Eleven Million Near-Death Experiences: Do Some Indicate it May Not Be Safe to Die? – Program 7
|By: Howard Storms, Nancy Evans Bush, June Langley, Dr. Maurice Rawlings, Dr. John Weldon, Dave Hunt; ©1994|
|What can the Bible tell us to help us face death when it comes to us? How can you be sure of going to heaven when you die?|
The Biblical Perspective of Death
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: Welcome to our program. You know, we’re talking about death and near-death experiences. We’ve already taped six programs on that. Many of you, I hope, have seen some of them. But we thought that there were some questions that were hanging that we wanted to kind of look at as we concluded this series. But first of all, let’s drive this in: George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “The statistics on death are quite impressive.” He said, “One out of one people die.” That is to say that you and I and all of us, we are going to die. That’s certain. And so this conversation is not a hypothetical one. This is one that we all actually will experience at one time or another.
- I also recognize maybe you might be on a hospital bed; you might be at home and you’ve got a terminal disease; or maybe you’ve been to a funeral lately and so this is fresh. It may even be painful. I hope that it won’t be just facts and information but I hope that it will end with hope but it’ll also be based in reality.
- We’re going to talk from a perspective as Christians. We have medical doctor here; we have a theologian here. And the fact is, we are going to try to define terms as we go along and then tell you why it is that we are going to take the authority of Jesus Christ and apply it to the information that we’re talking about.
- But before we get there, John, Dr. Weldon, I want to come to you and simply ask, we are hearing about near-death experiences, both good and bad. Define what a “good” experience is; what a “bad” experience is, and actually let’s go back and start with, “What is a near-death experience?”
- Weldon: A near-death experience is where people are declared clinically dead and they have an experience of going out-of-the-body. They may be able to identify and see people in the room—what’s going on. They go through a tunnel. They enter into another dimension. They may contact a light or a being of light or alleged dead friends and relatives. There may some kind of a communication. They reach a barrier. They’re told they have to come back and then they’re resuscitated.
- Ankerberg: Maurice, you know, it’s interesting that Nancy Evans Bush, the President of IANS (International Association of Near-Death Studies), told us that she had already catalogued or had collected 50 hell experiences.
- Rawlings: Yes.
- Ankerberg: How many have you actually seen or collected now?
- Rawlings: It was 18% of the first 200. All told, it came to about 115.
- Ankerberg: That you’ve actually seen yourself or collected.
- Rawlings: Yes. Now, the numbers, like Moody, I have no numbers without having to go back and look it up. But the last look-up was about 150.
- Ankerberg: What, I think, people need to come to grips with, with what you’re saying, and I think that we’ve kind of floated by this before, is you actually have people that say, while you are resuscitating then, “Doctor, I’m in hell.” And in fact, they have said it so powerfully. Give some of the description that has been so powerful, so powerful that it converted you, a skeptic, as a doctor, to becoming an orthodox Christian and believing in Jesus. There had to be something more than just dreams or just kind of fairy-tale sayings. What convinced you that this was reality and not dreamland?
- Rawlings: The very thing that they express. “I was going through the tunnel. The walls were hot. I saw the end of the tunnel where this being of light was waiting but the end of the tunnel turned into a ring of fire. I exited and this light was lakes of fire I saw. Not just one, maybe several. And over here, a coliseum; people poking their heads out and writhing. Over here a shale, barren land.” It scared the hell out of them. They were in hell. So convinced that we’ve had three of them to become ministers. Gave up what they were doing, go to seminary and become ministers as a result of the hell experience.
- But the heavenly experiences never have. The heaven experience reinforces their Christian belief or whatever. They never question the inappropriateness of the hell experience. One Sunday School teacher, he knew that was where he was going. He wasn’t surprised. We don’t have to question, “Did you run out on your wife? Embezzle from the bank?” He knew But the heaven cases are now beginning to question the appropriateness of it. Not all them. “I had this heaven experience but that all-knowing light forgot to ask me about these people that I had killed two years ago.” Does God forget? Is this omniscient being of light a forgetful being of light? How can a being of light be all-forgiving and just at the same time?
- Ankerberg: Yes. Dr. Weldon, I find what is interesting is that Sunday School teachers, even pastors of churches, have had the hell experience. What interpretation would you put on that?
- Weldon: I think that there are an awful lot of people in churches in America that really aren’t saved and really are on their way to hell, unfortunately. One of my professors, John Warwick Montgomery, wrote a book once called Damned Through the Church, and that’s because many pastors are not teaching the gospel message that you need to believe in Jesus Christ in order to have your sins forgiven. They’re teaching just about anything else. And, therefore, if you go to church and you never hear the gospel message and you never believe, there’s only one place you can go to, because your sins aren’t forgiven. So, there’s a lot of people in church that are on the broad road that leads to destruction, not on the narrow road that leads to eternal life.
- Ankerberg: If there are a lot of people, you know, if you take all the folks that go to church in this country, and you are now saying and you have seen the fact that some of these people end up in hell in these clinical death experiences, which would posit the fact that maybe if they actually died they would have gone to hell, that’s a scary proposition. So how can a person who goes to church and thinks he’s a Christian right now know for sure whether he is or he isn’t?
