What happens to us when we die? For thousands of years, mankind has asked that question and now it seems that science is finally digging into the truth of what happens to us. In this article I will provide results from peer-reviewed scientific studies, verified testimonies and scriptures from the Bible which all seek to give an answer to that question:
1) AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) Study
A) Testimony of a 57 year old Social Worker
2) Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF)
B) Testimony of Ellen F.
C) Near-death Experiencers’ Video Testimonials
1) AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) Study
You may not be aware of this, but one of the largest scientific studies on the afterlife was just recently completed. Dr Sam Parnia, an assistant professor at the State University of New York was the one who led this research together with Dr Peter Fenwick, Professor Stephen Holgate, Professor Robert Peveler of the University of Southampton and several other experts. Prior to the start of this study, Dr. Parnia was convinced that afterlife experiences were just hallucinations, but he was quickly made a believer by some of the testimonies of the participants and the results of the study. This study was carried out over the span of four years from July 2008 to December 2012, and aimed to determine if those who have been labelled clinically dead via cardiac arrest (heart attacks) and were resuscitated had any afterlife experiences. About 2060 cardiac arrest events took place during this experiment at 15 different hospitals in the U.K., U.S. and Austria.
The study reports that out of the 2060 patients, 330 survived their cardiac arrest and were discharged while 140 survivors met the criteria for the study and were given consent to participate. The 140 survivors participated in stage 1 of the interviews which included general questions while 101 patients were fit to participate in stage 2 of the interviews which contained open-ended questions and required the completion of a 16-item Greyson NDE scale (Lange and Greyson, 2004). Visual awareness during out-of-body experiences were tested by placing pictures of images on a shelf, in such a way, that its image can only be viewed from an overhead vantage point – which is often claimed by those with afterlife experiences.
Of those who survived and had clear verifiable signs of awareness – 46% had no experiences consistent with near-death experiences. Near-death experiences included experiences with one or any combination of seven basic themes defined in this study as fear, animals/planets, bright light, violence/persecution, deja-vu, family, and recalling specific events after cardiac arrest. Approximately, 9% had experiences consistent with near-death experiences (NDE) that people claim to have. About 7% had no auditory or visual recollection of their resuscitation while 2% had very clear recollections of seeing and hearing events specific to their resuscitation.
As I have pointed out earlier, Dr. Parnia was a skeptic when he started this study but after his results he certainly wishes to look more into this phenomenon, “…the recalled experience surrounding death now merits further genuine investigation without prejudice.” This study was so interesting that, Dr. Jerry Nolan, the editor-in-chief of the journal called “Resuscitation,” which published this study had this to say,
“The researchers are to be congratulated on the completion of a fascinating study that will open the door to more extensive research into what happens when we die.”
You can view the study in PDF format here. I am sure that you may be asking the question, “Why were there so few near death experiences?” In response to this valid question Dr. Parnia states, “…a higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits.” So, he believes that it is brain damage or drugs which caused some of his patients to forget their experiences. In any case, no one can debate with these findings because it has been peer-reviewed or carefully scrutinized by other experts in this field for high accuracy and high precision.
A) Testimony of a 57 year old Social Worker
One participant of the study was a 57 year old man, who is a social worker and lived in Southampton. He had clear conscious awareness that was verified beyond reasonable doubt using the visual awareness test and reported specific sounds, conversations and visuals prior to his resuscitation that were all confirmed. This is what Dr. Parnia had said about this man in an interview with The Telegraph,
“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating. But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped. The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experienced lasted for. He seemed very credible and everything that he said had happened to him had actually happened.”
This same man had a positive near death experience and it reads as follows,
“I have come back from the other side of life…God sent (me) back, it was not (my) time – (I) had many things to do…(I traveled) through a tunnel toward a very strong light, which didn’t dazzle or hurt (my) eyes…there were other people in the tunnel whom (I) did not recognize. When (I) emerged (I) described a very beautiful crystal city…there was a river that ran through the middle of the city (with) the most crystal clear waters. There were many people, without faces, who were washing in the waters…the people were very beautiful…there was the most beautiful singing…(and I was) moved to tears. (My) next recollection was looking up at a doctor doing chest compressions.”
The following contains various negative experiences from other patients that contained themes of fear and persecution after being clinically pronounced dead in the AWARE Study,
“I was terrified. I was told I was going to die and the quickest way was to say the last short word I could remember”
“Being dragged through deep water”
“This whole event seemed full of violence and I am not a violent man, it was out of character.”
