When someone has been clinically dead and is brought back, can they tell us about the afterlife?
The Bible records a number of miracles where a person is truly brought back to life after being dead for hours or even days (1 Kings 17:17-22; 2 Kings 4:18-37; 13:21; Matthew 9:18-26; 27:52; 28:5-8; Luke 7:11-17; John 11:14-45; Acts 9:36-42; 20:7-12). None of these stories give any accounts of consciousness after death.
News reports today of near-death experiences can be amazing, but they are not the same kind of miracle as recorded in the Bible. Still these stories can grab our curiosity. When someone supposedly comes back to life after he or she has died and relates the incident, we are intrigued. Sometimes these accounts appear to contradict the biblical passages describing death. How can that be?
Here is the answer provided in our free booklet What Happens After Death?
“The basic premise of these accounts is that the people describing their experiences actually died. True, many of them were declared ‘clinically dead.’ However, as with life itself there is much that medical science has not grasped about the nature of death. Doctors and scientists do not agree on exactly what constitutes ‘death.’ Some people, for example, may be brain-dead or comatose while the rest of their body goes on functioning for years. Others whose hearts or lungs have stopped have been successfully resuscitated with no permanent ill effects.
“In the Bible death is described as a state of total unconsciousness devoid of awareness, knowledge or perception (see Psalm 6:5; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10). If we accept the Bible’s description of death, we realize that those who returned to consciousness or were medically revived and later related their experiences were not really dead in the true sense. Some vital organs, such as the heart, may have temporarily ceased functioning, but not all brain activity had stopped.
“Researchers have found that the human nervous system and brain operate largely through electrical impulses. The brain requires blood and oxygen to properly function, and when breathing or blood circulation is impaired the brain begins to malfunction. If these functions are interrupted long enough, the brain eventually ceases all activity.
“Some researchers conclude that the unusual sensations, including lights and sounds, reported by those revived after being clinically dead can be attributed to malfunctions of the nervous system and brain brought about by the shock to the body as a result of nearly dying.”