- Weldon: Once you become a Christian, you know you’re a Christian. Jesus Christ changes your life. He changed my life radically. You can know you’re a Christian when you believe in the true, biblical Jesus Christ; when you recognize that you’re a sinner, and you receive Christ into your life. In the Gospel of John it says, “As many as received him, to them he gave the right to become sons and daughters of God.” Jesus Himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you”—He was emphasizing this point—“whoever believes in me has eternal life.” And the apostle John said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know you have eternal life.” God desires that we know that we are in a personal relationship with Him and that we will go to heaven when we die and that’s possible for anyone.
- Ankerberg: You’re a cardiologist, you’re not a minister, but I bet there’s more people that ask you about this thing of dying and death. How could you advise somebody that’s listening that may have gone to church? You went to church; you thought it was almost like a social club; and you didn’t believe really. And the fact is, what changed your mind? And also, how did you go from being just a social club church member into being a real believer? What’s the difference? How would you advise somebody else to make that trip?
- Rawlings: Well, my experience was unique. I was sustaining a patient and he says, “I’m in hell. Pray for me.” And I was insulted. No offense, ministers, but I’m a doctor, not a minister. I was insulted. I prayed for him. I make a “make believe” prayer, absolutely asinine. He latched onto it. It converted him. But, fortunately, it converted me too. I wasn’t a head Christian anymore. I could tell you the history of Christ and so forth. Now, I was a heart Christian. I could talk to God. I could talk to God walking down the street, eyes open. The old life has changed. You don’t realize until you reach the new life that Jesus Christ is something living, not something….
- Ankerberg: What was the simple prayer that you said that you made up that also got you, too?
- Rawlings: I’d say to him, forcefully because I was in charge, “Now say this after me.” And I’m pumping on him. Blood spurting from his pacemaker. “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Say it. “If I die, I want to be in heaven.” Say it. “I’m on the hook, I’m yours forever, but please keep me out of hell.” Something like that. And it worked. Subsequent multiple clinical deaths to adjust the pacemaker and he was quiet, reserved, the usual type of death—not this fighting, hair-raising type of disorder. It just, wham! got me.
- Ankerberg: I like the fact that you also said that you said in that prayer, “Lord, I mean it so much, you’re in charge of my life.”
- Rawlings: Yes. And each day I’m gullible, human. Each day I have to wake up: “Lord, this is your day. Tell me what you want me to do.” And if I don’t remind myself, I could go back to doing my own thing.
- Ankerberg: So, the difference between being a social club Christian and one that’s going to hell, although you’re sitting in church, might have been baptized, you take the sacraments or communion and so on and a real Christian is the fact you put your trust in what Jesus did at the cross for you and you turn your life over to Him and you put your very eternal destiny into His hands and say, “Lord, I need you in every way.”
- Weldon: Exactly. And Jesus proves Himself real to you beyond any shadow of a doubt.
- Ankerberg: Puts the Holy Spirit of God into your life and you’ll know that you’re a Christian.
- Ankerberg: Now, we have put Jesus Christ’s statements on these near-death experiences, the good and bad, and we need to stop because our society obviously does not believe there’s any absolute truth of right or wrong; they do not believe there’s any absolute truth—period, and they certainly don’t believe that there’s any one religion that is the correct way—that there is an absolute religion. Why would you say that they should, and why is it that we’ve gone toward Jesus Christ?
- Weldon: Well, John, I’ve got my Ph.D. in Comparative Religion. I also have a Masters Degree in Christian Evidences. And the reason why I say we have to trust Jesus and look to Him alone is because He is so unique. There’s not one other person in the history of this world that’s been like Jesus. He predicted on several occasions that not only would He be dead, would He be crucified and die, but that He would also rise from the dead on the third day. That’s never been done in human history.
- Now, Maurice, what if I turned to you or came to you for a physical check-up and you discovered cancer all throughout my body. Okay, I know I’m going to die, it’s in the terminal stage, and I say to you, “Hey, Maurice, don’t worry about it. I’m going to raise from the dead in three days. I’ll do it myself.” Most people would consider I’m deluded.
- But Jesus Himself predicted that on several occasions, and He pulled it off. There’s no other individual that has ever done that in human history. If a hundred billion people have lived on this planet, only one person has not just had a near-death experience, but experienced death for three days, come back, and He’s the one that’s told us what heaven and hell is like, what death is like, and that we are to fear death unless we’re saved.
- Ankerberg: Yes. Because Jesus proposed that He would do and then did it, He has the platform now to speak to the rest of us who have never been able to do that. We cannot do resurrections. You can’t do a resurrection with all your medical technology. But Jesus beat death, and therefore He has the right to speak to us as to what’s going to happen after. And also, He used it as a claim to being God; that He would come back from the dead. Nobody else has done that. “When you see me do this, when I claim to be God, this will be the evidence to back up that claim.” But I want to come back to one thing about our interpretation that we haven’t done very well, I felt, in the program, and that is that, yeah, the hell experiences, we can say those are a warning. But the fact is, we haven’t said that these good experiences which are the majority can be bad ones. Now, people don’t like to hear that message either. I mean, they want to accept the fact of the good. Tell us why you think the good can be bad.
