November 25, 2012 Q & A

What about near death experiences?


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


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.



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