Near Death Experiences and Jesus

Near Death Experiences (NDE) have grabbed a lot of attention lately, and a lot of people seem absolutely enamored by them. Folks feel inclined to see in NDE all kinds of affirmation of popular “spiritual sounding” ideas like syncretism, universalism, reincarnation and so forth. There are a number of problems with reading too much into NDE that I don’t want to elaborate on here, rather I want to grant that they hold some validity, for the sake of argument.

Let us suppose that NDE gives us a glimpse into the world beyond that we can all expect to enter one day; a glimpse that we really cannot access in our normal daily routines of life. If this is so, then we should be interested to hear what those who have been on the “other side” have to say. In fact, I would suggest that the longer a person has been beyond the veil the more weight their testimony ought to carry. After all, if I got a ten second glimpse of the inside of the Sistine Chapel and somebody else got a 10 minute look around who would you be more inclined to trust with respect to what the Sistine Chapel looks like?

So what’s the record? Who has spent the most time on the “other side?” It turns out Jesus has spent more time there than just about anybody else in history (a couple of people have exceeded his record!). He died late one Friday afternoon and his tomb was found empty first thing in the morning on Sunday so he came back to life some time between those two events. We don’t know precisely when, but as a minimum they had enough time to see him dead on the cross, stab him in the side, remove him from the cross, wrap his body, transport him to the tomb (they didn’t have cars, I should remind the reader; they walked), place him in the tomb and roll the stone across the entrance. In theory he could have come back at precisely the time when the watchful eyes of the onlookers were no longer on him, but if the Bible is to be trusted at all then the suggestion seems to be that he returned to life early Sunday morning (Matthew 28:1-5). So it would seem he was on the “other side” somewhere between maybe a few hours and up to, perhaps, 30-36 hours!

Now I know the more astute theologians in our midst are probably crying foul at this point because what happened to Jesus is not, technically, an NDE as traditionally understood. It was a resurrection. He was unequivocally dead, and his return to life was not to the typical human life but to the resurrected human life which is fundamentally different from an NDE; a return to the same-old-same-old. I realize all that, but for the sake of argument I want to play along with this thought experiment. Humor me, please.

Regardless of the theological interpretations of Jesus return from the dead (NDE or resurrection) the fact remains that he spent more time among the dead than almost anybody else with an NDE.

Furthermore, unlike many people with an NDE, he spent a great deal of time in the business of expounding upon the ultimate issues of life. God, Heaven, Hell, meaning, ethics and so on, were all significant parts of his ministry on earth. Most people with an NDE are just average folks who happen to die and come back. In Jesus we find the happy coincidence of somebody specifically dedicated to addressing the major issues of life, and who spent a great deal of time beyond death (hours or days), and returned to us. Those three factors, combined, put him in a unique position to be something of a leading authority on the matter.

The question begs asking, if Jesus was in the historically unique position to give us the most reliable answers to questions about these issues, what did he say after his NDE?

Interestingly, Jesus is not recorded as saying very much after he returned from the dead. He rekindled a few relationships, shared a few theological insights with specific groups, and that’s about it. The majority of his teachings that we have on record came from prior to his death, not after his death. But this fact should clue us in to something; whatever happened beyond the grave did not inspire him to go back and correct his earlier teachings! In other words, whatever he had already taught us about all these major life issues during his life was not radically overturned by his experience of the afterlife during his NDE. What he taught before his death, it would seem, was consistent with what he learned during his NDE.

So what did he teach us? Well, a whole lot of stuff about God, Heaven, Hell, judgment and the importance of getting reconciled to God in order to avoid said judgment. How is reconciliation possible? Through Jesus (per his own teaching). So it would seem that Jesus’ NDE is confirmation that there is a God, there is Heaven, there is Hell, there will one day be a judgment and the only people who are going to Heaven will be those who have been reconciled to God through Jesus.

In a sense, the New Testament record of Jesus’ teachings is precisely what Jesus would have us know about life, its meaning, and what happens after we die. He taught it prior to his death and did not adjust his teachings after his NDE. So if you really want the best picture we can possibly get of the afterlife, turn to the guy who made it his livelihood to address these issues, and who spent a considerable amount of time exploring the very world he professed to know so much about, and then came back from the dead without feeling the need to correct anything he had said previously!

If you really think NDE hold the key to understanding the biggest issues in life then you really need to dive into the New Testament to properly understand them.

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About Paul Buller

Just some guy with a variety of eccentric interests.
This entry was posted in Bible, General Apologetics. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Near Death Experiences and Jesus

