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Question and Answer

What about near death experiences?

Question:

Does the OPC have a position on near-death experience phenomena?

Answer:

As you might expect, I'm writing as a presbyterian who believes that the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms (available here) accurately summarize biblical teaching.

That Confession begins with "Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased." In other words, God no longer reveals his will to mankind in dreams or visions, but only in the Bible.

Hebrews 1:1–2 says, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." The Bible contains all the words of Jesus which we need in order to be saved from our sins and to live righteous lives in dependence on his Holy Spirit. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16–17). (More on the end of prophecies, visions, and charismatic utterances has been written here.)

I point out all of this because it means that, whatever one might think of near-death experience testimonies, they should not be considered true revelations from God. Even if persons truly have traveled into a spiritual realm different from the one where we live our daily lives, they cannot have learned there are "alternate paths to Heaven." "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8). Perhaps these near death experience witnesses have been deceived by lying, demonic spirits, "for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14).

The Bible, by itself, is a sufficient revelation that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that none may come to the Father but by him (John 14:6). Whatever one might say about the validity of near-death experiences, they cannot be accepted as a true testimony if they contradict that most important of all truths.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

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You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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