Books on the subject are plentiful, and some stay on the best-seller list for years. The fairly recent account by Pastor Todd Burbo of his young son’s phenomenon has been widely read.
His book titled “Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of his Trip to Heaven and Back” (Thomas Nelson) was on the best-seller list for two years. Also, Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven” (Revell) is very popular with over five million copies sold to date.
Both books are by Bible-believing evangelicals. We don’t dismiss out of hand the possibility of someone having an extraordinary heavenly experience. However, we must always weigh the alleged episode against Scripture, keeping in mind that the Bible says God is light and “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
It seems that everyone involved in out-of-body experiences tells of seeing bright lights. Obviously, some accounts are contrary to God’s Word.
For example, in the 1990s Betty Eades gave a fantastic account of the “other side.” She claims to have seen Christ and visited with Him. You may recall that she came to Cleveland in that decade and gave her testimony in a local church.
However, when you read her book titled “Embraced by the Light,” it soon becomes clear that the Jesus she tells us about is not the Christ of the New Testament.
She portrays the Lord Jesus as a loving being of light which surrounded her so that she could not tell where her “light” ended and His began. She says: “There was no reason to regret past deeds, for we as humans are not sinful creatures; indeed, human ‘spirit beings’ assisted the heavenly Father at Creation. Thankfully, the world is not filled with tragedy as we suppose.”
Of course, most of that quote is in error. Apparently, the light she saw was from Satan, not Christ.
The devil can change to an angel of light in order to deceive. The Word says he is a liar and the father of lies. Almost all persons who have out-of-body episodes, regardless of their spiritual status, tell of enjoying bliss and peace. The Bible promises no such blessing at death to the unconverted.
We do have reason to believe that a person may see Christ at twilight between life and death if he, in fact, is a follower of the Lord. The book of Acts tells of Stephen being given a glimpse into Heaven before being stoned.
The Bible says: “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” This unique experience happened before his death, not at death. What positive proof that Heaven awaited Him!
The Apostle Paul may have had an out-of-body experience. Hear what he said” “Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know — God knows.
“And I know that this man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows — was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
If the Apostle did die and then revive, it would classify as a near-death experience. Or, it may have been a “revived from death” experience.
We cannot emphasize too strongly that satan is a master deceiver, and can masquerade as an “angel of light,” trying to appear as God who is light.
We are on solid ground when our trust is in the only One who is able to fully tell us what is on the other side. He died — not just near death — and His cold body was in the tomb three days; then He was raised with a glorified body.
This risen Christ said to John: “Do not be afraid; I am the first an the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:17, 18).