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Questions on the Afterlife: "Should I trust near-death experiences?"

Every so often, there is a new book or movie released claiming a personal experience with life after death. Many of these books become best sellers (and later inspire movie adaptations). But should we trust these accounts? It depends on what you mean by “trust.” 

Some people “trust” in these near-death experiences as a replacement for the Bible. Whether they realize it or not, they can rely on these accounts as validation that the afterlife is real, when we already have all that God chose to reveal in the Bible. 

Indeed, the beginning of Hebrews tells us that while we may have questions, God has revealed all that we need for salvation, life, and godliness in Jesus (Hebrews 1:1–2). We can have utmost confidence in the revelation of God’s Word and its depiction of the afterlife. That’s how Jesus ends the book of Revelation, saying that we can have confidence that these things will come to pass because he is the one who has declared it (Revelation 22:6, 20). So if by “trust in near-death experiences” we mean, “Look to them as proof of the afterlife,” the answer is unequivocally “no.”

On the other hand, some people ask if we can “trust” these experiences as being “true or not.” In that case, the answer is, “It depends.” The Bible contains examples of people who have visions of the afterlife: John in the book of Revelation, Paul in 2 Corinthians 12, and possibly Lazarus in John 11. These experiences are possible, according to the Bible. Does that mean that everyone who claims to have a vision of the afterlife has actually had one? No. But it does mean that it is possible.

At the end of the day, we must weigh these different accounts against what we know to be true: the Bible (cf. 1 John 4:1). If someone claims to have seen something that doesn’t align with what the Scriptures teach, then we must reject this teaching outright. But if they align with the Bible’s view of the afterlife, it is possible. No matter the case, we must strive to place our fullest confidence not in the experience of others, but solely in the testimony of the one who said, “Surely I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).