Among the many truths that born-again Christians embrace from the Bible, two are the most profound: forgiveness of sin because of the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead.
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, --Revelation 1:5
The account of the crucifixion of Jesus is found in all four Gospels. We are told in Ephesians 4 that after being crucified, Jesus descended into the Earth, and in 1 Peter 3 that while there Jesus "preached unto the spirits in prison." What Jesus said to these 'spirits' is not recorded.
Death is very permanent, and very few come back from that place, however, the Bible does record the accounts of a few individuals who did, indeed, die and come back from the dead.
Ever so often a story will pop up in the news about someone who claims he or she briefly died and returned from 'the other side.' Most of these people say Jesus spoke to them, or met them, or took them on a tour. Some claim that Jesus gave them a message and sent them back home to let them know that heaven is real, or to comfort those who were left behind that their loved ones are, indeed, in heaven and waiting for them. On occasion, these accounts of dying and returning have come from children, who sometimes claim they saw siblings in heaven who came to be there because their mothers had miscarriages and never spoke of it to the child.
These accounts seem very real, and even believable. Some Christians get upset when other Christians question these accounts, or don't quickly embrace them as stories of joy and encouragement. After all, don't we want to believe heaven is real and that we will someday be reunited with our loved ones?
Of course Christians want to believe heaven is real and that we will see our loved ones again, but this isn't the issue with these claims of encounters with the afterlife.
Born-again Christians already know there is a heaven, and we don't need to be 'convinced' of it by someone who claims he or she has been there and can personally verify. This is part of 'faith,' which is believing the words of Jesus and those sent by the Father to speak on His behalf.
And by the way, born-again Christians believe there is a Hell, too.
This leads to the question, why convince of heaven? Why not convince of the truth of Jesus Christ? Why is there never any call for repentance? to call upon the name of Jesus Christ for salvation?
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. --Acts 4:12
And why would Jesus contradict the Bible by sending back someone who has died to testify of heaven?
Luke 16 gives the account of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, two men whose paths crossed in life.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. --Luke 16: 19-21
Both men died. The rich man awoke to find himself in Hell. The account of this was the subject of seventhvial213's last YouTube.
In Hell, the rich man could see Lazarus, but Lazarus wasn't in Hell; he was laying in the 'bosom of Abraham.'
The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers.
I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. --Luke 16:27, 28
They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. --Luke 16: 29-31
Do you understand what Abraham is saying here?
He is saying, "No rich man, that is not how it works here. We don't send people back from the dead to warn of Hell."
The rich man did not ask that HE be sent back to warn of Hell, he wanted LAZARUS to be sent back to his family to testify of HEAVEN that they might avoid HELL.
Abraham's answer was not only instructive about the nature of the afterlife, but also meant to be a way to discern future claims of visiting the afterlife, for we are to test accounts and testimonies against the Word of God.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. --1 John 4:1
Let's look at five accounts in the Bible of people who were raised from the dead.
1. The most notable account to most people will be the account of another man named Lazarus who returned from the dead. This Lazarus had two sisters that were well-known to Jesus and his disciples. We find his account in John 11.
In verse 1, we are told that this Lazarus became sick and died. Forty-three verses later we are told that Jesus called out his name, and Lazarus came forth from the dead.
Do you realize that in the remaining 12 verses of that chapter, no further mention is given to Lazarus? No verses give us an account of what he saw or did while he was dead? No further mention is made in the Bible to Lazarus' brief time in the afterlife.
2. In Luke 8 we are told of a Jairus, who was a 'ruler of the synagogue,' who had an only daughter. He was in the presence of Jesus when he received word that his daughter had died. Before Jairus could respond Jesus speaks and says that the young girl is not dead but asleep. In verse 55, Jesus spoke the word, and her spirit returned unto her, and she rose up.
Like Lazarus the Scriptures do not record anything this young girl had to say about anything she may have seen in the afterlife.
3. In Acts 20:9 we are given the account of a young man named Eutychus, who, we are sad to say, fell asleep while listening to one of Paul's 'long' sermons.
And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
Verse 10 tells us that Paul spoke to the body of the young man, and his life came back into him. And like Lazarus and Jairus' daughter before him, the man says nothing about what he saw while briefly on the other side.
4. In an older account found in 2 Kings 4, the prophet Elisha raised from the dead a child of a woman in the place called Shunem.
Once the child was brought back, there is absolutely no mention from this child what he saw while he was dead.
5. As calm as the accounts above are, this next account is quite alarming.
In I Samuel 28, we learn that things were going quite badly for King Saul. Saul had been anointed king over Israel, but almost immediately he abandoned following the heart of God for the headiness of power. He had relied somewhat upon the prophet Samuel to know what God was thinking, but it appears that he had no intention of taking to heart any instructions from God. We see this when he was commanded to slay all the Amalekites, but didn't, and strangely enough, generations later, an Amalekite named Haman plotted to destroy all of the Jews in the Persian kingdom.
