WHAT ABOUT NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES?

Wayne S. Walker

     Question:  “If in a near-death experience a person sees something
that he can’t explain, is that of the devil or of Jesus?”

      A great deal of notoriety has been given in the last few years to
these “near-death” experiences, or as some call them, “after-death”
experiences.  In order to try to understand them from a Biblical
standpoint, we must first understand what the Bible means by death.
James 2.26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith
without works is dead.”

     The concept of “clinical death,” where a person would be declared
dead based on some purely physiological determination but then heroic
measures might revive him, was unknown in Bible times.  The Biblical
definition of death is the state of the body without the spirit, which
returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12.7).  The Bible views death
from its finality.

     Thus, death is referred to in the scriptures as the complete end of
physical life on earth.  Hebrews 9.27 tells us, “And as it is appointed
for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”  Except for those
instances recorded in God’s word of miraculous resurrections from the
dead, no one has ever returned after genuine death, and if the scriptures
are true no one ever will do so until Christ returns.

     So, what about these near-death experiences from a Biblical
standpoint?  It is interesting that regardless of the religious beliefs
and spiritual conditions of those who claim to have had them–whether
believer, unbeliever, atheist, Catholic, Protestant, Moslem, Buddhist, or
whatever–everyone seems to have almost the exact same sort of
experience.  Thus, it is doubtful if they represent any kind of message
from God.  Today, God speaks to us only through His Son (Hebrews 1.1-2).
And the means that the Son uses to convey God’s message to mankind in
general and to any person in particular is not a near-death experience
but the scriptures (2 TImothy 3.16-17).

     Therefore, we can begin to answer the question as to whether they
are from Jesus or from the devil.  It is true that in New Testament times
when the written word was not yet completed, Jesus did reveal things to
specific persons through dreams and visions (cf. Acts 10.10, 18.9-10).
Of course, now that we have the completed scriptures, there is no
Biblical basis to believe that this still occurs.

     Also, it is true that the devil can influence people to accept error
by visions and dreams (2 Corinthians 11.13-15, 2 Thessalonians 2.9).
Yet, the devil’s power involves “lying wonders,” not true experiences.
So it is likely that these near-death experiences are not either from
either Jesus or the devil, although one could argue that the devil might
use them when they do occur.  Rather, they are probably simply the result
of people’s own imaginations or subconsciousnesses when they are in that
unconscious mental state known as clinical death.

     It is also interesting that even in those Biblical cases of true
resurrection, no one ever related any after-death experiences.  In fact,
Paul talks about a man who was taken up to the third heaven in 2
Corinthians 12.4 and said, “How he was caught up into Paradise and heard
inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”  So that
is where we have to leave these so-called near death experiences from a
Biblical standpoint.  (From “Search for Truth,” October, 1996).

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