What are Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and how do they fit in with Christianity? For over 40 years, the author, Ivan Rudolph, has been conducting interviews, studying hundreds of accounts and now has clarity about this mysterious phenomenon. The truth is surprising, exciting, and ultimately relevant for everyone. Did you know that there are at least 16 million Americans who have had an NDE, including celebrities like Goldie Hawn, Sharon Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, Nikki Sixx, Burt Reynolds, and many others? Did you know that they are a part of a huge family of 350 million
Some accounts of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) sound like wonderful holidays in exciting new venues. Some hardly mention the challenges they had while dead and in Paradise or in the Prison section, and dwell even less on their Traumas on return. However, ALL returnees face challenges. Some become traumatised and even withdraw from earthly responsibilities. They are different deep inside and may need professional counselling and practical help to cope again. In this extract, we look at some of the issues they face and how to deal with them.
Considering their experiences have often been sublime, we might expect returnees from an NDE to fit back into life on Earth again successfully and enthusiastically. This is true for some, but others are soon disenchanted by the rejection of their experiences when they try to tell family members, friends, work colleagues, and even church members or ministers. The return itself can be accompanied by unexpected challenges. As airplane pilot Captain Dale Black says in the Foreword to “Living Beyond”, “This near-death journey often causes great difficulty in adjusting to one’s former life. Careers may be upended as returnees embrace a vibrant new purpose for their lives. This is certainly what happened in my case.” Dale had died in an awful plane crash and his NDE is especially insightful. Problems and trauma are frequently important consequences of NDEs that are often ignored. Consequently, I spend time in “Living Beyond” probing these issues. What are our expectations of returnees? And the expectations of others? The disappointments and responses of the returnees are often inappropriate. For far too many NDErs these challenges put them in a degenerating spiral, resulting in PTSD or similar, which was confirmed for me by a doctor friend who is also a trained counsellor. This is not good enough! We can and should do better for them!
Hell is not a popular topic nowadays and too many do not believe it exists, until they are shown it during one of the tours during a near death experience that may be arranged for them to learn about the different venues that exist in the afterlife. Very important – there are no people yet in the fires of hell because we are this side of Judgement. It is hard to escape the concept that what they have shown to NDErs to act as a warning not to find themselves there after Judgement. In this extract from Living Beyond, I quote two accounts of men who saw those unpleasant venues – and both of them subsequently turned their lives around completely. I also describe in “Living Beyond” some other tours experienced by NDErs during their afterlife adventures, even tours of what might be other universes in which different rules of Science exist – but in this account and I am limiting the extracts to what Hell is like nowadays and what happens there.
Heaven is where God the Father resides at this time, in an incredible heavenly city visited by very few who appear to be especially privileged. It is NOT where most of us go in the afterlife – we follow the same route that Jesus and the thief who died beside him on the cross take – we go to Paradise instead. Remember Jesus’ words to the dying thief? “Today you will be with me in Paradise (not in Heaven)”. Paradise is an ancient descriptor meaning “garden”, and there are different sections to this afterlife garden similar to our large council or display gardens. In other sections, Paradise strikes NDErs similar to a rural idyll. It is suitable for the spirit bodies of most of us who die because of the special properties of those bodies—but I digress. In this extract from “Living Beyond: Making Sense of Near Death Experiences” I am describing experiences of the heavenly city itself, quoting from a few who have been there.
All of us have had unexpected and sometimes even weird experiences. Thousands of written reports of afterlife experiences by returnees illustrate that few of us are prepared for the highly unusual events and circumstances that we find after death. This finding most things to be weird in the afterlife is unnecessary as around 350 million adults have returned, plus many children, and written accounts abound. We need to familiarise ourselves of what the afterlife is like. Suicides generally are not expecting what they find after death, and Angie Fenimore provides us with just one of these accounts. I quote Angie, with her permission. Why have I chosen her account amongst many possible ones? because her life after her return has involved her saving others that she can from committing suicide! Her sincerity is displayed by how she is living her life after her death. Her full experiences are best accessed by reading her excellent book “Beyond the Darkness”.
