Eleven Million Near-Death Experiences: Do Some Indicate it May Not Be Safe to Die? – Program 4

By: Howard Storms, Nancy Evans Bush, June Langley, Dr. Maurice Rawlings, Dr. John Weldon, Dave Hunt; ©1994
When someone says they have had a near-death experience, what is it that has actually happened to them?

What Is a Near-Death Experience?


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: We’re having a wonderful discussion here talking about near-death experiences and what they mean. What do they tell us? If we’ve had 13 million Americans that have told George Gallup that they’ve had a near-death experience and they’ve gone through the tunnel, they’ve seen “the great white light” and they’ve come back and most of them had a positive experience. Some have had negative experiences. But what are the implications? What do they tell us about life after death? What’s death going to be like? You ought to be interested, because I assume you’re going to die someday, just like I am.
And probably the toughest area, I mean, where the rubber really hits the road, is when you’re talking about children and death. Nothing will rip your heart out more than when you’re dealing with children that are dying. The doctors, the nurses, by and large, stay away from this area because they make it too personalized when they’re dealing with it. They can’t handle it. But we do have a lady here, and that’s exactly what she does. And she’s done it one of our finest institutions, Johns Hopkins University, in the hospital there. June, start us off by telling us about some of your children and some of the pictures that they’ve drawn for you and about what they have seen and what they’ve told you and your whole area of dealing with them.
Langley: Okay. I’ve been a nurse for over 19 years now. For five years I worked at Johns Hopkins Hospital and I walked over 500 children through death. I held them. I was their mother; their teacher; their guide—whatever it took to make it peaceful for them. Out of the 500 children I worked with, from two to eleven, ten were resuscitated. Nine of these children said they saw the light.
One little girl who was Catholic with Spanish background said she saw a man with a beard with a white robe and she said it was Jesus Christ. Whatever or whomever she said she saw, I accepted. I have a picture here that a little girl drew for me. Psychiatrists have been able to tell what children want to say to you by pictures and they divide it into four parts. And it’s the past, the present, the future, and the final. Over here, this was this little girl’s past. You can see that she came from a happy home. I’m mentioning heart because she said she wanted to donate her heart to another little girl. And it was so cute. She said, “I didn’t want to do my eyes because I was afraid they hurt.” Now, she had a brain tumor. She was in a coma. And you see this is her present. She was in a coma and when she came out, she told me what she saw and she knew that she was going back. And I asked her, “What about now? What are you going to see finally, and what’s going to happen?” And she said to me, “June, I don’t know. All I know is that the light said, when I go back, I’ll be alright.” Now, she was eleven years old. And I held her when she died and she was at peace. I can only speak for what they say to me.
Ankerberg: So what do you draw from that? In other words, they had that kind of experience and what bottom line do you draw?
Langley: The bottom line is, these are innocent children. They have not been taught bad things in the world. I mean, they were raised by loving parents, most of them that I’ve taken care of. And so they only saw goodness and they felt goodness. And if this is what they feel, this is what happens to them at the end. And I accept this. And this has been able to, because they’ve come back and they saw the light, it’s been able for me to write my book and talk about The Silent Lullaby. And if the child does not have a background or does not have a place to go or a religious belief that they can hold on to, if they have that, then I accept that. But if they don’t, I walk them to the light and I hold them, and I rock them, and I love them. And that’s what happens. That’s all I know.
Rawlings: In children, though, we’re dealing with, I assume it’s unaccountability, because I’ve never seen a negative experience in a pediatric patient nor heard of one. So, if it’s, whatever light they’re seeing, I’m sure God is taking care of His own at that age, in my own heart.
Ankerberg: Well, theologically, Hunt, do you want to go into this thing in terms of the age of accountability, in terms of David. Set that up biblically.
Hunt: Well, he prayed for the life of the child, but the child died. God doesn’t always answer prayers. And then, when the child died, David had been fasting and weeping and praying. He suddenly washed himself and began to eat. And the servants couldn’t understand it. He said, “He will not come back to me. I will go to him.” He knew where the child had gone.
Now, Jesus said, “Suffer [allow] the little children to come unto me, forbid them not: for such is the kingdom of heaven.” He said, “Their angels”—I don’t understand this—“do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.” So, I believe that a child who dies, before they have gotten to the age of accountability—and I don’t know what that was; in David’s case, it was a baby, just a few days old—I believe they go to be with Christ. They are covered by His redemptive work upon the cross. He died for them. On the other hand, I can’t say when that age is.
We raised four children. I can tell you that, I mean, I don’t understand how people can say that a child is perfect and it’s society that does it to them. We never had to train any of our children to be nasty, deceitful, selfish. It came naturally. Even a little baby, turn it over when you’re trying to change its diaper. Our youngest son, the first word he learned was “No,” and he said it in his sleep. “No!” I mean, when he’s just a little baby. And when we asked him as a little boy, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” He said, “I’m going to be a villain.” I mean, that really does something to a parent. By God’s grace he didn’t turn out to be that way, but I don’t know when they cross that line.
Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s pick this up when we come right back. Stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back, and we’re talking about what happens when you die. What are we learning from those who are having near-death experiences? And we’ve got a pattern and we’re talking about what happens when people see the “great light.” There’s a change in their life, but is part of this deceptive? And we’re talking about, “What about children?” I think we’ve talked about children from a theological point of view as well as what June has been talking about. You’ve got an illustration, you said. How does it tie in?
Weldon: Well, that illustrates my earlier concern. I did not want to give the idea that all near-death experiences were evil or demonic. I think there are three basic categories: There’s one that’s neutral; there’s one that’s godly or spiritual or biblical; and there’s the demonic and the deceptive out there. And you have to look at the experience and evaluate it biblically.
Ankerberg: How can you evaluate it?
Weldon: You can evaluate it by any messages that the being of light or the light gives; what happens if the person goes into the light and receives…
Ankerberg: What do you mean?
Weldon: Sometimes the being of light or the light will give a message that God is not concerned with your sin here and that you are automatically going to heaven regardless of your beliefs. Now, biblically, that’s not true; because Jesus said that He was the only way to God. So my concern is just for the deception. I’ve talked to so many people that have had an experience and have come back with the absolute cemented conviction that no matter what, even though it’s been a positive experience, it does not matter what they believe about Jesus Christ in this life. They’re going to heaven anyway.
Ankerberg: Nancy, jump in here.
Bush: Okay. What we have just encountered is the heart of the issue here, which is, the theological issue. And it’s important to me to support something that Howard said earlier: recognizing that you august folk have a deep reverent point of view. What I hear on the phones, in the letters, from people who have been driven from their churches because—and I’m talking perhaps your churches—because people have characterized their experiences which they believe absolutely to be of God, life-changing, but if they haven’t said the formulae of words acceptable to you, they are driven out and many of these folk never go back to church. And I think it is so urgent to point out that maybe is it the words you’re worried about?
Weldon: No, what I’m really worried about is, what Scripture teaches is true about God and man and salvation…
Bush: But are you listening to…
Weldon: I think why many people who have a near-death experience are driven out of the churches is because of that occult experience in the near-death state that teaches unbiblical truth.
Bush: I’m talking about people who have—I can’t tell you how many people—have said, “I wanted” —as Howard did—“I wanted to go back to church. I went back to church. People said my experience was demonic. My experience was….”
Storm: Let me interject here, people have been judged before they have expressed any doctrinal theological ideas at all. They said they had an “experience,” and people say, “That’s from the devil!” That’s what we have to avoid.
Weldon: I’m not judging anyone. I’m appealing for an evaluation of an experience that has clearly unbiblical elements. And I think that the Church ought to be the first entity that reaches out to these people and attempts to explain these experiences from the perspective of biblical revelation. But I don’t think the Church can just say, “Okay, your experience teaches things that aren’t biblical or you have started to develop psychic abilities as a result of this or believe that everyone’s going to heaven, and there is no judgment.” The Church can’t accept that.
Langley: We’re not representing all the churches here and it’s not fair.
Storm: I can agree with everything you’re [Weldon] saying, okay? I hear you and I agree totally. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t judge them before we know what they’re about. And the other thing was to help these people process them. Because another way that Satan can work is a person has an experience that they can’t even think of the words to describe. Any valid near-death experience, the person can’t even articulate what happened to them, and Satan can move in on that person who is very vulnerable, you know? Very vulnerable at that time because something’s happened that they can’t articulate and Satan comes in and like interjects a lot of garbage, a lot of occult stuff into them and they’re welcomed into New Age cults with open arms and the Church is usually going, “We don’t understand it. We’re suspicious of it. Get out!”
Rawlings: That’s exactly right. And what Nancy says I think is true. No one will fight you, a Christian, more than another Christian. And it drives them out of the Church.
Ankerberg: Let me put a little illustration on the table. I agree; we shouldn’t be judgmental. We ought to hear what they’re saying. But what if the guy says to you—and I’ve been in a lot of the psycho wards, just to counsel and all this kind of stuff—but the fact is, let’s say that a fellow who’s been on a drunk, and he’s been drinking all weekend, and he says, “Maurice, look at that pink elephant. Man, is he big. Wow! He’s going to stomp all over me.”
Rawlings: I’ve seen him. Yeah. Big ones.
Ankerberg: Now, the fact is that he’s really seeing something. Now, do you correct him? Do you say that that’s a true experience?
Rawlings: No, I tell him, “I see him.”
Ankerberg: So I think this is where Weldon’s coming from. I would say you’re not going to come in a judgmental attitude where you don’t listen to the people; but if you have a criteria that says that which they are seeing cannot be true, there’s a deception there. Then what do you do? We’re to the next spot here.
