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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Jonathan Bernis » Jonathan Bernis - A Rabbi Looks at Life After Death

Jonathan Bernis - A Rabbi Looks at Life After Death

Jonathan Bernis - A Rabbi Looks at Life After Death
TOPICS: Afterlife

Jonathan Bernis: Shalom, welcome to Jewish Voice. I'm Jonathan Bernis, and I'm joined once again by my co-host, Ezra Benjamin. Well, with so much devastation and suffering going on in the last few years from the pandemic, to the war, to economic upheaval. I've heard many people ask the question, "What else is there? There must be more. What happens to us after we die"? I've even dealt with this personally in my own family over the last few years. The afterlife can be a challenging topic for many, but you know, Ezra, people are asking. People want to know more. In the difficult times, people are thinking about what else there must be. There must be more.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure, when anything disrupts the status quo, right? When anything disrupts the comfort of our normal day-to-day routines, it causes us to kind of ask those more eternal questions. And Jonathan, so often, you know, when you're sharing the good news about Jesus, about Yeshua, the Messiah with Jewish communities and non-Jewish communities, so often you boil it down to these two very important questions. Why am I here? And what happens when I die? Right? That's really what it all comes down to. And times like the turbulent circumstances you mentioned here just bring those questions into focus, they bring them in the front of our mind.

Jonathan Bernis: And they're two questions that every person regardless of their economic situation, regardless of their nationality, regardless of anything to do with background every person has to face those two questions in this life.

Ezra Benjamin: Absolutely. And I'm thinking of, you know, there's religious systems or belief systems all around the world, and when you peel back the layers, you really find those systems trying to answer those questions. "What's my purpose"? Right? We all wanna understand what's our purpose. I don't just exist. I must have a purpose. And what happens when the way I'm living now ceases to be? What happens when I enter eternity? Is there even an eternity? Or do I just cease to exist?

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. And unfortunately, when things are going well, most people don't bother to ask those questions or try to answer them. It's not something that's necessary to deal with.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: That's one of the good things that I think has come out of the pandemic. And out of what I think for, at least for the standard of living that we've been used to in the west is forcing us to ask again. Because we've been through hardship.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: At least by our standards.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Now, we go over to Ethiopia, we work a lot in Africa, I was living, right after the fall of communism in Russia, very, very different standard of living. A very different definition of suffering and hardship. But for what we're accustomed to in the west, this has been a really hard time.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly. And so, that brings us to the question of this idea of the afterlife. Thinking about that second very important question, what happens when we die? Jonathan, you've spent significant time in recent days actually interviewing people who have had near death experiences. Who have clinically died and then come back to life. And you've learned some really interesting things.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. I started this a long time ago because I wanted to hear from people. I didn't actually talk to many people that had a near death experience, I talked to people that died.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: They died. They either...

Ezra Benjamin: Clinically they're gone.

Jonathan Bernis: Well, there's two kinds of death Ezra, that's something I learned in this process.

Ezra Benjamin: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Bernis: There is clinical death.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But there's also biological death. And one is much longer than the others. So, you can clinically die and be pronounced dead and people have come back to life.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: Without a supernatural explanation.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: When you are biologically dead, you have a Lazarus situation, you stinketh.

Ezra Benjamin: And people have come back to life.

Jonathan Bernis: And people have come back to life.

Ezra Benjamin: Amazing.

Jonathan Bernis: And I've met people, and interviewed people, that were biologically dead. There's no human explanation whatsoever. I've seen the medical records. And they died and were dead for a long period of time.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: I mean, there's no way that they could have come back to life.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: Their heart had stopped, they were brain dead for a long enough time that there's no explanation.

Ezra Benjamin: So, either clinically dead or biologically dead, we can say at least this is an unusual experience, if not a supernatural one.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, it was a very important project for me because I wanted to pick people that were really credible.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: And I met really credible people whose lives were completely changed. One in particular that I'll mention was an atheist. He was a professor, art professor, who died in Europe. And he was dead for a significantly long period of time, and he actually wandered in the afterlife. And now he's a very, very strong believer. That experience, as you can imagine, completely changed him.

Ezra Benjamin: Now, what about that experience brought him from refusal to believe that there's a God at all, to actually being a believer in Jesus.

Jonathan Bernis: He experienced the afterlife.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: And he saw that there's more to this life than this life. We're not our body. We live in a body.

Ezra Benjamin: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Bernis: But we are a spirit. We live eternally.

Ezra Benjamin: We're an eternal being.

