Monday, March 20, 2000

Lutheran Afterlife

Lutheran Afterlife
            Regardless of man's willingness to live, or the advancement in medicine, all of us will someday succumb to death's calling.  If one believes that God created the world; would not the same loving God, also take care of mankind, by giving eternal life after death to those who believe in Him?  The Lutheran church synods Biblical understanding is that a death is not a termination or ending of a person, but a transitional experience.  Namely, death is the separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body until Judgment Day; at which time, the soul is reunited with the imperishable body through God's creation  (Kinnamon, S.A., 2010, pg. 59, 62) (Engelbrecht, E.A., 2010, pg. 548) (1 Corinithians 15:42-44 English Standard Version).
            From a Lutheran's stance, this paper will explain the nature of the Lutheranism and how
the previous stated Lutheran's ideology of death and the afterlife compare and differ with the Catholic's ideology and the Islamic ideology.  Additionally, the paper will also address the following:  How does the Bible portray death?  Does it explain death as eternal 'sleep' for both body and soul until Judgment Day or does it interpret death as a separation between body and soul?  Furthermore, is it possible that the testimonials (chosen in the paper) from those who have witnessed their personal near-death experience, might also be a foretell glimpse of life after death (Kinnamon, S.A., 2010, pg. 59, 62)?
Martin Luther
            Like other emerging Christian faiths that have since capture the essence of Christianity, The Lutheran religion, emerged from the sixteen-century Protestant Reformation movement.  Martin Luther (1483-1546), a German Catholic monk, theologian, and a Professor at the University of Wittenburg, became the catalysis for the Protestant Reformation. Luther studied the Bible extensively.  Luther soon came to the epiphany,  that in order to receive salvation, it was not by merits or good work, but is received  divinely by God's “grace through faith” alone (Ephesians 2: 8-9 , ESV)  (Kinnamon, S.A., 2010, pg.168) (Bucher, R. P., Dr., 2014, What was the Lutheran Reformation).
            Historically, it was common practice, during Luther's time, for the Catholic church to sell (merits) paper indulgences (stating sins are forgiven) for a cost, in exchange for good works and acts of piety. Each certificate of indulgence secures “temporal punishment” (Bucher, R. P., Dr., 2014, Facts about the 95 Theses).   An indulgence is a suspension of the temporal punishment for sin in purgatory. It can used for oneself or for one who has recently died and may be in purgatory.  (Indulgences, 2014). It does not replace confession, which is done beforehand. Indulgences did not become a real issue until Pope Leo X started using plenary indulgence to finance the building of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome in 1517.  In this case, the plenary indulgence meant “all sin and eternal and temporal punishment would be forgiven” (Bucher, R. P., Dr., 2014, Facts about the 95 Theses).  Unfortunately, there were some in the church who took advantage of the poor by selling these indulgences. One person, especially guilty, was a Dominican monk, named John Tetzel.  According to tradition in the day, the advertising jingle went like this:  “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from the fires of purgatory springs” (Moltmann, J., 1998, pg. 45)  (Pfingsten, M., 2014) (Kinnamon, S.A., 2010, pg. 167).
            Pope Leo X usage of indulgences as a fund raiser did become a profitable means for the church to pay for its building project; however, this misuse of indulgences did not sit well with Luther. The selling of indulgences for money became so repugnant, that Luther wrote the Ninety-five Theses.  Subsequently, it led to the beginning of the Reformation on October, 31, 1517. As a customary practice of his age, Luther nailed or posted his Ninety-five Thesis on the Wittenburg's Castle Church door in order to provoke an academic debate. Luther never intended to leave the Church. Thus, in hope in reforming the church doctrine, he made copies of his thesis and mailed them to local priests. The Ninety-five Theses disclosed the Roman Catholic Church error in its thoughts, teachings, and practices on indulgence ( Bucher, R. P., Dr., Facts about the 95 Theses, 2014) (Pfingsten, M., 2014).
