“And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:56. Stephen saw a vision of Jesus just before he was stoned to death. There are many occurrences within the pages of God’s word where some have seen either an angel or a Christophony. In Stephen’s case he saw the Christ, the living Son of God the Father, in all His glory.
Many books have been written throughout the years which tell stories of those who’ve gone through a near death experience. Some of these folks claim to have seen God and some say they have even spoken with Him. In some cases these people have been declared clinically dead for a few minutes before returning to this human dimension. During that time they claim to have experienced something supernatural. Some have made rather hard to reconcile claims about having seen Heaven in all its glory and others claim to have been transported to the deepest dungeons of Hell itself, by Jesus Christ no less. Some of these stories have been so cleverly portrayed that many believe they must be true.
I’ve read many of these experiences, especially when I was a fairly new believer. I read as many books as I could get my hands on in those days, and all were written by Christians. Over the years I’ve seen the error of such books and now I understand much more about why people write books such as these. Some write about near death experiences because they know this subject is popular with the masses and they are very creative writers who can completely overwhelm the imagination of the readers. Many of these writers are only seeking after monetary gain or some other form of popularity.
But some of these authors surely believe they actually visited Heaven and Hell, or that they’ve seen Jesus in all His glory as they laid waiting for help in the middle of some automobile wreck or other catastrophe. I’m not here to argue or dismiss anyone’s near death explanation as false, only that I have doubts about some of them.
Many people use 2 Corinthians 12:2-5 as a Biblical proof text for believing in near-death experiences. However, this would be taking a lot of liberty with interpretation. They believe Paul had actually died and he found himself in heaven. But the passage does not state that Paul had died. God gave Paul a vision of heaven, so Paul did not have a near-death experience. Certainly Stephen had a near death experience since he was near death when he saw Jesus.
Other than Stephens experience the Bible is somewhat silent regarding near-death experiences, and there is no reliable scientific research to confirm such experiences, we probably shouldn’t simply accept the legitimacy of these claims on their face value. But I also believe it to be too strong to state that all near-death experiences are faked, imagined, or Satanic, but there are still serious concerns, Biblically, about the validity of many of these reported experiences.
Now that I’ve gotten that disclaimer out of the way, I would like to convey an event in my life that was a very strange occurrence to say the least. I’m not saying my story falls into the category of near death experiences, only that one fateful day I was supernaturally protected from harm. Close encounter with death, or was it something else? You be the judge.
In 1995 I went to work for a refuse company as a truck driver. Over the first few weeks I was going through some very intense training, learning to operate their equipment while being taught the route I was soon to be assigned. This particular day as my instructor and I were about halfway through my new route we had to make a quick detour to a transfer station. A transfer station is a place where trucks filled with refuse were unloaded and then other larger trucks would pick up those dumped loads and deliver them to a land fill area many miles away.
On this particular day my route trainer was driving the truck. As he brought the truck to a stop in front of one of the dumping bays he jumped out to move a backhoe that was parked in front of the bay. After moving the backhoe over to the side he climbed back into the cab of the truck and proceeded to back it into the bay. When he brought the truck to a stop again we both jumped out and went to the back of the truck to open our respective doors.
The driver opened his door first, swung it around and clamped it to the side of the truck and headed back to the cab, leaving me to do the same with my door. The problem arose when I opened my door. As soon as I had released the bar clamp which held the door shut it sprung open and hit me in the chest with a force I felt was equal to someone hitting me with a sledgehammer at full swing. My instructor had neglected to take the pressure off the load (similar to a large trash compactor), consequently all the pressure of that load was up against my door.
When the door hit me I was thrown backwards onto the top of the pile of garbage that was already lying there from a previous dump. The driver hadn’t realized I was injured and proceeded to raise the bed to dump the full load. As I was laying there in intense pain, and with all the air knocked out of me, I was unable to call for help. I watched as the front end of the dump unit rose high in the air and the back was lowered just above me. The door I had opened was swinging back and forth and that whole load of garbage was now hovering above my motionless body.
Now it’s important to understand that gravity alone should have created an unavoidable set of circumstances. I should have been buried at the bottom of a huge refuse pile. But that was not the case. As I lay there in excruciating pain fully expecting to be crushed to death, I was faced with an impossible situation. It was impossible for me to move out of harm’s way and it was impossible for that load to remain in the truck. As far as the driver was concerned, all that refuse should have been lying in a huge pile there in that bay.
