Can a Person Return From the Dead or From Heaven or Hell?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Maybe you’ve read accounts where some people claim to have come back from the dead, or return from heaven or hell, but is this biblical?

Keeping an Appointment

Maybe you’ve read accounts where some people claim to have come back from the dead, or return from heaven or hell, but is this biblical? The author of Hebrews writes, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). That says we have an appointment to die once…not twice or three times after going to or from heaven or hell. There is “a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted” (Eccl 3:2), and it’s all under God’s sovereign hand. He knew the very time of our beginning (at conception) and He knows the very second we breath our last breath. The psalmist knew that God “saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). Every single day is recorded in the book of life; a book that refers to the physical life of people. This is distinct from the book of life mentioned in Revelation where those who are in that book have eternal life; not just physical life.

Caught up to Paradise

The Apostle Paul had an experience where he may have went to heaven or Paradise, but even he wasn’t sure about it being in the body, mind or spirit. The only thing he knew for sure was he “was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows” (2 Cor 13:2). Speaking of himself, he wrote, “I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Cor 12:3-4). The Apostle Paul was the only one in the New Testament that went to Paradise and back (except for Lazarus), but he was not allowed to speak about the things he saw, so Paul possibly went to heaven and back (in mind or body), but he never wrote a best-seller book about it. And there’s no record of what Lazarus saw after he was raised from the dead by Jesus (John 11).  The fact is, hell has not even been opened for business yet (Rev 20:12-15; 21:8).


Accounts where people report going to heaven or going to hell and coming back are impossible to verify as true. The mind is still a mystery to scientists and strange things happen in the mind, even after death. There is evidence the mind tries to survive, but we are not sure of that. Many people give accounts where they were sure they were coming out of their bodies and seeing their own surgeries in some cases. They were able to recall specific details that they could not possibly have known otherwise, but these accounts are also impossible to verify. We often put too much weight on these accounts. For example, some were made into best-selling books or movies, but several of these have been exposed to be hoaxes. These kinds of stories sell a lot of books, but they have no real proof of these experiences. That is, there is no way to prove if what they wrote is true or not. We have to take their word for it, but Scripture we know is true! In many cases we’ve seen they’re simply a fabrication and trying to make money on them. The little boy who was supposed to have died and went to heaven, seeing people he couldn’t have known, was later found out to be a fraud, so be careful reading these accounts. We’re better off reading Scriptures about life after death like 1 Corinthians 15 and not from some movie or best-selling book. Jesus said people are not going to be convinced of the gospel, even if someone comes back from the dead (Luke 16:31), so what’s the point!

Present with the Lord

Bible Verses About HellThe Apostle Paul was confident about a lot of things, but especially about what happens after believers die. He boldly states, “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” (2 Cor 5:6). We can’t be in both places at the same time. We are either here on earth and God has plans for us, or He will take us home when our work here is finished; either way, “we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). Paul, like most believers, would love to be with the Lord right now, but our appointed day has not yet arrived (Heb 9:27), so we keep laboring for the Lord until He calls us home. I admit that I’d love to leave this dark, decaying, sin-sick world, but God is still giving me breath, so it’s not my time yet…at least at this writing. What this means is that when we die, we are instantly with the Lord. Bam! Just like that. There is no holding pattern or waiting period. It’s instantaneous! When we vacate this body, we will stand before Christ. It’s just that simple. Of course, that is true only if you’ve trusted in Christ. If not, that moment will be your day of judgment (Rev 20:12-15), and that won’t end well if you haven’t trusted in Christ (Rev 21:8).


I pray you don’t fall for these frauds who say they have been back from the dead or went to heaven or hell for a time. We cannot prove their story and it really doesn’t help the cause of Christ by proclaiming what Jesus said we should proclaim. We must share the gospel of repentance and faith (Mark 1:15), and seek after signs, miracles and wonders. That’s what an evil generation seeks after (Matt 12:39, 16:4; Luke 11:29). Jesus did promise the thief on the cross that he would be with Christ that very same day (Luke 23:43), the moment after he died, and He will be with you also at the very moment you pass from this life to the next. It may be that you may still be alive when Jesus comes. Jesus tells us all we need to know when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this” (John 11:25-26)? I hope you do believe this. Answering that question one way or the other seals your eternal destination and it is fixed forever more; either in the presence of the Lord or in utter darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth for time without end (Matt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30).

Here is some related reading for you: Can People Communicate with the Dead? A Christian Perspective

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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