The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Life after death or near-death experiences involving hell


Hi everyone,

I’d like to know what are y’all’s thoughts concerning people who have had life-after-death, or near-death experiences, that involved hell as a torture chamber.

I’ve read different accounts by people in different religious and cultural backgrounds, and wonder if there is any truth in what Jody Long, a near-death researcher, says:



Everyone knows that people who have NDE’s that don’t reflect Hell are deceived by Satan and those who have NDE’s that reflect Hell are born of God. Hopefully you can catch the sarcasm :slight_smile:


Hi AL, :slight_smile:
NDEs are very interesting to me and I’ve read quite a bit about them, and trying to integrate what people have experienced into what I might believe as a Christian universalist and based on what I know of human nature and science is challenging. I’ve come to believe that some NDEs represent experiences outside of the natural world—i.e. they are truly “out of body” experiences by the person’s consciousness or soul. Others, I’m convinced, are due to drugs, medications, confabulation or certain psychological states. I think even the legitimate NDEs are often embellished ex post facto to conform to what the person thinks he should have experienced.

I guess my opinion is to be very skeptical about NDEs etc.—but not to discount them. I would sincerely doubt any NDE describing a real “hell” as a “torture-chamber” and I think there are a number of explanations for why people might publicize those types of accounts. NDEs are very interesting phenomena but be careful of being too influenced by any individual account.

Just my thoughts…

All the best,


Good thoughts, Steve – and good topic, CH!

I wonder whether the trimmings of the various NDEs might have something to do with the inexpressible nature of the experience. Of the ones I’ve read, those that seem most credible are fairly short accounts, and the person giving them will often make reference to the incapacity of language to describe what they’ve experienced. That sort of challenge, it seems to me, would naturally lead to people placing these encounters within the context of what they “know” already – what they believe. I’m thinking of a quote and I believe it was CS Lewis in the Narnia series – the gist of it is that what you see depends to a large degree on where you’re standing, and on the sort of person you are.

That said (and I think that is very significant), ALL the people whose accounts I’ve read or heard, who’ve seen a torture chamber they describe as hell in an NDE, have subsequently been delivered from hell. Most of the ones I’ve read have them calling out to Jesus to save them and Him doing just that. Some have the person simply being resuscitated and so saved at least temporarily – long enough for them to get their act together and (again) call on Jesus.

I wonder whether, upon returning to this life, people might not be forced by the constraints of the human brain, to see their experience in symbolic ways? I think [tag]Sherman[/tag] may have mentioned this and it definitely seems plausible to me. What do you think?


I’ve actually been reading up on NDE accounts across cultures and religions, and because of the diversity of experiences, it’s hard to be influenced by any particular account. However, I did come across a couple NDE accounts from Jewish persons whose experiences were very much similar to what I think your idea of purgatory is. That was rather interesting.

I immediately noticed this pattern, too, Cindy, and also found it interesting.

From my general (and non-extensive) reading, I’ve seen a connection between NDE’s and a person’s religious belief system. For e.g, in the accounts that I’ve read, Hindus who believe in Yamraj, the Hindu god of the dead, experienced meeting him, Jew’s who don’t believe in Jesus or ECT Hell, experienced God as described in the OT, while Messianic Jews experienced God as Jesus, Christians experienced Hell as a torture chamber, and, unbelievers who did not hold to any particular religious beliefs, experienced God as a vast and personal light, full of unconditional love.

#6 … +the+light

I am currently reading this book and finding it VERY refreshing. I am more than halfway through and I agree with this review: "The author, who espouses traditional American Christian beliefs reviews what we know of NDE’s from a Christian perspective. Not surprisingly, he refutes the New Age style message brought back by most NDE experiencers.