            There were a few main purposes of the Ninety-five Theses. First, the focus of the church is no longer represented by God, but by men who served the church.  Second, people should not need a mediator to speak to God.  It should be between the individual and God.  Third, grace should be free to all and not limited to those who purchase indulgence.  Fourth, the Pope of the church also has the responsibility to be involved outside the church in order to meet the needs of the suffering and needy.  Fifth, the church's laws and rules apply only to the living, not to those in purgatory.  Last, salvation does not come from merits and good deeds, but by the divine grace of God through faith (Bucher, R. P., Dr., The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, 2014) (Pfingsten, M., 2014).
            The advent of the era's printing press allowed individuals, who were like-minded in Luther's quest to more easily convey the Church's objectionable conduct. Over weeks and months, Luther's Ninety-five Theses circulated throughout Germany and all parts of Europe. In 1521, Martin Luther was excommunicated and was accused of heresy. Later that same year at the Diet of Worms, Charles V declared Luther as a condemned man because he did not renounce his teachings; however, Luther was supported and protected from harm by the princes of Saxony who believed in him. Over the course of several years, Luther translated the Bible in German and started his own church (1526 AD) (Bucher, R. P., Dr., The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, 2014) (Pfingsten, M., 2014).
Personal Review
This paper believes that Marin Luther was an amazing man of integrity and who did not compromise away his belief in the Scriptures for the Catholic Church.   Luther's fateful break from the Church originated from his own crisis, a consuming struggle concerning the meaning of salvation.   He did not set out to start the Protestant Reformation or fracture the unity of Christianity, but only to denounce certain teachings and practices of the Church.  Thus, after intense rereading and studying the Bible, Luther came to the final conclusion, that man's inward justification by faith alone in God, is the only means to salvation, not by works or merits or anything external. Ninety-Five Theses was the unintentional 'fuel' that started the 'fire' for the Reformation movement. As a result, the Protestant Reformation radically liberated man from the spiritual and authoritarian powers dominated by the Catholic Church. 
            This paper also has the view that the sixteen-century Catholic Church mistreated and terrorized  individual souls in order to gain earthly and political power.  Specifically, the Church practice in offering 'indulgences' to sinners seeking suspension of the pains of purgatory in the consideration of 'gifts' made to the Church.  It was Luther's reiteration from the Bible, that salvation was given by God to man through 'justification by faith alone', 'grace alone', and Scriptures alone'.  As a Lutheran, salvation is given basically as an inward gift, a spiritual hidden region, dependent on no human power, but completely on God's word.
Augsburg Confession
            In 1530, Emperor Charles V wanted to reunite Christians back to the pope, in order to enhance his imperial military capability against any invasion from the Turks.  As a result, he invited the Lutheran princes and theologians to attend an Imperial Assembly in the city of Augsburg. In the eyes of the Church, Luther was still an outlaw and a heretic. For this reason, Luther wanted representation, so he sent his close comrade Philip Melanchthon to the meetings.  Assisted by Luther, Melanchthon became the primary author of the Augsburg Confession, the written 'confession' that came from the 'heart' of Martin Luther's beliefs.  The Augsburg Confessions also became the “Hallmark of Lutheran belief[s]” that encapsulated two essential teachings:  First, all doctrines from the Lutheran church are from the Scriptures. Second, the most important teaching in the Bible is the justification by faith in God (Bucher, R. P., Dr., The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, 2014).                                                            
            From the time of Luther's Reformation in 1517, until the Europeans started migrating to America, Lutherans denomination had taken hold in Europe as a the oldest “Protestant” religion in Europe (Kinnaman, S. A., Lane, L. L., & Arand, C. P., 2010, pg. 170).  To be more precise, Protestant means “protest”. 'The word Protestantism represents several Christian denominations who differ in the beliefs and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church (Kinnaman, S. A., Lane, L. L., & Arand, C. P., 2010, pg. 170). The word 'Lutheran' came from the opponents of Martin Luther. The followers (those who believed in Luther's teachings from the Bible) were the first Protestants who launch a protest against the decision made by the Diet of Speyer (1529).  The Imperial decision was to make it unlawful for any Lutheran teachings to occur within the Holy Roman Empire (Lutheranism, 2014).  Thus, the conflict became so sizable that Luther's followers decided to be the first Protestants to form a separate “evangelical church”, which later was named the Lutheran church (Kinnaman, S. A., Lane, L. L., & Arand, C. P., 2010, pg. 170).