  1. Dutch Uncle says:

    Many of your preconceptions above are incorrect and speak of either a lack of real knowledge or even foolish ignorance. Jesus Christ IS GOD and had already spent an eternity in all of the heavens and universes. The fact that His body slept in a cave for maybe three days does neither add nor deduct from that. Why should three days or nights add to His already complete knowledge? He is eternal and said “before Abraham was, I am.” He also visited Abraham apparently in a humanly body, accompanied by two “men” who were also most likely angels (aliens, divinities – to use verbiage know to other beliefs.) Melchizedek – take a closer look at Who He was!
    I was a reborn Christian for ten years, involved in world evangelism for a decade, by the time I died for a while in 1995. All I can say is that Jesus is very REAL, He sent me back here when I said to Him “it is unfair, it is not my time!” I immediately woke up in my body where my wife was beating away at my chest in an effort to revive me. I had both heart attack and stroke, suffered from memory loss, slurred speech, a “thick, lazy tongue” following the stroke and I also could not pair cousins with their their correct parents, namely some of my uncles and aunts.
    What I came back with is that even reborn Christians can be ill at ease on the other side, if your many good deeds and being reborn still does not answer to OBEYING HIM. (Matt 7:21-23)
    We need to obey Him and follow His spiritual guidance so that we can each complete our own personal purpose and calling. (Exodus 35:30 – 36:1 and 1 Corinthians 12.)
    Jesus is the Everlasting Father, Isaiah 9:6 and John 1. There is a difference between the physical Jesus (son of God) and the spiritual Jesus (God.) A broken, misfigured body was buried but a healed one, with no sign of days of torture or decay did rise up. He was blessed beyond recognition as we see in John 20:14.

  2. Dutch Uncle says:

    Reblogged this on Dutch Uncle and commented:
    We should always bear in mind that Satan is the Deceiver and Destroyer, but also that he is a master of mimicking Jesus. Satan can – and had in the past – appeared as the most beautiful creature, as brilliant light, etc. Challenge him to show his hands, feet and side!

    After all, the only reality is the Creator Jesus the Christ, who also is our Everlasting Father.

    • Paul Buller says:

      Dutch Uncle,

      Thanks for stopping by. You have provided two comments now, the first of which begins with the rather undiplomatic pronouncement that, “Many of your preconceptions above are incorrect and speak of either a lack of real knowledge or even foolish ignorance.” Whether that comment was in response to some of my thoughts, or in response to my reiteration of other people’s thoughts, that’s not really a very good way to open up a conversation, is it?

      Moving on, though, I get the sense that you did not understand the purpose of the article. The intent of the article is to engage in a thought experiment which is clearly outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. This is a persuasion tool that involves granting a number of assumptions to somebody else’s view and then using those assumptions to point back to your own view. For instance, if I were a politician I might begin with the values and priorities of the “other guy’s” political party and then demonstrate how my political party provides the best policies to bring about the goals associated with those values and priorities. This is not unlike the Apostle Paul’s approach in Athens (Acts 17) where he begins with the poets and metaphysics of the Athenians and uses them to point to Christ. It’s a fairly common tool of logical persuasion; one that I happen to enjoy using.

      In case my approach was not implicitly clear, I explicitly state that this is what I’m doing in the fourth paragraph when I say, “He was unequivocally dead, and his return to life was not to the typical human life but to the resurrected human life with is fundamentally different from an NDE which is a return to the same old same old. I realize all that, but for the sake of argument I want to play along with this thought experiment. Humor me, please.” As I described, I was creating a thought experiment consistent with the perspective of the NDE crowd, and using it to demonstrate that we need to look to Jesus for the best answers to our questions about the afterlife.

      However, since we are on the subject of theological orthodoxy, it seems prudent to point out that your own theology could certainly use a little re-examination. To state, “Jesus is the Everlasting Father” seems profoundly bizarre given how often Jesus spoke of, and prayed to, the Father; treating him as an obviously distinct person from himself. Furthermore, your comment that he was raised, “with no signs of … torture” makes little sense in light of Jesus’ challenge to Thomas to examine his hands, feet and side. Clearly the signs of his torture remained after his death, which you even allude to in your second comment when you point out that Satan lacks those same signs. So your theology is not only inconsistent with the Bible, it is inconsistent with your own statements elsewhere which is really not a good sign.

      And to equivocate angels, divinities and aliens is both bizarre and perfectly inconsistent with Christian theology. Angels are created supernatural beings. The very concept of “divinities” (i.e. in the plural) is completely foreign to the Bible that repeatedly declares there is only one God. Furthermore, God, by definition, is uncreated supernatural being. Lastly, aliens – if they even exist – would be created natural beings. By lumping the three together you are saying that created supernatural beings, uncreated supernatural being, and created natural beings are all really the same thing. Clearly that does not work theologically nor logically.

      • Dutch Uncle says:

        Hi Paul

        I apologise if I had offended, which was unintentional. I am, like Paul, a man of “rude” speech, meaning that I lack the refinement of a diplomat.

        Christian orthodox beliefs are based upon erroneous human interpretations but we grow up with these to be “facts.” Jesus is God as we clearly read in the Bible but we must also bear in mind His function as a role model. He was baptized yet He never had sinned. Much of His activity was to depict how we should be doing it. Note that the trinity is never taught in the Bible, not once.

        I am in bad health and not strong enough to argue the point.

        Aliens….angels….divinities: all just mean life from another realm. None of these terms are correct and none are wrong. Different cultures use different words for the same thing.

        One first have to escape the unnatural boundaries laid down by human religion and tradition before you can really even begin to “understand God.” I did ask Jesus to reveal Himself and so He did – it took me no less than four years to grasp what He had shown me and to come to terms with it. Only then did He take me to scriptures supporting this.

        Aliens do exist and were mentioned many times in the Bible: our culture, tradition and religion affords us a bias that defies perception and blinding us from seeing what is right in front of us.

        Think outside of the box, it is enlightening and even entertaining 🙂

        • Paul Buller says:

          If you lack the health and strength to defend your views then you ought to refrain from posting them on the internet in the first place. Good day, and good health to you.

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