I can’t believe it has been 21 years since the Final Destination movie made its debut. I enjoyed watching probably three of the five movies (FD2 was my favorite) and I used to clip and save miracle survival stories from newspapers and kept them in a file.
The movies reveal humanity’s innate desire to be in control of all aspects of their life, including their appointed time of death, and even whether or not that appointment can be moved to a later date, or avoided altogether!
This post is a shallow dive of all things related to time of death and whether or not it can be moved to a later date. I also take a peek at a few of my favorite miracle survival stories, near death experiences, and one recorded instance of someone beating death in the Bible.
I will start this post with a personal story, add in some other amazing miracle survival stories, and then dig into the topic.
Several years ago, I was traveling with my three kids from the Washington, D.C. suburbs, where I lived at the time, up to Syracuse, New York, to visit family. I was driving in my Acura SUV on Route 81 North, through the very high hills of the Scranton area of Pennsylvania. I was driving about 65 mph down a very curvy mountain road when suddenly I rounded a blind corner and observed with horror that traffic had come to a complete standstill and in only one lane of traffic. I immediately slammed on my brakes and narrowly avoided hitting the car in front of me. After my initial feeling of relief, another emotion quickly emerged and this exact thought entered my brain: “If an 18-wheeler rounds the bend after me, I am toast.”
Unfortunately, that is precisely what happened next. I looked in my rearview mirror and noted with horror that, indeed, a large “Mack truck” as I used to call them was literally right behind my car, traveling at a high rate of speed. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have time to react, so I just shut my eyes and braced for the worst. Within a second, I could hear what sounded like loud pressure being released from the truck and could see huge plumes of smoke rising to the right of my car as the driver of this 18-wheeler barreled past me probably going 50 mph on the service lane, slamming on his brakes the whole time.
The truck eventually came to a stop, traffic began to move, and I breathed a major sigh of relief and kept driving to Syracuse. I immediately prayed and thanked the Good Lord above for protecting me and my three kiddos that day on 81 North.
It wasn’t my time to go that day, I am so very thankful to still be here.
Boy Survives Lake Erie Plane Crash (9/4/2007)
One night a couple was sitting out on a Lake Erie beach, just enjoying the quiet evening. Out of the night sky they noticed a plane’s taillight plunging into the Great Lake. The man immediately hopped into his rowboat and frantically rowed out to the approximate place he had seen the lights disappear. After 15 minutes of rowing around in the dark, a small hand appeared on the side of his rowboat. He then pulled out a soaking wet seven year old boy, who had miraculously survived the plane crash. The boy matter-of-factly told him his brother and dad had just perished, and the only reason he had survived is because his seat belt broke during the crash. (source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/boy-survives-lake-erie-plane-crash/)
Miracle Baby Torn From Womb in Truck Wreck (12/21/2000)
A pregnant woman is involved in a serious truck accident, flies through the truck windshield, is dragged underneath the truck, and is found dead on the highway. Her baby is found beside her, outside of her womb, still connected to the umbilical cord. The baby is perfectly healthy and only bears a scratch on his knee. (source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2000/12/21/baby-torn-from-womb-in-crash-survives/27c0dac6-21e8-4172-95c9-11533d8f96d1/)
Tot Survives Five Days after Car Crashes, Mother Dies (1/28/2003)
A toddler survives five days by herself on little more than crackers (no water) while huddled near her dead mother inside a wrecked car amid freezing temperatures outside of Phoenix, Arizona. A passing motorist just happened to see the wrecked vehicle, which was partially hidden behind some trees and down a ledge. They found the shivering toddler inside the vehicle. (source: https://www.eastvalleytribune.com/news/tot-survives-5-days-after-car-crashes-mother-dies/article_f3ff5dd2-d8e8-57dc-a64e-c568d1409d6d.html)
Illinois Pilot Walks Away From Plane That Landed Itself (12/12/97)
A pilot, overcome by carbon monoxide fumes, blacks out while flying his small airplane. Said plane flies itself via autopilot for 250 miles, until it runs out of gas, and then lands itself in a snowy field. The man suffered a broken arm but woke up alive and puzzled, having not realized he had passed out while flying, or that his plane had self-landed. From the pilot: “If the plane hadn’t run out of gas, I probably would have had 30 more minutes in the air before I had died.”
