Is It Safe to Die?

Life after Death Part 1: If Jesus is our Savior, then what is He saving us from?

By Jim Allen

Several years ago, while heading up a church outreach initiative to the community on the topic of life after death, I came across this interesting phrase: "If every living person knew what every dying person was discovering, they would run to Jesus!". Indeed, the thought is a sobering reminder about why Jesus commissioned His apostles to go and preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16). The phrase took on deeper meaning when Maurice Rawlings, M.D. wrote in To Hell and Back, "If Hell is possible, then it may not be safe to die..."

If dying is not safe for all, then imagine the terrible, unalterable fate of millions who pass daily through death's one-way portal into an unknown eternity. While most people believe their ticket to Heaven is safely secured, the Bible begs to differ. "But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it." Matthew 13:16-17). The warnings from the Bible are clear enough. Couple that with evidence gathered from clinical research on near death experiences, and we see that this topic is worthy of our full attention.

Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven. He thought the topic worthy of mention, and so do I. The Lord openly rebuked the religious elite of His day and reminded them of their fate when He said, "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33) Jesus pulled no punches, telling it like it was then and how it is today. Yes, there is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain.

Matthew 17:13-14 records Jesus saying, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." Where is this place Jesus warns about? It would appear the location of Hell itself is inconsequential because most people will find it without looking. What matters more than Hell's physical location is how to avoid it!

Some would say this present world is a suburb of Hell, occupied by people overflowing with wicked hearts beating with inexhaustible corruption . Having no regard for God and His written word, these skeptics look upon Hell as a mythical fairytale while viewing Christians as delusional, weak-minded, and easily misled by ridiculous afterlife ideas. Rawlings, the heart cardiologist I mentioned earlier, wrote about how some of these cynics later passed through the spiritual portal, experienced hell, then were brought back to life, screaming about what they had witnessed. Their view of Christianity took on a whole new meaning after the firsthand experience of narrowly escaping damnation.

According to Rawlings' book, when the heart stops, the patient may experience one or more of the five stages of the Near Death Experience* (NDE). The number of stages experienced appears to be directly proportional to the length of time the heart remains stopped. During some NDEs, some patients report no memory of the experience, which I will address in Parts 2 and 3 of this series.
  • Stage 1 begins the experience with the sensation of floating above the body, observing the immediate surroundings, having a sense of euphoria, and becoming aware of a spirit body.
  • Stage 2 leads to the awareness of a tunnel-like enclosure with spirit beings nearby.
  • Stage 3 involves movement through the tunnel toward a bright light, followed by a visual life review.
  • Stage 4 brings the person to an awareness of his or her final destination. For a person in this stage, the sensation of love and euphoria morphs into expressions of great joy or, alternatively, screams of absolute horror. During this stage, the person knows where he or she is headed.
  • Stage 5 invites the person into a new realm that is either astoundingly beautiful and heavenly beyond description or a horrifying, hellish domain that is terrifying beyond imagination.
The Bible says Hell is real. It is a place of torment (Matthew 10:28), and one reason why Jesus came was to save humanity from this awful place. If it were not true, then why would anyone need a Savior? What are we being saved from if not from a formidable underworld?

The Bible also says Heaven is real. It is a place of untold beauty and everlasting joy for those who go there. If fact, Jesus told the disciples He was going to prepare a place for those who believe in Him (John 14:1-14). A person who rejects the knowledge of God in this life will not have an opportunity to know Him in the next life. A person's relationship with Jesus—whether close, distant, or nonexistent—will, at the time of death, forever seal that relationship in eternity.

As this series continues, please keep in mind that its purpose is to provide a perspective about NDEs based on two measures: the Bible plus other published works and personal testimonies from those who claim to have experienced both realms of existence. At best, this series will outline some of the major aspects of NDEs punctuated with the biblical perspective and its warning about the potential for great deception.

* Many in the scientific community regard the NDE (clinical death resulting from when the heart stops) as nothing more than a hallucinatory phenomenon while paranormal specialists and some mainstream scientists and theologians claim these experiences are evidence of life after death (Paraphrased - The Free Dictionary – Near Death Experience). Even among those who agree NDEs are real, there is ongoing debate about what is truth and what is deception.

Image credit: Mary Burklin Photography; Used With Permission

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

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Published 4-3-13