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QUESTION: I have heard and read of some “near-death” experiences and claims of being out of the body floating. What does the Bible say?

Several issues need a close study

  1. What is death?

  2. When does death occur?

  3. Is there an explanation for this anecdotal evidence?

  4. Are such claims real or dreamed or imagined?

Terms used

  1. NDE - The Near-Death Experience (NDE) may be defined as "A lucid experience associated with perceived consciousness apart from the body occurring at the time of actual or threatened imminent death."

  2. SOBE - Spontaneous Out of Body Experience

  3. OBE - Meditation, induced or at will (aka frequent flier) Out of Body Experience

  4. NDE-like - near death experience but without physically dying

  5. NELE -Nearing End of Life Event is one in which the person may see beings and bright light at or as far as 6 months prior to time of death.

What are the claims of most near-death experiences?

There are nine characteristics of a typical near-death experience. They are:

  1. A sense of being dead

  2. Peace and painlessness

  3. Out-of-body experience

  4. Traveling through a tunnel

  5. People of light (angels, spirit beings)

  6. The Being of Light (God, Jesus, Buddha, some holy figure)

  7. Life review (whole life flashes by, review consequences of your life, “A Wonderful Life” of your impact on the world)

  8. Rising rapidly through the heavens

  9. Reluctance to return (some plead to return, most are told to go back)

NOTE: The idea of OBE’s and NDE’s are held among Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and many other world religions. The great variation is in their description of heaven.

Example #1: When the bleeding wouldn't stop, Bill knew he was dying. "I was going, but I felt totally at peace. There was a golden kind of light, brighter than the sun, but it didn't hurt my eyes. I never wanted anything as much as to go into that light, but something or somebody--it felt like my dad, who died when I was a kid--communicated to me, 'It isn't your time. You must go back to finish what you have to do in your life.' The next thing I knew, I was slammed back into my body. It felt like a wet sock, and the pain was just awful."

Example #2: I could see a golden light and I could see there was a city there, brightly enveloped in this golden atmosphere. I couldn't say there were buildings there, yet I knew there were. . . . The light was all around. . . . The voice was softly spoken and yet I felt it could reach into the universe. . . . There was no time; time had gone. Eternity was there; there was no concept of time either backward or forward. I could encompass the whole lot, and I could encompass the whole universe. This understanding was the most amazing part. Then the voice said to me, "It's not your time yet. You should really go back, but you can make up your own mind--it's your choice." So I thought of my father and mother, and then I said, "Well, I'm only 23. I've got a lot to do, so I'd prefer to go back." He said, "The choice is yours." That was the end of it.

NDE / OBE Triggers

  1. Near death (heart attack, stroke, brain aneurysm)

  2. Surgical procedure

  3. Dream

  4. Extreme pain (auto accident, coming off pain medication following surgery)

  5. Extreme stress (emotional, financial, family, personal)

  6. Psychedelic drugs (LSD, Ketamine, Morphine)

  7. Coma

  8. Seizure

When does death occur?

  1. Biological – no pulse or respiration – no heartbeat or breathing

  2. Clinical – Cessation of all brain wave activity, no oxygen getting to brain cells

  3. Spiritual – Sin separates us from God

  4. Eternal – Disobedient cast into outer darkness, Hell, depart from God

  5. Biblical – (How the Bible describes physical death.)

    1. Separation of soul and body – James 2:26

    2. Elijah – soul entered boy and child revived – 1 Kings 17:21-22

    3. Jesus – Into thy hands I commend my spirit – Luke 23:46

    4. Rachel – as her soul was departing, she died – Genesis 35:17-19

    5. Stephen – Receive my spirit – Acts 7:59-60

Problem to Discuss

  1. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 – no reward, not anything to do with anything under the sun.

  2. Hebrews 9:27 – die “once” – not twice or more

  3. According to the Bible once we “die” we do not return to “anything under the sun” and we only “die” once. These passages deny reincarnation, transmigration of the soul, and the idea that we can die and return to live again.

  4. While there are some (rare) exceptions – 99% report a pleasant, peaceful, heavenly, angelic trip. Atheists, agnostics, hardened criminals, homosexuals, prostitutes, report similar NDE. There is no apparent correlation between one’s faith, religion, moral values or life-style and the NDE they report.

  5. There have been a few – less than 1% - who report a “hell” experience. They see torture, screaming, fire, suffering and extreme pain.

Possible Explanations

  1. Unconscious but still alert. We know that many in an unconscious state, coma, asleep, etc. can hear and know what is going on. Many report that they can see and hear, but they cannot respond.

  2. Cannot respond. Some are unable to respond, but this does not mean they cannot understand.

  3. Endorphins – natural body secretion to give euphoria, pain free, floating sensation, bright lights, etc. (Ketamine is a medication which has similar effects, used during surgery or to control labor pains.) [Used to get “high” - called – K, Special K, Vitamin K]
    Endurance athletes (tri-athletes [swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, then run 26 miles], marathon runners, bicycle racers) “break through the wall” and have similar feelings of floating, freedom from pain, tunnels, bright lights, etc.

  4. Like a dream – it is imagined, seen, heard, and felt as real.
    NOTE: There is not any proof that any of the claims are true. One Dr. put a sign on top of a cabinet “If you can read this, you are dead.” No one has seen the sign.

  5. Learned reaction – all have heard the stories. To convince others of your near death experience, you tell a similar story to what you have heard from others.

  6. Belief System – Christians see God or Jesus, Muslims see Muhammad, Buddhists see Buddha, etc. It would seem this this vision is located in their training and belief system.

  7. My opinion. I believe that God has placed in us some natural means (endorphin) to deal with extreme pain. I do not believe it is God sending them back to life. I believe it is their internal will to live.

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