The Bible’s answer
Many people who have come close to dying say that they recall being separated from their body or seeing a bright light or a place of great beauty. ‘Some consider the experience to be a privileged glimpse of another realm of existence,’ states the book Recollections of Death. Although the Bible doesn’t mention such near-death experiences, it does contain a fundamental truth that shows that they are not visions of the next life.
The dead are unconscious.
The Bible says that the dead “are conscious of nothing at all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) At death we pass, not into another plane of existence or thinking, but into nonexistence. The teaching that we have an immortal soul that survives after our body dies does not come from the Bible. (Ezekiel 18:4) Thus, any memories from a near-death experience cannot be glimpses of heaven, hell, or the afterlife.
What did Lazarus say about an afterlife?
The Bible’s account of Lazarus describes an actual death experience: He was resurrected by Jesus after being dead for four days. (John 11:38-44) If Lazarus had been enjoying some form of afterlife, it would have been cruel of Jesus to bring him back to life on earth. However, the Bible records no comments from Lazarus about the afterlife. Surely Lazarus would have spoken about his afterlife experience if he had had one. Significantly, Jesus described Lazarus’ death as being like sleep, indicating that while Lazarus was dead, he was conscious of nothing at all.—John 11:11-14.