Before my new birth in 1979, I ricocheted into the occult, The most dramatic manifestation being one afternoon when, having lain down for a nap, I sensed myself careening through a loud tunnel before being ejected from my body and hurled through the ceiling into a gray, crackling mist in the air outside the second-floor apartment of two friends who were trying to convert me to Guru Maharaji.
I’m a hard-core Seventh-day Adventist today, passionately dogmatic (me, dogmatic?) about the nonimmortality of the soul. As such, I’m convinced that Satan—seeing my new interest in spiritual things—gave me something spiritual, which at the time I interpreted as my soul leaving my body. Not long afterward I met Jesus, became born again (after which the experiences stopped), and joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Knowing what I know now from the Word and the Spirit of Prophecy, I believe that my “out-of-body” episode was a preternatural hallucination, Satan’s desperate (but failed) ploy to keep me from the cross.
Since then I’ve read numerous near-death experiences (NDEs), stories about those who “died” and came back, who recount experiences similar to mine, even though I wasn’t dead or even near it. They tell, among other things, about meeting dead relatives floating in a gray, crackling mist (I know that mist). Meeting dead relatives? What else could they be experiencing but deceptions (hallucinations) inspired by the enemy?
Unfortunately, many Christians—not knowing the state of the dead—interpret NDEs as evidence for the immortality of the soul and immediate life after death. Though the more thoughtful ones urge caution (some have warned about a possible demonic element), most are being fooled.
Yet even for those who believe in the immortality of the soul, warning markers should abound. For starters, this phenomenon is called near-death experiences. Near death isn’t the same as death. None who came back were dead dead, as in rigor mortis dead. And if you wouldn’t eat a cut of beef deemed near free from mad cow disease, why help build a case for what happens after death based on what’s deemed near death?
Also, many who have NDEs talk about encountering a being, or beings, of light, who they believe are the dead, angels, or even God Himself. Yet in almost all cases these personalities never teach them the most generic biblical truths. Instead, they utter comforting platitudes about love, peace, and goodness, but nothing about sin, the need of Christ’s atoning blood, or the coming judgment. One would think that while supposedly getting a taste of the Christian afterlife, they would have gotten a taste of Christian truth, not a bunch of goofy New Age sentimentality. No wonder most of those who had NDEs come away less inclined toward Christianity than they were before having “died.” Despite these and other obvious problems, many Christians see these NDEs as infomercials of life after death and an affirmation of their faith.
“Actually,” wrote one Christian apologist, “near-death phenomena may be reported in the Bible. For example, in Jesus’ story of the rich man and Lazarus, we are told that the beggar Lazarus died and was carried by angels into Paradise (Luke 16:22), a brief process that sounds somewhat similar to contemporary reports.”
Someone using that parable as an NDE?
Why not? Anyone who doesn’t understand the biblical truth about the state of the dead but believes in the immortality of the soul has no protection against these masterful deceptions.
We’ve been warned that Satan’s final delusions will be so powerful that we won’t be able to trust our senses. I’ve experienced up close and in my face (in my head, actually) just how untrustworthy our senses can be. I’m so grateful that the Lord led me to a church (about the only one left, actually) whose theology offers an impregnable wall against this demonic lie.
Spiritualism, we know, will have a major role deceiving billions. But it doesn’t have to be just Ouija boards, horoscopes, and séances. Coming now, as they do, with even the imprimatur of science (yes, they’re being studied in labs), NDEs will do the devil’s job just as well, thank you.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. He is also seen on the HopeTV program Cliff! This article was published February 17, 2011.