OceanSide church of Christ
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NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES
Victor M. Eskew
Mysterious things have always seemed to intrigue the minds of people of all ages. Movies and television shows that have to do with paranormal activity are watched by millions of people. UFO’s and aliens are the subject of newspaper articles and documentaries. “Big Foot” sightings bring news crews from hundreds of miles to hear from those who have supposedly seen him.
Death and the afterlife are two mysterious areas to most human beings as well. Individuals want to know exactly what things are like on the other side. Near death experiences seem to answer some of their questions. Thus, the public is greatly interested when one is said to have passed into the unseen realm of the dead and has returned to tell of his experience. This interest was recently seen in the sale of a book entitled, Heaven Is for Real, by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. This book tells the story of boy named Colton who is said to have gone to heaven and to have come back.
Most of the public believe that these near death experiences and the things that are witnessed in them are true. Oh, there may be a few “far out” things that they dismiss, but for the most part the public accepts the stories as being authentic. If anyone doubts their veracity, he is looked upon as someone who is divisive and who is a troublemaker.
This writer believes that the best place to go in order to get a foundation about death and the afterlife is the Word of God. The Word of God is truth (John 17:17). As one studies the divine book, he finds that much about what is said in regard to near death experiences cannot be true.
What does the Bible have to say about death and beyond? First, the Bible reveals that men will die only one time. Hebrews 9:27 states: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Those who have had near death experiences are often said to have died and come back to life. This cannot be true. God’s Word teaches that a man will die only once. People do not die, come back to life, and die again. That would be two deaths. Such a situation would contradict God’s Word.
Second, the Bible reveals that when a man truly dies his spirit separates from his body. “For as the body without the spirit is dead…” (James 2:26). In a near death experience, the spirit does not leave the body. Note, if the spirit does not separate from the body, it cannot go into the unseen realm of the dead. It is still in the body. If it does not go to the “other side,” then there is nothing that can be truthfully witnessed about the “other side.” On the other hand, if the spirit did leave the body, the individual would be dead. This would be his one and only death. In which case, he could not return to speak of the things he saw on the “other side.”
Third, the Bible reveals that when a man dies he goes into an unseen realm. Once in this realm, he is not permitted to return to the land of the living. In Luke 16, Jesus tells a story of two men who died. Some believe this is a parable. Listen, however, to the manner in which the story begins: “There was a certain rich man…and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus…” (Luke 16:19-20). Jesus speaks as if both of these men really lived. In Luke 16:22, both of the men die. Lazarus “was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). The rich man is said to have gone to hell (KJV), literally, “hades” (Luke 16:23).
Most of the story focuses upon the rich man. In his tormented state, he has two requests. The first is found in Luke 16:24. “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” That request could not be fulfilled. The second request is found in Luke 16:27-28. “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” This request could not be fulfilled either. Thus, we learn that once a person has passed into the hadean realm, he must remain there. He is not free to return to the land of the living.
Fourth, in the Bible a few individuals were resurrected from the dead. One example is found in John 11. Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, died and was in the tomb four days. Jesus spoke the word for Lazarus to come forth, “and he that was dead came forth…” (John 11:44). Two things are important to note about the resurrection experiences found in the Bible. One, they were miraculous occurrences. Men of God were given the power from God to bring the dead back to life. Two, not one person who was resurrected from the dead in the Bible said anything about what he experienced in the hadean realm.
Fifth, one living man in the Bible is said to have been caught up into the third heaven. This was the apostle Paul (II Cor. 12:1-5). This, however, was not a dear death experience. Paul places it into the category of “visions and revelations of the Lord” (II Cor. 12:1). Paul tells us that he heard things while in Paradise. However, these were “unspeakable words, which is it not lawful for a man to utter” (II Cor. 12:4). Note that! What was heard in the land of the unseen is “not lawful” to be uttered in the land of the living.
At this point, individuals should realize that the Bible teaches it is not possible for one to die, come back, and tell others about it. They, however, still wonder about all of the near death experiences that are reported. They ask: “How do you explain what these people say they have seen and heard?” The simplest answer is: “We cannot explain these things.” Man’s brain and mind are very complicated. We have only begun to aggressively study the functions of the brain over the last 125 years. It may be that we will have more answers in the future. Right now, we do not. Now, we must be satisfied with a “thus saith the Lord” (I Pet. 4:11). This, dear readers, is that upon which true faith is built (Rom. 10:17).