death to life experiences

©2023 michael martin |

Death-to-Life Experiences

Sooner or later, everyone experiences death. But on some rare occasions, you might hear stories of people briefly dying, seeing some strange sights, and then coming back to life.

Some people have reported seeing bright lights, or visions of loved ones, or of what they believed was Heaven itself.

Do these "death-to-life" experiences happen? Not as a general rule. Scripture puts it this way:

Hebrews 9:27-28

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Scripture is clear that humans are meant to only die once, and then face the judgment of God. Of all the billions of people who live on this planet, and who have ever lived here, only the very smallest number of them have ever been raised back to life.

And yet, the Bible does show us that this is possible.

Death-to-Life Events in the Bible

In the Bible, we see ten recorded instances of people having died and being brought back to life by the power of God. The Bible shows us that this is possible. Let’s take a quick look at these examples:

The Widow’s Son

During a famine, a widow who lived in Zarapheth was expecting to die because there was no food. Elijah, the prophet of God came to her, and several miracles happened, including the death and resurrection of the widow’s son:

1 Kings 17:13-24

13 Elijah said to [the widow], "Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ "

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, "What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?"

19 "Give me your son," Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, "O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?" 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, "O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!"

22 The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, "Look, your son is alive!"

24 Then the woman said to Elijah, "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth."

The Shunammite’s Son

When a childless Shunammite woman showed kindness to Elisha, he prayed and she had a son. But the son suffered some sort of aneurysm in his head and died. That’s when God worked through Elisha to bring him back to life.

2 Kings 4:17-21 and 32-37

17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

18 The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 "My head! My head!" he said to his father.

His father told a servant, "Carry him to his mother." 20 After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.


32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy’s body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite." And he did. When she came, he said, "Take your son." 37 She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.

The Man in Elisha’s Grave

In this example, a dead man was thrown into the grave of Elisha the prophet. Upon coming into contact with Elisha’s bones, the dead man came back to life.

2 Kings 13:20-21

Elisha died and was buried.

Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

Jairus’ Daughter

Jairus, the synagogue ruler, had a sick daughter who died. Jesus raised her back to life.

Mark 5:35-43

While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?"

36 Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don’t be afraid; just believe."

37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." 40 But they laughed at him.

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means, "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The Young Man at Nain

In this example, Jesus touched the coffin of a deceased young man in Nain, and he came back to life.

Luke 7:11-15

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don’t cry."

14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.


After Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus, had been dead in a tomb for three days, Jesus raised him back to life just by calling out to him.

John 11:38-

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 "Take away the stone," he said.

"But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

40 Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

Numerous Saints during Jesus’ Crucifixion

As Jesus died on the cross, and as the curtain in the temple was being torn from top to bottom, there was a violent earthquake which caused rocks to split and tombs of many holy people were opened up. These once-dead saints were raised back to life and began to walk around.

Matthew 27:51-53

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

Jesus Himself

Of course, Jesus Himself was raised back to life on the third day after His death.

Matthew 28:1-6

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Tabitha (Dorcas)

When a woman of God passed away in Joppa, God worked through Peter to raise her back to life.

Acts 9:36-41

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas ), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38 Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come at once!"

39 Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

40 Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41 He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive.


One day as Paul was preaching at Troas, a young man named Eutychus was listening from a window on an upper floor. He fell asleep, fell out of the window, and died. God worked through Paul to raise him back to life.

Acts 20:7-12

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.

8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don’t be alarmed," he said. "He’s alive!" 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

What Happens when a Person Dies and Comes Back to Life?

All of the examples we’ve just seen have a couple of things in common.

All of Them were Raised to Life by the Power of God

First, we should remember that it was God’s power, and only God’s power, that raised these people back to life.

The Resurrections had a Purpose

Whenever someone was raised back to life, God had a purpose for it. Sometimes, it was an act of compassion on the deceased person’s family. Sometimes, it was so that the resurrected person could be a witness for Christ. And on all occasions, it showed the power of God over life and death.

The important thing to remember is that Scripture does not show people randomly raised back to life.

Can You Change Your Destiny?

This brings us to the primary question of this study. If a person dies and is later brought back to life, will they see whether they will end up in Heaven or in hell, and if so, can they change their destiny?

Let’s answer this question in two parts:

Can a Deceased and Resurrected Person See into Heaven or Hell?

The short answer is also the most honest. I don’t know.

The best hint that Scripture gives us comes from Stephen, who saw into Heaven as he was dying:

Acts 7:54-56

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

Clearly, Stephen saw into Heaven as he was dying, but does this mean that all saints (followers of Jesus) will see into Heaven as they die? I don’t think we can know that from this one example.

There have been a number of people who have died and claimed that they saw into Heaven or visited Heaven, or even talked with people in Heaven, but we have to be careful to remember some important things:

The Word of God is Paramount

If anyone who claims to have seen into Heaven or talked with anyone in Heaven shares a message that doesn’t match up with what we’ve already been told in the Bible, that cannot be trusted.

Neither God, nor Jesus, nor anyone else who is speaking for God will ever say anything that opposes what God has already told us in Scripture.

Galatians 1:8

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

Additionally, if any message that supposedly came from Heaven ignores part of the Bible, or adds teachings that aren’t already found in the Bible, we shouldn’t trust that either.

Revelation 22:18-19

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Yes, But Can You Change Your Destiny?

Okay, let’s finally get to the answer, which is actually very simple. If you’re alive on this earth, you have the opportunity to give your life to Christ. Whether you’ve died and been raised back to life has nothing to do with it.

If someone dies and thinks they saw into Heaven and then comes back to life, they still need to Jesus in order to be saved. Seeing into Heaven won’t save anyone. Only Jesus can do that!

And, if someone dies and sees into hell and then comes back to life, they aren’t stuck having to go to hell. Just like anyone else, they can be saved through Jesus!

The point is, if you’re here now, you have a chance to ask Jesus to save you.

John 14:6

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

But Don’t Count on that Chance Lasting Forever

So, with all these questions answered, the important thing to remember is this: Don’t wait! There will come a time when it will be too late to come to Jesus.

Once we die, if we haven’t given our lives to Jesus, it will be too late. You can’t expect to be brought back to life!

And, at the end of all days, when Jesus makes His final return to this earth, it will be too late for those who haven’t yet come to Jesus.

Right now, today, you have a chance to ask Jesus to save you from your sins. Right now, you can still make Jesus your Lord and Savior and be saved from your sins.

But we have no guarantee that we will have the chance next week, or tomorrow, or even later on today. We only have this moment. Don’t wait!

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,

"In the time of my favor I heard you,

and in the day of salvation I helped you."

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

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