“I had to go through a ceremony and…the ceremony was to get burned. There were 4 men with me, whichever lied would die…I saw men in coffins being buried upright.”
2) Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF)
Dr. Jeffrey Long and his wife, Jody Long JD (Juris Doctor) have been running the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF) and their website can be found here. Dr. Jeffrey Long’s book, “Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences” written and compiled with the assistance of Jody Long, and Paul Perry documents 613 cases. Before we plunge deeper into his findings, I would like to make this point clear – that near-death experiences have no dependence on one’s preconceived ideas as Dr. Long suggests,
“Preexisting cultural beliefs do not significantly influence the content of NDEs. Near-death experiences from around the world appear to have similar content regardless of the culture of the country that the NDErs live in.”
Here is a list of twelve major near-death experience elements, that have been identified by Dr. Long. Each element is followed by a number indicating what percentage of the 613 people included in the Evidence of the Afterlife study experienced the element in question. According to Dr. Long, only 33.8 percent reported passing into of through a tunnel, and only 22.2 percent said they experienced a life review of their deeds on Earth:
1) Out-of-body experience (O.B.E.): Separation of consciousness from the physical body – 75.4 percent
2) Heightened senses – 74.4 percent
3) Intense and generally positive emotions or feelings – 76.2 percent
4) Passing into or through a tunnel – 33.8 percent
5) Encountering a mystical or brilliant light – 64.6 percent
6) Encountering other beings, either mystical beings or deceased relatives or friends – 57.3 percent
7) A sense of alteration of time and space – 60.5 percent
8) Life review – 22.2 percent
9) Encountering unworldly (“heavenly”) realms – 40.6 percent
10) Encountering or learning special knowledge – 56 percent (31.5 percent answered that they felt they understood everything “about the universe”; 31.3 percent felt they understood everything “about myself and others”)
11) Encountering a boundary or barrier – 31 percent
12) Return to the body, either voluntary or involuntary – 58.5 percent
In addition, to identifying twelve major near-death experience elements, Dr. Long has prepared nine proofs which support his view that these near-death experiences are true. These nine proofs are as follows:
1) Crystal-Clear Consciousness
The level of consciousness and alertness during near-death experiences is usually greater than the experience during their everyday life even though near-death experiences generally occur while unconscious or clinically dead. The elements in near-death experiences generally follow a consistent and logical order.
2) Realistic Out-of-Body Experiences
What near-death experiencers see and hear in the out of body state during their near-death experiences is generally realistic, and often verified later by the near-death experiencers or others as real.
3) Heightened Senses
Normal or super-normal vision occurs in near-death experiences among those with significantly impaired vision or even legal blindness. Several near-death experiencers who were blind from birth have reported highly visual near-death experiences.
4) Consciousness During Anesthesia
Typical near-death experiences occur under general anesthesia at a time when conscious experience should be impossible.
5) Perfect Playback
Life reviews in near-death experiences include real events that took place in the near-death experiencers lives, even if the events had been forgotten.
6) Family Reunions
When near-death experiencers encounter beings they knew from their earthly life, they are virtually always deceased, and usually deceased relatives.
7) Children’s Experiences
The near-death experiences of children, including very young children, are strikingly similar to the near-death experiences of older children and adults.
8) Worldwide Consistency
Near-death experiences appear strikingly consistent around the world. Many near-death experiences from non-Western countries are very similar to typical Western near-death experiences.
9) Changed Lives
Changes in the lives of near-death experiencers after their experiences – the near-death experience aftereffects – are common. Aftereffects are often powerful, lasting, and the changes follow a consistent pattern. Aftereffects include: decreased fear of death, increased belief in the afterlife, a stronger sense of spirituality, a sense of God’s presence, an awareness of the meaning and purpose of life, a belief in the sacredness of life, a greater appreciation of life, a reduced interest in material gain or status, seek out helping or healing professions, 45 percent reported special gifts, people with very serious illnesses – both physical and mental – believe they were healed, increasingly loving and accepting of themselves, more self confidence, increased awareness of the needs of others and a willingness to reach out to them, may end negative and unloving relationships, and seek out positive and loving relationships, increasing capacities for love and compassion can result in stronger marriages and relationships, and increased intelligence (at least in children).