Personal Views
The Augsburg Confession, on June 25, 1530, signifies not only the birth of the Lutheran denomination, but also the Biblical-base confession in what the Lutheran Church believes and teaches.  As a Lutheran, the Augsburg Confession is very meaningful.  As mention before, in 1530, the Protestant reformers had the opportunity to state their Biblical convictions and defend their belief and practices to Emperor Charles V.   Prior to this date (June 25, 1530) one might be considered either a pagan or a member of Catholic Church.  Hence fourth, embedded in the Augsburg Confession of Faith's twenty-eight articles, (which is also this author's own Lutheran church teachings) are the meanings to three important 'alone' words:    'Scripture alone', 'faith alone', 'grace alone'.  Essentially, the Augsburg Confession has given this author 'free-will' to believe that the word of God is the sole rule and norm, as well as, strengthens one's life and faith.        
Lutheran Church Synods
            So, what makes one Lutheran different from another? In America, the Lutheran church has designed itself around what is called synods (walking together) for like-minded religious reasons.  Countless Lutheran church bodies have experience a display of mergers, splits, and reconciliations through the years.   Their positions on particular key doctrinal issues are significant signs as to whether their respective church bodies are conservative, moderate or liberal.  Two of the major issues that divided many American Lutherans are “theological liberalism and biblical inerrancy” (Kinnaman, S. A., Lane, L. L., & Arand, C. P., 2010, pg 190).  Although there are several smaller Lutheran synods or church bodies in the U.S.A., this paper will focus on the three main Lutheran synods: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) (Kinnaman, S. A., Lane, L. L., & Arand, C. P., 2010, pg 190). 
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 
            The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (liberal/ Evangelical) was established in 1988. It has the largest Lutheran body.  The synod was created through the merging of three synods, the American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America. The church believes in grace alone (not works), faith alone, (salvation through faith), and Scriptures alone. However, this church does use historical critique in interpreting the Bible; thereby,   allows for possible “errors and cultural limitations” in the Bible (Lutheranism, 2014) (Brug, J. F., Fredrich, E. C., & Schuetze, A. W., 1995,  pg. 53-56, 81). 
     This paper believes that all the Bible errors are caused by artificial gender neutral language in the NRSV translation that doesn’t exist in the ESV translation. This gender neutral language also appears in the NIV 2011 edition which is why the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod will not update to the NIV 2011 edition. WELS may switch to the ESV translation like LCMS had done.  Lutheran scripture normally does not allow exceptions to natural law. Luther’s Small Catechism specifically states a marriage is between a man and woman and no gays and lesbians. ELCA also uses Historical Criticism, because Gary Simpson wrote a Critical Theory book for Augsburg Fortress. I am affiliated with the ELCA, because it is the largest Lutheran senate and was introduced to Lutheranism from a now defunct predecessor synod. All the villages in St. Croix County, Wisconsin only chose ELCA churches and its cities have multiple ELCA churches.
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
            The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (moderate-conservative/confessional) became a synod in 1847, congregated by Saxon and German immigrants.  It is the second largest synod. Unlike the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has grown from within, and not from any merging.  The church also believes in grace alone (not works), faith alone (salvation through faith), and Scriptures alone.  The church views Scriptures as literal and without error (inerrant) (Brug, J. F., Fredrich, E. C., & Schuetze, A. W., 1995, pg. 22) (Lutheranism, 2014).
