was a brilliant light. The light gave me an evaluation of my life and spoke peace to me. I knew no discomfort, no pain, and no sadness. Then, I woke again to life.” This is representative of several testimonies given over a number of years by those who say they have been pronounced dead and then revived.

Raymond Moody and Elisabeth Kuebler–Ross authored a best selling book entitled, Life After Life. It was a study of the experiences people have had with death and near–death experiences. The book seeks to prove that there is life after death and that it is filled with joy, renuion with others who have died, and reward. No matter what religious views one held in life, whether “Christian,” Jewish, Buddhist, Mohammedan or those with no religion whatsoever, those who pass into the life after life are rewarded with peace and joy. In every case, they all returned to life after being pronounced legally dead.

These two authors claim around one–hundred–fifty cases were thoroughly researched. Not one of the entire number had the same experience as the others. Moody listed “fifteen or so” components of the composite picture of what death is like. Of these he claimed that most of those who have been pronounced dead and revived have at least eight of the elements but no more than twelve. Some, he said, “remembered nothing when they ‘returned to life’.”

How does this fit into the biblical picture of life and death? The Bible clearly teaches that there is life after death. There are numerous instances where a person was brought back to life after death. The single most notable case in history is that of Jesus who “died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). In the Old Testament there is the record of Elijah and the revival of life to a young child.

    “Now it happened after these things that the son of the woman who owned the house became sick. And his sickness was so serious that there was no breath left in him.

    “So she said to Elijah, ‘What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?’

    “And he said to her, ‘Give me your son.’ So he took him out of her arms and carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his own bed.

    “Then he cried out to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?’

    “And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.’

    “Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.

    “And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper room into the house, and gave him to his mother. And Elijah said, ‘See, your son lives’!” (1 Kings 17:17-23).

Later, Elisha brought back to life the son of a Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4:32).

In the case of Jesus, the testimony that He returned to life is irrefutable. Notwithstanding the fact that His body was gone from a tomb where it had been laid, sealed, and kept under guard, impeachable testimony from credible witnesses affirmed that He rose from the dead. The cases of Elijah and Elisha cannot be explained away as cardiopulmonary resuscitation apart from the miraculous intervention by God Almighty. In order for such emergency procedures to be effective they must be initiated almost at once. If a person does not receive such treatment almost instantly irreversible brain damage occurs.In the case of the child Elisha revived the child had been dead several hours before the prophet reached the lad. He travelled a five to six hour journey from his home at Mount Carmel to where the Shunammite woman lived.

Another bona fide revival to life involved the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:20-21). There is the case of Lazarus, who had already begun to decompose in the grave (John 11:1-44). Jesus raised the 12–year–old daughter of the chief priest, Jairus, a ruler of the Synagogue. The apostle Paul brought Eutychus back to life (Acts 20:9–10). So there is no question that some people have returned to life after death to live a normal life. But the data differs from what the Bible teaches and the claims made in modern day cases.

The researchers say that the Bible has very little to say about life after death. Those who have read the Bible with any profit at all know this is pure falsehood. As we have seen, there are numerous case histories revealed in the Bible of those who returned to a normal life after death. The difference is this. In the Bible, the death of the person was unquestionably true. Sometimes the individual had been dead for days. The most significant fact is that none of those in the Bible who came back to life told anything to anyone about what they experienced.

The Bible is the only reliable source that can truly define life and death. In the book, Life After Life, Moody gave three definitions to death. First, he said death is the absence of clinically detectable signs of life, such as stoppage of the heart, blood pressure so low as to be unreadable, or dropping body temperature. Second, he said death is the absence of brain wave activity. This would be impossible to apply in the cases of those who claim they died and remembered what happened in the experience. There is not enough time to perform the very complex test to determine brain wave activity when one is dying. Moody also admitted, “Flat EEG tracings have been obtained in persons who were later resuscitated,” which indicates that the test, even had it been used could never have been definitive or conclusive. Third, he said that death is the irreversible loss of vital functions, the most restricted definition of death. Measured by this definition, none of those making the claim of a return to life could have actually died.

The Bible gives us the one real answer to life and death. James said, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Solomon wrote, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). The Bible teaches that at death the spirit will not return to the body under normal circumstances. Listen to God’s word on remembering what occurs at death. “For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?” (Psalm 6:5). Again, Solomon wrote: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Eccl. 9:10). Remember from the case of Elijah, that when he brought the boy back to life, the record says “the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:22).

There are those who deny the fundamental Bible teaching of the immortality of the soul. Our friends in the Jehovah’s Witness organization contend that man is nothing more than animal life. He has no immortal soul. Listen to the words of one of their highest authorities. Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement, wrote that man is “wholly mortal.” Again from one of their books, “So we see that the claim of religionists that man has an immortal soul and therefore differs from the beast is not scriptural.” Jesus replied to this materialistic concept of man in answering the Sadducees. “Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him” (Luke 20:37-39). But how can God be the God of the living and also be God of dead men, viz., Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who were dead at the time Moses said this? The answer is by the fact that men do exist beyond the grave and the dead are raised. God has given man an immortal soul. Peter describes the soul of man as “imperishable” (1 Pet. 3:4).

The second thing about the biblical data is that in each case of reviving to life from the dead no information is given describing any aspect of the experience. I do not question that people go through amazing experiences when they are near death’s door. I do not question that those experiences are indelibly engraved in their memory. But those experiences and memories are from the same source that fantasies and dreams come from. At death, the Bible teaches that believers go to be with the Lord. Paul wrote, “For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). There is no judgment or evaluation of life at that point. All are judged together before the judgment seat of Christ. Listen again, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).

The third thing to consider in these alleged experiences of returning from the dead is the variety of false information given. Moody and Ross reported, “There was a cultural stamp to the visions. Most Americans saw loved ones, most Indians saw religious figures. Religion determined the identity of the figure; no Christian patient saw a Hindu deity, and no Hindu saw Jesus.” (Daniel Goleman, Back from the Brink, Psychology Today, April 1977, page 58, reporting on the research of Karlis Osis and Erlunder Haraldson, who gathered information of five hundred cases.)

Finally, one may have had some sort of vision or dream, but that is no assurance it is from God. Remember, Paul wrote of Satan, that he can cloak himself in garments belonging to “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). A “being of light” which can adapt to anyone’s religious inclination and background is not the Lord Jesus Christ, not the Holy Spirit, or the Eternal Father of lights. Beware of such visions and reports. Those who die leave this world to stand before God to be judged. The Hebrew writer said, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:27-29).

The important thing all straight thinking people need to remember is that this life is but a stage of preparation for the life to come. To prepare, one must accept what God has revealed of Himself and His Son and obey from the heart that form of teaching (Rom. 6:17-18). Believe, repent, and be immersed today into the sacred name of the divine Three.

Questions about this article are welcome. Valley Church

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