This is Dr. Long’s own words on these nine proofs, “By scientifically studying the more than 1,300 cases shared with NDERF, I believe that the nine lines of evidence presented in this book all converge on one central point: There is life after death.” According to Dr. Long, “you can’t fake the effects of a near-death experience,” and this certainly seems to be the case as 73.1 percent reported that their lives had changed significantly as the result of their near-death experience.
B) Testimony of Ellen F.
This is a very interesting testimony of a 17 year old young woman just this year on March 2nd, which was submitted online by the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF), who had a hellish near-death experience after overdosing on drugs,
“I was at work at a grocery store, and my brother and his friend came to visit me. They had a drug called spice(k2)[synthetic cannabis] that you smoke. I have a weak body and the drug was very strong. I overdosed and passed out in the back of my brothers car. They then left and were gone for at least 10-15 minutes. I remember seeing my body from above and having no physical feeling at all. I was then sucked downward into an unending tunnel or a vortex. It was very dark and there were red and orange flames everywhere. I was aware that I was dying and was frantic but could not escape and come back or wake up. There was the strongest emotional and spiritual feeling of being oppressed in every possible way. It is almost unexplainable how much emotional pain I felt. It was almost as if every negative feeling I had ever felt in my life were being forced on me at once. Flashes of my past and terrible choices and mistakes I had made flew by me. I also saw faces of my family members and they were all crying. I knew I was going to hell, and it was a million times worse than I had ever imagined. There was no physical pain but I was being tortured emotionally for everything wrong I had ever done in life. In the spiritual world this seemed to go on for many years, yet I was somehow aware that it was only minutes on earth. I remember being sorry for all the things I had done and having complete regret. I then was pulled out of the tunnel and hovered in light. I heard who I believe was God telling me I was being saved and given a second chance at life. I immediately felt peace and could feel my body again. A few minutes later my brother came back and shook me until I woke up.”
Ellen claimed of having heightened senses, she was reminded of her sins during her experience, and time had lost all meaning as she puts it, “It seemed to be a whole different kind of time…I understood that the spiritual world does not have the same concept of passing time like earth does.” Ellen had some remarkable changes to her life – she quickly became a Christian, attended Christian boarding school, and has found deliverance from her drug, alcohol and smoking addictions. You can read the rest of her story here.
Dr. Long reports that about 10% of the near-death experiences, which he has documented, has been of a hellish nature. As such, the misconception that there is total and complete acceptance on the other side is quite false.
What conclusion can we draw from these various testimonies and results? Well, beginning with the testimonies, namely that of Case A, the 57 year old social worker, his testimony is absolutely consistent with the description of Heaven given to us in the Bible. We actually see what may be a possible tunnel experience that seems to be tucked away within Micah 7:7-9:
Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me.
Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light unto me.
I will bear the indignation of the LORD, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness.
We know that God is light, the Bible is full of scriptures connecting God and light exactly as Micah 7:7-9 does (Psalms 44:3; Ezekiel 1:27, 28; Ezekiel 8:2; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ezekiel 43:2; Ezekiel 10:4; Habakkuk 3:4; Revelation 22:5):
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
1 John 1:5
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
There is an amazing city that the Bible says is in Heaven right now, the Bible promises to us that this city will come down upon Earth one day, it is called New Jerusalem and “…the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass” (Revelation 21:2, 18, 21) – it is crystal clear exactly as the social worker reported. We even have confirmation of the river that the social worker describes, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:1):
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
We know that God promises to sprinkle us with water and make us clean in Ezekiel 36:25, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you,” it is possible that when this social worker saw people bathing in the river, this was quite possibly God fulfilling this promise to them in a literal way. Concerning the social workers claim of seeing faceless people, this is certainly no shock to informed Christians who know their Bible. The Bible actually prophesies that those who are dead in Christ and those alive right now are waiting for new bodies that will be incorruptible and amazing (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 52; 1 John 3:2) and that we will not tire in them and they will be perfect (Isaiah 40:31). But until that Day comes, the scriptures seem to tell us that the faithful servants of Christ who are dead right now have some sort of temporary spirit body referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:1 as a “house” built by God Himself – this temporary spirit body may very well be what the social worker saw:
2 Corinthians 5:1-3
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:
If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.