Jonathan Bernis: And I've always believed that ever since I was a little boy and my grandfather died suddenly, Ezra. He died when I was six, and his death was kind of masked in mystery. We weren't allowed to go to the funeral, my siblings and I weren't allowed to go. I think that that's not untypical of Judaism where you're, there's this unknowing and so you protect the children from the trauma.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: But I wanted to know, I believe that there was something more to this life, and I believed I had a purpose. And I think those things are connected together.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: And in fact, according to scripture, they are very closely tied together.

Ezra Benjamin: Mm-hmm.

Jonathan Bernis: Because the decisions you make in this life will affect your eternity.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. It doesn't just have to do with today, the consequences for today, but the scriptures are clear, Old Testament and New Testament. There's this idea of the eternal consequence of the choices we make. God is sovereign overall, and yet he's given us this ability to make choices which have far-reaching, even eternal consequences as it relates to what we do and don't believe about Jesus.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, I think most people believe in an afterlife. Even those that say they're atheists. I've heard it said that, "There's no atheists in foxholes". I don't know if that's entirely true, but people want to believe that there's something beyond this life. This life, the Bible says "It's like a vapor". It's a very short period of time. And I think just the way that we're wired as humans, we want to believe there's more, and there is more. That's the good news, there is more.

Ezra Benjamin: Jonathan, I'm curious to know more details about the research that you did. I mean, what kinds of questions were you asking these people? Was there a variety of people you interviewed? Was everybody reliable? Were some people not?

Jonathan Bernis: So, the research process was a pretty significant period of time. I hired a researcher that I work with. This went on for about a year, and we were looking for a few things. One, what does the Old Testament have to say about heaven and hell, the afterlife.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: What does the New Testament have to say about the afterlife, heaven, hell. And what is behind the veil.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: What does extra biblical sources have to say about an afterlife? And then we interviewed between like 12 to 14 people extensively that had made the claim that they had died and come back to life.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: Some of them had well-known books out already. And that was in essence the project.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: Now, I found some stories to be less than credible. And maybe not the stories, but the individuals. And I'm not gonna go into the reasons for that in detail. It's just that I was assessing the character of the person.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: I was assessing the story of the person. I was also assessing the corroborating evidence.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: And in some cases, piles of medical reports.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: One guy was hit head on by a truck and the paperwork was massive. This man biologically died. There's no question about it.

Ezra Benjamin: I bet.

Jonathan Bernis: And so, my goal was to pick the most credible, to spend time with them, to interview them. And we have lots of footage with doing the interviews and getting to know them. And then I went through and I looked at what kinds of experiences they shared with me that had similarities with others.

Ezra Benjamin: Interesting.

Jonathan Bernis: So, I picked six.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: For the book, I picked six that, and I summarized what do they all, "What are they saying that's the same thing".

Ezra Benjamin: Got it.

Jonathan Bernis: "Repeatedly, which we'll go into".

Ezra Benjamin: And we're gonna talk about that in just a few minutes. But I think it's important here, you know, if you're listening at home saying, like, "I'm thinking to be honest, anybody who tells me I was dead and I came back from the dead, something in me is gonna be a little bit suspect". So, I would say good for you in this research project that you sort of separated the sheep from the goats and made sure that the people whose testimony you were incorporating into your research are credible.

Jonathan Bernis: Well, it obviously had to be, it had to be done with care, because everybody's gonna have that reaction. We seek after a sign as Jewish people, people want proof. And I wanted it to be really credible.

Ezra Benjamin: Absolutely.

Jonathan Bernis: So, that's, we have lots more to talk about. This is such a big topic in the Bible. When you read the Bible, it's impossible to avoid this question about the afterlife. And we'll discuss it more in the next segment. But we do need to step away for a minute. You know, this conversation reminds me how urgent it is for us to continue to share the gospel with scattered Jewish communities around the world. I wanna ask you to consider partnering with us to share Jesus with Jewish people so that they can have confidence about their afterlife. Yeshua is the answer. So please take a look, see how you can help us to do that right now.

Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back to Jewish Voice, and thank you for your continued support of this ministry. If you are an ongoing shalom partner, your monthly support is so important to us. I want to challenge you today to prayerfully consider giving an extra gift if you can, to help those in need around the world. We would be forever grateful. Really, it's an investment, isn't it Ezra?

Ezra Benjamin: It is. Thank you for sowing into the, not just the lives, transforming lives, but sowing into the eternities of Jewish people and their neighbors around the world.

