A Wake-Up Call

Life after Death Series, Part 2: What is eternal death? And is it real?

Jim Allen

Someone once said, "Earth is a place suspended somewhere between Heaven and Hell." While some of us occasionally experience what appears to be a literal Hell on earth, the bad times eventually go away, resulting in a more tolerable reality. The "lifestyle norm" for the average person living on this blue marble, spinning through the cosmos, is the daily grind of just getting through the day. After all, who among us has any time to think about eternity let alone this place called the Bible calls Hell? In my last post, I quoted Maurice Rawlings who wrote, "If Hell is possible, then it may not be safe to die." [1] Rawlings also wrote, "...and if it is not safe to die then we had better...learn all we can about what is really going on." I believe the doctor is giving good advice.

Of the five documented stages that occur during a near death experience (NDE), Rawlings says Stage 4 is the moment when people become aware of their final destination. During this stage, some subjects reported a fear that grips the heart as their minds perceive a horror beyond imagination. Some found themselves in heavy darkness, alone, and drifting downward to what seemed like a bottomless pit. Still others saw flames flickering in the distance as they moved through darkness. Others reported hisses from demons chained inside a cave-like cavern. Others told about demon-like creatures, freely roaming about, grabbing the person to escort them on their final leg of the journey to eternal torment. The people who reported being grabbed were so terrified by what was happening to them that they could not look at the faces of their hideous escorts. Others reported unbearable screams, intense heat, and a noxious stench.

Escaping Hell

Rawlings told the story about one patient (rescued from Hell) who said, "If Heaven is our best imagination, then Hell is our worst nightmare." To realize one's journey may end in eternal separation from all that is good and beautiful in life, that one's privilege to walk on this beautiful plant has been forever revoked is sobering. Moreover, Rawlings was quick to point out that not all of his patients who experienced near death during surgery were dead long enough to go beyond Stage 3, which explains why some researchers only report positive near death experiences. The first three stages of the near death experience are relatively euphoric for all who travel the unknown corridor to eternity, but then to the stories divide between either a positive or negative experience.

For those with no memory of their near death experience, Rawlings surmises that the human mind is able of suppressing (blocking) horrific experiences from conscious memory. For instance, a person who has received life-threatening injury during an accident seldom ever remembers the events leading up to the incident even though the human mind would indeed process all sensory information prior to and during the occurrence. Rawlings said resuscitees who cannot recall their "Hellish" near death experience underwent memory subjugation, which is best understood as a fuse blowing when a house circuit overloads.

What Does the Bible Say?

Although the Bible is silent about the occurrence of near death experiences, it is quite vocal about the reality of Hell. In the New King James Version, more than 50 verses speak about this dreadful place, a few of which are Psalm 9:17, Matthew 10:28, and Acts 2:27. The Bible says that even if the dead were able to return and warn people about where they had been, few would believe it to be true (Luke 16:27-31). Despite biblical evidence, a growing number of evangelical Christians , along with much of the disbelieving world, openly renounce the idea of Hell, calling it a fable.

The argument used by cynics to discredit the existence of this foreboding underworld known as Hell, comes from the notion that because God is love, He would never send anyone to such a place. David L. Rattigan, a British-Canadian writer who agrees with this view said, "The reason I stopped believing [in Hell] was simply because it was a monstrous idea to me, a horrific notion unworthy of a religion that claims to talk about a loving, merciful God." [2] But this view begs the question, "If you believe the Bible to be true, then why don't you believe the words of Jesus to be true in Matthew 10:28? If it were not true, then why would any of us need to be saved and from what would we be saved?"

While we might hope scientific research would eventually validate the reality of this modern-day phenomenon and the existence of this torturous domain, it has not. Though researchers use quantum physics, multiple mind theories, and other deep-seated scientific approaches, their attempts to define life after death has ended right where they began: the afterlife is unknowable and undefinable.

Aside from the efforts of science to discount the phenomenon and apart from the best attempts by theologians to explain it, we cannot accept the legitimacy of these reported "near death experiences" at face value. Yet to suggest all near-death experiences are forged, imagined, or satanically-initiated would be to swing the pendulum to the extreme opposite end. Since both extremes appear grievously wrong, it would appear the truth about this matter is, like the earth, suspended between two limits.

While the biblical narratives of Hell and reports from those who experienced near death say it is so, we must wisely put our faith in what the Bible says more so than what men report and what science has yet to prove. The Bible says that Hell is a real place and many are going there (Matthew 7:13), and the reality of its existence implores us to learn all we can about what is really going on (Hosea 4:6).

[1] To Hell and Back by Maurice Rawlings, MD

Life After Death, The Series
Part 1: Near Death Experiences
Part 2: Eternal Death
Part 3: Eternal Life

Image Credit: Susanne Nilsson; "inferno"; Creative Commons

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Published 4-30-13