           I own the ELCA’s NRSV Lutheran Study Bible and the ESV Lutheran Study Bible, and found that the ESV Lutheran Study Bible had more information in it.  The NRSV Lutheran Study Bible’s study notes seemed sparse in comparison with worse Goodreads reader reviews and rating. The Lutheran Church Missouri synod is closer to the Lutheran Church of the mid-20th century when Lutheran churches were confessional and the King James Bible was popular. The ESV Lutheran Study Bible is a lot more detailed on notes, history, archeology, introductions.  Concordia Publishing House has published superior Christian books over Augsburg Fortress. The LCMS is the only significant Lutheran Church with an Apocrypha (ESV translation) volume. LCMS is the only synod with Law and Gospel book. LCMS also publishes conservative politics books for clergy to counterbalance the ELCA political books.
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
            The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (most conservative/confessional) is the third largest synod. The church dates itself back to 1828 as a United Rhine Mission Society in Germany.  The development of the church in America was by a German mission society representative name John Muehlhaeuser in 1850.  Their pledge in their church is “pure Bible Christianity”, in meaning, the inerrant Bible, the creeds, and the Lutheran Confessions (Brug, J. F., Fredrich, E. C., & Schuetze, A. W., 1995, pg 22).
        I believe that WELS is the strictest pure Bible synod where dancing is frown upon. My father grew up in a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod for 20 years and he did not like it.  The WELS uses the conservative New International Version 1984 Bible translation, and members are not allowed to join Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts in their church. WELS does not allow communion with Catholics like the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.  I like the English Standard Version more than NIV 1984, because the ESV translators at Crossway used the Internet research to compile this translation.
Personal View
Although this author's family has had relationships with all three major Synods, this author’s beliefs are more in line with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod theological teachings where the Bible is God's own word and truth (inerrancy).
The Bible Stance on Death and Afterlife
            So what is the Bible's stance on death and afterlife?   The Bible does report the cases of seven people who were raised from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24, ESV; 2 Kings 4:25-37, ESV; Luke 7:11-15; 8:41-56, ESV; Acts 9:36-41; 20:9-11, ESV), but none of them, apart from Jesus, shared their afterlife experience in the Scriptures.  All the same, Romans 5:12 in the Bible, reminds Christians that the main cause of death is sin.  When Adam and Eve rebelled against God they died spiritually.  Physical-temporal death was their ultimate penalty (Genesis 3:17-19, ESV). Subsequently, Adam's and Eve's sins subjected all creatures to 'death', 'decay' and the 'return' to 'dust'. Any medical person can describe what happens to a person at death, but they are only speaking about the physical body (Engelbrecht, E., & Baker, R. C., 2010, pg. 545-546).
            So is death the end of existence?  Not according to Matthew 10:28 , ESV and Luke 12:20 , ESV.    Lutheran's believes, that upon death, the “separation of the soul from the body” does occur (Engelbrecht, E., & Baker, R. C., 2010, pg 546).   At time of death, believer’s soul goes with God until the Second Coming, at which time will be resurrected (Brug, J. F., Fredrich, E. C., & Schuetze, 1995, pg 81) (What Lutherans Believe, 2014). In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, ESV, death of a believer is described by God's word as “asleep”.  In contrast, Proverbs 11:7, ESV describes the death of unbeliever as the loss of hope  (Engelbrecht, E., & Baker, R. C. , 2010, pg 546).   
            Luther's imagery of the state of death is described as a dreamless sleep, vacant of time, space, or consciousness. When the dead are raised by God, the resurrection will be on God's time, not man's.
Luther's imaginary of death proceeds as follows:  “We shall sleep until He comes and knocks on our little grave, saying:  'Dr. Martin, get up! Then I shall rise up in a moment and shall be eternally merry with Him'” (Moltmann, J., 1998, pg. 46-47).  God's time between death and the road to salvation, may also be like what Apostle Paul exclaims: “Suddenly, as a twinkling of the eye” (I Corinthians 15:52 , ESV) (Moltmann, J., 1998, pg. 48) (Jakoblich, J., 2013).