However, his tone is not negative or positive, but very objective (given his stated reference point - The Bible). At the beginning of the book he identifies two basic camps of NDE researchers, - those who think it is purely a physiological process and those who believe it is a spiritual one - and he declares his position which is in the middle. He believes it is a physiological process that occurs when the brain is shutting down, and states that he also believes that it can be a gateway into a spiritual realm, but that he thinks the experiences gained in that realm (if any) are most likely deceptions by evil forces disguising themselves as “messengers of truth”.

In the first half of the book he provides a very balanced and non opinionated review of the various NDR researchers and opinions out there. He reviews in detail medical, sociological, historical and psychological studies on the subject. In the latter part of the book he describes how the various “truths” espoused by most NDE experiencers are at odds with his interpretation of Christian doctrine.

Even though I don’t share his fundamentalist Christian views, I admit he makes a pretty strong case for NDEs being primarily a physiological process."

What people experience with NDEs is very similar to what people experience when they have a Fear Death Experince - say, when they believe they are facing imminent death. Also similar is what fighter pilots experience when the G-force makes their blood leave the brain…


Thanks for sharing that, Jepne.

I’ve not done a lot of research, and I am neither learned nor informed enough to give an intelligent opinion. However, it makes sense to me, with the limited knowledge and experience I have, that (most?) NDE’s are primarily physiological experiences.

I’ve never had any out-of-body or near-death experiences, but, I have often had dreams similar in nature to many of the NDE’s I’ve read. Most of the things I’ve experienced in my dreams are indescribable, and nothing like reality as we know it in this world. Emotions experienced in these dreams are also much more powerful, and tend to leave a lasting impact even after I awake from sleep. I’ve also woken up immediately upon hearing the words “wake up” in my head --which strikingly resembles the way some persons who have had NDE’s regain consciousness. If I get injured in such dreams, I also awake feeling pain in the exact locations where I was injured in my dreams --this is something I’ve also read about in NDE accounts. So, I couldn’t help but think that NDE’s could be something experienced primarily in the brain during a sort of dream-like state. But, this is view is only based on my own experiences.


I think we had an interesting thread on this recently, but durned if I can find it now…

Oh, here it is: … =12&t=5807

As someone tagged above, Sherman looks into this notion a lot.

CH, sounds like you lucid dream a lot! – not nearly as fun as most people think it sounds. :wink: I’ve been lucid dreaming since, oh, at least 6 yrs old, and it’s exhausting as hell (even when the dreams aren’t nightmarish, they’re almost always stressful); I probably dream 8 hours a night (or more given the opportunity), and typically have to rest for an hour or so before I can get up. A great way to lose 3 lbs every night, but yeek.

Though yours sound stronger than mine: I’ve been killed hundreds of times (not any less frightening after the 600th time than it was after the 400th time… :wink: ), but I don’t experience temporary relevant pain when I wake up. Massive amounts of fear, but no pain to speak of. And while the dreams are always stressful (even when amusing), they’re technically describable, and generally like reality or a fantasy/sci-fi version thereof. (My nightmares per se tend to be the most realistic dreams, the ones where I forget I’m dreaming and mistake what’s happening for reality.)

No NDEs to speak of, though, thank goodness.


I agree, it is TOTALLY not fun, and most distressing. I’ve been having them from around, say, five years - mostly nightmares. I’ve been killed hundreds of times, as well. Although I’ve cut down my sleeping from 20hrs to mas o menos 12 hours, I “lucid” dream for most of that period. Some times it can last for days, if I am not awaken by someone else. Funny you mention weight loss --it’s probably the reason why I have not gained as much weight as I should have due to a more or less sedentary lifestyle.

Some of my dreams are like fantasy/sci-fi or like being in the matrix. I can control them, too. I can leave one “world” and go into another. I can have weapons appear when I need it to kill baddies etc. I can even have any talent I desire (I usually choose being a rock star, and I am often crazy-good at the guitar.) I can be more than one person at the same time, or everyone in my dream simultaneously (even controlling their actions, although they are the ones killing me :confused:) However, lots of dreams are, in fact, indescribable - colors, objects, the environment - there is no way I can articulate it into language.

