From a study on Hebrews 9:27.
There are great controversies in Christianity today about whether or not “near-death experiences” can happen. A near-death experience, from my understanding, is an experience a person has when they seem to have no breath in them and see to “another world” or into spiritual realities, possibly heaven or hell. Many people have said that these experiences turn them toward God or cause them to think about how they are living. These are very popular in the world today. According to Gallup, as of 1991, 5% of Americans had experienced a near-death experience. This number has almost certainly gone up in the last 16 years. The next two verses (Heb. 9:27-28), I feel, squelch any argument for these experiences. Now, I do not doubt the actual experience of any one person. Those visions and dreams can happen, but are they biblical? Are they a divine gift from God? Are they a tool of Satan to deceive people? The Scriptures should be our final source of truth.
The word “once” in Hebrews 9:27 is the Greek word hepax, which means “once, one time.” The author says very plainly right here: “And just as it is appointed for man to die once.” We only get one chance at life. Once breath runs out of us, we are dead, “and after that comes judgment.” This one verse would seem to shed light on these “experiences.” It would interpret those experiences as what they are: “near-death.” Not death. When a person’s heart stops, it doesn’t mean they have died. There are many examples in Scriptures about a person appearing “dead” but not really being dead (Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:39; Luke 8:52; Acts 9:40, 20:10).
A person cannot see the afterlife of heaven or hell and then go back. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is a prime example. In Luke 16, the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house to tell his family to change their ways of living, “lest they also come into this place of torment.” This seems like one of the “warnings” we hear from someone who just had a near-death experience. The rich man continued, “If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham replied, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” We see from Luke 16 that after the rich man died, he was in a place of judgment. Revelation 20:14 talks about the lake of fire-which is hell. This is called the “second death.” If someone were to die once, and then die finally, and then be thrown into hell, that would be three deaths! The arithmetic does not add up according to Scripture. Therefore, on the issue of “near-death experiences,” we must say that they may be dreams, visions, or hallucinations, but we cannot say that a real death has occurred in which a person has seen the gates of heaven or the fires of hell. Furthermore, in John 3:3, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you unless one is born-again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This verse tells us that unless you are a child of God and have a new life in Christ, you cannot even see the kingdom. So, it makes no sense that people who have had these experiences can say, “I saw the pearly gates” or “I was in heaven, talking with loved ones and Jesus.” It simply does not mesh with the word of God.