Janet Parshall of “In the Market With Janet Parshall” featured a segment with Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministry last Wednesday examining accounts of near death and back from the dead experiences where people have claimed they went to heaven for a short time and came back. I gathered from their conversation and various questions that they are skeptical about such accounts. Here’s an excerpt from the program:
Mrs. Parshall: “…How do you know if [the accounts] are real or not?”
Dr. Rhodes: “…We need to understand that from a Biblical standpoint, death is permanent. None of these experiences are permanent death experiences. In other words, they’re out for a while and then they come back.
“…The thing that Paul said is that… he was instructed not to say anything to people on Earth about what he saw there. …why was he forbidden to say what he saw there when we have multiple best-selling …books that tell everything about what they saw there?”
Mrs. Parshall: “… Why was Paul given the directive not to say what he had seen?”
Dr. Rhodes: “…Scripture doesn’t actually tell us but we can speculate and as I speculate on this I begin to wonder if there would be a mass exodus from Earth if people knew just what awaited us in heaven… the bliss, the joy, the pleasure…I think Paul is forbidden because there are certain things that belong only to God and …man would want a premature exit from Earth if we knew exactly what lies beyond this life.”
Mrs. Parshall: “…in my mind when I often hear these stories…i think…well what do we do with the scripture that says no man has seen God and live. If you’ve been and you’ve seen how come you’re still alive?”
Dr. Rhodes: “That’s a good point…our mortal bodies as they are now cannot exist in God’s presence…once we receive those resurrection bodies we will have bodies that can be in the presence of God.”
Mrs. Parshall: “…You talked about Paul but what about John? John was told to write everything down…some people make the allegation that John saw heaven as well. What do we know scripturally?”
Dr. Rhodes: “…What John saw was revelatory. John was in a unique situation and…in some cases he used metaphors or symbols to describe what he saw but he saw 100% inerrant information about what the future holds.”
It’s a good thing to be skeptical and question such incidents. However, not everyone who died or was near death and came back has written a book about it. There are also Christians who have shared their testimony of heaven who have the medical proof that they really did die and come back, some of whom I’ve featured on this blog.
Dr. Rhodes pointed out that death is permanent, causing him to doubt if these people died, thus doubting the stories. But God has power over death to bring people back, although they’ll die again until Christ’s return. This is proven when Elijah asked God to raise the widow of Zarephath’s dead son in 1 Kings 17, when Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead in Luke 7, when he raised Jairus’ daughter, and Lazarus, and when a whole host of dead saints were raised when Christ was resurrected in Matthew 27:52. If believers have faith to move mountains, it seems to me God will move even death out of our way if we have faith and if it’s his will to raise someone, like he did for Peter when Tabitha was raised in Joppa in Acts 9.
I think Mrs. Parshall’s question about seeing God is a little off-kilter as well. The believable accounts of those who’ve been to heaven, like Colton Burpo’s, never claim that they have seen God the Father in his full glory. They only claim that they’ve seen Jesus or his angels or saved family members. Furthermore, their spirits were in heaven, not their bodies, so Dr. Rhodes’s answer to that specific question was off-kilter also. There are some stories about people who’ve seen heaven that I don’t believe, like Jesse Duplantis’s, but I’m not ready to dismiss every account of everyone who has said they were near death or died, saw heaven, and came back if they have the medical records, are true Christians, and their words line up with scripture.
Janet Parshall. Life after Life. In the Market with Janet Parshall. Broadcast for Wednesday, April 30, 2014.
Harry A. Gaylord