Exciting to meet another “lucid” dreamer.


Hmm, I thought I was alone on this… Jason, do you sleep on your back? At some point a few years ago I lost the ability to sleep on my side and so I had to adjust to my back. Now I slap on my back almost exclusively. Since that time, I have had lots of lucid dreaming. Sometimes I crash in a plane accident, sometimes a best friend says a few choice words and puts a gun to my head and pulls the trigger and just a few nights ago I was swimming in a pool of sand and for some reason decided to do a back float and I sunk to the bottom, but I soon panicked when I realized the sand was too heavy for me to get out and woke up before I died, basically. The weird thing is, I am not really scared of those things happening. I could probably write a book on all the strange weird dreams I have had :slight_smile:

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand, I think that research is biased. On what grounds can someone claim ‘evil spirits’ merely because it ‘appears’ to against what your interpretation of the Bible is? I think we are too conceded. It goes a bit like this: A cannot be B because B Is C. Err, what? There isn’t any real sound logic to the argument on how one would accuse another of evil spirits and another of God. Perhaps the Apostle Paul never went to heaven then? It was probably just his brain releasing chemicals? No, of course not, because it was Paul and the Bible says it was real. Now, I am not attempting to mock the Bible, I am more mocking people who are completely biased in their interpretation of these things. That is why I am not offended by Bart Erhman and his skepticism over miracles. Why are miracles false when a Muslim reports them, but true when a Christian does? Is not God, God of all?


Interesting point. I suppose we are all going to be a bit biased??? For e.g, one can argue that a NDE which describes hell as a torture chamber cannot be true, because based on their interpretation of the Bible, hell as a torture chamber does not exist.

If NDEs are real, however, perhaps God can use a person’s existing belief system (for e.g a belief in ECT Hell), to bring them to repentance. Now, I don’t agree with using fear as a motivator for repentance, but, I think it can be effective since I know many who have come to Christ under hell-fire preaching. Fortunately, they did not remain in a state of fear, but came to recognize God as a God of Love.

However, in my ignorant and uninformed opinion, I think it makes sense that NDEs can simply be mental manifestations of a person’s belief systems.


You think the research in the book I recommended is biased? What did he say in the book that makes you think he is biased in his view?


Based on your description.

You says his reference point is the Bible. Which I am ok with. I believe the Bible is the word of God. The problem is, do we really know what the Word of God says or do we merely think we know what it says? That is my point. To refute some NDE’s that don’t line up with personal interpretation. I’ll also go far as to say that traditional Christianity could be very, very wrong in the majority of it’s beliefs. Enough to matter? Not sure.

I think my argument is essentially trying to remove people from a close minded view point and to quite appealing to tradition. Most commentaries out there on the Bible are based on ‘tradition’ and very rarely does a commentary research deeper than seeking commentaries from before their time. I don’t despise traditionalism, but it is quite clear to see how Christianity can turn into a religion, and perhaps it is now. I am not sure. I know many Christians pridefully say that “We are not a religion, we just believe in Jesus” the problem is, most play the religion game. Sometimes I think people are really good at fooling themselves (myself included). Another bone to pick would be the verse which says “The heart is deceitfully wicked and beyond cure…” and guess what Christianity does with that verse? They exempt themselves from it and apply it to their opposition. That verse was never to be used as a weapon against people. Maybe I am just jaded from all the mud slinging hateful Christians that call each other heretics.

As for my real tone? I am not upset, just really, really cynical over these things. I can’t help it. :blush:


I join you in ignorance over many things. That said, ignorance or not, it isn’t hard to see a double standard concerning NDE’s. People would do much better to deny them all, than to pick and chose with bias. To expound my point further, let us pretend we use the Bible as our ‘standard’ we first must agree on interpretation. Lets pretend we agree on interpretation and have it 100% correct. Now, what if I lie and come up with an NDE that matches scripture? Or rather, doesn’t go against it? Do we assume that NDE is of God? What evidence is there for it? Another reason, criteria as a standard cannot prove these things - as I lied about the NDE experience in that scenario, but everyone gobbled it up because it appeared to line up with scripture.

