What happens when you die? A review of Dr. R. A. Moody’s Life After Life
David Brandt Berg
The author of the book Life After Life, Dr. R. A. Moody, first got his subjects who told him their experiences from his own patients and university classes. He began to sound them out on these things when he was teaching philosophy, and some phase of the subject brought this up: “What do we know about death?”
He brings out the taboos of death, which is very interesting—how that here is something that should be a very popular subject, because it happens to everybody, and yet it’s something that we know the least about of almost any human experience. Even talking about death is a human taboo. You just don’t talk about it, you try not to even think about it. People don’t like to talk about it; they don’t really seem to want to know. They would rather forget it, even though they know it happens to everybody and is going to happen to them sometime.
He also discussed the two schools of thought about death. Some people believe it’s just unconsciousness—“the annihilation of consciousness.” Then there’s the other school of faith in the afterlife, far more popular throughout the ages and history, and a basic belief of most religions and cultures, the most widely held view of all. By far the vast majority of peoples and cultures in history have believed that there is life after death; that’s the majority opinion.
About 150 near-death experiences form the foundation of Dr. Moody’s death research. His book’s foreword is by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, already famous for her books on dying, including actual cases of those who died and came back.
Most of the cases Dr. Moody presents died temporarily during operations, serious illnesses, car accidents, etc. One was a man drowning out in the middle of a lake, a good swimmer who suddenly had a heart attack and felt himself up in the air, watching his body bobbing up and down drowning in the water below, before he was rescued and revived and rejoined his body.
Their stories are very interesting to me because they were so similar to the experience I went through the time I died and Dr. Koger came to get me. That was most vivid! Although I was lying partly in my body, I felt like I was as light as a feather and I could have just floated up to the ceiling—just floated away.
One of the greatest problems in getting these stories from the people was that they were simply almost indescribable in any language. There was just nothing to compare it with, no words for it. Some of the people almost gave up and said, “Well, it’s just impossible, I can’t describe it!” How can we have words for things that nobody has ever experienced before? At least not many have come back to tell us about it.
Language is really a difficult barrier, because unless we use words that most of us understand and have experienced, it means nothing to us. The best form of communication is that which is in common to all. But when only a few people have had this experience and come back to tell us about it, there are just no words for it; there is no way they can describe it.
He divided people’s experiences into three classifications:
- Close calls with death in which the person nearly got killed or nearly died.
- Those who were momentarily dead for just a few moments, and
- Those who were actually declared clinically dead for several minutes or more.
There are about 15 common characteristics of people’s after-death experiences, many of whom have been declared clinically dead from a few minutes up to half an hour or so. Their hearts had failed or respiration had ceased and they had been dead for a short time. Not all characteristics are present in everybody’s story, nor always in the same order, but these are the most common and most usually present or experienced:
First they hear or feel a sound, a ringing or bells or buzzing or music in their ears or in their head, a whistling, roaring, or whirling feeling. Then, the floating feeling of detachment from the body, an almost inexpressible feeling of freedom and exhilaration. People recounted floating above their body and looking back down on it from above or a distance, watching the life-saving and/or resuscitation efforts of doctors, nurses, or rescuers, and hearing the voices of those present and even the pronouncements of their own death, and yet having a feeling of perfect peace, complete painlessness, warmth, comfort, and weightless relaxation and no worry, though it’s sometimes lonely at first.
Then they feel movement, like they are moving very rapidly through a long narrow dark tunnel, hollow, or valley. One fellow said, “Now I know what it means by ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ in Psalm 23!”
After moving through the long dark tunnel or valley, there was a light at the other end. The light at first was very dim, but grew dazzling, brilliant as they approached it—a brilliant being of light, like an angel, a distinct personality. They said they had the impression that it was definitely a person, a brilliant person of light. Most never saw the distinct form of the person, although some who were Christians were convinced it was Jesus.
This being of light approaches them very rapidly, or they are approaching the light very rapidly—they couldn’t always tell which—and the light grows and grows until it’s just absolutely dazzling. But strangely, it does not hurt their eyes, nor does it blind them to other things going on around them.
