Jesus described hell in several ways. One was “outer darkness.” It’s like being permanently locked out of a wonderful wedding feast. Another description was that it was a place where “the fire is not quenched and the worm doesn’t die.” Whatever it literally is, (and Ritchie may not have seen it all), it’s a place of regret…a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” A place of spiritual “death,” reminiscent of the smoking trash dump outside of the city. George Ritchie told his story in the hopes that it would divert many from going there. Matt. 25:30; Mark 9:48. Please refer to Part II for more information as to what he saw there.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Reviving Ritchie, Part 1, His NDE Journey with Jesus
From the book, Return from Tomorrow, by George G. Ritchie, 30th Anniversary Edition, Grand Rapids: Chosen, 2007.
In my last post, I blogged about Kat Kerr’s visions of heaven. My conclusions as to the integrity of her story were quite negative. In 2010 I blogged about the story of Dr. George Ritchie, who passed away in 2007. That story rarely receives a visit on my blog, perhaps because his near-death experience happened a generation ago. The event occurred in 1943. His book came out in 1978 and was a sensation for quite a few years.
Today, however, few know who he is, in spite of the fact that his NDE experience was particularly enlightening. It occurred long before talking about NDE’s was popular, and way before any medical or professional personality studied these experiences in a scientific way. In my two-part series of 2010, I glossed over the details of Ritchie’s experience because I wanted to contrast his narrative with that of Michael Newton, a hypnotherapist who regresses his clients to discover who they were in past lives. In this series, I want to focus just on Ritchie. Assuming that my readers will not bother to buy his book, I will reproduce here many of his own words about what he saw and heard.
The story began in late September,1943, when 20-year-old George Ritchie of Richmond, Virginia signed up to serve in the Army. He was stationed at Camp Barkeley in Texas. He deliberately delayed his planned attendance at the Medical College of Virginia in his home town in order to emulate his father, who had enlisted when we entered the Second World War. Ritchie was ecstatic to learn that the Army would send him to that same college, and they would pay for it, and he was determined to be there when classes began on Dec. 22. Recruits trained hard that winter, sitting on the cold ground as punishment for lapses. An influenza outbreak hit the camp, filling the infirmaries with coughing, feverish recruits, some of whom contracted pneumonia and died.
On Dec. 10th, Ritchie ran a fever which turned from influenza to double lobar pneumonia. During days of recuperation, he lost a lot of weight. The Army arranged a jeep to transport him to Richmond, but first he needed to gain back 15 pounds and have a normal temperature. Ritchie feared that if he didn't show up on the 22nd, his place would be given to another, so he fought hard to recover. He also looked forward to Christmas with his family and girlfriend. He gained the required 15 pounds, but as the day drew near, his fever was still spiking and dropping. The day he was to leave, it spiked to 106. During an x-ray he passed out. He was carried to a small, single room in the ward. The next day on Dec. 21, he died.
In the first minutes after death, the now non-material soldier found himself in a strange little room with a bed and chair and the prone body of a young man in the bed.
But, the thing was impossible! I myself had just gotten out of that bed! For a moment I wrestled with the mystery of it. It was too strange to think about—and anyway, I did not have time.
All he could think of was getting to Richmond. As he raced down the hallway, no one at the infirmary would acknowledge his presence, so his soul went flying out of the hospital, across the desert, past farms and towns. He came to a stop at a café in a strange city. He tried to ask directions, but it was here that he finally understood. He was immaterial. He had to get back to the camp and find his body. Years later, he would find that same café again in the city of Vicksburg, hundreds of miles away from Camp Barkeley.
After a long, crazy, lonely search throughout the hospital, he found a small room where a sheet-covered corpse lay. The head was covered, but the arms were lying outside the sheet. On the finger of one pale hand was his fraternity ring. Dejected and confused, he lay across his body. Suddenly the room got lighter and lighter until it was so bright that he felt it would have scorched his living eyes. A man made of brilliance walked into the room.
The instant I perceived Him, a command formed itself in my mind. Stand up! The words came from inside me, yet they had an authority my mere thoughts had never had. I got to my feet, and as I did came the stupendous certainty: You are in the presence of the Son of God….This Person was power itself, older than time and yet more modern than anyone I had ever met. Above all, with that same mysterious inner certainty, I knew that this Man loved me. Far more even than power, what emanated from this Presence was unconditional love. Pg.58
Ritchie then entered into the “life review” described by so many who have returned from eternity. It should have taken hours to see all of the scenes that were presented at that time. Although the data was immense, the purpose of it all became clear. It wasn’t to point out the minutia of his sins, but to ask, what did you do with your life? This was frustrating to a 20-year-old male who had never given the purpose of his life a moment’s thought. He realized that he was selfish. He saw only an endless, short-sighted, clamorous concern for myself. He thought, “I became an Eagle Scout.” The Voice retorted, “That glorified you.”
When Ritchie understood that the purpose of living was supposed to be about love, he complained, Someone should have told me! A fine time to discover what life was all about—like coming to a final exam and discovering you were going to be tested on a subject you had never studied….I did tell you…I told you by the life I lived. I told you by the death I died. And if you keep your eyes on me, you will see more. Pg. 64, 65.
At one point, Jesus laughed at him. He pondered the waste of having recently bought a life insurance policy that would last until he was 70. The words were out, in this strange realm where communication took place by thought instead of speech, before I could call them back…If I had suspected before that there was mirth in the Presence beside me, now I was sure of it: the brightness seemed to vibrate and shimmer with a kind of holy laughter—not at me and my silliness, not a mocking laughter, but a mirth that seemed to say that in spite of all error and tragedy, joy was more lasting still.
Then Jesus took Ritchie on a long tour. He describes in his next book (about his life after near death) that he saw a series of spiritual realms. First he was taken to a city with factory smoke stacks and lights burning in all the windows. He saw ghosts everywhere. Disincarnate people hovered around the living, trying to control what they can no longer touch. He saw regret, addiction, suicide, rage, and perversion.
He also saw a hint of our technological future, growth in the arts, and finally a glimpse of a vast, bright heavenly city. I will discuss these visions in Part II.
When it was time for Ritchie’s return, the ward boy had alerted the doctor on duty that the patient was unresponsive. That doctor declared him dead and ordered that he be remanded to the morgue. The ward boy finished his chores and returned. He thought he spotted a movement and called for the OD (Officer of the Day) to recheck. The OD confirmed the call. George Ritchie was dead and was to be prepared for the morgue. Depressed at the loss of such a young life, the ward boy suggested trying a shot of adrenalin straight to the heart. Although it was not an approved procedure, the doctor agreed to try it (remember, this is ‘43). To their astonishment, George’s heart revived, but he was still unconscious for 3 more days. The doctor claimed that 9 minutes passed from the time they first declared Ritchie dead to when his heart began to beat again. He also averred that there is no natural explanation for Ritchie’s complete recovery.
Weeks later, George was recovering and was on his way to med school. Because he was late and in ill health, he flunked out that year, but the following year he tried again and passed all tests. He became both a medical doctor and later a psychiatrist. His experience utterly changed his life. He spent the rest of it serving others and sharing his testimony.
In Part II, I will describe in greater detail the four realms that George was allowed to observe, and we’ll follow his own processing of those worlds.
An eternity like that—the thought sent a chill shuddering through me—surely would be a form of hell. I had always thought of hell, when I had thought of it at all, as a fiery place beneath the earth where evil men like Hitler would burn forever. But what if one level of hell existed right here on the surface—unseen and unsuspected by the living people occupying the same space? What if it meant remaining on earth but never but never again able to make contact with it? Pg. 72.