Catholic Church
            From the beginnings of Christianity, the only church that existed was described as universal, meaning assembly of believers or followers of Christ.  In the Bible, Jesus was the first to reference a church in Matthew 16:17-19. Jesus asks the disciples who do you think I am?  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17-19, ESV).
            The Hebrew reading of Peter means 'rock'. According to the Catholic Church's interpretation associating Peter as the 'rock', is that it implies that Apostle Peter was the base or foundation to their church, as well as, their authoritarian over the church.  On the other hand, Lutherans as well as other Christian denominations, may debate that the inference of 'rock' refers not to Peter per say, but as a 'rock' to Peter's confessional faith.  Peter's testimony “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” can be related to anyone who confesses that Jesus is the Lord and can be a member of His church (Comparison of Christian Denominations' Beliefs, 2013)(Lutheranism, 2014).
          This paper also has the view that the sixteen-century Catholic Church exploited and terrorized the individual souls in order to gain earthly and political power.  Specifically, the Church practice in offering 'indulgences' to sinners seeking suspension of the pains of purgatory in the consideration of 'gifts' made to the Church.  It was Luther's concept that God's grace to man for salvation was by 'justification by faith alone', grace alone, and scriptures alone.  As a Lutheran, salvation is basically inward, a spiritual hidden region, dependent on no human power, but completely on God's word.
            The doctrine of purgatory is not taught in the Lutherans religion.  Purgatory is a Catholic belief.  Purgatory is a process of purification after death to achieve holiness necessary to enter the perfection of heaven.  The intermediate period after death is simply a transitional state for those who have deserved heaven but still have aspects of their souls that are not yet fully purified (Jakoblich, J., 2013).
            Additionally, this is how Father William Saunders articulately describes the purgatory: “In a sense our soul is like a lens, when we sin, we cloud the lens; it gets dirty and we lose the focus of God in our lives. Through confession and penance, God cleanses the "lens" of our soul. When we die, if we live this life fundamentally loving God, dying in His grace and friendship, and free of mortal sin, we will have eternal salvation and attain the beatific vision, we will see God for who He is. If we die with venial sins or without having done sufficient penance for our sins, God in His love, mercy and justice will purify our souls, "cleanse the lens" so to speak. After such purification, the soul will then be united with God in heaven and enjoy the beatific vision” (Saunders, W., Fr. , 1995).
            The religion of Islam is one of the youngest world religions and third monotheistic (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) religion in the Arabia.  The word Islam means 'peace'/'salam' in Arabic or 'submission' (Arabic meaning of Muslim: a person who submits to the will of God).  All Muslims use the phrase “peace be upon him” and abbreviated “pbuh” after a prophet's name.  This is regarded as respect. (Islam, 2014)(History of Islam, 2014).
            Islam was founded by the Prophet Muhammad in around 622 CE.  The story of Muhammad starts at the age forty (in 610 CE.) when he had his first vision in the cave on Mount Hira.  Muhammad thought he was possessed by a demon. He shares the event to his wife (an elder by fifteen years) and she shares the story to her uncle (a converted Christian). The uncle informs Muhammad that the vision did not come from a demon but God. Hence, Muhammad rejected any idol worship in Mecca and became a believer in one true god called Allah,'One True God'  (What is Islam, 2014).
Islam Beliefs
    The Islam religion does not believe Jesus is the Son of God nor the trinity, but a prophet.  The religion has the understanding that Jesus did not die on the cross, instead used the premise that God supplanted a substitute in his place.  Angels were noted as Allah’s messengers and also as record keepers, “recording good and bad deeds” (What is Islam, 2014).   Angels are messengers from Allah.  They also serve as record keepers, “recording good and bad deeds” (What is Islam, 2014). Satan is called ‘Jinn’, a spiritual being created out of fire. He represents the evil leader.  (What is Islam, 2014).
