Eternal Life

Life after Death Series, Part 3: What is the eternal life God offers?

Jim Allen

Someone once said, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but rather spiritual beings having a human experience." Although the unknown author provides an interesting flip on an old perspective, it rings true in the heart because we know God created us in His image (Genesis 1:26). This duplicity of body and spirit should realign our thinking about who we are and what is really important in life.

What is important to most people is taking care of Numero Uno (self) before all else. Today is what matters to most, with little thought given to the afterlife. Heaven is for all, and to die is the right-of-passage to heaven. The Bible puts an interesting spin on our eternal situation by saying there are few who will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14). These words of Jesus pierce the soul like no other.

The wide-ranging biblical definition of eternal life appears in the Gospel of John wherein the Savior says, "And this is life eternal, that they [you*] might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). Jesus defines eternal life to be more than a place we go after this life but a person we come to know now, intimately in this life. Eternal life and Jesus are one and the same, inseparable, and for the believer to possess now while still alive.

Troubling Contradictions People who undergo a near-death experience and then resuscitate often talk about going to heaven and reaching a barrier, such as a fence, wall, or river. Many were unable to cross over in this stage. Some found themselves walking in an open grassy field with transparent trees and flowers, rich in color. One person gave an account of passing his foot through a flower with no apparent effect. Blades of luminous, green grass rebounded after being stepped on. The feeling of euphoria was everywhere as a flowing breeze laced with melody…absolutely beautiful and everywhere wonderful. Colors are brighter. Sound is clearer. Flowers are unimaginably colorful, beautiful, and of unending variety. Some people tell about meeting Christ and family members. Others report seeing animals and other wonders. All who report this experience of heaven want to stay and enjoy the marvel of it all.

While heaven would appear to be a wondrous place, there is growing concern about people sharing their "positive near-death-experiences" in books and seminars that launch questionable ministries. One well-published near-death author told about meeting a "light being" she believed to be Jesus Christ. The light being did not identify himself as Jesus, even though she sensed its unconditional love and thought it must be Him (2 Corinthians 11:14). A critical review of her book, entitled Embraced by the Light, revealed troubling biblical contradictions with her heavenly encounter.

In one instance the near-death author says "We are all God's children and that we are here on earth to learn the lessons we need for our own spiritual evolution." The Bible claims otherwise, saying that the children of humanity are of their father the devil (John 8:44). Aside from twisting Scripture, the author glosses over the exclusiveness of the Gospel wherein Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father but by Me" (John 14:6). The Embraced by the Light author goes on to suggest no religion is better than another, and all serve their faithful members the truth they need for that moment.

Russ Wise writes, "A growing number of evangelicals is embracing Embraced by the Light, a book along with several other new-age bestsellers, that is influencing the Christian church in a negative way." [1]

What we know for sure about near-death experiences is that most people who have been revived report some kind of afterlife. While a few of these reports appear to align with scripture, close analysis reveals most do not. Nevertheless, it would appear deception is at play in this modern-day phenomenon, and herein lies another red flag waving in the breeze of New Testament warnings (2 Timothy 4:3). Of all the near death experiences I've read about, most fail to line up with scripture in one way or another.

Another Grand Deception in the Church? The Apostle Paul experienced what some refer to as a near-death experience after being stoned in Acts 14:19. Paul later said of his experience that he had gone to the third heaven and saw things unlawful for him to mutter (2 Corinthians 12: 1-4). Paul reported no tunnel, no life review, nor any awareness of a final destination. Paul was absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). If these things witnessed by Paul were unspeakable (wrong for Paul to talk about then), why would God allow them to be made known today?

Though most people believe there is a spiritual dimension beyond this world, wisdom should tug on our souls to steer clear of testimonies promoting extra-biblical revelation. People who underwent these experiences are allowing their personal interpretation of the experience to override scripture. This is what the apostle Paul implied in his refusal to talk about his heaven experience. Instead of relying on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to draw meaning out of Scripture (exegesis - John 16:13), people have and are placing their faith in personal interpretation—a practice the Bible warns against (2 Peter 1:20).

While many evangelicals find the near-death phenomenon captivating and convincing, the Bible must be our final authority in these matters of the afterlife.

In closing, the life review for the unrepentant will occur at the White Throne Judgment and not before (Revelation 20:11-15). Our life review occurred at the foot of the cross when we acknowledged our sinfulness and unworthiness. God, full of mercy and willing to forgive, justified us in Christ (Romans 3:24). For us, the light at the end of the tunnel is the light of the Gospel shining into our hearts, a beacon guiding us through the perils of this dark and foreboding world to fullness in Christ (Colossians 2:8-9). Our final destination was made known when we were born again (1 Peter 1:23). Our new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) empowers us to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), abide in Christ (John 15:4), and live now in the presence of the Master (Romans 14:8).

Further, since born-again believers have already passed from death to life (1 John 3:14), there is no scriptural reason to think any of us will travel down a dark tunnel to a bright light to undergo a life-review, and then to learn about our eternal fate. According to the apostle John, we should already know that our eternal fate is eternal life in Christ (1 John 3:15).

*My emphasis - They is referring to those who are born again.
[1] Probe Ministries "Embraced by the Light of Deception" Russ Wise - Edited

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

Image Credit: David Hawgood; "Arch in Tudor brick wall, Fulham Palace"; Creative Commons

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Published 4-30-13