- Rawlings: All through life everyone wants comfort and pleasure. No one wants torment and discomfort. So we spend our physical lives doing that. Spiritually in the next life we sure want good things. Now, if you tell me that heaven’s gates are open wide for everyone and you can convince me by your near-death experience and you were an atheist, I, too, will assume that I will eat, drink and be merry. If there is no hell, no salvation is necessary. Christ isn’t necessary; God isn’t necessary. But if there is a hell, then I better be careful where I’m going when I die. Is it safe for me to die? And if I’m not sure and I know in my own mind right now, and each viewer knows in their own heart right now where they’re going, and if they’re not sure, then they better make sure because death is going to be sudden and unexpected. You’re caught with your pants down.
- Ankerberg: That’s right. I saw a sign coming over on a bumper sticker and it said that those who are waiting for the eleventh hour to die have to realize some of them die at 10:30. And people aren’t prepared. But if there is a deception in the good experiences, what kind of deception? What’s the purpose of it? Where is it leading?
- Weldon: I think one of the things that we really have to be careful about in evaluating these experiences is that what is interpreted as a result of a very brief near-death experience is extended into a comprehensive view of what it’s like to die. And biblically that’s not true. Jesus talked about a real place called hell that was eternal and a real place called heaven that was eternal.
- People that have positive experiences, there are two things here: 1) the experience itself could be deceptive because it is so blissful and the false interpretation is placed on it that this is something that tells me death per se is good. But these people have not experienced biological death, only clinical death. Only a near-death experience, not real death.
- Second, many of these experiences have clear evidence of spiritual warfare. The being of light gives teachings that deny the teachings of Christ and the Bible. The spirits that appear do the same thing: they give a false view of God, of the nature of death, of the afterlife. They’re not concerned about sin.
- But sin is something that all of us need to be concerned about. We’re all sinners and we all intuitively sense that God is a good God. That’s why we never ask, “Why is there so much good in the world?” We always ask, “Why is there so much evil?” We know that ultimate reality is good and yet if God is a holy and just God and we’re sinful, we have to deal with the sin problem. And Jesus did that on the cross and that’s why we have to believe in what He said and what He did. The near-death experience tells us not to fear death, that we don’t have to believe any of that, that there is no consequence for sin. And therefore it’s deceptive from the perception of what God has already told us is true about death.
- Ankerberg: You’re a doctor, you’re not a theologian and yet you have come to a belief in Jesus Christ. I’m concerned with people that are out there on their hospital bed or they’re in their home or they’ve been told they’ve got a terminal disease or there are people that are just getting up there in age that recognize, “Hey, I’m not prepared to die. I’m not prepared for what comes after and I need to think about it.” Not as a doctor now, but as a person that’s come to grips with that question yourself, what would you tell them?”
- Rawlings: All of my patients, they ask, “Doctor, I’m afraid of dying.” And none of them, “Doctor, I’m afraid of judgment, what these people see when they get there.” So it’s easy to make a decision ahead of time. “What have you lost if you’re a Christian,” I said to myself when I became a Christian. Nothing. What have I gained? The whole world. What’s my soul worth? The whole world. So, if you decide to become a Christian, you’ve made a 100% bet. You can’t lose, whether you live or whether you die. What’s the difference? You’ve got it made. If you really have the decision that you’re turning your life over and you’re not longer in charge yourself and you look for guidance.
- Ankerberg: What would you say to a person that would add to what Maurice just said, that says, “Dr. Weldon, I want to know, “How can I know that I’m not going to hell when I die?”
- Weldon: Well, John, the good news in all this is that there is a life after death, despite what many in our culture tend to deny. We don’t just die and that’s it forever, annihilation forever. There is life after death, and anyone who wants to can receive Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. “As many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God.” And Jesus promised us eternal life if we would believe what He did on the cross–that He died for our sins, receive Him into our life, believe Him, make Him our Lord and our Savior, then we have the guarantee of eternal life.
- Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, He who believes in me has eternal life.”
- And the Apostle John said, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know you have eternal life.”
- So if anyone is out there and is in a situation where they are close to death, the good news is that Christ has offered them freely as a gift—they don’t have to work for it, do anything. It’s a free gift. They just need to believe on what Jesus has done, and they will have life after death. They will go to heaven and not go to judgment.
- Ankerberg: Yes. The fact of death is certain for all of us, but for the Christian, heaven is also certain as well. You know the Scripture says that, “Neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any power, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Now the fact is that if you place your faith in the Lord Jesus and say, “Lord, I admit that I’m a sinner and I realize you died and you paid for all of my sins and I am believing on you right now, I’m putting my very eternal destiny into your hands and I want you to guide me from this point on,” the Lord Jesus said that He’ll do that.
- “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And I hope that if you haven’t done that, you’ll do it right now.
- Thanks for being with us. God bless you. We’ll see you next week.