So first there’s the buzzing, the blackness, then suddenly they wake up hanging in the air above the scene of their death with the doctors and nurses feverishly working on their body trying to bring them back to life. Or they were looking at the auto accident, standing a few feet away from it, and saw their body all messed up inside the car. It was not like a vision or a dream—they were actually there and they were seeing it.
They all distinctly felt a specific consciousness and location. They felt that they were someplace. They were above their body, or they were standing off on one side, or they were hanging just under the ceiling. They felt a consciousness of being somebody, in some kind of body, with their consciousness, mind, spirit, or whatever you want to call it—the spiritual body.
They are right there watching what’s happening. They watch their body and the people trying to get their body out of the wreck and all. But they could feel nothing, no pain whatsoever. In this new body they only had a wonderful, delightful feeling of weightlessness, feeling light as a feather, as if they were floating. They only had the feeling of having a new body totally separated from the old one, merely watching the old one and what was going on.
One old lady said they were pounding on her body, trying to bring her back to life. Then they attached this electrical shock machine, trying to bring her back to life. She said it really made her angry the way they were treating her body, although she couldn’t feel it. Then all of a sudden, while they were doing it, she fell down from the ceiling into her body and woke up, because they had resuscitated her—and she was terribly disappointed.
That’s one of the most common feelings when people come back; they’re terribly disappointed they had to come back—especially when they wake up again in pain and still sick or injured. In this ecstatic, floating, light-as-a-feather, weightless, out-of-their-old-body feeling, they have the most wonderful feelings of peace and joy and contentment and no worries. They feel perfectly at ease and just wonderful.
During those moments before they see anybody else in the spirit world, they suddenly discover that they can’t contact or communicate with human beings anymore. They try to yell at them and tell them things, but they don’t hear them. People even look straight at them, straight through them, but don’t see them. In fact, they even walk through them! One fellow was standing in the hospital hallway and a guy walked right through him. Some try to take hold of a human by the shoulder and shake them to get their attention, but their hand passes right through their body. One tried to go through a door, but as he reached for the doorknob, his hand passed right through it. Then he just walked right on through the door.
For a few moments when first in that state, some feel a great feeling of loneliness, total isolation. For a few moments, God allows you to be almost totally alone, separated from the whole world, and not yet having met anyone in the spiritual world, and not yet knowing that there is anybody else there with you in that other world. Some feel totally alone and totally isolated, a great feeling of loneliness.
You go through a real heart-searching time there when you are all alone and realize you’re dead—a heart-searching time of real loneliness. It’s as if the Lord allows that to help you appreciate what happens next. Because usually after you’ve been looking back on your death scene that you are leaving, the operating table or the accident or whatever, a dear loved one or an old friend that has long been dead shows up, and friends and relatives and others long dead begin to show up and start communicating with you, and you are happy to find that you can communicate with them.
Then, having met relatives or friends, you’re immediately put at ease. This is a great assurance to you, to have relatives or friends to welcome you and guide you and help you get adjusted to this new world.
In some cases they didn’t see the scene of their death that they were leaving; they just felt the valley or tunnel, and then there was the light.
Next you see this light begin to appear, and it grows and grows. Either it’s coming toward you or you’re moving toward it, until the whole place is filled with brilliant warm light, and you sense a great feeling of love and compassion. It’s definitely a personality of some kind, not just some kind of impersonal material radiation. It’s a person! Although some saw no form, no outline, no figure, nothing—just the light—they still felt it was a person of love and compassion and understanding.
Some said you then have the most marvelous feeling you’ve ever had in your whole life. This is when most of them did not want to turn back—they just loved it! Some of them, during the lonely interim waiting period between, are kind of sorry they left, sorry they had to leave loved ones, and felt like maybe they needed to go back to finish some things.
It’s a sort of testing period, that first period of loneliness, a test to see if you’re sorry to leave the earth, sorry to leave life, still attached to the past. But then, once they get bathed in the light, most lose all interest in returning to earth at all. You feel so wonderful and so loved. So, when the light comes, you feel completely enveloped in this warm, loving light, and you are then completely put at ease.
One of the doctor’s critics said, “How come in all of these experiences, nearly all of them were good? There weren’t any bad people and they didn’t have any bad experiences—much less any hell or hellfire or anything like that.” The doctor said that nobody that he has talked to had ever seen anything like that, hell or hellfire. He said, “Of course, I must admit that nearly all of my testimonials were from people who were what I would call good people, church people, and students in my classes in university. I would not say that any of the people I talked to were bad, wicked, evil, criminals, or anything like that. These were all fairly good people.