L Ray Smith destroyed that one person’s NDE, I think it was called 23 minutes in a Hell. It is difficulty for me to fathom that anyone could read even a few pages into that article before the evidence completely destroyed the supposed 23 minutes in Hell. The contradictions that took place, the logical absurdities.

In fact, this brings me back to an experience I remembered as a child in our church. I remember the Pastors wife said she was “In Hell” and she heard screams and terrible things. This lady really believed it too! Heck, she had me convinced as a kid. Everyone believed her, why not? If I heard that same garbage now, I’d have gone up there and refuted it the way L Ray Smith did.



Though I often start off sleeping on my back, usually I sleep in a fetal position on one or another side; occasionally I’ll wake up and consciously turn over, sometimes I turn over without waking up.


Days on end or even 20 hours sounds like a severe medical problem! I have heard some doctors say that lucid dreaming is a side effect of our bodies fighting off medical symptoms of depression (whether locally induced by chemical disbalances, or produced as a result of dealing with incoming stress); one consequence being that, as I have read and heard, anti-depressant medication may only have a 100% chance of relieving depression but will certainly result in increased or lucid dreaming. On the other hand, I only picked up (detectable?) chronic depression fourteen or fifteen years ago, due to outside stresses, and it has never affected my dreaming one iota for better or for worse – other than, perhaps, after a few years of the depression I suddenly lost most of my ability to consciously control my dreams, and for any practical purpose I have never regained it (yet). At about the same time, I suddenly began exhibiting micro-amnesia, a difficulty to clearly processes intended events for immediate recall, a condition that I clearly noticed during my final fencing match when trying to judge bouts: being unable to call the hits and judge right of way (which requires split-second attention and inference) distressed me so badly I effectively gave up fencing as a hobby. :cry:

Which I realize is almost completely off-topic, but I don’t have much to say one way or another about NDEs, being still positively agnostic about what to believe about them.


What if these experiences are related to the condition of the experiencer’s soul? I’m speaking even of Christians. Now we all sin, even have pet sins and exhibit certain behaviors that is not beneficial to the condition of our soul. And so what if the condition of one’s soul determines what kind of NDE one has? The scriptures make it plain that we are going to go through some sort of judgment process, according to I Corinthians 3:11-15:

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

Now typically, one who is a Christian will believe that they are saved from the wrath to come. Yet this verse clearly speaks of some kind of fire that even the "saved’ will be subjected to. If that is the case, even Christian’s might experience what might seem like some kind of “hellish” judgement, though if one is a universalist, then of course these passages could apply to the whole gamet of humans, and not just Christians. This is evident be the tesimonies of those in other religions, as I pointed out in the other thread. Why do some Jews, Budhists, Muslims, etc, experience a change in their heart and subsequent behavior due to these experiences, even ones that include hell?

I think the question is one of “conversion”, if I may use that term for a moment. What makes one converted? Maybe God isn’t looking at the person’s religious affiliation so much as the willingness of the heart to change. That is what is meant by repentance, after all. Look at how John the Baptist explained repentance to those who came to him for baptism. C.S Lewis spoke of what he termed “anonymous Christians”, that is those who seem to exhibit the fruit of a Christian, but is apart from the knowledge or even the adherance in the belief of Christ. And this doesn’t necessarily stem from the result of an NDE, of course.

So what can is mean that one is “converted”? Since God searches the hearts of every man, then He’s not looking at a label, but the character of a person’s heart.

“I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” - Jeremiah 17:10

This isn’t to denigrate the Work of Christ, for I believe it is the Spirit of Christ that is at work in the hearts of those who seek the good. Anyone who exhibits the fruit of a Christian is one whose heart is changed. They are saved by the grace given by God who bestows it without partiality to those who are seeking, in not the knowledge of Christ, at least the principles of Christ found within them as the fruits of their labor* exhibit *Christ in their lives. They are saved by believing in those Christ-like principles that God desires to see in every man.

