A parable of Jesus suggests that escape from the Prison is not possible by one’s own efforts. In Jesus’ parable about the rich man in the Prison section of Hades, we discover that he was isolated from the Paradise section by an unbridgeable barrier (Luke 16:26).
Examination of accounts of those NDErs who have escaped from the Prison section confirms Jesus’ parable – it has required a divine decision to extract them from the Prison. I have not heard of anyone being able to move on by his or her own efforts.
The accounts of a number of escapees follow. Imagine the terror felt by a Mrs S whose testimony is quoted by Dr Maurice Rawlings 19. God had revealed himself to her during her NDE, but then:
In the next moment, to my horror, I found that I wasn’t going toward God! I was going away from Him! It was like seeing what might have been, but going away from it!
She begged for her life and offered it to God. He must have heard her because she returned to her body.
Matthew 5 who it was mentioned previously had been suspended over a deep pit in Hades so that he could see the glowing coals and feel the heat, had a most unusual escape – a giant hand accompanied by a brilliant white light appeared and touched him. The shackles fell off him immediately, and he could hear the sounds of music and celebration outside.
It starts to pull me out of this horror, up and out of this cell, and I heard this voice – male – definitely a masculine voice – never heard it before, and this voice sounded like thunder, like mighty rushing waters all combined into one. I actually heard this voice speaking – ‘It is not yet your time.’ At that moment, all the fear vanished.
In scripture, we find the visible hand of God in action in equally unexpected ways, for example writing on a wall during a feast in Babylon (Daniel 5:5), and presenting a prophet with a scroll (Ezekiel 2:9).
Back on Earth, the medics in hospital managed to restart Matthew’s heart. His wife Nancy was told he was not expected to live through the night. His head and face were such a mess that Nancy recognised him only by his wedding ring. She prayed, ‘Lord, bring back my husband – who he is – who his personality is – who his heart is, and I promise to stay with him.’
She sat with him for 27 days and refused requests from the hospital to switch off his life support. And then, one day, he squeezed her thumb and she knew he was back.
Matthew spent two years in rehab and his left side is still partially paralysed, but he has recovered all mental function.
Matthew admits that his goal before being shot had been to make as much money as possible, but that his goals on return have shifted to warning people to choose correctly in life while there is still time, and that his relationship with his wife is now ‘so much richer’.
Dr Maurice Rawlings 10, working in the field of resuscitation, saw some terrified patients undergoing unpleasant experiences from which they were desperate to escape.
He [Charles McKaig] had a terrified look worse than the expression seen in death! This patient had a grotesque grimace expressing sheer horror! His pupils were dilated, and he was perspiring and trembling – he looked as if his hair was ‘on end’.
Then still another strange thing happened. He said, ‘Don’t you understand? I am in Hell. Each time you quit [CPR] I go back to Hell. Don’t let me go back to Hell!’
Being accustomed to patients under this kind of emotional stress, I dismissed his complaint and told him to keep his ‘Hell’ to himself. I remember telling him, ‘I’m busy. Don’t bother me about your Hell until I finish getting this pacemaker into place.’
But the man was serious, and it finally occurred to me that he was indeed in trouble. He was in a panic like I had never seen before. By this time the patient had experienced three or four episodes of complete unconsciousness and clinical death from cessation of both heartbeat and breathing.
After several death episodes he finally asked me, ‘How do I stay out of Hell?’
Here is Charlie McKaig’s 19 own description of what happened next.
Whenever I would come back to my body, I kept asking, ‘Please help me, please help me, I don’t want to go back to Hell.’ Soon a nurse named Pam [Charlesworth] said, ‘He needs help, do something!’ At that time, Dr. Rawlings told me to repeat this short prayer. ‘I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus, save my soul. Keep me alive. If I die, please keep me out of Hell!’
Although Rawlings admitted later to having said the prayer simply to shut Charlie up, the immediate positive change it produced in the patient startled him. This was something far beyond any response he had anticipated. Rawlings 19 reports.
