Do Thousands of Near-Death Experiences Prove Heaven Is Real?

Gateway Church Pastor John Burke of Austin, Texas released 'Imagine Heaven' on October 20, 2015.
Gateway Church Pastor John Burke of Austin, Texas released "Imagine Heaven" on October 20, 2015. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Scott Liu)

Texas Pastor John Burke has claimed that close to 1,000 near-death experiences of the afterlife from people around the world he has researched affirm a very biblical picture of Heaven.

"When I examined the similarities of the actual NDE reports across ages and cultures, they affirm each other and Scripture," Burke wrote in an article for Fox News on Friday.

"These are accounts told by surgeons, college professors, commercial airline pilots, bank presidents — people who have nothing to gain, but credibility to lose. Their experiences align with reports from around the globe, from children, even from blind people who claim to 'see' this same awe-inspiring picture of Heaven," he added.

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Burke published his research in the October 2015 book Imagine Heaven, which focuses on 120 correlating cases that supposedly show an "in-depth look at the Bible's picture of Heaven."

Burke said in an interview with The Christian Post back in October that he began researching NDE's 30 years ago, back when his father was dying of cancer, and he didn't have much faith.

"I didn't really have faith at the time and that really opened me up. I said, 'Oh my gosh, maybe this whole God, Jesus stuff is real,'" he told CP, adding that since then "I've studied about 1,000 NDE accounts [while also] studying scriptures."

The pastor, a married father of two, offered in the Fox article some examples of the cases he has studied, such as people seeing themselves in a new body after they had clinically died, feeling not five senses, but 50.

"They describe the spiritual body outlined in scripture (I Corinthians 15, Philippians 3:20-21)," Burke said.

"Additionally, many met loved ones previously deceased, reminding us of the great reunion Jesus promised to his close friends in John 14."

He admitted that there are doubters, however, and said that he has also done research on skeptical doctors who have been convinced of NDEs following patients sharing with them verifiable observations while outside their lifeless bodies.

"Ironically, some Christians have dismissed NDEs as tales of hallucination or the last flicker of a dying brain. However, I believe most of these are divine experiences — gifts from God — pointing us to the hope of Heaven as detailed throughout scripture," he added.

There has been a wide variety of accounts and material published on NDEs in the past few years, from American neurosurgeon Eben Alexander's 2008 book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, to Heaven Is for Real, the 2010 New York Times best-selling book about a young boy who shares vivid experiences of Heaven with his family following his own NDE, which was later turned into a major motion picture.

Other Christian voices, such as Greg Stier, CEO and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, have remained skeptical of NDEs, however.

In an October 2012 article for CP, Stier analyzed a number of the claims made in such popular NDE books, and pointed out that the descriptions at times can be seen as contradicting passages in the Bible that talk about Heaven.

"These kinds of books, whether true or not, get read by the general public. And the general public needs Jesus," he concluded.

"Measure it against Scripture and make your decision. But use it as a conversation starter with those who don't know Jesus."

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