Suicide is now among the three leading causes of death worldwide among those aged 15-24 (male and female). What kind of experiences do suicides have in the afterlife? Generally unpleasant based on their reports on return, but then they are not always consigned by God to the same venue and some places are more tolerable than others. Some years into my interviews and investigations of NDEs, I thought incorrectly that all suicides had a torrid time in the afterlife. I was asked by a desperate relative to counsel with a suicidal teenager. This lad’s rockstar hero had suicided and he wanted to kill himself to join him in the afterlife. I did not know anything about the singer concerned, Kurt Cobain, but I was able to assure the youngster that he would NOT be allowed to join Cobain in the afterlife! Definitely not! According to the accounts I had, suicides were consigned to certain venues about which they had no choice. The lad said little but I knew I was getting through. The relative told me a few months later that he had not suicided. Years later, I spoke to the same relative and was delighted to learn that the young man’s life, work and marriage were all going well. What a relief!
Houdini promised his wife that if he could signal her from the afterlife, then he would do so – but the famous escape artist never signalled because God has made it that whatever section you are placed in during your sojourn in Hades prior to your resurrection and Judgement to follow, you will remain there, as the rich man in Jesus’ teaching discovered (Luke 16:19-31). However, while Houdini’s efforts to escape and everyone else’s were impossible, God who can do anything can always set you free from whatever situation you find yourself in in the afterlife. But what decides whether God will do so or not? Read these accounts of the “Great Escapes” recorded in modern times that can help you solve this question for yourself.
Bublish suggests authors share a little about why they write. Very briefly—I write in the hopes that I will help someone somewhere. What do the emails I have received indicate? Early emails were from the recently bereaved, saying that “Living Beyond” had comforted them, knowing what their loved ones were REALLY experiencing in the afterlife. Later, I became disturbed at emails describing the rejection that NDErs had suffered from family, friends, churches—and professionally. At least two readers who had harboured suicidal thoughts had decided to live instead – thankfully! Two other readers have decided to engage with troubled returnees to help them: they are Uniting Church minister Karen Paul in Sydney Australia and Dr Chet Weld in Tucson Arizona – and I hope other professionals will also provide similar support, counsel and love. Recently Brian Holmes of South Africa wrote: Whilst reading your book and pondering the people's testimonies it struck me that this was a fundamental truth, that not all the people in the various studies had conspired to align their stories! The conclusion spoke for itself, that it did not matter if I believed it or not, it was going to happen and one day i would die and the only decision I had to make NOW was which side of the chasm I would see out eternity.
Thankfully more and more Christians are at last recognising their ignorance of the afterlife, and consequent inability to help returnees with possible trauma. It’s as an email yesterday from a medical doctor and trained counsellor in Melbourne confirmed: “You certainly discovered a gap in information and you were able to research and put together an excellent book which will be a handy reference for decades to come.” Not only do the growing volume of emails I receive confirm this, but also the increasing number of Christians who are prepared to counsel and help traumatised returnees. “Why traumatised?” you may ask. “I thought it was all sweetness and light on the other side.” It is for some, but not for others – both in scripture and in reality. Many more experience the Void and other areas of isolation than are prepared to admit it. To get a feel of what this can be like for suicides read Angie Fenimore’s book “Beyond the Darkness” or for militant atheists read Howard Storm’s “My Descent Into Death”. Today’s extract describes some escapes from the Void.
Between his death and resurrection, Jesus preached to some spirits trapped in a prison section of the afterlife (1Peter3:18-20). Their spirits were waiting in Hades (NOT hell) as ours will too until the Day of Judgement that lies up ahead for us all. Hades comprises pleasant Paradise sections, but also Prison sections. The first Prison section, rather like a temporary holding section, is termed The Void and is described as deep darkness by the many who have begun their afterlife there. We will begin our tour of the prison sections in the afterlife by describing the Void and what NDErs have experienced there.