“But they didn’t all have good experiences, and it wasn’t all good. Some of them were really worried and some of them had a lot of fear and were really frightened in the experience. Others felt very lonely and deserted, and others felt very convicted and guilty about some things.”
The moment they met the being of light, they all felt good, very good. They felt love and compassion, understanding and sympathy. You can’t say that this person actually said anything, was the testimony of all of them. Nothing actually came in words, but the message was, “Do you think you’re ready to die? What have you accomplished with your life? Are you satisfied with the life you lived?”
Obviously, God chose in these cases, where the people were allowed to come back, people He felt deserved another chance, so they must’ve been fairly good folks. A lot of them felt like God was actually giving them a choice as to whether they wanted to stay right then, if they were satisfied with what they’d done, or if they wanted to go back and do what they were supposed to do.
When the loved one or friend or somebody showed up to guide them, it was not always someone they knew personally, but sometimes an angel or a saint or some religious personage whom they admired, perhaps because that particular dying individual did not have any loved ones who were saved and in heaven. No one they knew well was there to meet them, but it was somebody that they knew of, who gave them confidence and reassurance, like one of the apostles or saints, or somebody that they recognized, like an angel or someone they knew was sent to guide them.
The preceding terrible loneliness, the self-examination, conviction, and feelings of guilt were sometimes a very strong emotional experience, a very disturbing emotional experience, an emotional upheaval in which some of them were really upset at having found out they were dead. Before they met anybody, while they were still all alone, they had a very big emotional trauma of sorrow and conviction. But some of them didn’t. With some it was just all a great thrill, and they didn’t feel bad at all. I’m sure it’s according to your individual conscience.
Then there was the guide, the trip, the light and the question. The question varied a bit with different ones, but was usually about the same: “Are you ready to die? Do you want to die? Are you satisfied with the life you’ve lived? Do you feel like you’ve accomplished what you should have?” Then, as though to help them with the answer and not even waiting for their reply, suddenly this being of light begins to show them their entire life. You have heard of this before, how people just about to die or get killed, suddenly review their whole life. It often happens before somebody dies, or thinks they’re about to die.
One guy went to sleep at the wheel of a big tractor-trailer truck, and it turned over and slid toward a bridge abutment, and he knew it was going to crash. In the few seconds between the time the truck tipped over until it hit the bridge abutment, he saw his entire life. He went through kindergarten, grade school, grammar school, high school, college—the whole thing in just one flash, every detail. After people come back, they can remember their past life vividly, like they have never remembered it before—every single thing for a while, then it begins to fade.
They all said this life review was in full color, three-dimensional and in motion. They did not feel as if they were actually in it, but they watched themselves from a little child. The history usually began from about two to seven years of age, the age when God begins to hold you accountable for your sins.
They saw all the little selfish things they did against their sister, all kinds of little things they did that were unkind or unloving with their playmates—every little detail, everything they ever did. And the good things, too: how that sometimes they had been sacrificial and would surrender a toy to a brother or a playmate, and all that sort of thing.
You see your whole life right up to the present. Yet when it was all over, they felt this review was very fair. Nearly all of them had this experience; if they got as far as the being of light, they were shown this review of their whole life. It’s like the Lord opens the book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16; Daniel 7:10; Revelation 20:12).
At the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10), He opens the book and turns the pages, and you’ll see scene after scene after scene, all the way through your whole life. Yet when it’s all over, the book closes, and they have the feeling that this review only lasted a few moments, or even a split second.
They saw it all from start to finish, the whole thing, like in one big scene. See what miracles God can do?
At the review, every one of them had the feeling that this was not being shown to them because the angel had to examine their history, but it was being shown to remind them of their life, as though God was letting them be their own judge of what they’d accomplished.
You see for yourself where you failed and where you succeeded, and you know it’s the truth. The being of light sort of fades out of the picture while your history is going on, but then at the end reappears and asks, “Now what do you want to do? Do you want to go back and do better and finish your work and help others? Do you want another chance? Or are you satisfied and want to stay?” It’s like being given a second chance.
