I have been reading through David Jeremiah’s book “Searching for Heaven on Earth.” It is a thirty-one day study through the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. This is my second time to read the book; nevertheless, every day I find new truths for life that makes living here on earth that much more enjoyable.
I pray that this passage from chapter eight will cause you to think deeply about where you will spend eternity. People often say they are afraid of death, but what they should really be afraid of is their being judged by Almighty God. Are you ready to meet the Judge?
In recent years, doctors and social scientists have been studying deathbed scenes and interviewing people who have had near-death experiences. Dr. Maurice Rawlings, a Chattanooga cardiologist, has written about his research. He observes that death survivors tell us that the moment of death is absolutely painless, regardless of every instinct we have about it. “Feels like fainting,” survivors say, or “like a missed heartbeat” or “a lost breath.” Many have a sense of their souls leaving their bodies on a tranquil voyage down what seems to be a tunnel. But not all the stories have happy endings. Dr. Rawlings was an agnostic and a cynic when something happened to him that changed his life. One day he was examining the heart of a forty-eight-year-old mail carrier named Charles McKaig, from LaFayette, Georgia. McKaig was on the treadmill when his heart monitor became erratic, then flatlined. Surprisingly, Charlie continued to talk for a moment, unaware that his heart had stopped. Four or five seconds later, he looked suddenly dumbfounded. Then his eyes rolled up in his head and he fell, the treadmill sweeping his body away like so much trash, as Dr. Rawlings later put it. Rawlings immediately began applying CPR. As Charlie’s heart began beating, he screamed, “Don’t stop! I’m in hell! I’m in hell!” Rawlings thought the man was having hallucinations. But Charlie continued, “For God’s sake, don’t stop! Don’t you understand? Every time you let go, I’m back in hell.” Charlie begged Rawlings to pray for him, but Rawlings told him to shut up. “I’m a doctor,” he said, “not a minister.” The nurses gave Dr. Rawlings such terrible looks that even while applying CPR he said, “All right. Say it! Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Go on and say it.” Charlie said those words, and a strange thing happened. He was no longer a wide-eyed, screaming, combative lunatic. He was relaxed and calm and cooperative. He survived the experience, a changed man from that moment on. He went on to live a committed Christian life. The experience shook Rawlings deeply. He began a long-term study into near-death experiences, and out of his research Rawlings himself became a Christian. What he discovered in his research is that near-death experiences are often horrifyingly negative and terror filled when the person has no relationship with God. Dr. Rawlings summed up his findings, saying, “Most people are deathly afraid of dying. They say, ‘Doctor, I’m afraid of dying.’ But I have never heard one of them say, ‘Doctor, I’m afraid of judgment.’ And judgment is the main concern of patients who have been there and returned to tell about it.” We need to be careful about building our theology on the ambiguity of near-death incidents. Even so, it is interesting that such information often harmonizes with what the Bible tells us. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,” says Hebrews 9:27. And one chapter later we read this sobering verse: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).