Descriptions of Near-Death Experiences May Bear Link to Much of New Testament
Maybe you saw it in the news last week. In Knoxville, Iowa, a fellow named Curtis Boyer, who was in a car wreck during last year's Knoxville Nationals, spent 17 days in a coma. According to his doctor, Boyer "died three times" during that episode. Afterward he described his close brush with death -- and like so many others, said that during it, he had a heavenly encounter.
A voice spoke to him and Boyer asserts that it was God.
"I can remember being happy, excited, not sad or depressed," said race-car driver. "I was like, 'Wow, I get to see dad and grandma -- loved ones who went to Heaven. I remember looking forward to going to Heaven and the Good Lord came to me and His exact words to me were, 'Curtis, you're not coming home yet. You've got some more work for me to do here.' I was like, 'Wow, I'm not going to die!' That's all I really remember about the death part of it."
This is one of many major consistencies that run through such experiences (which, in the age of better medical resuscitation, now number in the millions): those who have near-death episodes report a fantastic sensation of well-being, of returning to their true "home," but of being turned back -- sent back to earth -- because their missions here are not yet complete.
Such accounts greatly bolster the claims of religion -- which of course posits the existence of an afterlife -- and yet find resistance not only among the largely unbelieving biological community, but even among religious leaders who, in their religiosity, have lost a sense of the supernatural.
While scientific types, demanding "objective" proof, continue to resist the notion, and while many religious leaders, adopting the secular world view, also ignore them, the fact is that near-death experiences offer both hope and insight, when they aren't skewed by New Age thinking.
Granted, we have to be careful with such claims. Some could be delusions. Some could be the products of imagination. Some could be deceptions.
But they have been recorded by the likes of Pope Gregory the Great, and there is even the chance that such an experience had a major influence on the Bible itself.
We speak here of a strange, magnificent luminosity: often, in the near-death encounters, is described a light highly similar to the light that knocked Saul (soon to be Paul) off his horse and caused his conversion near Damascus.
It was of course the Light of Christ, and that's also what those who have near-death brushes describe: in many cases, how the Light turned out to be Jesus, Who -- just as the Church teaches -- is the mediator between God and man. Similar descriptions relating to near-death experiences are seen in Ezekiel and Revelation.
"As I was traveling and coming near Damascus, about midday a bright light from the sky flashed suddenly around me," said Paul (Acts 22: 6-9). "I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute Me?' 'Who are You, Lord?' I asked. 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, Whom you persecute,' He said to me."
For Paul it was a conversional experience, just as near-death experiences cause huge transformations in virtually everyone who experiences the light that way also.
And from Paul there is also the account in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 whereby he related that "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago -- whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows -- such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man -- whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows -- and there he heard things which cannot be put into words, things that human lips may not speak."
This is fascinating because it is also what the near-death experiencers relate: that there were different levels of Heaven and what they saw, felt, and heard could never be adequately described in human terms.
It goes beyond religion. It goes beyond even the most transcendental artwork. Nothing of human creation could capture it.
And perhaps this is why such experiences (as well as preachers like Paul) have long been rejected.
Yet consider this: there are those who believe that Paul may have been speaking about himself in relating the experience -- that not only did he have kind of a near-death encounter during the trip to Damascus, but that it may have been Paul who was taken up to the "third heaven."
If that's so, the experience may well have informed much of what Paul wrote -- which would be of no minor consequence.
Consider that of the 357 pages in one Catholic version of the Bible, 91 pages were written by Paul, meaning that a near-death-type of experience may be responsible in a significant way for influencing 25 percent -- a quarter -- of the New Testament.
No wonder Pope Gregory the Great was so interested.
They say the media is always "gloom and doom," but there are plenty of accounts in the media about those who have had brushes with death and survived with descriptions of heavenly encounters -- seeing an angel or finding themselves embraced by that Light of Jesus.
In the light of such evidence -- which greatly buttresses the claims of religions -- everything else seems like naught but minor stuff.
You live forever.
That's pretty "good news" indeed!
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