Medical science has clearly defined criteria for declaring time of death. When all circulatory and respiratory functions stop or when all brain activity ceases, you are clinically dead. They came back.
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The stories told by people who have had a near-death experience paint a vivid picture of a glorious land full of indescribable beauty. What’s even more amazing is how similar their stories are—despite where they were born. They describe a lush landscape full of plants and animals or a glowing city of iridescent walls. A place where everything is fully alive with a brilliance radiating from within.
One of the greatest mysteries in life is if there is indeed a life after death. Now after more than 40-years of research, many former skeptics including academics, doctors, philosophers, and scientists all agree that there is. But how do they know?
AN OVERVIEW OF HOW NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE SCIENCE EVOLVED
Let’s take a look at how the study of near-death experiences (NDEs) has evolved over the years from research gathered by some of the top minds in the field.
DEFINING NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
The term “near-death-experience” was coined by philosophy professor Dr. Raymond Moody in 1975, when he published his research in a book called Life After Life. A few years earlier, Moody had been at a lecture by Dr. George Ritchie, a medical doctor who had experienced a near death experience. As a result, Ritchie had dedicated his life to serving others and formed the precursor to the Peace Corps. Moody had never heard any story like it and was inspired to begin researching the phenomenon to see if there were other people who had experienced the same thing. Moody found that these experiences were much more common than he had ever imagined and that most near-death experiencers (NDErs) had very similar core experiences.
THE COMMON THREADS OF NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
The most current studies in the U.S. and Germany estimate that approximately 4% or 1 in 25 people have had an NDE. That equals 13 million Americans! Seventy-five percent of NDErs describe an out-of-body experience where they were floating above their body and could see what was happening to them on Earth, like doctors trying to resuscitate them. Seventy-five percent describe heightened senses and intense positive feelings, particularly of an unimaginable other-worldly love and peace. Closer to half of NDErs report encountering a mystical brilliant light, brighter than the sun, a sense of alteration of time and space, learning a special knowledge, an otherworldly heavenly realm, and encountering other beings, either deceased family and friends or angels, and then a return to their body. Closer to 25% of people report passing through a tunnel, encountering a barrier to going further, and experiencing a life review, where they saw the impact of their actions on Earth.[i]
After Dr. Moody’s book, more doctors and scientists attempted to analyze patients’ NDEs and see if there was any way to corroborate their stories against verifiable facts.
BLINDNESS, COMAS, AND DETAILS VERIFIED
Dutch cardiologist Dr. Pim van Lommel and professor Kenneth Ring studied NDEs reported by blind people. Their work found that the blind reported accurate facts about things they never could have known (without an otherworld experience in which they had full vision). For example, a patient named Vicki had an NDE in which she saw old childhood friends (also blind) in her life review. After she came back, she accurately described in great detail how they looked, how one of them walked with great difficulty, and other details that she had never had the ability to visibly see while alive.
Many NDE patients accurately describe in great detail exactly what doctors did to resuscitate them while they were unconscious. Just to make sure it wasn’t something they could guess, researchers asked other patients who did not report having NDEs and none of them could even come close to guessing what the doctors had been doing while they were being resuscitated. One patient who experienced a NDE even knew which nurse had taken away his dentures for safe keeping while he was unconscious. Another woman reported having floated outside of the hospital where she saw, on a third-floor window ledge, a dark blue left footed men’s tennis shoe with a wear mark over the little toe and a shoelace tucked under the heel. The researcher who was interviewing her found that exact shoe on a third-floor window ledge, just as she had described it. One child who was in a coma for three days described the things her family was doing while she was in the coma in great detail, even knowing exactly what clothes they were wearing on certain days.
Researchers interviewed children who perfectly described relatives they had never met in life or even seen pictures of, and some they never even knew existed. Their research also particularly examined stories from people who would have nothing to gain by making up these kinds of stories—doctors, scientists, and professors who may lose credibility in their fields for making up wild stories. Also, skeptics and atheists for whom these kinds of stories would change their entire belief system.
SKEPTICAL RESEARCHERS FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE
After researching thousands of stories like this, Dr. Jeffrey Long, a radiation oncologist and a total skeptic before he started his research, finally concluded that “NDEs provide such powerful scientific evidence that it is reasonable to accept the existence of an afterlife.”[ii] Dr. Michael Sabom was a skeptic until he researched hundreds of stories of NDE patients who were able to accurately describe resuscitation procedures that happened while they were unconscious as compared to those who did not claim to have NDE experiences.[iii]Psychology professor J.M. Holden, who also studied these kinds of experiences, found NDE patients to have a 92% accuracy rate.[iv]
After 30 years of research, Dr. Long concluded that there is no chance that these NDEs could be dreams or hallucinations or caused by any sort of impairment to their brain functioning.[v] Dr. van Lommel agrees and said that the NDEs of blind people that he studied “could not have been the result of sensory perception or of a functioning (visual) cerebral cortex,” but that these experiences clearly were not imagined either.[vi] So many former skeptics—academics, doctors, philosophers, scientists—have come to the same conclusion that there is life after death, based on the overwhelming concrete verifiable evidence from these NDEs. If these skeptics have come to believe in life after death, what should we think?
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
What if it is true that there is life after death, in a place where everything is more beautiful than anything you’ve ever seen on Earth, where you are more loved than you could ever imagine? How would it affect our hopes for the future? What if we really do experience a “life review,” where we see how all of our actions here on this earth impacted the people around us? How would it affect the way we live now? How would it change our choices, our priorities, our work, our relationships, our words, our thoughts, and the way we spend our time and money?
[i] Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry, Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009, 6-7.
[ii] Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry, Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2009, 26.
[iii] Michael Sabom, Light and Death (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).
[iv] J.M. Holden, “Veridical Perception n Near-Death Experiences,” The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC-CLIO, 2009), 185-211.
[v] Mary C. Neal, To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook, 2012), 57.
[vi] Marvin J. Besteman and Lorilee Craker, My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How it Changed My Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 47.
SEE WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
These engaging discussions and insightful lectures were recorded live.
of NDErs described having an out-of-body experience.
“I sort of shook off my shell of a body, and my spirit rose up and out of the river.”
– DR. MARY NEAL
BEAUTY IN NEW
Declared clinically dead—no brainwaves, no heartbeat—one of the first things NDErs talk about is seeing their body and knowing they’re no longer in it.
Check out our resources section and see the evidence.
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