Jonathan Bernis: Well, it just so happens that's our topic today. We're talking about eternity. We're talking about an the afterlife. There is a life after this. In fact, the Bible says that, "This life is like a vapor". What profits a person if they gain the whole world during this vapor period, and they lose their own soul for eternity.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: That's a long time, isn't it Ezra? Eternity.

Ezra Benjamin: It is. This is in a way, a dress rehearsal for our eternity. Hopefully, with the Lord, serving him in his kingdom. Jonathan, let's dive right back into the research process that you did. The research project, which went on over a period of months and years. Really extensive.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. Over a year.

Ezra Benjamin: You interviewed people who didn't know one another, but you heard some themes from one testimony to the other, right? Different people dying either clinically or biologically in different parts of the world. They had no overlap in their life story. And yet, there were similar things that they said.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, I had no idea, by the way, that there was a difference between biological and clinical death. I learned so much during this period. And then I spent time with 12 people, we had dinners together, we spent a lot of time doing interview footage. A lot of it we didn't show on the program but there were hours of footage.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: And some of them just didn't click for me. They just didn't, either getting to know the person or some of the information, or the lack of corroboration. I just decided, I don't want to feature this. But six of them were outstanding. Just outstanding.

Ezra Benjamin: Alright.

Jonathan Bernis: One that had actually spent time in hell experiencing, I don't think the extent of hell, but came back with a very, very clear message that there is an eternity that exists, a state of eternity separated from God. And it's a horrific thing to be separated from God. People say, "I'm going through hell on this earth". Not after you hear this story. Separation from God, where there's complete darkness.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: Let alone the gnashing of teeth. It's just a horrific thing. And I think Yeshua, Jesus, took this very, very seriously.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: So, that's another question. But I think the question is, what was the commonality? What did I hear with those that were really credible repeatedly? Well, the first thing was an observation, and that was no fear of death at all.

Ezra Benjamin: On the back end of the experience?

Jonathan Bernis: They had absolutely no fear of dying. In fact, they wanted to get back there as quickly as they could. Now, the reason that they didn't go out and jump in front of a car is because they were sent back with a mission. And they were compelled to fulfill the mission.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: But there was almost a sadness. Like, I have to endure this world, this stinky, this decaying world, so that I can get back there. I can fulfill my mission.

Ezra Benjamin: But that's something we've been talking about throughout this episode, right? Is the idea of destiny and eternity, right? Or a purpose.

Jonathan Bernis: Right.

Ezra Benjamin: And eternity. And what I'm hearing you say is that when people had a glimpse, the curtain was peeled back into their eternity, it clarified their destiny here on earth, it clarified their purpose and calling.

Jonathan Bernis: It clarified their purpose, but they couldn't wait to get back.

Ezra Benjamin: Interesting.

Jonathan Bernis: Like, they had already seen the end game. They wanted out of here.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: All of them had a sense of decay that this earth was filled with decay. And the place that they had spent time in some of them for what, they were out of the realm of time and space. But for them was a long period of time.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: There was no decay. And they were so present of decay here and they wanted... I could give you examples because we've been, we've worked in the third world.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: But I get a picture of, I have a very clear picture of what they were saying.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: They just didn't, they didn't like the sights, they didn't like the smells, they didn't like the colors anymore. Because they had been introduced to something that was so much vibrant and nicer.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow. That's so interesting, you know...

Jonathan Bernis: Across the board, Ezra, not one person, all of them.

Ezra Benjamin: I'm thinking of Paul in the New Testament, and Paul didn't have a near-death, I mean, he had many near-death experiences 'cause he was beaten so many times and arrested and, you know, on the edge of death for the sake of the gospel. He didn't die and come back, but yet he said, his summary was, you know, "To live is", it says, "To live is Christ. To live is to live the life of Messiah. Laying down my life so that others might live. But to die is gain". To die would be better. And it sounds like that's the testimony in this.

Jonathan Bernis: He didn't even have the same experience they had, but he had enough of an experience to be able to say that the suffering of this present age isn't, and this is really for you. Please listen to this. The suffering that you are enduring isn't to be compared with the riches that lie ahead.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: That's eternity.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: That's the afterlife. So, they all had this sense, it's so much better. The fact that they had no fear of dying. In fact, they wanted to die again and get back there strengthened my faith. It did something for me, Ezra, that is hard to communicate and I'm tearing up thinking about it. Because they, to experience people that had no fear whatsoever of death. I have a, it's a veil for me. There's still a mystery and an uncertainty. They had none.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: They had none.

