Occasionally the news media report the story of someone who supposedly came back to life after he or she had died and returned to consciousness to relate the incident. Sometimes these happenings seem truly remarkable and appear to contradict the many biblical passages describing death. How can that be?
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?
American King James Version×; 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.
American King James Version×, 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.