Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and the Bible - Part 1

Introductory Thoughts

Due to some unforeseen circumstances I will not be continuing my series in the book of John right now. I am planning to get back to it and finish it at some point, but it seems God is taking me (at least temporarily) in another direction. I am doing some more research on the book, and once that is done, i will try to get back and complete the series that is already started. I apologize for any inconvenience.

In the meantime I want to take a biblical look at an area that can cause confusion and even damage if not properly understood. We all have our opinions, and nobody understands it completely, but when it comes to the topic of near death experiences, it would be good if we can make as much sense of the phenomenon as possible. As always, I will let the Scripture have the final word.

Stairway to Heaven
Stairway to Heaven

Because of the nature of the topic, I realize this can be touchy. I know many individuals that have experienced a near death experience. Often, even after the experience many still have questions. This article will in no way answer them all, but hopefully we can make some sense of what happens when a person tastes a near death experience or NDE. The Online Free Dictionary describes an NDE as - "the experience of being close to death but surviving."

So let us take a deep breath and begin.

Technological Advances

Modern medical technology has allowed us to look into this issue that many have wondered about for centuries. Even though we have the technical means to observe some elements of NDEs, we must also be careful to apply rightly divided Scripture to the issue. We will do that in Part 2.

There are many thoughts and ideas as to exactly what takes place in an NDE. The issue is divided among science, psychology, philosophy, and religion. The NDE is undoubtedly a life-changer for the one who experiences it. Just what takes place for sure, can not be determined by science, psychology, philosophy, or religion.

Is there an afterlife? If so, what is it like? Many have been brought back from “the dead” due to resuscitation efforts that were not possible years ago. Although these experiences no doubt have been happening for millennia, it has not been until fairly recently that these experiences has been able to be documented.

So what happens at the moment of death? If we are to examine the reports of 1000’s of independent cases of NDEs, a pattern begins to emerge. Not all will experience every step. Not all will experience the events in the same order, but a rough overview of leaving the realm of the living for the land of “the dead” looks something like this.

The Process of Leaving This Life

First, the dying individual sees him/herself floating above their body. They are able to hear and see what the doctors are saying and doing, but not from the vantage point of their body. Perhaps they see from the ceiling or from a corner of the room – detached from the body.

Secondly, as they float, they begin to enter a dark tunnel and are pulled along at rapid speed. At the end of the tunnel a bright light appears filled with overwhelming love leaving the traveler with a desire to never return to life on earth. Often they claim to meet beings from the celestial world. The beings that are described vary. Some would seem as if they are angels, or maybe loved ones that have gone on before.

In a few instances, God or Jesus Himself may be seen. In the reports that I have read, most encounter the Judeo-Christian God, Jesus. If we are to say that these reports are of actual happenings, that would make sense as Jesus Himself says, “. . . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). If, on the other hand, these reports represent something else, it would also make sense as most eastern religions do not own a personal God, thus they would not expect to meet one.

The third step usually involves the individual being given a chance to decide if they want to remain in the celestial sphere or return to earth. Most find the afterlife to be such a place of peace and love they have no desire to return to their earthly existence, but because of unfinished work on earth they may choose to return anyway.

Movies, TV shows, and books have popularized the theory we have just looked at. Pastor and author Todd Burpo goes into much detail as he tells of his son Colton’s NDE in his book Heaven is For Real. Colton describes Heaven as having “jeweled gates, shining rivers, and streets of gold”. He goes on to describe a God with blue eyes, yellow hair, and huge wings; a Jesus with sea-green-bluish eyes, brown hair, no wings, but with a rainbow colored horse; and a Holy Spirit who is bluish but hard to see.


Do you believe in NDEs?

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Even though they are not publicized as much there are also many stories of not entering Heaven, but stories of entering the netherworld. In his book, 23 Minutes in Hell, Bill Wise describes 23 minutes in which he went to hell and returned to tell about it. In that 23 minutes, he experienced 300 degree temperatures with no humidity; reptilian-like demons of torture, rats the size of dogs and many other things.

In many cases, regardless of the “place” visited, often it is reported that it seems like eternity. Not that the time period seems very long (in reality it may only be a matter of minutes or less), but rather that there is no time or space. Before Creation only eternity existed. We are told in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” In the beginning (the creation of time) God created the heaven (the creation of space) and the earth (the creation of matter). In eternity time, space, and matter do not exist. The absence of these is what is commonly reported. Because we do live with time, space, and matter, that is a hard concept to wrap our minds around. Nevertheless, this is what is reported.

We cannot deny NDEs actually do take place. There are too many reports with the same or similar descriptions to call it coincidence. We have to accept the fact that something takes place. But what? To find the answers we must look to Scripture. Movies, TV shows, and books are not necessarily true. Scripture is our source for truth. Therefore that is what we must examine. Like the Bereans of old, we must test the Scriptures against everything.

Romans 3:4 tells us to ". . . let God be true, but every man a liar . . . ." In other words, as we apply Romans 3:4 to this subject we must allow the Scriptures to judge our experiences rather that interpret Scripture to fit our experiences. I understand the NDE is very real for many people. I would not try to cheapen or disregard the experience. The question is not do these experiences actually take place, but In light of Scripture, the question becomes what are these folks experiencing?

Does the Bible speak to NDEs? Or are we left in silence on the subject? The Bible is a Book that deals with life - and death. The biblical definition of death is separation. Physical death takes place when the soul separates from the body. Scripture lists some exceptions to this in the form of resurrection reports that we will look at shortly.

The first thing we must come to terms with is are we willing to take the Scriptures literally at face value? If not, this article is not for you. If so, we will examine the Scriptures in Part 2 coming shortly.

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Comments 23 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Interesting to say the least. Nobody can accuse you of being shy about controversy. I look forward to Part 2. Nice job of research.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Very interesting. I never really gave this much thought until I was researching The Mind's Eye I did. I did read somewhere in that study that almost all NDE people are Christian or believers. Would be interesting to look into further if I get that chance.

My appt today was pretty uneventful and the end of that road for sure. lol

I am mapping out a rough outline of my next project and hope to jump in on it as soon as I can.

Up and sharing.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean

So far, so good. I will wait for part two before I comment on the topic. I appreciate the introduction.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi Bill,

As always I'm glad to have you along for the ride. Hopefully Part 2 will be up shortly, Thanks again for stopping by!


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Good morning Jackie,

Glad your appointment went okay, and glad you reached the end of that road, I think. You actually inspired this series with some of your past comments and your hub,The Mind's Eye - so thank you! Hope you have a great weekend!


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Thanks for stopping by, MsDora. I think you made a wise decision to wait for the final evidence. Some people jump to conclusions before they have all the facts. We need to be open minded to new information before we react in ignorance. Thanks again for making the trip.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 2 years ago

I think that most people who have NDEs are spiritual people, but they are not necessarily Christian. A family member became a Native America shaman after he had an NDE. Scientists try to tell us that what people call afterlife experiences are just neurons firing in the brain, but I don't believe that happens in every instance. I look forward to your next hub on this subject because my former Baptist church didn't have much, if anything, to say on this subject.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi MizBejabbers,

We certainly cannot deny the experiences, but just what is being experienced is what we must question. Sorry to hear your church didn't have much input. Part 2 will be up soon. Hope you find the time to stop by then, and thank you for stopping by now!


deorganicchurch profile image

deorganicchurch 2 years ago from Claymont, DE

There is a lot of talk about the silver cord described in Ecclesiastes 12:6, which when broken makes death permanent. It used to be thought that when the heart stopped, a person was dead, but in modern times, we know that the heart can be restarted and that the person is not completely dead yet. There are probably a series of physical and spiritual steps that complete the death process, and with modern medicine available, we are able to approach closer to the point of no return without actually crossing it. This is a fascinating subject that I would like to learn more about. I look forward to part two.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi deorganicchurch,

Thanks for making the trip and commenting. It is indeed a fascinating subject - one that we will no doubt completely understand until we enter into death ourselves. Someday we'll see it all and understand it all. Thanks for the visit.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Fascinating topic here. I look forward to reading your conclusion. We have a friend who is a diabetic and when he was young he was involved in a car accident due to his condition. He actually flat-lined for eight minutes. They considered him "dead" but he came back and, wow, what an experience he had to share!

