Every once in a while, I hear a story about a person who has died and visited the afterlife. In these stories, the person has gone to either heaven or hell, and come back to tell the tale. A vast majority of these stories involve a person who has died and visited heaven, seen a bright light, experienced an overwhelming feeling of love, been reunited with loved ones and ultimately been sent back to their earthly bodies with a message for others.
The latest of such stories has appeared as a book written by Dr. Eben Alexander titled, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife. In this book, Alexander, a neurosurgeon who has claimed to experience such a phenomenon first hand, lays out his story with great detail.
As he explains it, Alexander became ill in 2008 with a severe case of bacterial meningitis that left him in a coma for a week. He states that the cortex of his brain, the part of the brain that controls our thoughts and emotions, was completely shut off. During this time, he began his journey to heaven. As he began his journey, big, puffy clouds surrounded him. As he looked up, he could see what he described as transparent, shimmering beings arching across the sky. After his experience, he described these beings as what we would consider angels in our earthly views of heaven. A noise he describes as a glorious chant flowed from these beings. They were such joyful chants that he believed if these beings were to try to hold it in, they would not be able to do so.
The most notable vision of heaven Alexander recalls is one of being accompanied by a beautiful woman with high cheekbones, blue eyes and golden-brown hair. When he was with her, they were surrounded by what he describes as millions of butterflies as the woman gave him the message that, “You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever,” “You have nothing to fear,” and “There is nothing you can do wrong.”
Miraculously, Alexander awoke from his coma just before his doctors decided to stop treatments. He made a full recovery, and penned his book to share his experience.
As a person of faith, I have always found stories of NDE’s (Near Death Experiences) intriguing. Could a person really visit the afterlife and come back to tell of their experiences? Could they really carry a message from the afterlife back to us to help us in our journey here on earth? Part of me would like to believe this is possible, but another part is very skeptical. In the Bible, we are presented with various stories of people who have died and came back to life, and those who were able to glimpse into heaven. Lazarus immediately comes to mind when I think of the stories of those Jesus raised from the dead. It isn’t recorded, however, if Lazarus ever mentioned what he experienced beyond death’s door.
Others have experienced such a phenomenon in the scriptures before death as well. For example, the book of Acts tells the story of the heavens being opened to Stephen as he was being stoned to death and seeing Christ. Even the apostle Paul is quoted as saying he was brought to the third heaven, but forbidden by God to describe what he saw there.
There are, however, other stories in the Christian scriptures which make me believe that NDE’s are simply not possible. There is always the verse which sticks in my mind that says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. The tone in which I read it, it seems to imply there’s no going back once the spirit and the body are separated. There is also the story of the rich man and Lazarus (a compeletly different Lazarus than the one mentioned above) where the rich man goes to hell and asks to return to Earth to warn his family. The rich man is refused his request, being given the reason that his family has the word of the prophets. If they don’t believe them, his family surely wouldn’t believe him.
From a scientific viewpoint, I have a few questions that seem to be left unanswered in order to validate Alexander’s experience.
Could it be possible that what he experienced did not, in fact, happen during the time he was in his coma, but happened during the time he was falling into it? Could it also be possible that what he experienced actually happened during the time his brain was reviving, and what seemed like a week-long visit in the hereafter actually only happened during the few hours his brain was coming back online?
I suppose we’ll never really know.
While we may not know for sure if what Alexander experienced was real, it certainly seems it was real to him. I, personally, am skeptical he had such an experience in the afterlife, but that’s only my opinion. I’m no authority on the matter. I am, however, very interested to hear what you think about this topic.
Do you think it’s possible or impossible? Do you carry away a lesson for your own life from stories like this?
Leave a comment below and let us know.