What does the Bible say about near-death experiences?
The Bible actually says nothing about near death experiences. While the Bible does record that a person (such as Lazarus in John 11:1-44) died and came back to life, or was very ill to the point of death (Jairius’ daughter in Matthew 9:18-25, Mark 5:22-42), it does not record the experience from the ill person’s perspective. The Bible contains no record that any of these individuals said anything about their experience in death or near-death.
There are some possible explanations for what people call “near death experiences,” frequently reporting a bright light and a feeling of complete peace and happiness. They include having the temporoparietal junction of the brain electrically stimulated; too much carbon dioxide in the system; lack of oxygen to the brain producing hallucinations; having endorphins and other chemicals released by the brain when the brain is under extreme stress; heightened sensory perception/brain activity; actually being aware while under anesthesia; having a distorted sense of time; having epileptic activity in the temporal lobes; and being confused by what one experiences because hallucinations and actual perceptions use the same brain systems.
The Bible states that “the dead do not know anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
Anytime we have an exceptional experience such as this, we should consider what the Bible says to help determine what is real and true about the experience.
While he was being stoned to death (Acts 7:55-60), Stephen saw a vision of the glory of God and Jesus sitting on the right hand of God. John saw many things in visions that he recorded for us in the book of Revelation. However, like Stephen, John was alive (not a near death experience).
2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that we are to walk by faith, not by sight; not by believing what we “see” in a near death experience.
We remember that Satan is the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and could use a near death experiences to deceive a person into believing something about the afterlife that is not true (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
To learn more about NDE and what happens when we die, we recommend:
Episode 1206: Is a Near-Death Experience a Glimpse of Heaven?
Episode 1100: Do People Turn Into Angels When They Die?