What do you say about near death experiences? I’ve heard of certain people
having experiences where they are supposedly almost dead and see heavenly
places. I’ve even heard some say that people of different religions have
NDE’s where they see their own religion’s heaven. It makes me a bit
confused, but I think it is a deception. What do you think?


I do not have a lot to day about near death experiences for two reasons.
First, I have not had one of these experiences myself and second, the
Bible does not really help me much to interpret these interesting
reports. They remind me a bit of UFO sightings. What people see in these
experiences is determined largely by what they have been conditioned to
see. UFO’ers like to point out that most who see aliens have a similar
experience as evidence that they are real experiences. I say they are all
similar because those who believe in UFOs and even those who do not have a
similar cultural expectation. If I understand it correctly (and I am far
from an expert!), those who are conditioned to think of God in a
particular way tend to have a near-death experience which parallels their
pre-conceptions. This makes me skeptical of how they interpret what they

The analogy I just used is not perfect. I am not in the least bit
prepared to accept the validity of the claims of the UFO camp. On the
other hand, I do not feel I can simply dismiss the common experiences of
those who have had near death experiences. The difficulty is in how to
interpret the information such people have to offer. I am prepared to
accept the possibility that when we die we literally have an out-of-body
experience, being able to see our own physical body as our soul exits it.
I am also prepared to accept that when the body has for all practical
purposes died, the soul/spirit can initiate the events which normally
occur when we actually, once and for all, die. I am not saying I believe
this is what happens, but I really have no reason to doubt that the common
experience of such people does have a basis in what actually happens when
we die.

This brings me to the sticky part. How do we interpret these NDE’s? For
the sake of argument, let me concede momentarily that there is some
reality to the common thread which people have reported. If this is the
case, then about all I can say is that this is not a massive surprise to
me. I believe that physical death is not the absolute end, but marks a
transition to another reality. The Bible talks about us going to Hades
when we die. Hades is the place of waiting until Jesus comes back, the
world is judged, and God creates a new heaven and a new earth. (for more
on this, go to Dr. Douglas Jacoby has an excellent CD
series on what happens after we die.)

The Bible tells us relatively little about Hades, and it tells us nothing
about the first moments after we die. For this reason, I am biblically
agnostic about this issue. I am perfectly prepared to accept that such
people are reporting the first moments of experience when we die.
Clearly, the impressions of those who have a near death experience is
quite subjective, as is their interpretation. For this reason, I do not
believe we can reach very much in the way of a useful conclusion from what
people have experienced. If these reports give comfort to some, that is
fine, but I am concerned that some who are not saved by the blood of Jesus
may be given false comfort and false hope from the Hollywood
interpretation of NDE’s. This is all the more reason that those who are
disciples of Jesus ought to be sure to preach the gospel to everyone so
that their eternal fate will be with God rather than separated from him
forever in hell. Whether NDE’s are real or not, I am not sure, but I am
sure of one thing. A day of judgment awaits all of us. I pray that all
will be prepared for this great day. A couple of relevant passages are 2
Peter 3:3-13 (which includes the saying, “Since everything will be
destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to
live holy and godly lives, as you look forward to the day of God and speed
its coming.”) Matthew 24:36-25:13, which includes the admonition by Jesus
to be prepared and the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. If people
we meet are already ready to accept the reality of NDE’s, let us lead them
on to becoming prepared to meet Jesus.

John Oakes, PhD

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