The moniker near-death experience (NDE) was coined in 1975 by the occult parapsychologist and philosopher Raymond Moody in the runaway bestseller Life After Life. Since then, stories of near-death experiences have produced a virtual cottage industry.
First, NDEs typically involve an autoscopic episode during which those who are believed to be clinically dead view the physical world from outside their bodies. After viewing various aspects of the physical world from this out-of-body perspective, roughly a third of NDErs promptly return to their bodies.
Furthermore, there is what is referred to as the transcendental experience. NDErs allegedly enter what is described as a dark tunnel, are pulled inexorably toward a distant light, enter a luminous environment, and encounter previously deceased loved ones as well as extraordinary beings of light variously identified as Abraham, Jesus, or Buddha. In some cases, NDErs move seamlessly from the autoscopic to the transcendental phase of the out-of-body experience. In other cases they skip the autoscopic phase altogether.
Finally, in addition to heavenly encounters, a number of NDErs report hellish episodes. In Beyond Death’s Door, cardiologist Maurice Rawlings recounts the tale of a clinically dead woman floating out of her body, entering the obligatory tunnel, and emerging on a barren landscape crammed with nude zombies before gratefully snapping back into her body. After working with literally hundreds of cancer patients, NDE specialist Charles Garfield documented a balance between hellish and heavenly experiences with some patients reportedly experiencing both.
In short, a near-death experience is the subjective recollection of an incident that occurred during a state of unconsciousness precipitated by a medical crisis such as an accident, a suicide attempt, or a cardiac arrest. Given that accounts of NDErs are wildly divergent and mutually contradictory, they are hardly a reliable means for determining what awaits us when “the silver cord is severed” (Ecclesiastes 12:6). To find out what happens after biological death, one is far better served to check the infallible repository of redemptive revelation: sacred Scripture.
In part adapted from AfterLife
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago— whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
2 Corinthians 12:2–4 NKJV
For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, AfterLife: What You Need to Know About Heaven, the Hereafter, and Near-Death Experiences (Brentwood, TN: Worthy, 2013).
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