What about the most uncertain time—Death?
There are many reports, even research, into “out-of-body” experiences, some of them during periods that appear to be death. No discernible heart beat, no breathing, no brain waves, when together, ordinarily indicate death from which there is no return to this life. I don’t know how many returns have been recorded and whether the monitoring machinery was operating correctly during the event.
The research shows many similarities in the reports from returnees. Some experts argue that these phenomena are just anoxic brain activity, others believe they are reports of visits to heaven or paradise or whatever the culture calls life after this life. I think anoxic brains can recall events of past experience as when dying people experience their lives flashing before their eyes. But what about something that has not yet happened?
In the Christian scriptures, we have several stories of people returning from death. One particularly is striking because he, Lazarus, was in the grave for three days…long enough that his sisters thought the body would be stinking. The scriptures report that many believed Jesus because of Lazarus’ experience.
Did Lazarus tell people about his experience? I imaging people asked him about it. What was it like to be “dead” and come back?
The scriptures may give us a hint in the story about a Lazarus who had become ill, so ill he couldn’t work, and was begging outside the gate of a rich man’s estate. The rich man would go past him in his carriage but apparently ignore him or not see him. They both die. Lazarus is transported to Abraham’s quarters in the after-life, the rich man is in another place, a dry, hot place. The rich man could see and talk to Abraham, but neither could cross over to the other. He asked for some water and for someone to take a message to his 5 brothers and warn them about their future. Abraham said if the brothers didn’t believe Moses, even someone returning from the dead would not convince them.
It seems to me that the Torah, the five books of Moses, is not clear on the topic of what happens after death.
But Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s brother, did return. Was it he who was in Abraham’s presence? Did he have a message for the brothers?
We have some accounts in the four Gospels of the Christian New Testament of the early Christian experience of Jesus after his death. His appearance was not a resuscitation only to die again as Lazarus and the others had.
His disciples did not see a body exactly like we have on earth. The Jesus they saw was not always easily recognized, could pass through doors, travel quickly from place to place, disappear before their eyes. He would not let his disciple Mary, the first to see him (John 20:17), to hold him but said he had to ascend to “my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Before his final leaving, at another time, he let a group of ladies touch his feet (Matt. 28:9), and at another time, invited his most doubtful disciple, Thomas, to touch the scars in his hands and side.
One report by a physician researcher, Luke, in chapter 24 of his account, has Jesus appearing not as spirit as the disciples thought, but appearing in substance, in “flesh and bones,” and eating with the disciples after chiding them for their questioning.
A friend of ours, a physician also, was in a very deep coma for several days and thought to be near death or even dead. He revived and told his story of seeing his deceased sister then Jesus and the beloved disciple John, When he was told he had to go back, his sister asked him to “come home soon.” He wanted his story told so that Christians would not fear death. His wife, also a physician, recorded the report and gave us a copy. To us, it sounds like truth.
Jesus told the sisters that he was the Resurrection and Life, and those who believe him will never die.
If you have some uncertainty regarding life after death, it would be prudent, wise, to put your trust, your reliance on Jesus. Scientific research seldom ever has absolute certainty. Do you want to gamble in this momentous decision?
As one minister has said, “I’ll place my bet on Jesus.”
It may be too late is we wait until we get on the other side of death. We can pray to God now, on this side, “If there is a God, I believe, help my unbelief!”