What have we learned from life after death experiences?
We have all heard stories of people who have seemed to be dead - without vital signs for several minutes - only to be revived. Many of these people tell of traveling at high speeds through tunnels or of seeing brilliant white lights or even of coming face to face with God.
These life after death experiences raise many questions that directly reflect on Christianity - questions like, "What happens when we die?" and "Is it possible to communicate with the dead?"
Even Christian believers disagree on what the Bible says on these matters. Some say those who die fall into a kind of dreamless sleep until Judgment Day. Others say the souls of the dead are immediately subjected either to Heaven or Hell, depending on whether they believe in Jesus. Still others say our souls remain conscious, but exist in a kind of limbo until the Day of Judgment arrives.
Life after death experiences presuppose the soul remains conscious and aware after death. Those who have these experiences often report they retain the ability to see, to hear, to think, to feel - but they are unable to communicate with anyone. While the experience may be confusing, people report they are suffused with joy - partly as the result of being removed from the suffering of the body.
It is interesting that many life after death experiences are accompanied by a distinct sense of being two people - one physical and one spiritual. And the spiritual being is completely indifferent to the suffering self.
Perhaps this is one reason the Apostle Paul tells us to die to ourselves, putting God ahead of our selfish desires:
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
Researchers report that about one in seven of those who are revived in such circumstances report seeing a brilliant light or even beings they interpret as angels, Jesus, or God. Some people report a sense of having their lives "reviewed."
The effect of the review is often beneficial and may lead some to accept God, others to rededicate themselves to what they perceive as God's purpose for them.
Some Christians have claimed that after-death experiences are beyond the purview of God and are therefore demonic in nature. But it seems unlikely that being subjected to demonic influences would lead so many people to a closer walk with God.
In Luke 9:50, Jesus is asked by His followers what to do about a man who is casting out demons even though he is not a disciple. Jesus replies, "Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you."
In fact, for God to be truly omnipotent, He must be in control of these sojourns into death. Perhaps He uses themto direct His people.
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