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Why Are Stories About Near-Death Experiences So Popular?

Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.
–1 John 4:1

Many people claim to have had near-death experiences. Whether these experiences are valid or not, nobody can deny their popularity. People buy these books by the millions. Why are we so fascinated with people who claim to have had a near-death experience?

I think there are two reasons for the popularity of this movement. First of all, we are naturally curious about the unknown. There is a dark curtain that is drawn between this life and the next life. It is a mystery to us in many ways what awaits us on the other side, and it is only natural that we would want to know what happens after our few years here on earth.

What awaits us on the other side? In 2004, Don Piper renewed the interest in near-death experiences with his best-selling book, “90 Minutes In Heaven.” And on and on the books came. In 2010, Todd Burpo released “Heaven Is For Real.” Burpo said that his four-year-old son Colton, who died during an emergency surgery, came back to life and told his family about his three-minute trip to Heaven. While in Heaven, little Colton claimed to have seen his sister, whom his mother miscarried and about whom his parents had reportedly told him nothing. He saw his great-grandfather, whom he had never met. He also saw John the Baptist; Jesus; God the Father, who had two wings; and the Holy Spirit, who was bluish in color. That book sold over 10 million copies. But not every book about a near-death experience has been so well received. In 2004, Alex Malarkey claimed to have died in an automobile accident and came back to report what he saw. He wrote a book entitled “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven.” He later confessed that he had made the whole thing up. It was a fraudulent account, and the publisher had to remove the books from the shelves.

Second, the popularity of near-death experiences is partly due to our longing for Heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God “has also set eternity in [our] heart.” We all have a desire to know what God is preparing for us. We know there is more to life than what we are experiencing right now. Where do we turn to find answers about what God has prepared for us? In his public letter of apology, Alex Malarkey wrote these words: “When I made the claims I did in my book, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. . . . I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient.” The Bible is sufficient because the Bible is true. And that means whenever we come to think about a near-death experience, we need to examine it in light of what the Bible says. In 1 John 4:1 the Apostle warned, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” No matter how well-intentioned or godly somebody is, if they have an experience, we need to test their experience against the truth of God’s Word.

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. (

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