Writing is a lonely night-time occupation which then goes out into the unknown, hopefully to help someone along the road. Here is an inspiring comment to some writing of mine from a Christian NDEr, commenting from his own experience. “In no way is sharing or writing about the NDE an affront or negation of God. Quite the opposite, it is glorifying Him! It is giving hope to those in a hospice bed who are terrified and shouldn’t be. It is a glimpse into what/who we really are - transcendent beings connected to God, part of Him, and that death is truly not an end, but a transition. “You are so right, when many come back from an NDE there is a time of adjustment. You are almost hesitant… and then sometimes there is so much to be shared with other believers/nonbelievers and your pastor or clergy…. Will they believe me? Will they understand my feelings of missing heaven? How can I continue my journey with this experience in perspective and do what God intends for me to do? I have seen the discomfort wash over the faces of the very people I felt would most want to speak with me about it.” Come and adventure further with Ivan in “Living Beyond” into the society you may find there in Paradise.
While waiting in Paradise for the final Judgement, are we frozen in time, or does our character continue to grow? We certainly have plenty of time for contemplation, but is there more to it than that? Yes, there is, much more. Thousands of written reports illustrate that we are expected to grow and develop in interesting ways while in the afterlife. This can produce unexpected problems on returning to earth—“Mum is just not the same after her NDE” is a common style of challenge voiced by many family members. It can be true, and in fact SHOULD be true! I develop typical changes and challenges for families and returnees later in “Living Beyond”, but introduce the concept of change in Chapter 8 – the expectation on the NDEr of forgiveness. And do NDEs support the notion of reincarnation? Read on!
AT SOME STAGE IN YOUR AFTERLIFE ADVENTURES, if they continue for long enough, you will most likely meet with relatives and ancestors who have preceded you there. Some you may not have known and may introduce themselves, otherwise you may only identify them on return to earth from old family albums or even centuries old paintings, or through discussions with your more elderly family members. How will your ancestors appear to you in Paradise? Generally happy and in the best of health. And how will you interact with them? Here are a few examples quoted in “Living Beyond” to give you the flavour of what you might expect.
You will find the afterlife peopled by all sorts of interesting beings: God the Father, Jesus, your ancestors, some friends who pre-deceased you, various angels and assistants, and perhaps the spirits of others who have died already. Many will look younger than when you knew them on Earth, and happier, providing you are in one of the Paradise sections. If in one of the Prison sections, your companions may not be as nice, but you can refer to “Living Beyond” for details if you are interested. In this short extract we will major on great experiences that have taken place in Paradise sections.
I will begin where the previous Bubble extract from “Living Beyond” ended: Life Reviews are purpose driven, not process or venue driven. Life Reviews we discover from hundreds of recorded experiences distil down to one overriding fundamental purpose. But what is this purpose? What are Life Reviews REALLY aiming at? Can you pick this up from the Life Reviews quoted below taken from “Living Beyond”? I begin with PMH Atwater, a fearless researcher of NDEs whose work I respect although my conclusions are different to hers. PMH (as she likes to be known) has had three NDEs and began her research specifically to try to understand this strange phenomenon. Read on, and let’s see how you do at interpreting the underlying driving purpose of NDEs.
A few more amongst hundreds of Life Reviews follow, taken from “Living Beyond”; to give you a foretaste of what you might expect in the afterlife. You will be shown the details of your life as though watching a movie in full colour, usually presented chronologically for the young, but sometimes given much more quickly in chunks. This is because the ponderous brain has been left behind on Earth and your soul can absorb masses of information almost instantaneously. Bob Bosworth, son of the famous evangelist ‘FF’ Bosworth, was amongst the earliest returnees from an NDE to explain to me what was involved in a Life Review. Bob had spent his life as a Christian missionary dedicated to serving the needs of others, working mainly with the poor in Africa. He had died in a car accident. ‘Details of my ministry passed before my eyes, and I saw weaknesses and things I should have done differently. I was not being judged, I was being led into self-evaluation. God's Judgement Day is not yet.’ Live Reviews are not Judgements; they are given to guide us. Bob died again in 2009, still serving God and man in World Outreach. Let’s sample a few Life Reviews. Much variation occurs because each of us is treated differently in the afterlife—as individuals!
