What do Near-Death Experiences tell us – Part 1
Eben Alexander was a Harvard neurosurgeon. He was also an agnostic. “If you don’t have a working brain, you can’t be conscious,” he said. He added that when the machine (the brain) breaks down, consciousness ceases.
But then in November of 2008 Alexander got a rare brain disease that stopped his neocortex from working. The doctor was in a serious coma when his brain wasn’t functioning at all.
But during this time, he was still conscious. He found himself in a new world that was “brilliant, vibrant, ecstatic, stunning.” A place where he experienced an exhilarating sense of unconditional love. While in this state he encountered a beautiful girl who smiled at him and radiated love toward him.
In a miraculous recovery, Alexander was fully healed from this near-death experience (NDE).
He had been adopted as a baby. After the NDE, the doctor came across a photo of a young girl called Betsy who was his sister from his birth family but who had died years before.
The photo rocked him — it was the girl who had showed her love for him in the world beyond.
The doctor summed it up in a remarkable statement(1) for a man who had been an agnostic:
“My experience showed me that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness, that human experience continues beyond the grave. More important, it continues under the gaze of a God who loves and cares about each one of us.”
These stories are adapted from a book called The Case For Heaven, written by Lee Strobel in 2021.
The second story(2) is about a single mother who had been admitted to a hospital in London with severe bleeding:
“As the blood drained from my body so did my will to live. I heard a “pop” and suddenly the pain stopped … I had a clear view of my body as they ferociously worked on me, hooking up a transfusion and other tubes. I recalled thinking that I just wished they would stop …
I was having these thoughts from within inches of the ceiling … I was totally conscious even though I had heard a nurse, the only one in a blue smock, tell the doctors I had lost consciousness soon after entering the emergency room.
I was very aware of every detail of the events and the room. I was aware of a tunnel which appeared suddenly, and I was being pulled into it. I was happy to be away from that tense scene below. I floated toward the tunnel and passed right through a ceiling fan and then the ceiling itself…
I gained speed heading for a bright light far in the distance. As I proceeded at a faster rate, I felt there was a presence with me that kept me calm and emitted both love and wisdom. I didn’t see anyone, but I felt the essence of my grandpa who had died when I was thirteen …
I finally came to the end [of the tunnel] and floated into a place which was overwhelmed by a radiant white light that seemed to embody all the concepts of love. A love which was unconditional and like a mother has for a child …I knew in my heart that this was God. Words can’t describe my awe in this presence … I could tell He knew my every thought and feeling.
The next thing I knew I was seeing a sleeping baby I knew to be me. I watched with fascination as I saw the highlights of each stage of my life … I felt every good or bad deed I had ever done and its consequences upon others. It was a difficult time for me, but I was supported by unconditional love and weathered the painful parts. I was asked telepathically about whether I wanted to stay or return …
Suddenly I was popped back into my body and searing pain tore through my lower body. The same nurse in the blue smock was giving me a shot and telling me to relax [and] that the pain medication would soon begin to take effect. It seemed as if I had not been unconscious for more than a few minutes yet my visit to the “Other Side” seemed to last [for] hours.
While I was out of my body in the emergency room, I noticed a red label on the top side of the blade of a ceiling fan facing the ceiling … I finally convinced [a nurse] to get a tall ladder and see for herself the red sticker whose appearance I described in great detail on the hidden side of the ceiling fan. The nurse and an orderly saw the sticker, confirming all the details of its appearance I described.”
Lee Strobel wrote that the part about the sticker gave the above story credibility. He also quoted an article that claimed 40% of patients who survived a cardiac arrest were aware of things during the period they were clinically dead and before their hearts were restarted.
What NDE’s have in common.
John Burke was trained as an engineer and worked in oil and gas companies for several years. Then completed Master’s level work in theology and philosophy. In 1998 John and his wife started a church in Austin, Texas, called Gateway. The church grew from 4 people meeting in a home to more than 5,000. The atmosphere invites skeptics, doubters, spiritual strugglers, and seekers to attend.
Burke has written several books, the most famous one being Imagine Heaven. It’s a book about NDEs which he has been curious about for decades. Burke was interviewed by Lee Strobel who wanted to gather statistics of NDEs. The Q and A interview revealed the following:
• Even though NDEs vary a lot, they have a common core that is consistent with what the Bible says about the afterlife.
• The wide variation in NDEs is because what people report can be different from what they interpret.
• The Bible’s words are in black-and-white but NDEs tend to add color to the picture.
• 75% of NDEs involve separation of consciousness from the body. This is called an out-of-body experience.
• About 75% of people who had NDEs experience heightened senses and intense emotions.
• About 67% of people encounter a brilliant or mystical light.
• More than 50% meet deceased relatives or friends, or mystical beings.
• More than 50% describe a realm that is heavenly or unworldly.
• 25% say they undergo a life review.
• 33% report they encounter a boundary or barrier.
• More than 50% were aware of a decision to return to their physical body.
The interview then turned to the divine presence. John Burke told the story(3) of an atheist named Ian McCormack from New Zealand who was scuba diving off Mauritius when stung by box jellyfish four times. One sting can cause death in five minutes.
“Ian was dying. He saw visions of his mother who had told him to call out to God if he ever needed help. He was in utter darkness and felt terrified. He prayed for God to forgive his sins – and a bright light shined on him and literally drew him out of the darkness. He described the light as ‘unspeakably bright, as if it were the center of the universe … more brilliant than the sun, more radiant than any diamond, brighter than a laser beam. Yet you could look right into it.’
He said this presence knew everything about him, which made him feel terribly ashamed. But instead of judgement, he felt ‘pure, unadulterated, clean, uninhibited, undeserved love.’ He began weeping uncontrollably.
Ian asked if he could step into the light. As he did, he saw in the middle of the light a man with dazzling white robes – garments literally woven from light – who offered his arms to welcome him. Ian said, ‘I knew that I was standing in the presence of Almighty God.’”
This ends Part 1 of this series about NDEs based on the book called The Case For Heaven by Lee Strobel (2021).
1: Eben Alexander, Proof of Heaven.
2: John Burke, What’s After Life.
3: John Burke, Imagine Heaven.
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The Gray Nomad ….. The book is a careful investigation of NDEs and their evidence for the existence of heaven.
There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. (Luke chapter 15).