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What do near-death experiences tell us about life after death?

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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 1 Kings 17:17-22 17 And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, What have I to do with you, O you man of God? are you come to me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? 19 And he said to her, Give me your son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he stayed, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, have you also brought evil on the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? 21 And he stretched himself on the child three times, and cried to the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray you, let this child’s soul come into him again. 22 And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.
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; 2 Kings 4:18-37 2 Kings 4:18-37 18 And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. 20 And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21 And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door on him, and went out. 22 And she called to her husband, and said, Send me, I pray you, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again. 23 And he said, Why will you go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well. 24 Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not your riding for me, except I bid you. 25 So she went and came to the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: 26 Run now, I pray you, to meet her, and say to her, Is it well with you? is it well with your husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well: 27 And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD has hid it from me, and has not told me. 28 Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? 29 Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go your way: if you meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute you, answer him not again: and lay my staff on the face of the child. 30 And the mother of the child said, As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you. And he arose, and followed her. 31 And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff on the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Why he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked. 32 And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid on his bed. 33 He went in therefore, and shut the door on them two, and prayed to the LORD. 34 And he went up, and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, and his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands: and stretched himself on the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. 35 Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself on him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in to him, he said, Take up your son. 37 Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.
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; 13:21; Matthew 9:18-26 Matthew 9:18-26 18 While he spoke these things to them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay your hand on her, and she shall live. 19 And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. 20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. 22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; your faith has made you whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. 23 And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise, 24 He said to them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleeps. And they laughed him to scorn. 25 But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. 26 And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.
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; 27:52; 28:5-8; Luke 7:11-17 Luke 7:11-17 11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came near to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said to her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bore him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say to you, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. 16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God has visited his people. 17 And this rumor of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.
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; John 11:14-45 John 11:14-45 14 Then said Jesus to them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent you may believe; nevertheless let us go to him. 16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, to his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. 17 Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18 Now Bethany was near to Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21 Then said Martha to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died. 22 But I know, that even now, whatever you will ask of God, God will give it you. 23 Jesus said to her, Your brother shall rise again. 24 Martha said to him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believe you this? 27 She said to him, Yes, Lord: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calls for you. 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came to him. 30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goes to the grave to weep there. 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died. 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. 34 And said, Where have you laid him? They said to him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? 38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself comes to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay on it. 39 Jesus said, Take you away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, said to him, Lord, by this time he stinks: for he has been dead four days. 40 Jesus said to her, Said I not to you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God? 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 And I knew that you hear me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that you have sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them, Loose him, and let him go. 45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
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; Acts 9:36-42 Acts 9:36-42 36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and giving of alms which she did. 37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. 38 And for as much as Lydda was near to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent to him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. 39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. 40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. 42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
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; 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 Psalms 6:5 Psalms 6:5For in death there is no remembrance of you: in the grave who shall give you thanks?
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; Ecclesiastes 9:5 Ecclesiastes 9:5For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
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, 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.”

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