(For the next three days I will be publishing a guest blog on what happens upon our death, written by my mother, Joyce Clinton Rogers. Today’s post is on near death experiences. Tomorrow’s post will be on the afterlife. The third post will give an annotated bibliography of her sources, for your further reading.
Joyce C. Rogers is a graduate of William Carey University (B.S.) and the University of Southern Mississippi (M.Ed.). She has written Sunday School literature for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, including a unit on the afterlife. She and my father, Robert H. Rogers, live in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.)
What happens the moment you die? Where will you go? How will you get there? When you arrive, will you know people? Will angels escort you? What are Heaven and Hell really like? Are near death experiences (NDEs) real? Is death the end?
I experienced deeply moving and spiritual experiences at the deaths of each of my parents, which contributes to my interest in these matters. When my Dad passed away in 1975, I mentally “saw” his body floating at the ceiling of the hospital room. He said, “Don’t cry. I’m fine.” This was said to my mind or spirit – I don’t know how to describe it. It was very real to me. I haven’t forgotten it, after 38 years. Incidents like this don’t seem to be that unusual, as I will explain later in this article.
In 1992, my mother passed away following a long illness and suffering. I began to wonder about my own death. I did not and do not doubt my salvation, but I was troubled about the physical part of dying. I prayed about this continually until I felt directed to read Isaiah. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3a, NASB)
This answer was very real and satisfying. It was also very emotional. I could not share it without tears for several years, but this answer erased my fear and stopped my worrying. Of course, I am not trying to hurry that time, either.
In my quest to understand more about near death experiences (NDEs), death and the afterlife, I made an exhaustive study of the Bible, as well as 21 books and five audiovisuals. Here is a summary of what I learned. First, we will look at NDEs, and in the second part, we will look at the afterlife. Third, I will give an annotated bibliography to assist you further reading on the subject.
One of the first books I read on the subject of NDEs was the delightful little book, Heaven is for Real, a Little Boy’s Astounding Story of his Trip to Heaven and Back. This book captivated my interest and made me want to know more about these experiences.
Another book that has been an inspiration to me is 90 minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. When I saw and heard Don Piper speak at Hardy Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, MS, I was surprised to see that he seemed perfectly normal physically – no limps or obvious scars. He was in a horrific car accident and was pronounced dead for an hour and a half. After a minister prayed over him and sang hymns, he began to sing with the minister! Needless to say, everyone was astonished! He recovered, but it was a long and difficult recovery.
At first, Don did not want to share his NDE. He thought others would not believe him. (This is a common reaction.) He also considered the experience very intimate and holy. Later he was persuaded that others would benefit from his story of going to Heaven, of being welcomed by loved ones, and experiencing heavenly wonders. He then wrote his book and began to speak on many occasions.
One of the most touching stories told in Heaven is for Real is the experience of the little boy, Colton, when he met his sister in Heaven. Since he was not quite four years old, his parents had not told him that his mother had miscarried. But he met a little girl in Heaven who told him that she was his sister. His parents were astonished when they heard this. They had not known that the miscarried baby was a girl or that she was being cared for in Heaven. I shared this incident with a ladies’ group. One lady was in tears because she had miscarried a child. She found immense comfort to think her child was prospering in Heaven.
An extensive account of the sights and sounds of Heaven are given in My Time in Heaven by Richard Sigmund. He declared that “absolute joy and total love are the rule in Heaven.” He tells of being escorted to Heaven by angels and of seeing Jesus.
Earlier, I described the “out of body” experience I had when my father died. There are many stories of “out of body” experiences. One story about a girl hit by a car is in the book Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife by James L. Garlow and Keith Wall. She could see her body and people trying to help her. She felt perfectly at peace at the time. She said she had a conversation with God in which she asked to go back and finish her life. She told God she would witness for Him now that she knows God is real. God allowed her to come back.
There are also many, many accounts of NDEs. I think some people don’t share these accounts because they are afraid that others will not believe they are true. Testimonies of children are to me especially believable and endearing.
Stories of going to Hell are told much less often. However, they are told. In Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife, there is a story of a man whose heart stopped during heart bypass surgery. He became aware of darkness and demons. With horror, he began to pray for God to deliver him. He realized that he had not confessed sin and acknowledged God in his life. He recovered and immediately wanted to be baptized. He was not shy about sharing what happened to him. “I know God is real and that Jesus died so I don’t have to go back to Hell ever again,” he said.
There are stories written by a hospice nurse in Glimpses of Heaven: True stories of Hope and Peace at the End of Life’s Journey by Trudy Harris. Each experience related is unique. Most want their affairs settled, including relationships before they “let go.”
Catherine Marshall wrote the Foreword to Betty Malz’s book, My Glimpse of Eternity. Betty was pronounced dead and the hospital sheet pulled over her head. Twenty eight minutes later, she returned to her body after getting a glimpse of Heaven. Catherine Marshall said, “Upon occasion God breaks into human life to give a glimpse of what lies ahead. Betty Malz’s remarkable experience is a resounding ‘Yes, there is life after death.’” Betty sang with the angels and understood several different languages used in the music.
Copyright 2013 by Joyce C. Rogers
(Coming tomorrow: OUT OF THIS WORLD! Part Two: The Afterlife)