Hell’s Bells, as my mother used to say. I met a man who survived a clinical death who told me he had been to hell. He is utterly terrified of dying again. What he experienced during those minutes of death was an eternity of agony. There was no unconditional loving being waiting for him to welcome him to a blissful forever.
It has puzzled me for years because all the books recording near death experiences tell of tunnels of light and scenes of indescribable beauty. They report a return to changed lives with no fear of future death. So I have always wondered.
I have wanted it to be so. I have wanted to believe the God I love would love in such a way as to forgive everyone and open heaven’s door wide in the end. I do not want to have to worry about loved ones who have rejected the message I hold dear of the need for a personal redeeming savior.
Then again, do I want to spend eternity with the likes of Ted Bundy, James Holmes, Hitler, or the sadistic sons of Saddam Hussein? In this life we need to believe that evil gets its due. If not, then why not anything goes? Why should I spend so much time living within moral boundaries if in the end it does not matter?
I found a doctor who has heard numerous stories of hell from revived clinically dead patients and has written to tell about it. Maurice S. Rawlings, M.D. was the personal physician for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which included Generals Marshall, Bradley, Patton and Eisenhower. No slouch here. In “To Hell and Back,” Rawlings chronicles his discoveries, including his own personal journey beyond the veil.
His fear is that we are all being duped into believing hell does not exist, that it is not real and only an Omega Point exists. To our rational minds the idea of a beautiful light at the end of a tunnel turning into the face of Lucifer and tricking souls into following him into hell sounds impossible. But then, rationally, so do tunnels of light and even an after-life sound bizarre. Yet a belief in an after-life has existed as long as humans have been alive, with multiple cultures even sending people off with possessions for the next world. People have always hoped it was so. No one wants to just cease to exist, after all.
So are there two doors, two tunnels, and two beings in the beyond? Is one a trick to soothe the soul and lull us into believing a lie? The Judeo-Christian tradition says, “yes.” It says Satan is the father of lies and his angel Lucifer is the “bearer of light’ who can appear as a beautiful woman at will. Jesus actually spent more time warning about hell than talking about heaven.
Each of us must decide about the reality of heaven and hell. We each are betting our life and all eternity on that decision. It is truly the last and greatest gamble we each make.
Evelyn King is a preaching elder at the Community Presbyterian Church with graduate work in values education from San Francisco Theological Seminary and a BA in psychology/social science. She is a past director of the Healy Senior Center and the facilitator of senior fitness exercise.