Weldon: But for the grace of God, go I. I’ve had a lot of experiences as a non-Christian. And as a Christian and, you know, my whole desire is to lead people to Christ. I have just a love for Scripture and the truth, and what grieves me is when false conclusions are drawn about an experience that has eternal consequences. The last thing I want to do is come across as judgmental to anyone, or uncaring or unloving. I love these people. That’s why I want to have them evaluate the experience from a biblical perspective: is it true?
Storm: And to support your point of view, I saw a woman on television on a national show that said, “I saw this experience. There is no Satan. There is no evil. There is no hell. Everybody’s going…” and I was about to smash my TV because she’s speaking to millions of people as if she has authority, and it was all lies she was saying. And she, basically, at best, is an extremely deluded woman.
Hunt: But, Howard, the message I get from, if I’m not mistaken, from June and Nancy is, it doesn’t really matter. Because…
Bush: No. No.
Langley: Wait, I’m talking clinically.
Bush: No. No. No.
Hunt: Let me finish. Nancy, you said that the Burmese person down here, this illiterate Burmese person, will interpret it in their way. But wait a minute. I’m a mathematician. I’m a certified public accountant. There’s some things that are true and some things that are false. And I’m not going to leave it to a Burmese illiterate person to reinterpret reality. Do you understand what I’m saying? And June is saying, “Well, all religions, I’m not going to judge religions.” But listen, June, religions contradict one another.
Langley: Why can’t you say God can come to that Burmese person because he’s illiterate? God can’t come to him….
Hunt: No. I didn’t say that.
Langley: Because you’re an accountant and you’re different?
Hunt: You’re not understanding what I’m saying. I didn’t say God can’t come to him. He came to Abraham. Abraham was a pagan and Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day and he saw it and was glad.” What I’m saying is that God does not come,… for example, as you suggest in some of your writings, that everything’s a manifestation of God.
Langley: I’m talking about children. And I’m talking clinically about children: the needs and the desires they have at that time of death.
Hunt: June, everything is not the manifestation of God—then, evil is the manifestation of God; murder is the manifestation of God. God is not an impersonal force that permeates the universe. This is pantheism. He’s a personal God and He does not come in a false way, whether it’s a child, whether it’s a Burmese person or not. There’s such a thing as truth and such a thing as error. Now, we shouldn’t chase them away. I wouldn’t want to do it in that manner. But if I care for them,…
Bush: I am missing your point about this Burmese peasant. Are you saying, if he does not speaking Burmese, utter the words that you would like to have him say, that it’s a deceptive experience?
Hunt: Nancy, it’s not the words that I want him to say. You’ve said that several times: “If they don’t repeat your formula.” I’m not making this up. I’m going by the Bible…
Bush: I’m asking help…
Hunt: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life: no man cometh to the Father but by me.”
Bush: You’ve got me so confused here, because what would stick with that Burmese peasant? I’m just trying to sort out what would you consider for that Burmese peasant an adequate indication that his experience is of God. Or are you saying his experience cannot be of God.
Hunt: Not saying that. Romans chapter 1, tells us—and this is what I believe and so I’m answering you in biblical terms—that everybody on the face of this earth, whether they’re Burmese or Chinese or American, whoever they are, they all know from the creation, from the universe about them…
Bush: Right. Right.
Hunt: …that God exists. It couldn’t happen by chance…
Bush: Right.
Hunt: Furthermore, they know that God is a personal God. You can’t make a brain, you can’t make a person, by an impersonal force. And they also know, Romans chapter 2, in their conscience, what he knew: that they have violated God’s laws. We’re sinners.
Bush: Right.
Hunt: You can’t make up for sinning yesterday by keeping the law today. You can’t do it. If I stand before a judge and the judge says, “You were speeding yesterday,” and I say, “Judge, if you let me off this time, I promise you, Scout’s honor, I’ll never break the law again,”…
Bush: I still…
Langley: You haven’t answered the question.
Hunt: I’m telling you. I’m trying to tell you.
Langley: No, you’re shaking the Bible.
Hunt: The judge says if you keep the law perfectly from now on, you’ve broken it already. A penalty has to be paid. Every person knows that.
Bush: How about that Burmese peasant? How do you assess whether his experience is of God?
Hunt: If he comes out of it saying that God is an impersonal force, that no matter what I do, I’m going to be accepted. that’s not of God. But as a Burmese person, he could know, he could have a revelation from the true God, of the truth, that he’s morally accountable then.
Bush: Okay. Okay. fine.
Storm: Can we come on closer to home? We have in our society more than a hundred million people dying without Christ, without knowing God cares about them. Without knowing what God has done for them. I think we all need to go out there and concern ourselves with this unchristian civilization that we live in.
Ankerberg: Right. There’s more to this answer and I hate to interrupt it, but we’re out of time. So if you’ll join us next week, we’ll pick it up right here. Promise. We’ll have these folks pick it up right here. So join us then.

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