During the last decades, the phenomenon of near-death experience (NDE) has become widely known all around the world. However, there are documented testimonies about NDE already in ancient Greece. This phenomenon has become more common when the medical science has become better in resuscitation people. Also, the knowledge of NDE has been spread widely thanks to the internet and books written by the experiencers. Scientists have documented tens of thousands NDEs all around the world. The most striking feature in these testimonies is the similar characteristics in them, regardless of the cultural or religious background of the experiencer.
The experiencers testify about entering the realm of peace, happiness and love. It is a realm sounding a lot like heaven. They are surrounded by light, a living entity, who they experience as the source of everything, the divine, God. This divine light is unconditional love. The experiencers are not judged by this divinity but by themselves. They get to re-live their lives and get to feel the pain they have caused other people but also the happiness they have brought by treating others lovingly. These live review is all about how the person has treated her/his fellow humans. It is all about love or lack of it.
Already the similarities and the vast amount of the experiences makes it plausible to conclude that consciousness continues to exist after death. These experiences also indicate that there indeed is a divine source of everything that we can call God, who is unconditional love. This God loves everyone regardless of their religion, or lack of it, and everyone will enter to the realm of love, peace and happiness after the body dies.
This means that the three biggest religions in the world, the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are all wrong in their teaching of the essence of God. For instance, Christianity teaches that all people are condemned to hell because of the original sin. The Christian God is an angry one, full of hatred towards people, a sadistic being who wants torture humans in hell in all eternity. Only those who convert themselves to Christianity are included to the salvation earned to humanity by Jesus when he died on the cross two thousand years ago.
The central gestalt in Christianity, Jesus, was a poor, simple carpenter. Writing about Jesus tell us that he was a kind man, full of love for the underdog in society; women, criminals, poor and sick. He spent time with people that the good and religious Jews avoided and despised. He healed the sick and comforted the sad and unhappy. He did not condemn the sinners but accepted them and encouraged them to live a better life. He was an ascetic who criticized the rich and greedy. His message was that God loves everyone.
Jesus was a radical. His teaching was in total opposition to the religion in which he was born into. Judaism was, and is, about exclusion, purity and moral conduct. Jews see themselves to be chosen by God, holy people. God loves only those Jews that live their lives according the laws of moral conduct and purity, and no one else. The life of a religious Jew is a series of acts of avoidance: of impure food, impure places and impure people.
Jesus teaching was in total opposition to the Jewish religion, it was all about inclusion. His message was that all people are welcome to the kingdom of God, that is not a kingdom on the earth but in the hearts of people. God loves everyone, regardless of their nationality, morality and actions. He taught that the only command that matters is “Do to others what you would have them do to you”, the Golden rule. The God he described is in in line with the essence of God as described by experiencers of NDE.
For many nonreligious western people the names of Jesus and Christianity have negative connotations. And no wonder when the teaching of Christianity is what it is! As the origin of Christianity is that of the teaching of Jesus, how come that it is so far from its source?
History teach us that people seem not to be able to take a new idea or ideology as something totally fresh and novel but they try to incorporate it as an appendix to the existing culture and religion. The first Christians were Jews and they understood Jesus to be a new prophet within Judaism. It is likely that they didn’t understand his message to have totally new values and ways of thinking.
Christianity became the religion of scripture, where a religious text, New Testament, is seen as a message of God, around which a religious doctrine was build. People seem to need a story, or even better, many stories. There is too little for the priests to build a religious doctrine around on a simple message of an all loving God. Priests need a text to be studied, a holy scripture to be dissected intellectually. The obsession with texts that can be read and interpreted as words of the divine is perhaps a residual of primitive magical thinking, where words contain power, especially if these words are in a language not understood by commoners. If you utter the words right, magic happens.
The original message of Jesus became even more distorted when Christianity in year 313 became the state religion of the Roman empire. It was transformed to a tool for state politics, to a tool to control the behavior of the citizens, and lost its core meaning totally. The Catholic church was in the peak of its power during the middle ages, which is also called the dark ages, a time when ordinary people were totally suppressed and controlled by the fear of hell and tyranny of the church. The freedom of thought and wellbeing in the modern western world became possible only when Christianity and church lost its power with the era if Enlightenment.
It is first now because of the many testimonies of NDEs we start to understand that Jesus was indeed an enlightened being and full of the divine light and love of God. One cannot help but to ponder how different the past two thousand years of human history had looked alike if Christianity had been faithful to the teachings of Jesus?
Why did the divine light choose to show itself among the Jews? One can only speculate. Jesus said that those who are healthy do not need healing but those who are sick. Maybe the divine light needed to come to the geographical location that was the sickest of all? And still is, as we hear in the news every day.
Here is the link to a video presenting some interesting ideas about Jesus in the light of NDE by David Sunfellow, the president of the organization New Heaven, New Earth.
If you want to study in-depth the Hebrew Bible, a high standard academic lecture series at Yale University can be followed in YouTube: