Eleven Million Near-Death Experiences: Do Some Indicate it May Not Be Safe to Die? – Program 2

By: Howard Storms, Nancy Evans Bush, June Langley, Dr. Maurice Rawlings, Dr. John Weldon, Dave Hunt; ©1994
Some people who have near-death experiences have had visions of heaven, but others have had what they describe as hell experiences. Does that experience indicate where they might end up after death?

Is it Safe for You to Die?


The popular movies Ghost and Flatliners describe what more than eleven million Americans have now reported, namely that they have had a near-death experience in which they left their body, traveled through a dark tunnel, recognized friends and loved ones who had died, and encountered a supreme being of light. Are their near-death experiences real evidence for life after death? Some people have reported they found themselves in hell, not heaven, during their near-death death experience. Do their frightening hell experiences indicate it may not be safe for us to die?

My guests who will be answering these questions include : Dr. Maurice Rawlings, a specialist in cardiovascular diseases; Nancy Evans Bush, president of the International Association of Near-Death Studies, one of the most prestigious organizations in America collecting information on near-death experiences; June Langley, a nurse who has cared for over 500 children who have died of terminal diseases; Dave Hunt, internationally known Christian researcher and author of the best-selling book The New Spirituality; Howard Storm, an atheistic professor who, as a result of having a hell experience, believed on Christ and has become a Christian pastor; and Dr. John Weldon, author of more than 40 books on comparative religions. We invite you to join us.

Ankerberg: I want to welcome you to our program this week. We’re going to start with the question: “Is it ‘safe’ for you to die?” We have a group of people here who are experts in that area. But among these folks we have people that have actually had near-death experiences, worked with people that have had clinical death experiences, and they’ve had some unusual ones. You’ve probably heard in the literature or read in the papers, seen other television programs where those who have had a near-death experience—George Gallup said there’s probably 11 to 13 million Americans that have had a near-death experience—that these folks have had a positive experience. And now they’re saying, “Hey, I don’t fear death anymore.” But unfortunately, in the experiences that are coming forth, there are some that we would call “bad” experiences–hell experiences. And one of my guests is here with us. And Howard, set this up.
Storm: I was a professor of art and the head of the Art Department of Northern Kentucky University. I liked my job very much. It was a lot of responsibility and very rewarding and a lot of fun. And real ego-fulfilling, which was what my whole life was about was: career, job, be somebody, get your name in the paper, you know?
Ankerberg: And you were also known as a skeptic.
Storm: Right. I was well-known, in fact, some people brought their relatives to me to talk them out of going into the ministry and into the priesthood.
Ankerberg: And you did.
Storm: Yes.
Ankerberg: And so as you were cruising along, chairman of the department and so on, you took your students to France. What happened over there?
Storm: At the end of our trip in 1985 I had a perforation of the small stomach and I was immediately taken to a hospital. This was a situation like a burst appendix. Same kind of situation. You only have a few hours of opportunity before it becomes very grave. It’s a critical scene. I thought I was dying. My wife thought I was dying. We had said goodbye to each other. And I awoke and I was standing next to the bed. And in the bed was a body that looked exactly like me, but I couldn’t believe it because I felt alive, whole, real. No pain, though. I tried to communicate with my wife. She couldn’t see me or hear me but I didn’t know that. I thought she was ignoring me. I got furious with her.
I’m really confused about what’s going on. And I hear people calling me outside the room, and so I go to the doorway of the room and there’s a number of people out there. And I asked them if they’re the hospital staff to take me for the operation. And they said that they had been waiting for me a long time, but I needed to hurry up and come with them. I assumed that meant they were hospital staff. I went into the hallway. It was foggy, dreary, mysterious. These people herded me down this hallway. We walked for what seemed like miles and miles. It got increasingly dark. The people were getting increasingly ugly and cruel. I wanted out, so I said, “I’m not going any further.” They started to push and pull at me. I fought back. I felt really strong and healthy. No fatigue whatsoever. But they were biting and tearing and taunting and jeering. The cacophony of noise was almost unbearable. It was so loud with their taunts and their yells and their laughter.
Ankerberg: When did you realize you weren’t in the hospital; this was something else?
Storm: At this point I still think I’m in the hospital. As far as I’m concerned, I’m alive and these people are some monsters that live in this hospital, you know? I’m on the ground of that place. They’ve done so much damage to me that I’m just curled up, lying on the ground, totally devastated physically and even worse, emotionally, because of their treatment. And I hear myself say, “Pray to God.” I don’t know what to do. And I hear myself say it again. I’m not willfully saying it, but I’m hearing my own voice say, “Pray to God.” And I think, “How do you pray to God? What would you pray if you were going to pray?” A third time, with more authority, I hear, “Pray to God.” So, “Okay, I’m going to give it a try.” You know, I don’t know what to do. So I’m trying to piece together prayers, and I’m putting together pieces of the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd… things that I could remember from 20, 30 years earlier when I was a kid. And the people around me are horrified. It’s as if my prayers are scalding, boiling oil. And they’re screaming and yelling at me, “Stop it! There’s no God. Nobody can hear me.”
This is when I realize, this is not Paris anymore, this is…I don’t know where I am but there’s no place on earth with this much cruelty. And in that state of, like hopelessness, because no place for me to go; they’re going to come back; they’re going to make it worse. I heard in my mind myself as a little child singing, “Jesus loves me.” And it just goes over and over and over. And in my desperation, I want to believe. I don’t know Jesus, but I want to know what this little boy knows is truthworthy and good, that I’ve forgotten, that I’ve lost, that I had once when I was a little kid. And I want to know that. So in utter despair but sincerity I call out into the darkness: “Jesus, please save me.” And I meant it. Ignorant, but I meant it. And with that, a small light appeared in the darkness. And a person of incredible brilliant light and love and kindness came upon me and carried me out of that place of horror and took me, not to heaven, but just out of there and showed me my whole life, from when I was little to when I was adult; from when I was simple and innocent and good and how I had become manipulative, self-centered, corrupt and successful in the world.
And He invited my questions. I told Him all of my questions. He answered my questions, sent me back to this world. And when I came back into this world, I knew that I would have to remake my life. I didn’t know where to begin, but one of the things that weighed very heavily on my heart was, I wanted to go to church, because He told me that’s where the truth was taught. That’s where His Spirit lived and built in the world. And I went to church and I found people there trying to live this truth, trying to be this truth; trying to bring that Spirit into their lives. You know, the Spirit of Christ who abides in them. And I wanted to dedicate my life to that. So unfortunately, I had to give up a good job that I loved as a professor and I quit that and went to seminary and became the pastor of a small church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Ankerberg: Okay. And now you are the pastor of that church. You know, that’s a fantastic story and we’re going to talk about what it means and some other things. But we’re going to take a break right here, and when we come back, you’re going to hear another story from a doctor who was working on a patient who was having a clinical death experience and what that patient saw and what he was feeling scared the doctor. And the doctor is here with us, and he’s going to tell that story in just a moment, so I hope you’ll stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. And we’re talking to this distinguished group of people, and we’re talking about the death that’s going to come to all of us someday. It’s going to come to you; it’s going to come to me. And the question from the clinical death experiences, the near-death experiences that are taking place in our population, what are we finding out? And the question we’re looking at, “Is it safe to die?” And, Dr. Maurice Rawlings, you, as a skeptical doctor working on patients, came across this thing of clinical death experiences. And one of your patients that had a clinical death experience, what he was seeing changed your life. I’d like you to tell that story.
Rawlings: Yes. It wasn’t “safe” for him to die. And he dropped dead on the treadmill recreating the chest pressure of the heart attack that he was to have. And he had a rhythm disturbance, died on the treadmill. We started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation—the nurse did; I was doing the external massage—and we had to put a pacemaker in him because he had a heart block; make him respond to the CPR. And he’s telling me, “Get your big hands off me. You’re breaking my ribs!” The usual story.
But he wasn’t. He’s saying, “Don’t stop. Every time you stop, I’m in hell.” And it surprised me because they tell me the opposite. I said, “Keep your hell to yourself. You tell the minister, the shrink….” And the nurses look at me. A dying man’s wish. They said nothing, just looking at me. So, blatantly,… As a doctor we’re in charge of everything. He said…no, he insulted me first. He said, “Doctor, say a prayer for me. I’m in hell.” The ultimate insult. I said a prayer for him to keep him off my back. “Say this after me.” See, I’m in charge. “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Say it.” And he said it. “And if I live, I’m on the hook; I’m yours forever.” I remember that part. And he repeated it. “Say it.” And I’m adjusting the pacemaker, blood’s spurting. And, “Please keep me out of hell.” Fine. The whole thing worked; and he’d have multiple clinical death experiences in the same event, because I’d reach for the pacemaker to readjust it, let go of his heart compression, he’d flat-line once more, convulse, eyes turn up, blue; sputters. But we’d start him up again, just like your viewer can. It’s easy. He wasn’t any more, hair on end, wild, fighting me off. “What are you fighting me off for?” we were asking him. “Fire down there? You say you’re in hell. Tell us about it.” So we were interviewing him during the resuscitation.
But this prayer got him. He had some kind of a religious conversion experience on the floor. He wasn’t afraid anymore. Yet he still had these convulsions, death, quiet. The strange thing, saying this “make believe” prayer to keep him away from me, backfired and got me too. That’s why I’m on your program. That’s why I wrote the book. It’s a compelling thing. Once I saw the hell, I’d been discarding all these wonderful, beautiful experiences beforehand that…that’s not for me—tell your minister or somebody. And then I started collecting the negative cases. In fact, I concentrated on them. And then I found you’ve got to be there with them, doing the resuscitation before that “F” on the report card is sublimated away into the mind.
Ankerberg: So the bottom line is, you would say it’s not “safe” to die.
Rawlings: It wasn’t for him. He wasn’t expecting it, and you’re not supposed to die on a treadmill. One in five thousand. That was it.
Ankerberg: Okay, we’re going to talk about the implications of all these experiences, what they mean, but the fact is, let’s get some more. Nancy, as President of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, you are now starting to catalog some of these experiences as well. You’ve got over 50 in your paper here. The question is, what are you seeing?
Bush: Well, we’re seeing that there is no one type. We see three. There’s the kind that Howard described, which is a very hell-like experience; there’s another type which sounds as if it should be the peaceful, blissful kind, but people are terrified, usually because it seems to go too fast. It’s out of their control. And a third kind in which people find themselves in just a featureless space. And it’s very much like being shot into space without the space capsule. And it’s the void, the indescribable emptiness.
Ankerberg: Junie, you have worked at Johns Hopkins, the hospital there, and they don’t just let anybody work on those patients. You’ve got to be a smart cookie to work there. And the fact is that you have worked, I think, in the toughest area. All the doctors and nurses that I know say working with children that are dying is the toughest thing. You usually go home with all their problems.
June Langley: That’s true.
Ankerberg: What have you seen in terms of the good and bad experiences?
Langley: When we talk about the adults,… I should preface this by saying this: When we talk about suicide, I don’t either condone it or condemn it. I do say nothing about that. But the three people that I worked with before I was working with the terminally ill children, was in the Emergency Room. Now, these three people—it was two women and a man—they committed suicide. They were brought in, pronounced dead, and resuscitated. I got to talk to them later, and they told me they weren’t in pain; they weren’t dying of cancer or some disease that was tormenting them; they did it out of spite for a lover. And they told me they saw demons worse than hell. It was indescribable. And they were frightened. And the bottom line is, they would never do it again. I don’t know how it changed their life because I didn’t follow through with that. But what they saw was horrendous. Now, it’s different with children. Children, the ages that I deal with from two to six and six to eleven, did not commit suicide.
Ankerberg: Yes. We’re going to commit a whole half hour to this whole area of children. Dr. Rawlings, I think you would admit that people like Howard that come forth with this kind of a terrible story, you usually don’t find it. Why?
Rawlings: They hide it. They don’t want their face on television or any identification because it’s so embarrassing. It’s like being caught naked. Your soul is exposed. It’s an “F” on the report card. The audience wants to know immediately, “Tell us this horrible thing. What kind of a rotten person were you to deserve this.” You know, get all the good cases. They can’t wait to tell anybody. But the hell cases, they have to have a conversion or they have to have some good result so they can then present the bad.
Ankerberg: Yes. I think, Howard, let’s ask that question because a lot of people are saying, “Well, Howard, what did you do that sent you to hell?”
Storm: It was a life led according to what our culture teaches us. Look out for number one, you know. Be self-centered. We don’t live in a Christian culture; we live in a culture that teaches materialism and self-promotion. That’s what I did. And I denied the faith that I had been given as a child and I turned my back on it.
Ankerberg: Okay. How did you get out of hell?
Storm: Through prayer. As simple as that.
Ankerberg: What did you say?
Storm: I asked Jesus to save me. And it was important for me to acknowledge Jesus Christ as my personal Savior ,because that’s how I had been shown the revelation of the true God as a child, and that’s how God had reached out to me. That’s whose name I had been baptized in. And that’s how I had to communicate with God.
Ankerberg: Dave Hunt, you know, you’ve written books that have sold a couple million, maybe three or four million copies of your books. And the fact is, when you write to these people, if they were to ask you, “Hey, I don’t want to experience what he experienced. I don’t want to go to hell. I don’t want to experience that now or anytime,” what advice would you give them not to go to hell?
Hunt: Well, you’re going to have to do exactly what Howard did: call upon Jesus to save you. Somebody says, “Why Jesus? Why not Buddha? Why not Muhammad? Why not somebody else?” Because none of them did what Jesus did: He is God who became a man to die for our sins. He’s the only one. Buddha said, “Don’t come to me with your sins. I’ve got my own to worry about. Don’t follow me. I don’t know the way.” Jesus said, “I am the way.” He made claims nobody else made. He did what nobody else did. And He arose from the dead and He’s alive. And you just can’t escape it. He said, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” Either He’s a liar, or He’s what He said He is. And Howard called upon Him and that’s the only way.
Ankerberg: Alright. Hope that you’ll join us next week because we’re going to talk about the implications of both the good near-death experiences as well as the implications of the bad experiences. I hope that you’ll join us

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