Is There Life After Death?
It depends on your view of “life”.
-Naturalists (materialists, non-theists, atheists, etc.) believe that your life, your existence, your “being”, your body is just a collection of atoms and molecules that were put together. When your body dies, you cease to exist. But let’s take this thought to its logical conclusion. If you’re just a random collection of atoms and molecules, then the choices you make are because of how those atoms and molecules tell you what to do. So you don’t really have a “free will”. All of your thoughts and actions are due to the chemical reactions taking place in your brain and body. This is called “fatalistic determinism”. That means that all of your thoughts and actions are determined by the atoms and chemicals in your brain and body. Even your reasonings and feelings are dictated by these chemicals. So you’re not really accountable for your actions because your thoughts are just brain chemicals telling you how to act and behave. Therefore, you’re not responsible for your thoughts and actions. In a solely material world, reasoning, morality and feelings are reduced to your brain chemicals telling you what to do. Ardent evolutionists, such as Richard Dawkins & Daniel Dennett agree that death is the cessation of life and that there’s nothing after that. No heaven, no afterlife, no eternal life, no hell. You just cease to exist. They also believe that you’re not morally responsible for your actions.
- Theists are people who believe in a god(s) and an afterlife but their beliefs vary widely. Some are Mormons, Hinduists, Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, reincarnationists, etc.
- Christianity is a subset of theism. But it differs significantly from other theists in their beliefs of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, heaven, hell and the afterlife.
Now, what proof is there for an afterlife?
First, there is no scientific proof because we cannot observe, measure that observation and repeat this process numerous times.
Second, our “proof” has to be peoples personal experience with death. This type of proof can be beyond a reasonable doubt but not beyond any doubt.
For this, we have to look at NDE’s (near death experiences). This term, NDE, is somewhat of a misnomer as many of these people have actually died and come back to life. There is a large body of reported NDE’s. There’s been over 4,500 verified cases of NDE’s in 33 languages around the world. Studies in the USA and Germany have estimated that over 4% of the population have had an NDE. In the USA alone, that’s about 13 million people. Since the mid-1970’s, there have been over 9,000 articles published in scholarly journals prior to 2011. “The Handbook of Near Death Experiences” has over 3,500 NDE accounts.
All of these studies have much in common, although the peoples interpretation of these NDE’s does vary. People across all of these cultures report similar experiences in both Western and non-Western nations. One example will suffice…
Vicki has been blind from birth. She has never seen anything. In her NDE, Vicki was in a car accident. As a doctor and nurse worked on her body, Vicki died in the hospital. Then she floated out of her body. She looked down from above and “saw” herself for the first time ever. She heard the doctor and nurse talking (after she revived, she correctly repeated what they had said to each other). Then she went to heaven and “saw” her two childhood friends that she had lived and grown up with. While on earth, these friends were blind too but also retarded. Even though they had died years earlier, Vicki had described them perfectly according to their housemother. In heaven, all three of them appeared bright, beautiful, healthy and vitally alive. There are much more specific details to her story. Dr. Pim van Lommel, a Dutch cardiologist and recognized NDE researcher, says that Vicki’s reported observations could not have been the result of sensory perception or of her cerebral cortex.
Blind people claim to see, deaf people claim to hear. Many NDE’s have reported family conversations that took place miles away from the hospital where the patient died. Other NDE’s reported conversations in other parts of the hospital where they died. Some blind peoples NDE’s have reported what the doctor who operated on them was wearing. Other NDE’s reported that they saw their grandparents, who had died before they were born. They described their appearance perfectly.
One young boy told his parents that he met his “other” sister in heaven in his NDE. That she had died in “mommy’s tummy”. His parents had never told him of his mother’s miscarriage. His Mom asked what her name was. He replied that they hadn’t named her. This was correct. His parents didn’t even know she was a “she”. He told his parents that God had adopted her.
Not all NDE’s are alike, but most of them have several things in common. These worldwide commonalities are, according to oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long’s research on 1,300 worldwide NDE reports:
2…heightened senses, more alert than ever before-74%
3…Intense positive emotions and feelings-76%
4…Passing into or thru a tunnel-34%
5…encountering a brilliant light-65%
6…encountering other beings and/or deceased rwlatives or friends-57%
7…a sense that time and space have been altered-61%
8…a life review-22%
9…encountering unworldly realms-52%
10…learning special knowledge-56%
11…encountering a barrier that they could not go beyond-31%
12…an awareness that they were returning to their body-59%
After 30 years of research looking at alternative explanations, oncologist Dr. Jeffery Long concludes that with a flat EEG, that electrical activity in the lower parts of the brain cannot account for the kind of highly lucid and ordered experiences described by NDE-ers. These NDE’s are not dreams, hallucinations or any other cause of impaired brain functionings. Dr. Long has collected over 3,000 testimonies on his website.
