How real? What kind of real? What about Near Death Experiences (NDEs)?
Especially over the past fifty years millions of NDEs have been reported. Most have a similar pattern–of a kind of tunnel, of light, of serenity.
What kind of real is this? What is the source, the cause, the explanation, the meaning?
1. Oxygen deprivation, as during a heart attack, can produce such experiences.
2. LSD can produce such experiences.
3. Most significantly, such experiences are found in other religions than Christianity.
4. Very, very few report a bad experience.
Luther spoke of a vision of Christ that appeared to him on Good Friday:
“Christ once appeared visible here on earth . . . and according to the divine purpose of God finished the work of redemption. . . . I do not desire that he should come again in the same manner, nor that he would send an angel to me. No, even if an angel would appear before my eyes, it would not add to my belief; for I have my Savior, bond and seal; I have his Word, Spirit, and sacrament; on these I depend, and desire no new revelations. And the more steadfastly to confirm me in this resolution to hold solely by God’s Word and not to give credit to any visions or revelations, I tell you what happened to me: On Good Friday last, I was in my room in fervent prayer when suddenly appeared upon the wall a bright vision of our Savior Christ, with the five wounds, steadfastly looking upon me, as if it had been Christ himself corporally. At first sight, I thought it was some celestial revelation, but I reflected that it must be an illusion and juggling of the devil, for Christ appeared to us in his Word, and in a meaner more humble form; therefore I spoke to the vision: Away with you, confounded devil: I know no other Christ than he who was crucified, and who in his Word is pictured and presented to me. Whereupon the image vanished, clearly showing of whom it came” (WATR 1:287, 8-27; emphasis added).
Luther often cited 2 Corinthians 11:14: “… even the devil disguises himself as an angel of light.”
But, we ask: Doesn’t God still do miracles? To be sure, He does. The only problem is to sort out where. Begin here: A team of medical professionals is resident at Lourdes to guarantee that there are no natural causes for the Marian “miracles” still occurring at Lourdes. And recall Luke 16:31, the point of this parable: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.”
Again we ask: But NDEs comfort, help—how can you object? The answer: The cross and resurrection are more than enough; here is true comfort. How can we risk a supplement, a diversion (2 Corinthians 11: 14)? And life as co-heirs with Him is simply far more than all our imaginings, all NDEs (1 Corinthians 2:9; Ephesians 3:20 KJV).
Is there not, then, we ask finally, some kind of new revelation, extra revelation, something extra just for you and me? As Raymond E. Brown points out in his famous commentary on the Gospel of John: John 16:13 must not be taken out of its context in John 16:14-15. As in John 14:26 and 15:26, the Holy Spirit does not bring new revelation. His job is merely to re-present Christ. The cross and resurrection of Christ are enough.