The Life Review shown to you in the afterlife is likely to be the most impacting event in your existence to date, whether you return to earth in an NDE or remain in the afterlife. I have yet to meet an NDEr who progressed as far as a Life Review who does not identify it as one of the most shattering but formative experiences of their lives. What will actually happen to you during your own personal Life Review and why? Read on.
Who is this shining being in front of you, looking brighter to you than many suns? How might you recognise who it is if you have no previous knowledge of him? Now things get strange. On rare occasions he may announce who he is, but generally a kind of deep almost primeval or instinctive knowledge of unknown origin kicks in even in atheists or agnostics “This is God!” In every case I have come across, and those I describe in “Living Beyond: Making Sense of Near Death Experiences”, the interaction that follows has been the most important meeting of their lives!! However, their different experiences and descriptions highlight the importance and value of our individuality to God. You see, depending on who they are and their background, NDErs respond differently to this shining being who presents himself to them. We have been created individuals. I guess God deals with us as such because he likes us like that. Why else would he have recorded every event and even the thoughts we have had during our lives?
To the amazement of afterlife visitors during NDEs, the source of the brilliant light that pervades Paradise is NOT a sun or artificial lighting of any kind – it effulges from a person—A BEING OF LIGHT! A BEING OF LIGHT? Really? What is going on here? We begin by examining the account of New Zealander Ian McCormack, an atheist who died from a deadly box-jellyfish sting while scuba diving, and we then continue to forage amongst other descriptions in “LIVING BEYOND” given by the NDErs themselves.
A strange, almost hypnotic light attracts new arrivals when entering Paradise. They are attracted by it similar to how a moth is attracted to a street light. Crystal McVea describes the CHARACTER of this welcoming light as “not light as we know it. It was closest to the colour we call white, but a trillion times whiter than the whitest white you have ever seen or could imagine. It was brilliant and beaming and beautifully illuminating.” Ned Dougherty’s description of the INTENSITY of this strange light during his NDE is endorsed by Dr Mary Neal in her NDE account: “The light was more brilliant than the light emanating from the sun, many times more powerful and radiant than the sun itself. Yet I was not blinded by it. Instead, the light was a source of energy that embraced my being.” Had Ned or Dr Neal been on Earth, that light might have frazzled and destroyed them, but spirit bodies in Paradise have different properties and the light does not damage them. This beautiful light pervades Paradise, but where does it come from? NDErs cannot see a source such as a sun. The answer to this question is extraordinary and life-changing to all who have proceeded further in their NDE. Here are some sample descriptions taken from “LIVING BEYOND” Read on.
PARADISE IS NOT HEAVEN, as I pointed out previously. Heaven is a destination reserved for after Judgement Day, so where are the spirits of the dead waiting nowadays? As Jesus promised the thief who died beside him on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise!”. Paradise is a beautiful natural environment of the afterlife—alternatively, the dead may find themselves in a Prison section instead. However, these are only intermediate destinations and places of waiting until Judgement. In my book I begin with the different reactions of those who find themselves arriving in Paradise. They are stunned! I limit myself to a few chosen descriptions from the thousands I have access to.
VERY MANY PEOPLE DESCRIBE THIS LIGHT WHEN INTERVIEWED AFTER THEIR NDE OR WHTHIN THEIR WRITTEN RECORDS! IT IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMON FEATURES OF NDEs. It has mystery about it, though, and the NDErs have problems trying to describe it, so I will quote some of their exact words. Those trained in Science assure us it does not have the same properties as the light in our universe, but are unsure of precise differences. If only they could have taken optical equipment with them!
At times helpers appear to the dying in advance of death, commonly unseen by others who are present. These helpers ease the dying process and subsequently accompany the spirit at the start of the afterlife experiences. Children, especially, may report seeing a favourite relative who calms them, or their guardian angel, who does the same. Remember always that at the point of death all fear and pain disappear for the one who passes on; it is us who are left behind who mourn.
When you die, your spirit separates from your body and floats above it (usually). This phase is termed an “Out Of Body Experience” (OBE) and is the first step into a “Near Death Experience” (NDE). OBEs can occur for a variety of reasons and not necessarily result in an NDE. They seem to be God’s automatic way of preserving our consciousness, our spirit, when danger threatens our bodies. If our spirit moves from the OBE stage into a series of afterlife experiences, this becomes a “standard” or “traditional” NDE. But where does the spirit traditionally travel and how during an NDE? My book, “Living Beyond”, begins to answer this in Chapter 5.
NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES (NDEs) are not only pre-planned, they are PURPOSEFUL! By that, I mean experiences are tailored to that one person only — they see their own life in extraordinary detail (no-one else's) during their Life Review, and they meet their own ancestors (no-one else's), and if possible directions of what to do on return to life on earth are suggested to them, it suits them alone in their own unique family and circumstances. And who is smart enough and knowledgeable enough to plan an NDE is such extraordinary detail? Guess who??
When I discussed NDEs with a medical doctor and friend, and explained about the spirit body rising out of the physical flesh-and-blood body at death, he asked at once "What ears are the spirit bodies hearing with? They describe beautiful and peaceful surroundings, but with what eyes do they see this?" These are excellent questions. If you have similar ones, I answer them in "Living Beyond". The excerpt today takes us a little distance along that path of understanding. The full text, of course, goes a lot further.
NDEs are designed carefully and uniquely for that one person only. The venues they are sent to, the experiences they have, the spirits of the dead ancestors that they meet, are all carefully choreographed for that one person alone. For example, they are never shown the wrong Life Review, and the ancestors they meet are their own without error, when identifying them on return from old photographs, portraits, letters etc. The venues NDErs attend and the order they do are also carefully selected, and so identifying venues is essential if the NDE is to be fully understood. The biggest error among researchers and the NDErs themselves is to suppose they have gone to Heaven while it is Paradise they have reached, or to Hell while it is only a prison section in Hades they have been consigned to, for their own education and hopefully eventual reform. Heaven and Hell are reserved for after Judgement and are most likely permanent venues. Beforehand, NDErs go to pleasant Paradise sections or to unpleasant Prison sections in an overall CATCH-ALL destination termed "HADES" in scripture. Hades is the place of waiting for Judgement for all those who have died before Judgement. In this excerpt, I will describe the meeting between Jesus and the dead Royston Fraser where Jesus made this all very clear.
There is much to learn from the varied, intense and sometimes fanciful occurrences of a dying brain. Whether or not an NDE follows, I term these a pre-NDE. Pre-NDEs, like drug trips, occur entirely on Earth and not in the spirit realm, although those who have experienced them may believe this to be incorrect. Because pre-NDEs involve memories stored in a brain, they are very varied and individual, sharing few common features with other people’s pre-NDEs. Graphic pre-NDEs occur on Earth before the spirit departs the body. They will become better understood as brain research progresses, because they occur within the dying brain. Where a person’s brain is damaged or expiring, but where there is no record of spirit separation from the body resulting in seeing the body below, we may anticipate any fanciful descriptions that follow to be pre-NDE in character. “Typically, a pre-NDE brings confusion because it is a definite and often life-changing experience, but does not fit the usual sequence of an NDE. This is because consciousness still remains within the body. Nevertheless, important experiences may have been occurring in the dying brain.” Excerpt From: Ivan Rudolph. “Living Beyond.” Apple Books.
