Finally! Someone has stated this better than I could and has given words to what I only could describe as an uncomfortable feeling I have had when reading these books and hearing testimonials about near-death experiences. The problem I have had is that I’ve read several books and seen several programs about this. The people who have experienced them have been from several different faiths and beliefs or from none at all. It gives the impression, as the ’80s children’s cartoon film portrayed, that “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” This is Universalism and is the prominent spirituality of today.
I had a friend some years ago who suffered from Lupus. She was in a coma for a few days and said that the things she saw while in that state were so real that she was certain she was really “there.” The truth is that she never left her hospital bed and her medical instruments showed that she never died. The mind is a powerful organ and is wired in such a way as to provide the person with a pleasant escape during an extremely stressful experience. But Mark Hitchcock expressed it better than I could in his book, The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy (pp 216-217). I will quote him here:
Some of the best-selling books in the last decade have been about near-death experiences or NDEs. Books like Embraced by the Light and Saved by the Light (and I might personally add the most recent 90 Minutes in Heaven) have captured the attention of millions of people who want to peer behind the veil of death to get a sneak preview of the afterlife.
Two points about NDEs are important to understand. First, it is critical to note that they are called “near-death” experiences, not “death” or “after-life” experiences. The fact that the person came back from what-ever state he or she was in is proof that he or she didn’t really die. Therefore, we shouldn’t put any stock in what this person purports to tell us about the afterlife. After all, this person was only near death, not dead. It’s as ridiculous as a woman telling another woman about her “near-pregnancy” experience. The idea is laughable. Everyone knows that you’re either pregnant or you’re not. Likewise, you’re either dead or you’re not. As one writer said, near-death experiences “tell us no more about death than someone who has been near Denver but never within city limits can tell us about that town. Both NDEs (near-Denver and near-death experiences) are bereft of certitude…In both cases, more reliable maps are available.”
The only people who ever really came back from the dead are the few individuals in Scripture that the Lord or one of his prophets or disciples raised. And none of them wrote a book about their experience or hit the talk-show circuit. Even the apostle Paul, who was caught up to heaven on one occasion, did not reveal the things he saw there (2 Cor. 12:1-5).
Second, the only reliable map for the afterlife is the Bible. The Bible defines death as a separation of the spirit from the body (James 2:26). And true physical death occurs only one time for each person (Heb. 9:27). Moreover, much of the idle speculation related from NDEs sounds more occultic and New Age than biblical. If we want to know about the afterlife, we should turn to God’s Word and be satisfied with what he has chosen to reveal to us about heaven and hell.
I would further add what I feel to be an important litmus test when evaluating what anyone says aside from the obvious one related to whether it’s biblical or not. That is, who receives the glory or the focus of the attention here? If the fascination is on the person, the music, the scenery, the fellowship, or the pearly gates, I would seriously question it. The focus of heaven is the Son. Though light emanates from Him, He is not just a bright light or impersonal force seen through a tunnel. Let all that we do or say be for the purpose of bringing glory to Him alone!