To Hell And Back (A Book Review by Dan Corner)
Maurice S. Rawlings, M.D. documents his findings as a cardiologist who witnesses or participates in the resuscitations of many near-death victims, even mentioning his own “glimpse of glory,” as he calls it, after a severe heart attack.
Although he veers off into various related topics such as the New Age, drug-induced, out-of-the-body experiences and alien abductions, he presents many stirring testimonies of people who caught a glimpse of Heaven or Hell and were brought back to life to tell about it.
One such riveting account is a near-death victim’s description of his experience in Hell:
I was guided to the place in the spirit world called Hell. This is a place of punishment for all those who reject Jesus Christ. I not only saw Hell, but felt the torment that all who go there will experience.
The darkness of Hell is so intense that it seems to have a pressure per square inch. It is an extremely black, dismal, desolate, heavy, pressurized type of darkness. It gives the individual a crushing, despondent feeling of loneliness.
The heat is a dry, dehydrating type. Your eyeballs are so dry they feel like red hot coals in their sockets. Your tongue and lips are parched and cracked with the intense heat. The breath from your nostrils as well as the air you breathe feels like a blast from a furnace. The exterior of your body feels as though it were encased within a white hot stove. The interior of your body has a sensation of scorching hot air being forced through it.
The agony and loneliness of Hell cannot be expressed clearly enough for proper understanding to the human soul; it has to be experienced (p. 75).
The above account is somewhat credible since it parallels to some degree the Biblical account of Lazarus and the rich man in Lk. 16:19-31, and the blackest darkness described in 2 Pet 2:17 and Jude 13.
On the upside, one of the most inspiring and beautiful experiences was of a godly woman waiting for death while her minister quietly read to her from the Bible. Although her eyes were tightly closed, she asked him to stop reading and turn down the bright lights. When he told her the lights were not on, she asked him to turn down the blinds, as the sun was too bright. Then she opened her eyes and exclaimed,
“I see Him! He’s here! See His hands! See the Heavenly hosts! They’re all here—Majesty unutterable! The most glorious morning of my life.”
She didn’t know that it was a dark, rainy day when the Lord came to take her home to glory (p. 105).
But then, on the other hand, experiences that are clearly antithetical to Scripture can also be found, as Maurice Rawlings mentions, such as the following:
One gunshot victim saw a nice, beautiful place and wondered why “the light” never asked him about the two murders he had committed during a robbery. He knew he should be in Hell, but reasoned: why knock a good thing (pp. 61, 62)! Since the Bible is true from cover to cover, then this man was profoundly deceived by his experience, which could not be of God, because there will be no unrepentant murderers in Heaven (Rev. 21:8; 22:15).
Another man claims that as he headed toward the being of light at the end of the tunnel, the light and tunnel walls soon turned into blazing fire as he passed by. Others report the Heavenly light turns into a foreboding ring of fire (p. 73).
There are several other disturbing statements in this work such as Maurice Rawlings’ own “conversion” experience! It supposedly occurred after a Catholic priest asks him if he has ever been in the presence of God. The priest “mumbles” Scriptures and prays for about an hour, bringing about the realization of Maurice Rawlings’ insignificance (pp. 236,237). According to Scripture, salvation of souls came after hearing the true gospel preached. Hence, Jesus told us to preach the gospel to the unsaved. Also, no priest in good standing with Mother Rome could present the real salvation message, since it is forbidden and denied. Therefore, one must question this type of experience and conversion testimony, too!
Maurice Rawlings also mentions that some dying Christians see the Virgin Mary (p. 100). Sorry—there is not a shred of Scriptural evidence to back this up! According to Jesus, Mary has no exalted role (Matt. 12:48-50; Lk. 11:27,28).
Eternal security is also implied as truth by Maurice Rawlings’ words,
“… As a child of God …. As one of his children …. I will never lose this identity” (p. 238).
In contrast, the Scriptures reveal that our security is conditional. Somehow, then, Maurice Rawlings himself was deceived about the believer’s security, either before or after he gathered material for his book.
Maurice Rawlings’ belief in eternal security is bolstered when he relates the near-death story of a “Christian-turned-cold” toward God after his fervent prayers for a loved one not to die go unanswered. The man sees an old man in a glowing, white robe who checks to see if his name is in a book and tells him he may go on through the doorway. He sees a brilliantly lit city with roads of gold and a large building radiating blinding light where God is supposed to be (pp. 55,56). Sounds good, but sad to say, this doesn’t line up with the Scriptures, since God rejects those who reject him (1 Chron. 28:9; Matt. 10:33; Lk. 10:16; Jn. 3:36; 1 Thess. 4:8; etc.). What a terrifying deception this is! The man obviously did not endure in the faith to the end of his life and disowned God with his statement that,
“God is as deaf as a stone idol. He has no use for me, nor I for him.” Does God accept into Heaven all who once knew Him? No—“he who has the Son of God has life” (1 Jn. 5:12).
This man can come back to God through repentance, but this wasn’t indicated!
According to Maurice Rawlings, other authors such as Raymond Moody, Kenneth Ring and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross claim many more positive experiences than negative, generally refusing to acknowledge alarming confessions of which they may be aware. This would most certainly sell more books in a country where God’s truths are generally despised and where the positive is emphasized to the exclusion of the negative.
How can we discern whether an experience was really a glimpse of Heaven, or a deception of Satan? The only standard of truth by which to judge anything is God’s Word, forever settled (Ps. 119:89; Matt. 24:35; 2 Tim. 3:16,17). Does the person’s story complement or contradict the Scriptures? But more specifically, is the Biblical plan of salvation presented? Remember Gal. 1:8-10.
Maurice Rawlings mentions that, statistically, only 40% of ministers preach Hell and 70% of all clergy deny the very doctrine. It’s interesting to note that he claims that Martin Luther and John Calvin viewed Hell’s punishments as “eternal” but “figurative,” defined mainly as an ostracism from God (pp. 70,71).
In conclusion, all are not automatically accepted by a loving God, despite their beliefs or what kind of lives they lived. Jesus said we must be “born again” (Jn. 3:7) and endure to the end to be saved (Matt. 10:22). Also, Scripture does not teach that after one’s death there is a wonderful, warm light at the end of a tunnel waiting to welcome anyone, even those who have truly turned from their sins and placed their trust in the Lamb! We can, however, be assured of this: To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), that is, if we are Scripturally saved at the time of death. Furthermore, to be in His presence is “better by far” (Phil. 1:23) than any life we could now have.
Dan Corner is a former Roman Catholic and the author of The Believer’s Conditional Security, an exhaustive refutation of eternal security, as well as many other books, booklets and articles of interest to the Christian community. Details about his conversion testimony and books are available on-line.