Up and more and away

God bless you.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi Faith,

Since I don't get your notifications, I'll have to stop over and see what's new in your corner of the world. No doubt, I've missed some. I'm just getting ready to finish Part 2 to this series so it should be up shortly. Thanks for the trip and for commenting as well as the votes.


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

There are many people who have experienced NDE's that dramatically changed their lives for the good. So many that it is impossible to dismiss them as mere coincidences or imaginations caused by brain wave activity of a dying brain. Many are unquestionably evidence of life beyond death, of a spiritual reality and cannot be explained within the confines of the natural world. Kudos lifegate for bringing attention to these phenomena and possibly giving unbelievers something more to think about, that something resulting in the hope that "this world" isn't all there is. Looking forward to Part 2.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Thanks for stopping by, tsadjatko. Glad you were able to make the trip and comment. Absolutely we can't dismiss these things as coincidences or imagination. Part 2 will be up shortly.Thanks again for making the trip.


PlanksandNails profile image

PlanksandNails 2 years ago from among the called out of the ekklesia of Christ

Lifegate,

My question is, how do we know that the light is from God since we know that Satan can transform himself into an angel of light?

It cannot be denied that many have had a NDE, but I would say at this point I am a skeptic.

I find that any phenomena that goes beyond the realm of Scripture is speculation. Any experience that is reported must be scrutinized under the light of God's Word.

("Are we willing to take the Scriptures literally at face value?")

Yes, I'm in. I'm all for examining Scripture to see where it goes.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi PandN,

To answer your question, I'm not sure can assume the light IS from God. Hopefully Part 2 (which will be up shortly) will explain. Glad you're in since we'll be looking at what the Bible has to say about these things. - until next time . . .


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

PandN, that is just the thing, many NDEs actually are in line with scripture. You mention "the light" Some NDE's describe a light that they were approaching and when they approached it it was the fire of hell and was so despairing that they blocked it out and only recalled that experience when undergoing hypnosis. One problem is two people can have a different experience but describe what they see as light but we can't know what they are actually experiencing except from what they say they saw, actually their interpretation of what they think they remember they saw.


PlanksandNails profile image

PlanksandNails 2 years ago from among the called out of the ekklesia of Christ

tsadjatko,

A lot of times people will use certain Scripture verses out of context and say it was NDE when it was actually a vision from God. Therefore, I would question the validity of any NDE experience is from God, especially those who were under a hypnotic spell.

With that said, if NDE's are in line with the context of Scripture, the evidence will be in there to validate them.


tsadjatko profile image

tsadjatko 2 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

Yep, the evidence will be and is in some. You should read Dr. Eby's book, "Didn't You Read My Book?" With respect to the impeccable credentials of his character before he died and came back to life, his interviews and book are amazing.

http://www.amazon.com/Didnt-You-Read-My-Book/dp/15...


Sparklea profile image

Sparklea 2 years ago from Upstate New York

Lifegate: This is a remarkable read. I have read MANY books on NDE's. I read 'Heaven Is For Real' and I saw the movie twice. In my heart I SO want to believe these people, as it lessens the fear of death for me. I suppose many do not fear death, but there is an undercurrent for me of fear of the unknown. I am saved, baptized, and I have had so many coincidences and miracles in my life that I am certain of God and His Son Jesus Christ living in me.

Thank you that you have addressed this very important topic that involves the world itself, for we are all heading toward eternity when God is ready to take us. Blessings, Sparklea :)


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi Sparklea,

So nice of you to stop by. I think we all have a little bit of fear when it comes to the unknown. May I encourage you to fall back on I John 4:18 which tells us that perfect love casts out fear. God's love is perfect. For those that know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, there is no love like God's love, so even if we may fear from time to time, there's no reason to. Thanks again for making the trip and commenting.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

I recently watched the movie "Heaven is for Real." It was definitely heart-wrenching to see how many people did not believe Colton's father when he talked about the boy's experiences. Having had a NDE experience myself, in which my spirit was separated from my body following a freak accident, I know that they exist. I remember watching what was happening from a distance, and seeing the events of my life go by as if in a fast-forwarded video. Since then, I have been fascinated when others talk of their experiences.


lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA Author

Hi Denise,

Glad to be following you, and thank you for stopping by and adding your thoughts.

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