Finally, after what seem like an eternity, the driver came back to the rear of the truck to ascertain the problem with the load not dumping out. When he saw me laying there under the back of that truck he picked me up and carried me out of the area where that load would eventually be dumped; that feat of strength alone coming from a man half my size can only be described as supernatural. When he laid me down again he placed me right next to the backhoe he had moved earlier and which was still running.
I was laying there in incredible pain as my instructor hurried off to call an ambulance and my wife. My wife tells me that the sound of his voice over the phone was one of extreme anxiety; he didn’t want to tell her everything. He must have thought that the spark of life which keeps us all alive was about to leave my body.
While I was laying there next to that backhoe in all that pain and with all the noise of the backhoe and the truck filling up that dump bay, I fell into what I can only suppose was a different realm of existence. Suddenly there was no pain and all the noise that had surrounded me earlier was gone. My eyes were open and I could see with perfect clarity a bright shining light before me. I didn’t hear a voice; I didn’t see a manifestation of Christ. And I’m still not saying that this experience was near death.
All I knew was I felt great with no pain at all; I was once again able to breath and felt I could even speak. I didn’t speak though, at least I don’t remember speaking, but I felt I had all my faculties. The day that this happened was very cold on the Oregon coast and yet I was now in total comfort – warm and without any pain in my chest. I didn’t have a clue as to where I was but I knew I was not lying next to that backhoe any more. The weirdest thing in my mind was that I was no longer laying down but standing. This comfort I felt was short lived.
Suddenly, quicker than a blink of the eye, I was back lying next to that backhoe, once again in extreme pain. All my senses were returned to the urgency of the moment. All the warmth I had felt was gone and I was freezing. All the noise that I had escaped from for that short period of time came back with a tremendous blast in my ears. And even though I was painfully back and in Oregon again, the only difference was I was breathing again.
The ambulance came and whisked me away to the nearest hospital. My wife met me there and she could see that I was in a lot of pain, but she was somewhat shocked when she saw me climb out of the ambulance instead of being carried on a gurney. The EMT’s took me into the emergency room where the attending physician ordered x-rays of my chest. When he got the x-rays back he was very surprised that there were no broken ribs. No internal injuries. No visible external injuries. The doctor determined I had only bruised some ribs. Surprisingly I was only laid up for a couple of weeks before returning to my job.
The garbage company fired me within a month of my return. They told me I would never learn how to operate their equipment efficiently, even though I had operated many different types of equipment for many years. I had to assume they were upset that they had to pay for an on the job injury.
Everything works out in God’s plan, and just after that accident my wife decided she needed to get back to Church; she had stopped attending church a few years before we met and was miserable during that time. Soon after that incident we began attending church together with our little girl.
It wasn’t long after that that I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit; I prayed for Jesus to forgive me of my sins. I became a born again believer in Christ after what I suppose some might consider a near death experience. I think about that incident a lot these days as well as other incidences in my life when I came dangerously close to death. Where would I have been spending eternity if I had died that day? Thank God He kept me from severe injury and death. I thank Him daily that He has saved my soul from Hell.
Just a few years later I began to diligently read and study God’s word. Now here I am fifteen years later writing Christian apologetic commentaries. Those commentaries are read by literally thousands worldwide on a weekly basis. Could that be the reason God kept me alive through that ordeal? Is there any other reason I should be alive today other than to do God’s will and to be a light to the lost? Was my life saved that day supernaturally? Why didn’t all that garbage tumble out and bury yours truly?
A month after the accident I was in my doctor’s office for a follow up visit and I related this strange story to him. My doctor was not a believer at the time of hearing my story, and even if he was I might still have received the same response. His response was that I was probably in shock.
I’ll let you decide. God has placed us all here for a reason. He has a plan for every human being on this planet. Whether or not we ever follow His plan for our life is a decision we must all make. Was I given a special little boost on that fateful day? I must let the Bible be my guide, thus the truth of most near death experiences, in my view, will always be somewhat elusive. But God’s plan for our lives becomes clearer as we continue our walk with Him.
God bless you all,
All scripture is from the KJV