Near-Death Experience: Angel of Light?
For many years, people have been curious about the phenomenon known as near-death experience. With the popularity of Dr. Raymond Moody's book, Life After Death, curiosity has increased. There is also Betty Eadie's book, Embraced by the Light, which has been endorsed by Moody as the most profound and complete near-death experience account ever. Since the first week of August 1994, Eadie's book has been on the New York Times' and Publisher's Weekly best seller lists. What is disturbing about the ever-increasing popularity of near-death experiences is the amazing belief that more and more people, Christian and non-Christian alike, are beginning to accept that life after death is equally pleasant for both redeemed and unredeemed sinner.
It seems that persons with a near-death experience have basically the same story to tell. In his book, Moody constructs this typical scenario:
"Shortly after hearing himself pronounced dead, the patient feels himself float out of his body and hears a loud disturbing noise as he swishes through a long, dark tunnel. Suddenly, he is looking down on his body, watching the resuscitation attempt. Spirits of deceased relatives and friends come to help him. A loving, warm spirit a being of light appears. This being questions him, nonverbally, as to what he has done with his life. Not for the purpose of judgment, but simply as a learning experience. At the same time, he is presented an instant replay of his life."
"Approaching a barrier, he finds he must return to earth. Overwhelmed by intense feelings of joy, love, and peace, he does not want to return. But something pulls him back, and he is reunited with his physical body. The person's life is remarkably changed by the experience, particularly in that he no longer fears death. Since words are inadequate to describe this episode, and because others scoff, he is reluctant to discuss his experience" (Life After Death, pp. 22-23).
Such an experience is reported to be commonplace for people who claim to have near-death experiences. One might conclude that everyone has an experience of heaven with the obvious implication that there is no hell. No one experiences a horrible place, or a terrible being. Indeed, most of the published reports of Drs. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Carlos Osis, Elendor Haraldsson, and Raymond Moody have presented unbelievably good experiences of people.
One voice crying out in this near-death experience wilderness that pleasant experiences aren't always the case, is that of Maurice Rawlings, M.D.. In his book, To Hell and Back, Rawlings documents many unpleasant experiences of people who had been pronounced clinically dead, but were brought back to life. Early on in his book, Rawlings tells the case of a man named Charlie, whom Rawlings was trying to resuscitate and, at the same time, trying to adjust Charlie's pacemaker.
"Whenever I stopped pushing on his chest in order to adjust the pacemaker, the heart would stop and Charlie's eyes would roll up. He again would sputter, turn blue and begin to convulse. I reached over and started him up again. But this time, he was screaming the words, "Don't stop! I'm in hell! I'm in hell!"
"Hallucinations", I thought. Most patients say, "take your big hands off me, you're breaking my ribs." But he was saying the opposite, "For God's sake, don't stop! Don't you understand? Everytime you let me go, I'm back in hell!"" (To Hell and Back, pp. 36-37).
Dr. Rawlings stated that this incident with Charlie stimulated him to search for those mysteriously missing "hell" cases that seemed to never get reported.
Rawlings documents: "if the interview of the person who has been brought back to life is delayed just a little bit, much less days, weeks, or months after the fact, only the positive experiences will be found. The negative experiences have long since been relegated to the painless portions of the memory. The victim is apparently unable to coexist with this painful memory. Intolerable situations often lead to other solutions such as a personal, religious conversion, a situation sometimes difficult to detect unless the patient volunteers the information. Thus, hell cases are not reported. Hell cases remain unreported due to personal ego and/ or embarrassment. Patients don't want to discuss a matter that confirms ultimate failure in life, an overwhelming defeat, or a slap in the face. Since the experience destroys self-esteem, pride conceals the error. Nothing more than human nature. The average doctor will relate only his most impressive diagnoses, and say nothing of past mistakes. Should we expect less from the patients?
"A psychologist and psychiatrist (who write most of the books on the subject) never seem to encounter negative cases. Delayed interviews? The timing factor? Because they weren't there? Because they have never resuscitated any of their patients? Not in the line of business? All of the above?
"Perhaps the greatest reason for the paucity of negative reports is the defective method of data collection. Methods are used that disregard the simple bell-curve distribution for population studies and scientific information. There are invariably two extremes to any curve, and bias results when investigation is limited to only one end of the curve while the other end is disregarded or purposely omitted" (Ibid., pp. 33-34).
So the reporting of near-death experiences can be deceiving. Not only the reporting but also the experience itself can be deceiving. People who have had such an experience, and who say, "I've been there and back, and it makes no difference how a person lives," are possibly victims of satanic deception. Satan's deceptions are much like a kaleidoscope; as the tube is rotated, exactly the same bits of colored glass will form each new design. So for many who claim to have seen a bright angelic being as being Jesus, it could have been Satan. Scripture says "Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Steven C. Board states that "it is not surprising for old Lucifer to assume that disguise for his name literally means light bearer and his pre-Adamic effulgence was dazzling" ("Light at the End of the Tunnel", Eternity, July 1977, p. 15).
One of the more popular authorities on death and dying, who appears to have been deceived by satan in many ways, is the death and dying psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. In her book, she admits to having changed her view on life and death.
Previously, she viewed death as oblivion, but now, through interviews of those who have survived clinical death, she has changed her views towards a more new age view. She tells of her having an out-of-body experience, during which she traveled faster than the speed of light, horizontally.
She says, "I switched and made a right-angle turn, rounded a big hill and went upto a place so far that when I came back, I felt like a beaming source of light that could illuminate the darkest corner of the world" (On Death and Dying, 1969, chapters 3-7). The deception gets worse. Apparently, Kubler-Ross has lost any remaining credibility with her professional colleagues. The reason: her close association with J. Barham, who claims to be a psychic who conducts seances that include intercourse between participants and entities from the spirit world ("The conversion of Kubler-Ross from thanatology to seances and sex", Time, 12 November 1979).
The story, with all of its vulgarities, presents the inevitable results of deception. There seems to be no limit to delusion once a person gives himself or herself to lies.
Interestingly, spirit guides are also teaching that at death there is no judgment. It is merely a transition into the spirit world. For instance, Ramtha, the spirit speaking through medium J. Z. Knight, in Ramtha, Voyage to the New World, teaches that "God has never judged you or anyone. No, there is no hell and there is no devil" (The Facts on Spirit Guides, Ankerberg & Weldon, p. 23).
They also include Jesus, the spirit who worked through Helen Schucman, in A Course in Miracles. Schucman's Jesus' teaching on death is that "there is no death, but there is a belief in death. Death is the central dream from which all illusions stem" (Ibid., p. 23).
Death certainly is no illusion. Neither is what happens after death an illusion. God says, "it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this comes the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Near-death experiences are real, and although most of them appear to be counterfeits from Satan, not all of them are.
Moments before his death, Stephen looked into the eternal heavens and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God the Father. Paul, Peter, James, and John had heavenly visions. There is no reason to reject the possibility that, even today, dying Christians see beyond death's door into the heavenly places. And, too, that some persons who have not made peace with God, have bonafide visions of hell. Why some do and others don't, no one knows.
So, how should one view other world experiences? In Acts 15, when the Jerusalem Council was establishing the doctrine of the early church, Peter and Paul told of their experiences, while James quoted scripture to back them up. This indicates that examining personal experience can be useful in understanding biblical truths, but one must be careful.
Truth is not built on the foundation of subjective experience whether our own, or others'. Rather, the truth of God's Word is the foundation on which Christians are to stand upon in examining all subjective experience.