Do Near-Death Experiences Confirm the Existence of Hell?
Greetings--I have been reading a lot from your web page, and I am really blessed. There is one thing that bothers me though when it comes to existence of hell; many people who had near death experiences have confirmed the existence of hell. This to my amazement has been confirmed by people who had never known about existence of hell before their experience. How do you explain this?
Answer: The study of near-death experiences is very interesting, but I don’t know whether I would use such experiences to prove of a place called Hell. There are too many discrepancies and vastly different reports from people who have experienced an NDE. For instance, sometimes people see “Jesus” and have a wonderful NDE—and yet this “Jesus” proclaims all religions as having truth and validity. This would certainly not support the claim of the earthly Jesus who said that He was the ONLY WAY to the Father. Often, atheists and agnostics have very pleasant and heavenly NDE’s as well, which would not necessarily support the Christian claim that all such people should immediately go to Hell.
Other people do have hellish NDE’s—including Christians—but again, there are many discrepancies. I have read stories of Muslim’s, Sufi’s, and people of other religions experiencing “Hell” when they die…..If God was orchestrating this experience for them, it would seem that He would be kind enough to give them a revelation of Christ so they do not have to go to that place when they die—but their accounts merely cause them to deal with their sins and failures and then suddenly the “Hell” disappears. They come back to earth, preaching that people should live righteously, perhaps—but not preaching Christ!
My conclusion is that many NDE’s are born out of the imagination and spiritual state of the person about to die—much like a dream—but in this case, a dream born from the subconscious knowledge that they are about to die. I think that dreams often tap into spiritual realities, and there may be some elements of things that God is wanting to communicate to people in that state---but many of them are also just born of the fears or guilt that many people intrinsically have. If they believe in Hell and are afraid of it, and think that they deserve to go there, they may very well have an NDE that supports this. If they have never heard of Hell, and still have an NDE that is hellish, it is probably because they have unresolved issue in their life, or perhaps they were involved in the occult or demonic realm.
Dreams and visions are often highly symbolic, and even if one were to see a “lake of fire” or whatever, does not necessarily prove that there is a literal lake of fire, but rather that whatever that lake represents to that person. And if it is God Himself communicating to them through their experience, He certainly can use images and symbols that are frightening to get them to wake up to their sin and repent of it, as many hellish NDE’s confirm.
I don’t necessarily believe that everyone immediately experiences joy and peace right after they die. Some indeed may experience a kind of Hell as they deal with issues of rebellion, unforgiveness, selfishness, etc in their lives.
However, if one were to use NDE’s to “prove” Hell, it still does not prove that Hell is eternal. Indeed, rather it should prove that people can go to Hell and come back, as all the people who have reported to visit it, have actually done!
"Almost no one who has ever studied the near-death experience (NDE) comes away thinking that Hell is eternal." Dr. Ken Vincent, a Near Death Experience researcher and author.
Ken Vincent, Ed.D., is retired from teaching Psychology, including the Psychology of Religious Experience at Houston Community College who has studied Near Death Experiences (NDE) extensively. He is a member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, International Association of Near-Death Studies, and the Foundation for Contemporary Theology. Among his several books is "Visions of God from the Near-Death Experience" in which he draws parallels to the wisdom of the prophets and sages of the world's religions and the modern day Near Death Experience (NDE)