I think it is dangerous to solely adhere to the “saving knowledge of Christ” as your conversion, because I believe God works in a deeper level than just a belief in Christ. Nor am I denigrating grace as the means of salvation. The blood shed and the redemptive work on the Cross provides that grace for every person. For if it is not available for every person, then God shows partiality. What I believe is happening is that the Holy Spirit of God can evangelize a person within the confines of their heart, even with incomplete knowledge.

The “fires” of hell is a direct indication of the state of a person’s soul in relation to God. The person experiencing a negative NDE is experiencing the nature of their own soul, for which needs to be subjected to a purification proportional to relational “distance” to the Lord. In most cases of NDE, again regardless of religious affiliation, the person goes from hell-like to heaven-like state, and the tendancy is that the person develops a change of heart and life and a better hope when they return.

I think this make the most sense in regards to NDEs, if what they are experiencing has any basis on reality. And it gives me caution about my own spiritual condition. I can label myself as a Christian and indeed profess my faith in Christ. But it is far more important, IMO, that my life exhibit Christ-like workmanship that is the result of salvation that will transform my soul into the type of person God want’s me to be and bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, rather than merely relying on Christ to passively save me. It give me pause and shivers to think that my soul might experince some kind of purification process in what can only be describe as a hellish process in order to be fit for a more heavenly-like state.

Does any of this make sense to you? I hope I’m explaining it right, because I don’t want to be misconstrude in people thinking that salvation is not in Christ.


I see Christ as the bridge in regards to salvation. The bridge is open and we can cross it anytime, but he won’t force us to cross it. But, the fact is, we will have to cross it at some point if we are to find salvation. Perhaps we exhaust every possible way around until we realize, there is no way but through Christ. Basically “If you want to get to the Father, you have to come through me” and I think we often put constraints on what it means to go through Christ. When Christ said “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Me” we might be taking that too literally and put constraints on that statement. It is another potential example of A cannot be B because I believe B is C.

The more I study, the more I truly believe most people (myself is not exempt) going to meet Jesus completely off-guard… Their trick memorized questions to supposed questions that won’t ever be asked. Example: “Why should I let you in heaven?” That isn’t a question that is going to be asked, as if our Lord is giving a quiz to determine who gets in and who doesn’t… Besides all that, our concept of heaven could also be very misunderstood.


Thanks for the tag Cindy. I’ve come to believe that in such experiences people are experiencing either the full reality of or having a visionary revelation of the reality of what Paul calls “this Present Evil Age.” In this “Present Evil Age” many people are separated from God, tormented, consumed by evil from within and without, even demonized. They could also be experiencing or having revelation of the kingdom of darkness that we are translated out of, the BC Realm (Before Christ).


I’ve often thought that at least the setting of an NDE and some of what takes place may, indeed, be tailored to that person’s belief system. I’m sure if we actually experienced God, our Creator, in an unfiltered fashion, it would be incomprehensible. Even with an expanded mental capacity, so much of what we experience, is filtered through prior experiences and beliefs that I think we would either interpret an NDE based on that and/or the experience, the setting, “props”, “costumes” etc would be altered to help us. I think that may explain at least some of the disparity in the NDEs of people from diverse cultures.

That being said, I really can’t accept that experiencing a “Hell” as a torture chamber is anything from God. I suppose someone could interpret pain they experience in spiritual education as “torture”, but the graphic, “hellacious” descriptions of torture, pain, howling demons etc. is absolutely not from God. As I mentioned before, I think there are many possible explanations for these descriptions of experiences—from complete fabrication (most likely), to embellishment to purely mental (and not OBE) experiences.


Is there anything one can do that would result in decreased lucid dreaming?