Ezra Benjamin: The Old Testament and the New Testament both say the same thing. And looking at the victory of the death and resurrection of the Messiah, it says, "Where o death is your sting"?

Jonathan Bernis: Yes.

Ezra Benjamin: "Where o grave is your victory"? It's gone when we understand what Jesus has done.

Jonathan Bernis: Totally gone and it's strengthened my faith. And I think you'll be strengthened reading their story. One more really quickly is worship. They all experienced a profound level of worship that was beyond anything human.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: And they remember it like it was yesterday.

Ezra Benjamin: Incredible.

Jonathan Bernis: And they want it back.

Ezra Benjamin: Now, one more thing comes to mind. I imagine a number of these people died because of injury or some kind of trauma. Were they healed of that in their afterlife experience and then what happened when they came back to their body?

Jonathan Bernis: That's a good question. So, yes and no is the answer. They were healed enough to function, but many of them carry the scars and the pains of whatever took their life. Don piper was hit head on by a truck, he has the pain, continual pain that accompanies that experience in his body.

Ezra Benjamin: Wow.

Jonathan Bernis: But he was free from it when he died, of course.

Ezra Benjamin: So, even further awareness of what a better situation it is to be with the Lord in eternity than to be here in these bodies of death, as Paul says.

Jonathan Bernis: Absolutely. This is, a friend of mine calls this an earth suit.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And the earth suit gets beaten up and older and decays. And it's the point you get out of your earth suit, an experienced that is an incredible thing.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. I'm thinking of the verse "For as in Adam all of us die, so in the Messiah, in Christ shall we all be made alive".

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. You can imagine the aches and pains.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah.

Jonathan Bernis: After being in something pretty violent, in suffering a violent death.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And I recall a few that were really violent that those pains haven't left their body completely. They've been healed to the extent that they can function and fulfill their destiny.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: But they're looking to get back to a pain-free existence, sure.

Ezra Benjamin: All the more desire to be with the Lord, healed, restored in eternity.

Jonathan Bernis: There's one better one that they all had in common. They all were reunited with family and friends. This is one I didn't want to forget to mention. They're all were reunited with family and friends. They saw friends that had passed on early on in life and they recognized them right away. In many cases, there was a welcome party as soon as they arrived. And they recognized everyone and the role that that person had in their salvation. Well, Ezra and I are going to pray for your needs in just a minute, but first, our announcer is going to share an incredible opportunity for you to support Jewish Voice medical outreaches that will allow us to share the gospel with Jewish communities around the world. I want to ask, will you partner with us? Please listen, and then we'll pray with you right after this.

Jonathan Bernis: Another piece of great news is that God not only wants you to experience the afterlife, eternal life, but abundant life here and now.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: And I know that many of you have prayer needs. We've seen the emails coming in, we've seen them come in from the website. We've received letters from you that you need prayer for family members to be restored, for healing. And some of them are pretty severe. I know that I've lost more than a dozen friends during COVID. Many of you are experiencing the loss of loved ones, and you just need the peace of the Lord, the presence of the Lord.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah.

Jonathan Bernis: You feel separated from the Lord and you just need restoration. You just need renewal, and God is listening. God cares. He loves you. And so, Ezra, if we'll just kinda join our faith together with everyone, and we'll continue praying for you. Lord, we thank you for those that partner with this ministry and for those that are watching right now, not by accident, we pray for their needs, we pray, Father, for the restoration of their families, we pray for the salvation of their children and grandchildren, we pray for healing. And Lord, just the thing that's on my heart, most importantly, Lord, would you restore their hope? Would you renew their faith? Would you give them a sense of certainty that you are watching over them, that you haven't forgotten them? Lord, may your presence be felt in their homes and their lives in a very tangible and clear way. Lord, thank you for your grace that in the midst of hardship comes the grace, in the midst of hardship comes a renewed touch from you. Lord, thank you for your grace and for your presence. In Yeshua's name, in Jesus' name.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen.

Jonathan Bernis: If you'd like more information about our minister, you can log on to our website. It's You can also send us your prayer request right on the website. We have a team here at Jewish Voice committed to reading your prayer requests and praying for you by name. And we believe in the power of prayer and we care about you. But more important, God cares about you and he's watching over you. So, we close our program today, want to ask you as I do in every program, pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Pray for the Jewish people. Pray for their salvation. Pray for the divine protection of the Lord over a land and a people that are part of God's destiny. Will you please? The Bible says, "They shall prosper who love thee". We're out of time. Until next time, this is Jonathan Bernis along with Ezra Benjamin saying, "Shalom and God bless you".
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