[Paul] was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
–2 Corinthians 12:4
Are near-death experiences biblical? Let’s examine these experiences in the light of Scripture.
Consider this: Jesus’ death and resurrection are central to any revelation from God. Some people think Paul had a near-death experience on the road to Damascus. Acts 9:3-6 says, “As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.’” People say, “Bright light, life change–that is a near-death experience.” But this was not a near-death experience. First, Paul was very much alive when this happened to him. Second, the light Paul saw was not some metaphysical light; it was a real light that blinded him for days. Third, when Paul told this account to King Agrippa, he never gave any description that resembled a near-death experience. Finally, Jesus gave Paul the mission of preaching the exclusive message of salvation through Him, not some feel-good message that says God loves everybody and everybody is going to Heaven.
That leads to another important consideration: The Bible does not record any near-death experiences. There are biblical accounts of God raising people from the dead, but none of these people told about what they saw on the other side. Consider the Apostle Paul. Referring to himself, Paul said, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2). The third Heaven is the abode of God. What did Paul see? He said he was “not permitted to speak” (12:4). Think about that. Paul wrote over half of the New Testament. He was the greatest theologian the world has ever known. If God wanted us to have a complete description of what Heaven was like, don’t you think He would have entrusted that revelation to the Apostle Paul? But God said, “Do not write any of it down.”
Why has God restricted the information we have about Heaven? I think what is in store for us is so glorious that human words only diminish the glory of Heaven. It is the same reason God said, “Do not make any graven images of Me, because that diminishes who I really am.” I also think if we knew what was awaiting us, we could not wait to get out of here. That is why Paul, who had seen Heaven, was able to say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Very simply, there are no biblical accounts of near-death experiences. God can do whatever He wants to do, but the weight of evidence is against near-death experiences. Everything we need to know about our eternal home is found in the Bible.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Have Some People Already Visited Heaven?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)