Near-death experiences may seem to contradict the Bible’s plain teachings, but what is actually behind this phenomenon?
by Colin and Russell Standish
Grace Bubulka, a Philadelphia nurse, gave birth to a stillborn infant during an episode of life-threatening septic shock. During labor her temperature was a critical 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius), her blood pressure dropped to unrecordable levels, and she lost consciousness. It was at this point that Grace had her near-death experience. Life magazine reported her experience:
“I began to feel the most incredible warm, golden, loving feeling, and the feeling was also a wonderful, warm, golden light. There was a presence in the light, a wisdom, and that wisdom was the final word. The wisdom loved me, and at the same time it knew everything about me. Everything I had ever done or felt was there for me to see. I wanted to proceed into the light and stay there forever, but I was shown that I had to go back and take care of my two children.”1
Life after Death
Much publicity is now given to the subject of near-death experiences (NDEs). It is experiences such as Grace Bubulka’s that have led to a broad spectrum of individuals researching NDEs. Among these are scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, psychologists, and not a few journalists.
Numbers of people report that when they are critically ill and lose consciousness they experience out-of-body phenomena in which, typically, they see an extremely bright light and can look down on their bodies. Dr. Raymond Moody’s 1975 book Life After Life popularized the concept of NDEs and was followed by many other books. There is now a scientific journal—the Journal of Near-Death Studies—which serves as an avenue for reporting research on this phenomenon.
Many today are citing these experiences as evidence that a conscious soul is not dependent upon a functioning brain. Further, some use this faulty reasoning to assert that the soul departs from the body at death.
But a rational examination of NDEs quickly dispels such conclusions. In the first place, the individual is not dead. He does have a viable, functioning brain, albeit temporarily impaired. The experience of someone with an impaired brain can’t be used to resolve the question of whether the soul departs from the body of an individual whose brain has totally ceased to function.
If it is argued that NDEs provide evidence that the soul may be detached from the body when it is very close to death, why are these experiences so infrequent? Thousands of individuals experience a lack of consciousness and come close to death every year for various reasons without reporting NDEs. Are NDEs (and thus detachable souls) the possession of only a minuscule group of individuals? And why don’t some people report experiencing the fire of hell? Not everyone is worthy of heaven at death. Or should we be content with the words of Scripture that repeat the more simple conclusion, that death is a sleep?
And this is where the real issue is for Christians. It is the Word of God that is sure and certain. The theories of man, and even their perceptions, are faulty. Christians should ponder the events on the road to Emmaus on the Resurrection Sunday. As the two discouraged disciples were walking wearily home, their great hopes dashed by the crucifixion and their faith in tatters, Christ joined them. Yet He hid His identity from Cleopas and his companion until He had convinced them from the Scriptures that His recent crucifixion was a certain fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Why didn’t He immediately reveal Himself as their resurrected Lord?
Wouldn’t this have been a more faith-building event than a Bible study? Most people would accept this as so. But Christ thought otherwise. In this manner Jesus taught His followers a profound lesson. His Word is the final arbiter of truth. Our eyes may deceive us, but the Word of God stands as the only certain basis of truth.
We do not need to analyze NDEs to know that they in no way provide evidence for an immortal soul. NDEs have been clearly explained to be hallucinations associated with the oxygen deprivation in certain comatose states. There is no purpose in using such evidence to deny the explicit words of God, “The dead know not any thing.” Ecclesiastes 9:5. Christians believe the Bible to be God’s Word. They believe God is omniscient. Such beliefs demand that we place a plain “Thus saith the Lord” above any other form of evidence. Until Christians are prepared to adopt this principle of faith they leave themselves open for all kinds of satanic deceptions.
The Bible Speaks
Statements in Scripture concerning immortality are very plain. The Bible affirms that God alone possesses immortality. “Which in His times He shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality.” 1 Timothy 6:15, 16.
If the angels possessed immortality, it would be impossible for God to destroy Satan and his rebellious angels. Thus God would never be able to cleanse the universe. If the angels possess no immortality and God alone has immortality, humans can and do die the death of total unconsciousness. It would be contradictive to interpret the Bible’s use of the words “death” or “die” to mean “life” or “live.” Such an interpretation would lead to the language of the Bible having no fixed meaning at all.
The Scriptures declare that immortality will come to the redeemed at the Second Coming. Writing to the Roman Christians, Paul indicated this fact: “Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.” Romans 2:6, 7. If we already possessed immortality, there would be no need to seek for it.
The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. If death doesn’t mean death, then perhaps we would question the reward of eternal life as being equally fictitious. But here we note that death is contrasted with eternal life, which is a free gift available to all who seek it.
Colin Standish is the president emeritus of Hartland Institute. He co-wrote over 50 books with his twin brother, the late Russell Standish.
Taken from Last Generation, Vol. 26 No. 4, “Currents”. Last Generation is a vibrant 32-page soul-winning magazine published six times a year.To subscribe, call (540) 672-1996, Ext. 283. https://lastgen.net/