Are there alternative explanations for these NDE’s? Yes, there are. Things like oxygen deficiency, CO2 overload, reaction or electrical activity in the brain, hallucinations, etc.
None of these things explain the highly lucid experiences and commonalities of the NDE experiences.
Many doctors have studied and chronicled hundreds and thousands of NDE’s. They fall into two camps:
In “The Handbook of Near Death Experiences” doctors found that 23% of NDE’s were disturbing or terrifying. One man described his NDE like this:
He was in a hospital room unconscious when he felt his “being” separate from his body. He tried talking with the hospital staff and his wife but they couldn’t hear him. Then he heard some people telling him to follow them. They looked like hospital staff, so he followed them. At first, they were polite but as time went on, they started being demanding. Then they started to get downright belligerent. They started fighting with him, It escalated to biting and tearing off parts of his skin. They laughed and swore at him. He had a hard time going on as the memory of what they did to him was too horrific to recall. Then he heard a voice that said “Pray to God”. He was an atheist but in his desparation he prayed a very convoluted prayer. He prayed, “Yea, though I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. For purple mountain majesty, mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…One nation under God. God bless America.” And yes, God even answered a prayer like this. While the demons yelled even more, they began to back away. The more he prayed to God, the more they backed away to the point of not being there at all. He lay on the ground exhausted but he kept praying to Jesus. Then he saw a beautiful light that came forward and enfolded him with such love that he had never experienced before. He knew it was Jesus. Jesus asked him, “What have you done with the life that I have given you?” When he awoke, he devoted his life to Jesus. He went on the become a minister of the gospel.
Are NDE’s the same in other cultures? Yes, they have similar experiences but the people don’t interpret them the same way. This makes sense as we tend to interpret experiences with our cultural context. The Being of Light is a good example of this. Many NDE’ers describe this Being as having a white robe with a gold sash with piercing eyes that see into your soul but envelope you with their warmth and love, sandals, a beard and long hair holding some kind of account book. This Being is always pictured as a benign ruler. One research said that even in non-Western countries, their experiences were remarkably similar to Western countries. While people in, say, India may interpret this Being as Krishna or Siva, the problem is that Krishna has blue skin and Siva has three eyes. Their descriptions of this Being looks amazingly like Jesus Christ. Every single person who encounters this Being of Light says that He’s a person who knows everything about them and yet loves them in spite of what they’ve done. Again, it sounds a lot like Jesus but unlike any of the other gods.
1st John 1:5 “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Matthew 17:2 “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
Revelation 1:14-15 “The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.”
Daniel 10:5 “…was a man dressed in linen with a belt of fine gold…”
Revelation 1:13, 14 “…was someone like the Son of Man, dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest. The hair on His head was white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire.”
One of the most fascinating worldwide NDE observations is that there are books in heaven recording all of our deeds. Even in India, they report a Man-in-White with a book of accounts. This is exactly what Matthew 12:36, 37 and Revelation 21:27 says. Even for Christians, 2nd Corinthians 5:10 says we will be judged for what we have done as believers. This judgement is not for salvation but for rewards. 1st Corinthians 3:8, 11-15 confirms this. This is part of the “Life Review” that is a common feature of NDE’s.
Another interesting commonality of NDE’s is the description of this afterlife. One color-blind NDE’er saw “a magnificent landscape full of flowers and plants…a thousand times more beautiful than anything I have ever seen.” Another NDE’er had 360 degree vision.Our earthly eyes cannot see ultraviolet or infrared colors, yet many NDE’ers describe seeing these colors. One NDE’er said that the grass seemed to be translucent. Its color seemed to be alive, dancing in the air. Others described them as the deepest, richest, most lush colors they have ever seen. From forests, to trees, to landscapes, to valleys, to mountains, to rivers…everything seemed to be alive. All of this is described in the bible. Read Revelation 7:9, 17 21:10-12, 19, 23 22:1, 2.
Remember, earth is just a shadow of what heaven is like (Hebrews 8:5). But the heaven of Hinduism or Buddhism is NEVER described like this. Hindu and Buddhist NDE’s match up with that of the bible, not their own religious views of the afterlife.
Be careful to differentiate between a person’s experience of what happened and their interpretation of it. But an NDE should NEVER disagree with what the bible says. For Christians, the bible’s account of the afterlife is absolutely true as Jesus is the One who conquered death and came back to tell about it. We must reject any NDE account that disagrees with the bible. But it seems like these NDE’s, not necessarily the person’s interpretation of it, line up with what the bible says about the afterlife.
“Imagine Heaven” by John Burke
“What’s after Life” (booklet) by John Burke
“If God Made the Universe, Who Made God”, pages 153-157
Here’s to seeing you in the afterlife,