            Resurrection and Salvation is in accordance to good deeds and obedience to Allah. At death, Prophet Muhammad will come in defense for all Muslims before Allah, but Allah is the final judge. Prior to each individual’s resurrection and salvation, Allah weighs the number of sins against the number of good deeds.  Time spent in hell will depend on which weighs more, sins or good deeds, after which the individual will go to paradise.  All non-believers go to hell (What is Islam, 2014).
            The Qur'an (Koran/English) is considered the main text because it is considered as the literal words of God in Arabic.  Although the Islam religion uses other texts, such as The Torah (Book of Moses), Ingil (The gospel of Jesus), and Zabur (Psalms of David), the Bible is considered as corrupt.   According to the scholar Dr. Theodor Noldeke, testifies: "For though it remains an open question whether Mohammad was actually ignorant of reading and writing, it is certain that he had neither read the Bible nor any other books" (Rasid, M., Dr, 2010).  Additionally, accordant to archeology and inscriptions, the Book of Deuteronomy was likely written around the 7th century B.C by the ancient Israelites in Judah (Schniedewind, M., 2014).  The Muslims believe that the Qur'an is composed of words spoken by the archangel Gabriel to Muhammad. The Qur'an was originally passed down orally; later it was compiled into one book (Islam, 2014).
Personal Review
Islam was the second monotheist religion chosen for death and afterlife comparison in this paper.   Their faith in resurrection and salvation echoes some resemblance to the Catholic Church belief.  For example, 'good works is weighed against sin'; therefore, the final decision is depended upon who obtains salvation verses who stays in Hell until one's sins have been 'burned away'.   Muslims do not recognize the Bible as a reliable source in comparison to the Islam's truth written in the Quar'an. In this case, this paper sees a discrepancy between the reliability of the Bible verses the Quar’an.  More importantly, as mentioned before, Prophet Muhammad was born around 622 C.E. The Book of Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible was most likely assembled around the 7th century B.C. in Judah.  On the other hand, the discrepancy could be due to the possibility that Muhammad was illiterate and unable to read the Bible.  Regardless if Muhammad could read or not, it is the Muslim's acceptance of the Quar'an, which resonance Prophet Muhammad's experienced with the archangel, as a divine origin with Allah:  "He has revealed unto you (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, concerning that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Tourat and the Injil" ((Rasid, M., Dr, 2010).  
Near-Death Experiences
            The truth is no one can really experience death and the afterlife and tell about it.  As Christians, we can only rely on what the Scriptures tell us, as in John 11: 23-26 in the New Testament. When Jesus spoke to Martha, four days after her brother died: “Your brother will rise again.” Then He said to her “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 (John 11: 23,25-26, ESV).
         Having said this, is it possible that people who had a near-death experience might foreshadow what the afterlife might be like?  This paper will recap experiences of two people, both who have had a near-death experience.  Both individuals had their life change.
Dr. Mary Neal's Experience
            Dr. Mary Neal is an orthopedic spine surgeon, a mother, and active in the Pentecostal church.  Although as a young adult, she had two near-miss occasions with death, a car accident and a deep diving incident, it did not compare to the kayak incident that took place on the Fuy River (noted for its ten-twenty foot waterfalls) in the Southern Chilean Los Rios Region (M.C. Neal, MD, 2012, p.48). Mary and her husband, both experienced kayakers, were looking forward to the challenge.  What started out as beautiful day kayaking down the river with a group of people, ended with Mary being pinned under both a forceful waterfall and another group member's deserted kayak (M.C. Neal, MD, 2012, p.48).
