If we believe that a transphysical component of a person exists and has an experience that is similar to actual death during an NDE (near death experience), then we may use those experiences to extract information about the afterlife.
Here are some common descriptions of heaven and hell based on NDE accounts.
Characteristics of Heaven from NDEs
- Freedom from physical limitations – Patients in NDEs maintain bodily powers like seeing and hearing but are free of physical constraint. They report the ability to move through walls, ascend upward, and move beyond the physical domain. The resurrected Jesus has these freedoms in his glorified body, and Christian revelation further teaches that our own bodies will be similarly transformed at the resurrection.
- Transcendence – There is a dimension of beauty, joy, and paradise—ultimate fulfillment—in many accounts of NDEs as well as in Christian revelation about the Kingdom of Heaven.
- Love – Jesus told us love was central in the Kingdom of God, and NDE patients describe overwhelming love as their dominant experience in the realm of light. For example, one patient describes her experience of coming into contact with the loving white light. The following case resembles hundreds of others reported by researchers:
“I became very weak, and I fell down. I began to feel a sort of drifting, a movement of my real being in and out of my body, and to hear beautiful music. I floated on down the hall and out the door onto the screened-in porch. There, it almost seemed that clouds, a pink mist really, began to gather around me, and then I floated right straight on through the screen, just as though it weren’t there, and up into this pure crystal clear light, an illuminating white light. It was beautiful and so bright, so radiant, but it didn’t hurt my eyes. It’s not any kind of light you can describe on earth. I didn’t actually see a person in this light, and yet it has a special identity, it definitely does. It is a light of perfect understanding and perfect love…. And all during this time, I felt as though I was surrounded by an overwhelming love and compassion.”
Moreover, some patients are greeted by deceased family members who they do not recognize, because they deceased family member died before the patient was even born. They often introduce themselves and reveal facts about themselves that the patients’ relatives or friends are subsequently able to verify.
Though this kind of evidence is not veridical (because it can’t be corroborated as occurring during a patient’s clinical death by an independent source), it has probative circumstantial value – particularly because it occurs in so many different cases of near death experiences.
Raymond Moody has written a book on these experiences entitled: Reunions: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones. It has also been studied by other specialists, such as Dr. Jeffery Long, and Dr. Pim van Lommel., all of whom show patients’ knowledge of facts about or from deceased family members and friends not formerly known.
Negative Near Death Experiences
Some patients report negative near death experiences of a hell-like place, an experience shared by many saints and noted in revelation.
Most negative NDE stories describe a feeling of being in alone in a void. However, there are some hellish NDEs such as this patient described:
“When I reached the bottom, it resembled the entrance to a cave, with what looked like webs hanging. . . . I heard cries, wails, moans, and the gnashing of teeth. I saw these beings that resembled humans, with the shape of a head and body, but they were ugly and grotesque. . . . They were frightening and sounded like they were tormented, in agony.”
We might conclude from this correlation between medical studies of near death experiences and Christian revelation that NDEs support Jesus’ message in the New Testament – that there is a heaven and a hell, and that our souls live on after our bodies die.
Michelle Miller is a regular contributor to the Magis Center blog