And then a very strange thing happened that changed our lives. A religious conversion experience took place. I had never witnessed one before. He was no longer the wild-eyed, screaming, combative lunatic who had been fighting me for his life. He was relaxed and calm and cooperative! It frightened me. I was a shaken by the events. Not only had that make-believe prayer blown out the soul of Charlie McKaig, but it backfired and got me too. It was a conviction I cannot express even to this day. Since then, Charlie has outlived three permanent pacemakers, and it has been difficult to believe that a miserable prayer of mine had opened the road to my own salvation.
Rawlings 19 observed: ‘Not only had this make-believe prayer converted this atheist [Charlie], it had also converted this atheist doctor who was working on him.’
After experiencing the Void or another Prison section, an NDEr may then be taken to Paradise and safety. Ian McCormack 20 had this experience.
Ian was an atheist who died from box jellyfish stings. ‘I found myself in a very dark place, not realizing where I was. So I tried to find a light switch, thinking I was still in the hospital – but as I reached out into the dark I couldn’t touch anything. Reaching to touch my face I found my hand go straight through it. It seemed so bizarre, as I knew I was standing there but couldn’t touch any part of my physical body.’
Ian sensed that this wasn’t just a physical darkness, but that there was something else there. ‘I could feel a cold eerie feeling as though something or someone was looking at me – a spiritual darkness. From the darkness I began to hear men’s voices screaming at me telling me to “shut up” and “that I deserved to be there”.’
Ian believes that perhaps it was his praying mother that allowed a lifeline to be thrown to him, or perhaps it was because of his desperate dying prayer in the ambulance. ‘I couldn’t believe it, but as I stood there a radiant beam of light shone through the darkness and immediately began to lift me upward. I found myself being translated up into an incredibly brilliant beam of pure white light – it seemed to be emanating from a circular opening far above me. I felt like a speck of dust being drawn up into a beam of sunlight.’
From this point Ian’s experience became pleasant and similar to many others in Paradise, including a long interview with God before his return to Earth.
Personally, if I found myself in any of the Prison sections of Hades, I would be calling out to Jesus Christ for mercy and pleading with him to release me. I think from NDE accounts that would be a wise approach. No guarantees from this author, though! It is more prudent to establish a relationship with Christ before death.
Good From Evil
The attitude of returnees is fundamental to the future impact of their afterlife experiences. Atwater 21 gives an example of the key role it plays.
After a talk I had given in Williamsburg, Virginia, a man in the audience related his near-death story; one so positive and so inspiring it brought tears to the eyes of most of those attending. Yet, to everyone’s surprise, he went on to reveal how cursed he felt to have had such an experience and how difficult his life had been ever since it had happened.
Then a woman jumped up and excitedly recounted her story. Even though her scenario centred on a life-or-death struggle in semidarkness at the edge of a whirlpool, while high winds and the presence of evil threatened, she was overjoyed to have experienced anything so inspiring and so revealing about how life really worked and how salvation is guaranteed by our own willingness to correct our own mistakes.
Here were two people: one traumatized by a heaven-like experience, the other uplifted and transformed by a hellish one!
Atwater went deeper. She saw a positive and definite relation-ship between who the person on Earth had become to that point in life, and the nature of their subsequent NDE. I believe this illustrates the planning of God, though Atwater does not reflect on this.
When you keep a person’s life in context with his or her brush with death, even a clinical death, you cannot help but recognize connections between the two, threads that seem to link what is met in dying with what that individual came to accept or reject about the depths of living. It is almost as if the phenomenon is a particular kind of growth event that allows for a ‘course correction,’ enabling the individual involved to focus on whatever is weak or missing in character development.
Surprisingly, unpleasant or Hell-like experiences really can be quite positive if individual experiencers are inspired to make significant changes in their lives because of them.
But, pleasant or Heaven-like experiences can be incredibly negative if individuals use them as an excuse to dominate or threaten others while engaged in self-righteous campaigns.
