I’ll never forget the time my dentist was working on my teeth and, just making conversation, told me he was looking forward to the “end times.”
That’s when many say Jesus is going to come down from Heaven and lift up all the believers.
The non-believers are going to be left behind and — the way I understand it — things aren’t expected to go well for them.
I didn’t have much to say to him about the subject because I was, well, otherwise engaged. Still, his comments got me thinking.
If what he says is true, I’m definitely being left behind. I have more than one friend who has told me that unless I claim Jesus as my savior when he does comes, I am going to spend the rest of my days burning in hell or something equally unpleasant.
While I feel a little misjudged by such possibilities, I find that the older I get the more deeply interested I am in what people believe about why we are here, right now, living our lives on this planet.
Considering that upwards of 90 percent of us believe in some manner of soul survival and mystical happenings, you don’t hear people talk about it much outside of spiritual circles.
I don’t belong to any spiritual group, nor do I buy into any particular idea like the “end times.” I am, however, confounded by the notion that some believe there’s a loving spiritual being out there who is going to punish good people because they chose the wrong religion.
That said, I remember being struck to my core by tragedies like the plane crash that occured a few years back in a suburb near my home. The event was beyond horrifying. One second all those poor people were alive like the rest of us and the next second they were gone.
I did what I often do when I am shocked or saddened by life’s unexpected horrors. I went to the book store and picked up some new hope-filled stories for myself — in this case a couple of paperbacks about Near Death Experiences.
Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are what occur to some people when they die and are brought back to life. They have been recorded by people of all faiths all over the world since the beginning of recorded time.
I started reading about them years ago when I first learned about Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a noted medical doctor who worked with very ill children and documented the stories some told her after they had died and were resuscitated.
The children told her about beautiful lights and places of unimaginable beauty, shown to them by beings who knew them and seemed to love them deeply.
I went on to seek some research on adults who had the same experiences and found the work of Dr. Kenneth Ring, a professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut, who researched the experiences in an academic setting.
Adults who have been dead and revived told him the same amazing stories about loving beings, locations beyond the ability of our words to describe, amazing lessons and reunions. They talked of experiencing a life review among the spirits who seemed to want nothing more than to have a person experience the impact of the right and wrong choices they made.
Crazy talk, right? And in the stories the death experience itself is almost always described as amazingly painless and quite beautiful.
Now, of course, there are many doctors who believe that people who tell these stories are really responding to some chemical in the brain that is released when a person dies. But, if that were true, some wonder why these experiences always change people’s lives, leaving them happier, a little more intuitive and completely unafraid to die.
Actually, I find these Near Death Experiences as hard to believe as the idea that Jesus is going to come down and selectively choose only his believers for a heavenly afterlife.
At least those who have NDEs describe a place far more all-inclusive. If I believe in anything, that would be the place.
There are plenty of books out there on Near Death Experiences for those who want to see for themselves. Me, I often pass my books things along to friends and family when I’m done reading them.
My cousin’s husband told me that if what he read about NDEs in the book I gave him were true, it would change everything he believed.
We laughed as he said that. His words struck me as quite true.
Reprinted from the Niagara Gazette.