That plot didn't work. (See footnote below)
When Samuel died and massive numbers of Philistines began gathering together to attack Israel, Saul felt he had no choice but to consult a witch in Endor and have her summon the one man he trusted, the prophet Samuel.
This account has got to be one of the most fascinating concerning the afterlife and the truly deceptive nature of witches, who in this case, was operating as a medium.
Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. --1 Samuel 28: 11,12
Now . . . why would this witch 'cry out' when she saw Samuel? Why did she accuse Saul of deception? Wasn't she supposed to 'bring up' Samuel?
The witch of Endor was alarmed because the REAL Samuel appeared. She was expecting her familiar spirit. Instead, God had stirred up the REAL Samuel and caused him to appear. The witch of Endor immediately knew the situation had been taken out of her hands, and she suddenly feared for her life.
And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? --v.15
King Saul tells Samuel his tale of woe.
I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. --v.15
Samuel tells Saul that because of this, his life AND THE LIVES OF HIS SONS, will be required of him, that they will die the next day.
And by the way, Samuel mentions Saul's failure to slay the Amalekites.
Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the Lord done this thing unto thee this day. --v. 18
In these few verses we learn so much. One, that the dead are to be left alone. Two, that witches use familiar spirits to deceive those who are foolish enough to try and contact the dead because if they could really summon the dead, they wouldn't be so astonished when they actually showed up. Three, that when God gives a specific command to be obeyed, and we choose not to obey, we will be held accountable for that rebellion. And four, the dead don't come back with messages from the afterlife as a matter of routine.
There is one other point I would like to make about these accounts of people who have died and gone to heaven and 'seen Jesus.'
In the book of Daniel we learn in chapter 10 that Daniel had an encounter with 'a man' that many scholars believe to be the pre-incarnate Christ. Look at the reaction Daniel had when meeting Jesus.
And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves. Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength. Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground. --Daniel 10:7-9
There was NO strength in him.
Verse 10 tells us that only when Jesus helped him up did he have any strength to move.
In what many consider to be the 'companion' book of The Revelation, the Apostle John also had an encounter with Christ, but this encounter took place after Jesus' incarnation.
Look at the reaction the Apostle John had.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: --Rev 1:17
Like the prophet Daniel, the Apostle John FAINTED.
Like the prophet Daniel, only when Jesus touched him, did he recover somewhat.
That is the reaction TWO of the strongest men of God had when they encountered Jesus face to face.
They fainted so hard that they fell as DEAD MEN.
And these are two men who were each told that specifically by Jesus at some point that they were loved! (Daniel 10:11, and John 13:23)
Why is it that when people tell of meeting Jesus in the afterlife they always discuss it as if they were just hanging out with their homie?
Why is that they never mention being in awe of Him sitting at the right hand of the Father, but instead He's always some sort of tour guide?
Why is it that NONE of them ever mention being so overwhelmed? frightened? amazed? terrified? that they fainted?
Why is it that NONE of them ever say they fell down as DEAD MEN?
Is it because they are more spiritual somehow than Daniel or John?
How do we measure their behavior with what is recorded in the Bible? How do we reconcile that two men recorded as men of God fainted, and yet people who are not recorded in the Bible claim no special reaction upon meeting him?
Shouldn't this lack of reconciliation with the Word of God raise our eyebrows?
When we are told that someone has died and come back with a message about how heaven is real, or that our loved ones have gone on ahead, we have an obligation to 'try the spirits.' We are to compare what we are told to what we know is recorded in the Bible.
Yes, people die.
Yes, people come back, on occasion, from the dead.
No, other than Samuel, the Bible does not send back the dead to testify of the afterlife, and even then Samuel was sent back with a rebuke, not an account of how good things were going. In fact, we are told in Luke 16, that NO ONE is sent back to speak of heaven as a means to warn against Hell.
Yes, people have encountered Jesus supernaturally.
No, they don't usually remain standing on their feet.
Ultimately, the only death and resurrection that matters is the death and resurrection of God's Only Begotten Son, Jesus. We are to seek out His story. We are to seek out His life. We are to accept Him into our heart. We are to testify of Him. We are to point the way to the 'Old Rugged Cross.' We are to believe His account, that He has risen from the grave and now sits at the right hand of the Father. And we are to believe that He is coming again to retrieve His bride.
If a message 'from beyond the grave' does not point to Jesus as Lord and Savior, well then, are you sure you want to receive it?
Interesting account of the Haman plot in this recent post by Daniel Greenfield: The Endless Ages of Purim