Even Heaven-like or transcendent experiences may be painful or hellish to an individual unfamiliar with the possibility of alternate realities, or unwilling to have his or her worldview interrupted or challenged.
Atwater goes still further, noting that those experiencing unpleasant NDEs can tread a lonelier path than those who experience pleasant ones.
Once, when I was autographing copies of my book in a shopping mall, a man in his middle thirties stopped at my table, looked me straight in the eye, and with tight lips declared, ‘You’ve got to tell people about Hell. There is one. I know. I’ve been there. All them experiencers on television telling their pretty stories about Heaven – that’s not the way it is. There’s a Hell, and people go there.’
I could not calm this man or the piercing power of his words, nor could I inspire him to consider other ways of interpreting his experience. He was adamant and firm. To him Hell was real and to be avoided, no matter what.
That’s what I’ve noticed with individuals like this man: either there is a special kind of fierceness about them, or an empty fear, or a puzzled indifference, or an unstated panic. If they show emotion at all, it is usually tears. Many feel betrayed by religion. Many resent the endless banter on television talk shows about ‘the Light’: all that warmth and love and joy exuded from those who seemed to have experienced Heaven. When I would ask why they weren’t on television themselves telling their own stories, most would suddenly become quiet. Eventually I came to realize that they had spoken to no one else about what had happened to them! Most often they indicated feeling too ashamed or fearful or angry to talk about it; furthermore, the possibility of another’s judgment or criticism bothered them.
Dr Barbara Rommer 22 is another fine researcher. She has found that virtually all NDErs who had distressing NDEs ‘ultimately found the experience extremely beneficial’. She offers a couple of insightful observations after careful questioning of more than 300 NDErs who had had horrible experiences.
Rommer then makes the point that both of these NDErs would say that without their unpleasant NDE, they would not have furthered their personal and spiritual development. In this sense, Rommer concluded that although NDErs frequently struggle through an emotional aftermath following a distressing NDE, they almost always come to see their experiences as blessings in disguise.
Nancy Bush 23, whose prominence in IANDS (International Association for NearDeath Studies) gave her access to thousands of NDE reports, probed the relative success or failure of returnees who had unpleasant NDEs. Her research confirmed Rommer’s conclusions, but drew attention to the exceptions. A few NDErs tried to ignore the lessons of the unpleasant NDEs, sometimes as a consequence of bad advice given during counselling sessions once back on Earth. They achieved a measure of relief but this proved only temporary. A small number of returnees tried to search for alternative models of reality in which to accommodate their NDE, with very limited success. She categorised all returnees from distressing NDEs into three broad groups, the first being the most successful:
Her conclusion? Only those who accepted the obvious warning given during their NDE really benefitted! Her summary is worthy of reflection:
Those who insist on finding the gift, the blessing of their experiences, have the potential ultimately to realise a greater maturity and wholeness.
Issues about the future Day of Judgement can become a concern to those who have experienced the Prisons of Hades. According to Dr Maurice Rawlings 10, a common response is, ‘It’s not dying I’m afraid of. It’s returning to that awful place again.’ They return to Earth with a strong motivation to change their future lives for the better, and most do so.
Overall, then, research has shown that the after effects of unpleasant NDEs are enduring, powerful, and generally life-changing. We will let Dr Sabom 24 have the last word on this: ‘Those who have had NDEs [pleasant or unpleasant] have had a powerful spiritual experience. The emphasis on God that they bring out of this experience is real, but they need to go to the Bible to understand what it means, and what road to walk down now. The NDE is non-directional; it can send you down many different roads, and many of these are wrong roads. And so I think it brings us back to scripture…’
Before we embark on exciting tours of Heaven, the cosmos, or Hell, we need to consider the NDEs of those who have committed suicide. There would be few readers who did not know of someone who in despair has taken their own life. In terms of those who have NDEs, what are the possible consequences?
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish