The One Consistency With Those Who 'Die' And Return Is Losing Their Fear Of Death
By Michael H. Brown
If someone told you that death was something to look forward to, how would you react? Would you think he or she was nuts? We might all have that initial reaction. Isn't death gloom? Isn't it something to be feared?
And the answer is no. It is not to be feared. It is rather something for which we must prepare. This is what the vast majority of those reporting brushes with the afterlife, what are called near-death experiences, return to tell us -- whether they're Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, or Jews.
As we have been pointing out, millions have had such experiences (according to the Gallup Survey, at least eight to 12 million) and the record goes back at least as far as the Bible. "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," says Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:2. There are similar allusions in books like Revelation and Ezekiel. And as we'll see in the next installment, a great Pope was the first to record them in detail.
But as for the question we asked: isn't death something to fear?
"Experiencers unanimously lose their fear of death upon return," notes one author, Kevin R. Williams -- who has studied these cases for years and has detailed dozens of such episodes. "I had a feeling of total peace," said an experiencer quoted by another researcher named Judith Cressy. "A feeling of total, total peace. It was such a total peaceful sensation. I wasn't frightened anymore."
And the actual process, the actual moment of death, is most often described as painless -- with the feeling of fantastically heightened awareness and terrific release. We are not "asleep." There is no fade to black. We leave this life fully conscious.
At once, fear is recognized as a wasted emotion.
Although, seeing the "other side," they now want to live their life and their missions to the fullest (everyone has a special mission), and although they would never commit suicide (which can lead to a dismal experience), of those who die and return, "many actually look forward to their own deaths, when they can return to the beautiful realm they experienced," notes Williams.
Death is a process. It is not an ending. It's a beginning. It is like the mystical ecstasy described by Teresa of Avila -- notes Cressy.
While we have to discern each such experience -- and while those who report on near-death episodes sometimes stray into realms that can begin to sound New Age -- we learn, as Scripture says, to take what is good and leave the rest. And what we learn is that the actual experience is usually very Christian. The vast majority report seeing Jesus in a brilliant light (even those who are agnostic or even atheistic) and the very good news is the absolutely consistent lack of fear in those who survive.
Resuscitated through modern medical technology or simply granted a miraculous reprieve, those who have such experiences constantly describe it in virtually identical ways. Life is like a channel on a radio. Death is switching the channel -- or put another way, like waking from a dream (with far clearer vision). Often, accident victims claim they left their bodies, were taken up by Christ, before there was any pain. It is a rebirth into a greater life, a brilliant, light-filled life, if we have kept the commandments of Jesus.
It is birth into the spiritual world. Even in purgatory, there is the joy of now knowing with certainty that there is eternity. It's said that everyone in Heaven appears as they did in their prime, roughly in their mid-twenties, and that when children die, they are not children after death. They too appear as they would in their primes. Deceased loved ones appear in the afterlife as they looked like at their best during their lives, says Williams. Those involved in accidents frequently say they watched the accident, or what seemed like a painful death, from Heaven -- at a painless distance. They were taken up before the violence was done to their bodies! This is truly mercy.
Heaven is like a new lease on life. It is not a place of "rest" because no one there gets tired. It is a breaking through the barriers of time and space. Our senses are tremendously greater. It is a rebirth. Time stops. Past, present, and the future merge into the eternal now. It is exhilarating. It is unendingly fascinating. We realize that everything had a Divine purpose. We realize that we are equally important. Are there hellish planes? Purgatorial planes? Yes. These are for those who sinned, who rejected God, who had no consideration of others. This is for those whose spirits carried a taint. They go where they are most comfortable. They gravitate to where they belong. It is as much a self-judgment as anything. For when we die, experiencers uniformly claim that we see our lives in review from the viewpoint of God (and in the Light of His truth can deny nothing).
Those who lives hellish lives -- who care nothing for others -- live a hellish afterlife. Those who have a heavenly life on earth continue such a heaven-like existence. We go where we belong. But wherever that is, as long as it is not hell, the feeling upon death is the feeling of returning to our true home. This term, "home," is used in just about every detailed case. They virtually all use that word. HOME. There is the instant, powerful, and unforgettable recognition of Heaven as God's Presence, as the place for which our souls always longed. There is an instant knowledge that earth is just a transitional place, a place of testing, a temporary "dream" from which, in death, we are now eternally awakened.
Consistent with those who have the experience is the unwillingness to return to earth, to the physical world.
For most, that's how pleasant the actual experience is. Some describe death as the most pleasurable experience of their lives -- so pleasant to be near God's Presence that few want to come back (even if they have to do some purifying). "The overwhelming love and happiness of that place was so inviting," notes one such experiencer, Karen Schaeffer. "Immediately I was in the most beautiful serene place I had ever been. It was my time to come home, they said."
"It is a space where grace knows no bounds and only infinite love abounds," notes another, Lynnclaire Dennis. "As I waltzed through a meadow, I heard myself singing, calling out, 'I love you. I love you. I'm home.'"
"I understood what had become the greatest block to my growth in life: fear," adds Ranelle Wallace, who allegedly died and returned in 1985 during a small-plane crash in central Utah. "It had plagued me all my years, had stopped my progress, cut short my attempts at working through problems. Fear had limited my enjoyment of life."
"I was enveloped by total bliss in an atmosphere of unconditional love and acceptance," says Laurelynn Martin, a tennis player who died during a surgical procedure and whose description applies to probably ninety percent of cases we have reviewed -- and we have read many dozens.
Again, we urge caution. Some near-death experiencers put their own spin on things. Some lean toward teachings with which we can't and don't agree. But the core experience is highly similar whether Catholic or non-Catholic and it is this: There is Heaven, there is a gray, in-between place (Catholics call it purgatory). There is hell for those who vehemently rejected and did not love God.
Yes, there is "judgment."
But there is Heaven after purification, after the spirit is made compatible with the Light -- and there is the sudden overwhelming knowledge that those who follow Jesus have nothing to fear but fear itself.
So tremendous is the love that it's said to be like the love of every mother in the universe poured into us for all eternity.
"With the eyes of my soul, I looked to see what held me in such love and I beheld a radiant, Spirit Being, so magnificent and full of love that I knew I would never again feel the sense of loss," says Linda Stewart of Texas. "I have no explaining how, but I knew the Spirit was Christ."
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