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Think on These Things Articles
Examination of Life After Death Experiences
(July 1995 - Volume 1, Issue 9)
Woody Allen expressed the sentiments of many when he stated, "Who cares about achieving immortality through achievements? I'm interested in achieving immortality through not dying." Mankind has always feared death (Heb 2:15), and rightly so. Death is one of the great motivators towards the consideration of our need for a relationship with God. However, in recent years new hope has emerged for those desiring heaven without the bother of a commitment to Christ.
In the 1970's a book by Raymond Moody, Life After Life, made a tremendous impact with numerous and believable stories of people coming back from the dead. Those returning to life often reported similar experiences. A composite experience includes moving through a long, dark tunnel (after being pronounced dead), watching resuscitation efforts from "outside" one's body, being greeted by relatives or friends who had died earlier, encountering a being of light who evaluated the life and who forgives, then being asked to return to this life, and, in every case, returning to this life.
Many Christians jumped on the "life after life" bandwagon thinking that these experiences were adding much information about the afterlife which the Bible had neglected. Most Christians cooled their enthusiasm a bit when more careful analysis of these events proved to contradict the Scriptures. For example, Moody said, "Through all my research I have not heard a single reference to a heaven or a hell anything like the customary picture to which we are exposed in this society. Indeed, many persons have stressed how unlike their experiences were to what they had been lead to experience in their religious training....In most cases, the reward punishment model of the afterlife is abandoned and disavowed, even by many who had been accustomed to thinking in these terms. They found, much to their amazement, that even when their most apparently awful sinful deeds were made manifest before the being of light, the being responded not with anger or rage, but rather only with understanding and even with humor." In other words one of the neat hat-tricks was to remove man's fear of the judgment contrary to Heb 9:27. For example, Dr. George Ritchie, a psychiatrist and a Presbyterian who had an out-of-body experience reported that it changed his conventional views of heaven and hell: "I saw no hell-fire, no heads rolling in the streets. I know beyond a doubt that the Christ I saw will accept everyone, good or bad, even those who did not believe in Him." An interesting sideline to all of this is the cultural stamp that the experiences had. Most Americans saw religious figures and religion determined the identity of the figure: no Christian patient saw a Hindu deity, and no Hindu saw Jesus.
EMBRACED BY THE LIGHT
Now, twenty years later a new book dealing with the same type of experiences has taken the United States by storm.The book entitled Embraced by the Light written by Betty Eadie has been at the top of the New York best seller's list for over a year. Eadie has appeared on 20-20 and, as with Raymond Moody years before, many in the Christian community have been influenced by her experience. It must be kept in mind that many have claimed to return from the dead during the past twenty years, but for the most part, little attention has been paid to these people. For some reason Embraced by the Light has caught the attention of the public once again.
Mrs Eadie's experience is similar to those reported in Moody's book. She also teaches the same nonjudgmental Savior of light, "It was the most unconditional love I have ever felt, and as I saw his arms open to receive me I went to him and received his complete embrace and said over and over, 'I'm home. I'm home.'" (p41). And while Eadie admits that Jesus is the only door by which anyone ever reaches heaven, she assures us that all will eventually surrender to Him and move into His presence. Some, especially atheists and great sinners will spend considerable time in a black mass of love and warmth until they recognize Him, but they will all "eventually learn to move on to accept the greater warmth and security of God" (p84, 85).
Life After Death Experiences & Universalism
Concerning this error of universalism, the Scriptures have much to say:
Matt 25:41; Rev 20:14,15 — Those who have rejected Christ will spend eternity in the lake of fire.
Heb 9:27 — Judgment awaits us after death. For the unsaved that judgment will result in the second death (Rev 20:14,15). For the believer it will result in rewards won or lost (I Cor 3:11-15).
Luke 16:19-31 — Our life on earth will determine our eternal destiny.
John 14:6; Acts 4:12 — Eternal life can only be found in Jesus Christ. Therefore all religions do not lead to the same place. Eadie claims however, "All religions upon the earth are necessary because there are people who need what they teach" (p45).
Matt 7:13, 14 —Few will find the narrow gate.
Other Doctrinal Errors:
Eadie's book goes beyond the earlier teachings of Moody and others to teach a more New Age agenda. In several important areas we catch the New Age influence in what she claims to have experienced:
Eternal existence of the human spirit
Throughout her book Eadie asserts that our human spirit has eternally existed (p31). We were with God at creation, we have always been in His presence (p44). Some spirits however have chosen to go to earth, either to fulfill some mission (pp47-49), or to learn lessons that would help them mature. When we come to earth we often come as friends or family of those spirits that we were close to in heaven (p92). Spirits in heaven can have at least some influence over the affairs of mankind on earth (p92). At death the body decays but the spirit returns to heaven. Since this is true, receiving Christ as Savior is a non-issue since all human spirits are simply on a temporary mission on earth anyway.
A false view of Jesus Christ
Not only is He viewed as a nonjudgmental, totally accepting grandfather image, but He is also a totally separate being from God. "I understood, to my surprise, that Jesus was a separate being from God, with his own divine purpose" (p47). "I understood that he was the Son of God, though he himself was also a God" (p44).
The link between the spirit world and the human world
The following are some examples: Spirits often inspire humans for there is a dynamic link between our world and theirs (p48). There exists positive and negative energies in the universe that can be controlled by our thoughts and words (pp55-58). This includes power over illness through the spirit and the mind (p62) — yet verbalization is needed for healing (pp64-65). There is a oneness between us and the plant world, as well as with God, "I felt God in the plant, in me, his love pouring into us. We were all one!" (p81).
THE SATANIC CONNECTION
It is possible that many of these experiences may have a physical explanation, (e.g. drug induced, or the normal process of a dying brain) and yet there is a sameness about the experiences that gives pause to think that something supernatural is going on. Since the experiences of these people are out of line with Scripture, we can be certain that they are not being given a true glimpse of eternity. Therefore, the possibility exists that Satan is involved in many of these episodes. Many researchers reject this idea on the grounds that those who "come back" always spread the message of love and forgiveness rather than hate and destruction, and they conclude that Satan would not do this. However, they are ignorant of Satan's schemes.
II Cor 11:14 informs us that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. Could the being of light that people claim to meet at death be Satan rather than Christ as supposed? In Heb. 2:14,15 we find that Christ died to deliver us from the fear of death. How clever it would be of Satan to counterfeit even this work by telling people that at death we have nothing to fear, for there is no judgment. And yet, those without Christ have much to fear.
The Bible speaks of two opposite approaches to death. The first is to deny its seriousness. This was Satan's approach in the garden (Gen 3:1-5). Undoubtedly, he is still up to his old tricks. The other approach is to take death seriously, and to recognize that it can only be overcome through faith in Jesus Christ.
In Isa 8:19-20 we find that God is angry at a people who consult occultists to find out about life instead of consulting Him. He is saying that we have better and more reliable information than what witches, mediums and voices from the grave could provide. We have the written testimony of God Himself — go read and believe it.