Question:

I have recently seen a video on YouTube that took quotes from people who had near-death-experiences and had apparently "been" to
Hell. And what they said about it just seems to me like it couldn't be. How could God let anyone, good or bad, be made to have that much pain for all eternity? (The guy who made the videos is someone I look up to, he is quite amazing.)

Another thing, when I was around 3 or 5 I was baptized, does this mean I'm saved? If not, how can I save myself?


Answer:

Job once asked a rhetorical question, "If a man dies, shall he live again?" (Job 14:14). The answer to that question is "No." "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Therefore, we start with a fundamental truth: in general people only die once. There have been a few exceptions when God raised a few people from the dead, but that is why what happened is called a miracle. This isn't the way the universe works. People die and don't return to life.

Then what about these reports of people who died and then brought back to life? The obvious conclusion is that the people were not as dead as those around them supposed. That they were near death would be a given, but using the Bible as a guide, we would conclude that they had not actually died.

What about the things reported in near death experiences? Many doctors have noted that reports of near death experiences are very similar to how patents report feeling while under anesthesia ["Correspondence," pages 5-6]. If we add in the fact that all of us experience strange things while unconscious in sleep -- sometimes feeling very real when we awake, then remains possible that these experiences are not actual experiences of life after death. There is no reason then to doubt what God said about death in His Word. Therefore, none of the reported claims of witnessing Hell are of any worth religiously.

There is another problem. The Bible states that when we die we go to a waiting place. It is called sheol (the grave) in the Old Testament and hades in the New Testament.

"There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.' Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead'" (Luke 16:19-31).

Jesus tells us that there is a place of waiting. It is divided into two sections: one called torments, here in this passage, and the other is called paradise (Luke 23:43). These places are not the final stop for man, but serve as the place to wait until the judgment. Jesus now holds the keys to death and hades (Revelation 1:18). When he returns, he will open up the grave. "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth -- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29). And here in lies the problem: No one will be sent to hell until after the judgment. In describing the Judgment scene, the Lord says, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). Satan and his followers are not yet in hell. The Judgment has not yet occurred. That is why we must deal is Satan and his temptations while on earth. Thus, what people claim to have seen and experienced while near-death contradicts what God says actually exists.

But is hell a place of eternal punishment? Jesus said it is. "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:46). If you claim that hell isn't eternal, then you are say that heaven isn't eternal. If you say hell isn't a punishment, then you are saying that heaven isn't life. See: What is Hell Like? Please note that this is based on what God said Hell is like and not the suspect accounts of people.

Baptism washes away sins (Acts 22:16). What sins did you commit when you were less than five years old? Did you even understand what sins were? Even when a child does wrong, God does not hold that wrong against them because they are not old enough to understand. An example of this is when the Israelites rebelled against God and would not enter the land of promise. "Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it" (Deuteronomy 1:39). Yet, to be saved from sin God requires a person to repent of their sins and be baptized. "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

Prior to baptism also comes faith. "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Children readily trust, but the type of faith talked about in the Bible is a purposeful choice to trust God. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). A small child doesn't comprehend what they are to trust in.

Somewhere along the journey to adulthood this changes. A child realizes that he is responsible for his decisions. With that realization comes accountability. See: The Age of Accountability for more details.

In a very real sense, no one can save themselves. All the righteous deeds we might do will not make up for the fact that we all sin. However, God in His mercy offers salvation to men if they will do as He commanded. Following those commands do not earn a person salvation, they are merely the conditions God placed on the gift He is offering. See: What Must I Do to be Saved? and What Saves a Person?