My final excerpt from Chapter 2 of "Living Beyond" explores briefly the uneasy relationship between traditional Science and NDEs. In time I will post a more extensive probe into this relationship on my website ivanrudolph.com because it is an important and valid discussion. To my surprise, I was asked to give an interview for YouTube regarding my book, and one of the questions was on Science and NDEs. My responses were not prepared carefully but on looking at it again, I think it was OK, perhaps 5 out of 10. See what you think on https://youtu.be/fM5o4w7i6z0
Ever wondered about this? Chapter 1 of “Living Beyond” illustrates a general sequence that is common to NDEs regardless of prior expectations or none, regardless also of culture or creed. There are different sections in both Paradise and also the Prison sections in Hades (not Hell) to cater for these differences. For example, Jesus preached to the spirits kept in their own Hades section in prison (1Peter3:18-21) and the now Christian author Angie Fenimore found herself in a doleful prison section for suicides. Thankfully, after her return, Angie is nowadays active in suicide prevention because she knows what the consequences of suicide can be like in Hades. Similar to Angie, other NDErs who have found themselves in a prison section of Hades can benefit tremendously from their experiences there providing they learn the lessons intended. The pleasant sections of Paradise, to which it appears most spirits go at death, are likewise varied to take account of our different cultures and religions. The Transfer Principle explained in “Living Beyond” can help clarify these differences. But the important thing for you is that your afterlife experiences will be meticulously planned by God for you personally. He knows you intimately and will make no errors in the relatives you will meet there or the events, emotions and thoughts displayed in your Life Review.
The dying brain can throw up all sorts of confusing imagery and hallucinations that certain researchers have misidentified as NDEs. True NDEs only begin when the consciousness or "spirit" has separated from the body. Often the body is reported as seen from a higher vantage point by the spirit, which floats above unless consciously moving back down, Thousands of NDErs describe the scene they then observe, although they remain invisible to the doctors working on their supine body, or perhaps they describe details of the accident scene where they died. When these detailed observations are checked out later it is found that the NDEr has good recall of what has been observed while "dead", despite the dead brain being imprisoned still in the body and totally unable to observe these events described later on return to life by the NDEr. Once the spirit leaves the body it is possible for it to move into extraordinary afterlife venues and the events described in these "deeper NDEs" begin.
OBEs or "Out Of Body Experiences" can happen without an NDE to follow, but the reverse is never true - NDEs are ALWAYS initiated when the consciousness exits from the body leaving the brain and all dreams/hallucinations etc behind. From here on, the reality of unseen dimensions is entered! Psychologists and psychiatrists who have had NDEs confirm they are entirely different from anything thrown up by the brain, or by drug trips etc. The afterlife adventures have now begun once the spirit has left the body, for better (Paradise sections of Hades) or for worse (Prison sections of Hades). Now what if you had an upsetting afterlife experience in one of the prison sections? Take heart, research indicates that providing you implement the lessons you have learnt, your life back on earth will turn out much better than before!
What do we mean by a "spirited" response? This is often taken to mean a "lively" response, which is only possible if that person is "alive". So from ancient times the "spirit" and being "alive" were inextricably linked in the human psyche. The Bible two thousand years ago taught that "the body without the spirit is dead" (James 2:26), and even tribal people over tthousands of years have understood what modern man has often forgotten. Revival, as in an NDE, means "re-alive-al" when the spirit returns to the body—a process that Jesus performed for several dead people during his earthly ministry. There can even today be a restoration to life on earth once more. NDEs demonstrate that consciousness is the great survivor in all of these changes.
I continue to probe this question in Chapter 2 of Living Beyond. The good news, in thousands of accounts given by NDErs on return, is that fear and pain are left behind in the body Immediately the spirit departs to afterlife venues. The spirit leaving the body at death is not exclusively a Christian belief; a number of other other religions believe something similar because it is what their adherents have experienced. Simple African tribal people I grew up with believed this although not Christians, as do millions from around the world who have experienced this for themselves.
Having lost 8 friends this last year, including my only brother, I appreciate how vital it is to have an accurate understanding of what death REALLY is - the separation of our consciousness (spirit in most religions) from our body and brain. The spirit rises from the body and enters a number of afterlife experiences. Unexpectedly, these experiences share similarities to those described by thousands of others including erstwhile atheists - who have not expected life to continue at all! Many who have died and returned include witnesses having impeccable character or impressive skills, including doctors, scientists, educators, heroes who died in in battle and so on.
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