It reminds me of some of those quiz programs where, if you made it on the first question and won, now you answer the next one for more money—and you may get more or you may go broke. In other words, “Do you want to die now and get what reward you are going to get as is? Or do you want to go back and do better, so you’ll have a better reward?”
Most of them decide they want to go back and do better. But a few don’t want to go back, because life has been very hard. They don’t even like life, they don’t like the old world, and they are so thrilled and happy in this new world, they even dread the thought of having to go back.
Others he has to almost make go back: “You have to go back and finish what you started to do,” or, “You have to go back and help some people,” or, “You have to go back and take care of your children,” etc.
Next comes the barrier. By this time you have come to a place of decision, the point past which there is no return. The barrier appears sometimes as a wall, a gate, a fence, a stream, a body of water, a mist or a cloud—it’s represented in different ways. But they have the distinct feeling that if they go any further, there’s no going back; they’ll pass the point of no return.
The next step is the return to their body. Most of them expressed that this was the saddest part, having to go back to their body, especially when they’re all messed up in a wreck or they’re undergoing a painful operation and sick or injured and in pain. Some of them really resented having to go back, and some pled not to have to go back, but some of them were compelled to go back anyway.
Once they returned, they had a strong impression, a distinct feeling that they should tell others about what happened. So the Holy Spirit put a burden on their hearts to witness it, that it was to be a testimony and warning to others as well as themselves, to live better lives.
But then comes the shock they get when nobody believes them. People think they’ve lost their minds. So they stop telling about it until they finally meet somebody or find out about somebody who has had a similar experience, and they are anxious to share and compare notes and discuss it with somebody else. And finally, it makes a real change for the better in all their lives.
The one who’s come back from the dead finds the experience has profoundly changed and affected his whole life, and he lives differently after that. So even though they may stop telling people, they live better lives; they try to help people and be more loving, etc.
The principal message that the being of light was trying to get across to them was the importance of love. And the secondary message was learning or wisdom. Keep your minds open to the truth, and of course, the Word. They were definitely given the impression that in the afterlife they would continue to learn, and that there was a lot left to learn. We will still be learning lessons even in the afterlife. This is a process which will continue. Isn’t that beautiful?
One of the common sights that they saw when they got to the border was the city of light, brilliant shining buildings surrounded by beautiful fields and trees and hills and streams. Isn’t that wonderful?
They looked across the border and they saw the city of light and the beautiful landscape. It shows you that the next world is not going to be too much different from this one—only better. They also all testified to the brilliance of the colors. One woman said the city was a city of light, a sort of pale golden light, more beautiful than anything she had ever seen on earth (Revelation 21 and 22).
It so encouraged me to read this, to find out that so many other people have had the same experiences as me. Obviously his stories are from the people who came back, those who died and then were allowed to come back. So they must’ve been good folks headed in the right direction. I hope this will encourage you, to know a bit about what’s going to happen to you when you die.
(Prayer:) We thank You for this book, Lord, and how You’re trying everything You can to persuade people of the existence of the world of the spirit, the supernatural and the miraculous, and Your own existence. If all this exists, then they have to admit that You exist.
Thank You for how we can know that even when death comes, we’re going to be with You. That’s our release, and it’s not at all bad. There may be a moment of pain, but then we’re released and relieved and we have a wonderful life to live with You forever.—With eternal peace and joy and happiness and bliss and love and beauty forever.
So we shouldn’t fear death. No matter what happens, we shouldn’t fear it. If anything, in a way, it’s harder to live than it is to die. But we want to stay here and do what You want us to do and get our job done, before we’ll feel satisfied we’re finished and ready to go.
We only want to please You and finish what You’ve given us to do. We don’t want to have to face You with an unfinished task or things left undone that we should have done. Help us to finish all we can, so that when we see You, we will be thankful that we did the best we could and all we could, and receive Thy “well done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21).
“For when I was sick, ye visited me, and in prison ye visited me, and when hungry ye fed me, and when thirsty you gave me to drink” (Matthew 25:35–36). It will be such a joy, Lord. Because then we’ll all be so hungry and thirsty for the truth and Thy Word and the knowledge of it all.
Bless and keep us for Thy use as long as we’re needed in this world. Then take us to be with You forever! In Jesus’ name, amen. Are you ready?
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