Journalist Heather Tomlinson highlights a number of people whose lives were transformed following a near-death experience
When Howard Storm closed his eyes during an excruciating deadly illness, he fully expected his life to end. A committed atheist, he treated people who were religious with contempt. “I thought they believed in fairy tales because they couldn’t cope with the harsh reality of life,” he explained in his book My Descent into Death.
Instead, what followed was shocking and deeply traumatising. He experienced consciousness outside of his body, but his new being was led away by shadowy figures into a dark, empty void. He was brutally attacked and violated by people he described as “the worst imaginable person stripped of every impulse of compassion”.
He kept hearing a quiet voice amidst the horror: “Pray to God”. Eventually he agreed and muttered garbled mixtures of barely remembered childhood notions of prayer. To his relief, even the mention of God forced his tormentors to leave – but he was left in a dark, meaningless void, which prompted a humbling reckoning with the selfish and materialistic life he had led on Earth. An old childhood song kept returning: “Jesus loves me, this I know.” He decided to call out to the one he had rejected for so long.
A dramatic and powerful encounter with Jesus followed. “I experienced love in such intensity that nothing I had ever known before was comparable,” he wrote. “He was indescribably wonderful: goodness, power, knowledge, and love. He was more loving than one can begin to imagine or describe. Jesus did indeed love me.”
Howard came back to Earth with a radical change of heart. He read many religious texts to learn more about God, but only the Bible spoke to him. He refocused his life on trying to help other people. Eventually he left his successful job as a professor of art in a university, and served as a pastor in a small church in Ohio for many years before retiring.
You can find out more about Howard’s story here.
Heidi was raised in an orthodox Jewish home in the US, although her parents were atheist and believed Jesus was the “biggest hoax ever perpetrated on mankind”. She believed in God herself, but had a difficult childhood, and even prayed to God that he would kill her.
When still a teenager, she was crushed by a horse and felt that she left her body. A “golden light” appeared along with a man she knew was Jesus. “I can’t remember every single thing we said but all I know is he is funny, he is joy, he is love, he is everything good in the Universe,” she said in an interview with Jews for Jesus.
Heidi was given a life review, a common experience in near-death experiences (NDE) (see ‘What is a near-death experience and what can it teach us’ article). She realised her actions had affected other people and that this was very important to God.
Jesus was very upset about an incident when her 10-year-old self called a boy “shrimpy”. “If you do good it lasts forever but if you do bad that lasts forever too,” she said. “You have to be aware that God is watching…in every way sin is real.”
She was taken to a paradise-like place, where even the blades of grass were praising God. But Jesus told her she had not died and she must go back, which she did not want to do. Back in the hospital, she was faced with denial from her parents and those around her, but the experience changed her life.
“After I died I knew Jesus was with me, I knew he was with me every step of the way…no matter what happened,” she said. “It helps me get through bad things, it helps me appreciate good things.”
You can hear more from Heidi here.
Ian was a carefree Kiwi, enjoying travelling, diving and a modern, hedonistic lifestyle. In the sea off the coast of Mauritius, he was stung multiple times by the deadly box jellyfish. A battle for his life ensued, and while conscious he had spiritual experiences of being asked to forgive, before passing through a dark, hellish place of “intense evil” towards a powerful and moving experience of Jesus. He was told a number of things that he later discovered were in the Bible, such as “God is light”.
At the same time this was happening, his Christian mother had woken up from sleep and been told to pray for her son.
McCormack told the 700 club: “I cried like a child as waves of love and acceptance came into me,” he said. “[I told Jesus], I’ve cursed you I’ve slept around, [taken] drugs…and more and more of his love, and he showed me that all my sins had been forgiven.”
Jesus said he would have to change his life when he came back to Earth, and help others to find God. He found himself lying on a mortuary slab covered in a sheet, as doctors had given up on trying to revive him.
He eventually became a Christian pastor, serving in Kings Gate Church in London and speaking all over the world about his experience.
Read more about Ian here.
Santosh was a grandfather with conservative Hindu beliefs when he had a brush with death. Feeling that he knew he was dying due to gall bladder complications, he had an experience of the afterlife that did not chime with his understanding of reincarnation.
He found himself at the entrance of heaven, which he perceived to have only one entrance. He could also see the alternative: a terrifying and dark hell-like place. He was frightened and begged God for mercy. God communicated with him and told him that he must love his family, and that religion was not important, but instead the authenticity of his relationship with God. Santosh persisted in asking questions, and God gave him five instructions, including to care for the poor, to surrender all to God, and not to sin.
When Santosh felt himself back in his body, it took some time to heal, and he began to search for a spiritual path, eventually adopting the Christian faith and speaking widely about his NDE.
Get access to exclusive bonus content & updates: register & sign up to the Premier Unbelievable? newsletter!
As a stockbroker and a fan of extreme sports, Mickey Robinson did not pay attention to spiritual things. But that changed after a plane crash that gave him life-changing and life-threatening burns all over his body. While battling for his life in hospital, he had a powerful NDE that began with a terrifying experience of hell that caused him to cry out to God: “I looked into something that was blacker than the blackest black…I also was aware that it was an abyss, it was a bottomless pit of endlessness,” he said in an interview posted on YouTube. “I instantly knew that if a person would go in there they would be super conscious, but forever they would be cut off from the source of all life.”
He experienced mercy and had an equally powerful but radically positive experience of heaven and the “river of life” that he later found in the Bible: “Everything that river touches comes completely alive, everything that river touches is completely clean, everything that river touches erases anything negative,” he said in the same interview. “There’s nothing allowed to be in God’s present presence but love, beauty and glory. Everything…that I saw is alive and all of it worships God out of love and out of pleasure and out of response to who he is, because everything in heaven is like him.”
Back in his body and after significant medical intervention, he searched for meaning in psychology and spiritual writings and “Jesus kept coming up”. He later led a charismatic Christian ministry.
Find out more about Mickey here.
Heather Tomlinson is a freelance journalist. You can find her on twitter @HeatherTomli or through her blog http://www.heathert.org