Finally, there is beautiful music in Heaven, which was heard by this social worker, and this music is actually worship and praises directed to God (Psalms 22:3; Psalms 150:1-6; Psalms 21:13; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 15:3). Now, with respect to the hellish near-death experiences – they are also very consistent with the Bible’s claims of Hell. We see fear, anguish and fires of Hell in the Gospels:
And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Descriptions of people falling into a tunnel as in Case B, with Ellen who had died from drug overdose, is consistent as we know that Hell is beneath the Earth’s surface and its oceans (Job 11:8; Proverbs 9:18; Ezekiel 31:16). We know that Hell is a place of absolute darkness (Matthew 25:30; Jude 1:6, 11-13; Matthew 8:11, 12). We know that it is a place of torments as indicated by Lazarus in the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments…(Luke 16:23).” We know that the torments will be diverse and that some will be tormented more than others as in the case of the Parable of the Unfaithful Servant (Luke 12:35-48), where he is beaten with many stripes – which gives the implication that there is also few stripes. It seems that those who knew God and His Son, far better than others yet still reject Him, will be punished even more (Matthew 23:14, 15; 2 Peter 2:21, 22). The Bible completely supports the idea of heightened perceptions or senses in Heaven or Hell, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (1 Corinthians 13:12).” Many near-death experiencers claim that after they died and met God, that they were often reminded of memories they had on Earth, as in the case with Ellen, she reported being reminded of her sins or having a life review. With respect to the Bible it says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” This may be a part of the judging period and God Himself in some way or the other reminds us of our deeds (Hebrews 10:30, 31; Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 22:12):
1 Corinthians 3:8, 11-15
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Many near-death experiencers also experience a “different time” where time has no significance, this possibly refers to the time scale of “eternity” described in the Bible. The spirit realm seems to be governed by its own time scale that seems to go faster relative to time on Earth – this is confirmed when we read passages where it says, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday… (Psalms 90:4)” and “…one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Am I saying that one day in the spiritual realm is literally one thousand years in the eyes of God? Not necessarily. These verses clearly convey the principle of the insignificance of time in the spiritual realm and in the eyes of God, who is the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15).
With all that said, it seems that the near-death experiences are confirming all that the Bible says concerning Heaven and Hell. The results of the studies and near-death experiences confirm the existence of the soul, a part of us that seems to survive death:
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
2 Peter 1:13, 14
Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
1 Corinthians 2:11
For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Please note that all the evidence on the afterlife seems to point strictly to the Christian worldview – not reincarnation and all the possible responses to the question of what happens to us when we die – but only the Christian worldview. After all, the near-death experiencers are being “returned” or resurrected into their own bodies and not reincarnated into new ones. In addition to this, the near-death experiencers encounter a God who is very personal (Isaiah 41:10), intelligent (Psalms 139:1-4) and overflowing with love and compassion (1 John 4:8; John 3:16) – these facts are likewise very problematic for eastern religions as their definition of God is an impersonal being or “force” that is incapable of displaying human emotions and characteristics. Of course, we know that the impersonal view of God is now false, in light of the testimonies and results but mainly by the fact that the Bible explains that if God created man in His own image and likeness then He would also be expected to express human emotions like love (Genesis 1:26, 27) and would likewise be a personal Being (Isaiah 45:22). We know from the Bible that those who have a distorted view of the nature of God and who reject Jesus Christ are denied eternal life, so please if you believe the eastern worldview’s interpretation of God – that we are all gods, that He is an impersonal God and that Jesus was merely an enlightened human being – then I must warn you that Jesus Himself confessed that eternal life is granted only to those who have a sound biblical view of the true God and His Son Jesus Christ:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
God is the Creator of our souls and bodies (Zechariah 12:1; Psalms 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5), as such we are all held accountable to Him for our actions in this life. And I hope and pray that you accept Christ as your Lord and Saviour if you are not Christian. Jesus died for our sins so that our very souls can escape the penalty for our sins, which is death and Hell, and live with Him forever. I can’t imagine that anyone would want to pass up an opportunity like that. Your eternal destination hangs in the balance. In light of all that you may have learned here, do you really want to gamble away your soul?:
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
Near-death Experiencers’ Video Testimonials:
Lange, R., and B. Greyson. May 2004. “A Rasch scaling validation of a ‘core’ near-death experience.” British Journal of Psychology Volume 95, Issue 2, pages 161–177.
Sam Parnia, Ken Spearpoint, Gabriele de Vos, Peter Fenwick, Diana Goldberg, Jie Yang, Jiawen Zhu, Katie Baker, Hayley Killingback, Paula McLean, Melanie Wood, A. Maziar Zafari, Neal Dickert, Roland Beisteiner, Fritz Sterz, Michael Berger, Celia Warlo. 2014. “AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study.” Resuscitation.
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