            According to Mary's testimonial in the book “To Heaven and Back”, she did drown and died. The rescue efforts took well over fifteen minutes for normal survival, from the time between her faithful kayak companions to reached her capsize boat, miraculously find her lifeless body and persistently resuscitate her until she took her first breath (Neal, M.C., MD, 2012, pg. 59-65).  On her spiritual journey, she felt loved, serene, and “unadulterated essence”, as well as, being consciously aware of her situation (Neal, M.C., MD, 2012, pg. 71). Intrigued, but in no pain, she felt her knee bones break and the ligaments tear as she her body was freed from the kayak and her soul released.  Mary was greeted by brilliant, shapeless formed spirits, some of she knew in the past, who guided her down a brilliant, beautiful path to God.  Emotions, thoughts and knowledge were all communicated without language (Neal, M.C., MD, 2012, pg.68-74).  Mary was eventually told by a special angel that she had a purpose to those around her on earth and needed to return.  Mary had other spiritual visits during her recovery and used her near-death experience to help her patients, her family, and herself (Neal, M.C., MD, 2012, pg.68-74).
Dr. Eban Alexander's experience
            Dr. Eban Alexander, an accomplished neurosurgeon, man of science, and researcher, was a staunch believer that people who either had or believed in a near-death experience, were people who lived in pure 'fantasy'.  Dr. Alexander did not become a believer until he was at the age of fifty-four.  It happened on November of 1988, when he succumbed to rare bacterial meningitis that resulted in a seven-day coma, which miraculously resulted in a complete recovery.  His own near-death experience showed “that the death of the body and the brain are not the end of consciousness”, but continues under the “gaze of God” and His love for the universe (Alexander, E., MD, 2012, pg. 9). 
            Dr. Alexander describes his initial experience in the unknown, as “subterranean” where, grotesque animal faces bubbled out of the muck giving out occasional groans or screeches (Alexander, E., MD, 2012,  pg.31).  He soon became aware of “biological” smells of feces, blood and vomit, like death itself (Alexander, E., MD, 2012, pg. 31-32).  This most uncomfortable environment continued until he was brought out of the core of blackness by a most beautiful white-gold entity, with waves of color like a butterfly  (Alexander, E., MD, 2012,  pg.38). 
            This extraordinary entity, in the form of girl with blue eyes that flies on a butterfly wing, became a loving travel companion and interpreter between God and himself, in whom Dr. Alexander later describes as an “orb” (Alexander, E., MD, 2012,  pg 47). Dr. Alexander also represents God's vast universe and presence as “omniscient”, “omnipotent”, and “loving” (Alexander, E., MD, 2012,  pg. 47).  Subsequently, Dr. Alexander was grateful that he was accompanied by this serene, compassionate orb.
            Dr. Alexander concluded that there was no sense of time in God’s universe and questions and answers came instantaneously and enhance his learning about the universe.  What he does acknowledge is that God's universe veiled him with “unconditional love and acceptance” and “healed his fragmented soul” (Alexander, E., MD, 2012, pg.170).  
            In summary, it is a known fact that everyone will someday succumb to death's calling.  Since this paper in taking a Lutheran stance, every Lutheran church's Biblical understanding is that the death is the separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body until the Second Coming of the Lord.  On Judgment Day, God will, according to His creation, unite the soul with the imperishable body.  There is no purgatory in the Lutheran's belief.  As stated before, God interprets death as 'a sleep' which is more of a figurative expression explained clearly in the Scriptures.  Resurrection will be on God's time.  In John11: 25-26, Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”.  (John11: 25-26, ESV)
             Although the Islam religion is derived according to the Qua'ran and not the Bible, Lutheran and Islam are still monotheistic. Both believe in 'One true God', even though there are differences in each religious ideology and practices.  Conversely, there seems to be other similarities to Catholics, such as Islam beliefs in resurrection and salvation that appears similar to the Catholic's belief, such as the reward to salvation by 'good deeds'.  Last, the two doctors' testimonials on their near-death experience have changed both, in how each practices medicine and their own perspective on life. Thus, both have found more inspiration in life, more faith in God and no fear in dying,  For a finishing touch, nothing says it best like Martin Luther: “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying” (Luther, M., Dr., 2014).  
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