The Problem of Coming Back to Life

The fundamental problem with the experiences of those who have come back from the dead is just that, they came back. They did not die and stay dead, which is important because their experience of death is limited to the time immediately after death.

Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose), in his book The Soul after Death, carefully and definitively shows how almost all of these stories we have heard of “near-death experiences” do fit into a true, full, and traditional Christian understanding of the soul after death, though not always how we might have imagined. If you want to understand more fully (than I have space to write here) how the accounts of Christians and non-Christians, heavenly and hellish, angelic and pagan-god-filled experiences could all confirm one truth, you would have to read his book…and I highly recommend it.

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Sent Back for Our Benefit

God has graciously allowed these events for our benefit. That is, he has allowed, somewhat outside of the natural order of things, for a few individuals to come back from a temporary death, like Lazarus did, or in some other way to help relate to us who are still among the living, what awaits us when we die. Some were “sent back”; some spoke of what they saw as they were dying; and in one account—the most helpful—we have a much more complete account, continuing far beyond the few hours after death.

That being said, it is hard to even know what to call these experiences. Near-death experiences? “Near death” does not seem to fit so well, when some of these experiences not only neared death, but passed well beyond it. And I also will try to avoid the word “story”, since that might give it the feel of something fictional, something told around a campfire with a flashlight pointed up at my face. And indeed, many will be tempted to discount these stories, especially for the ways in which they are dissimilar. We will get to that, but the important point to make before we really get started is that these experiences were passed down to us for our benefit. The Lord allowed them for our benefit, and faithful Christians have handed them down to us. Most of these accounts mention this in some way, that they are for our benefit.

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Do We “Go to Be with Jesus” or Not?

Growing up, I gained a lot of experience with death, or at least, with funerals; my mother took me to every funeral we had in our church. Also, when I was not yet two years old, my younger brother died prematurely, only hours after his birth. I remember many times in my elementary school years: sharing with other children on the playground, or wherever else we had our serious conversations, about my younger brother who had died. How much my brother’s death and all those funerals impacted me, I cannot say, but death was always a topic of great significance to me personally.

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