Crash Survivors Say ‘Prayer in the Water’ (5/11/1999)
Picture this: a plane takes off from an island off the Australian coast during a pounding rain storm and is more than five miles from shore when it crashes into the ocean, killing many on board. However, there are six survivors who manage to swim to the surface, where they prayed together in the water and swam towards the shore in total darkness. The small group swam against strong currents, jellyfish, shark-infestation, and blinding rain with only two life jackets between them. Five of the six survivors finally made it to shore after six hours in open water. One of the survivors was a pastor who, while treading water, called out to the small group of survivors right after the plane crashed and proclaimed: “if any of you have a faith in God, I would like to pray with you.” Everyone prayed! (source: https://www.deseret.com/1999/5/10/19444749/5-survivors-tell-of-plane-crash-ocean-ordeal)
Before we dig into the meat of this post, I just need to make two points regarding the possibility of a fixed time of death.
First, if you believe in a loving God, then you know that He is ultimately in control of everything, including when you are born and when you will ultimately die. There are certainly things you can do within the context of free will which will lengthen or shorten your life. For example, a person who commits suicide would have lived longer had he not committed suicide. A person who dies of lung cancer from smoking would not have died in the same way or at the same time if he had not smoked. God allows much flexibility and free will within the context of His ultimate control over the universe.
Second, there are at least four verses in the Bible that speak to a time limit we all have on the face of the earth, and the most compelling one comes from the book of Job, chapter 14 verse 5. It says: a person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed. Also Psalm 139 states: your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Also check out Acts 17:26 and Ecclesiastes 3:1-2.)
There are five points I want to make about the topic of beating death, and I will start with what near death experiences reveal to us on this topic.
What near death experiences (NDEs) reveal about beating death, heaven, and hell:
I recently finished an amazing book called Imagine Heaven (link here: https://www.amazon.com/Imagine-Heaven-Near-Death-Experiences-Exhilarating/dp/080101526X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Imagine+heaven&qid=1616615937&sr=8-1) which has numerous miracle survival stories in NDE form. Some of the men and women telling their stories were clinically dead for as little as a few minutes to as long as eight hours. Eight hours! The author summarizes the whole of NDE experiences on page 26 of his book. Here is an excerpt (I have cut and pasted for ease of reading):
“It begins with a dying man or woman. He finds himself no longer in his physical body but still in the immediate surroundings. He sees the spirits of deceased family and friends. Then a being of light appears, brighter than the sun, who is described as uniquely and supremely warm and loving. This loving being asks questions communicated through thoughts, leading him to examine his actions, often including a living replay of his entire life. Afterward, he encounters some sort of boundary, seemingly the border between earth life as he knows it and eternal life.
But at the edge, he discovers he must return to earth because it is not yet his time to die. He protests due to the feelings of peace, joy, and love he is experiencing but somehow finds himself back in his physical body and continues to live (paraphrase).”
Additionally, approximately 23% of NDE stories take the traveler in a different direction and they have a more hell-like experience. There are a few variations of these horrific experiences, and this is a summary of the least reported variation: “the last type of hellish NDE usually involves feeling locked or trapped in a dark pit, cave, or under the earth, often accompanied by a putrid smell like feces, sulfur, or death. Demonic or evil creatures are often involved.” One NDE survivor had this to say: “Hell is a pit and there is darkness, but there is also fire. I was in a place that the Bible refers to as outer darkness and it is not pretty. Some people may just want to laugh this whole “hell business” off, but it is real.” (page 228.)
Does prayer play a part in life extension?
There was one man who beat his time of death in the Bible, and his name is King Hezekiah (and to be precise, there were more people including Lazarus and Jesus who beat death in the Bible as well, but not in this specific way). His story is told in Isaiah chapter 38 and also in 2 Kings chapter 20. Here is a portion of his story:
In those days, Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, went to him and said: “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die, you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Isaiah returned and said: “The Lord says, ‘go and say to Hezekiah, thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.”
According to the King James Version of 2 Kings chapter 20:3, this is what King Hezekiah prayed: “I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.” And Hezekiah wept sore.
Beseech is defined as to beg for urgently or anxiously.
So here we have at least one biblical example of someone begging God to extend their life, and God granting that request.
When God says no to extending your life (Jesus’s example):
God doesn’t typically say yes to a time extension on a person’s life. Did you know that Jesus himself actually asked his Father if he could bypass his death on the cross not once, but three times? God said no to that request, but his divine “no” paved the way for millions of eternal souls to be fully reconciled to God through the forgiveness of their sins.
Sometimes God says no for reasons we may not understand at the time. During King Hezekiah’s time extension, a son (Manasseh) was born to him who later became king immediately after Hezekiah’s passing. Unfortunately, Manasseh became Judah’s most wicked king. All the hard work and good changes his father had made were erased under his son Manasseh’s reign. Like the butterfly effect, the extension of Hezekiah’s life certainly had its downsides.
On a personal note, I have had several close friends die of cancer. I prayed earnestly (as did they and many other people) and God declined to extend their life. Does that mean God will never answer a prayer for more time? Not at all, and I close this post with the one true life example I heard with a Hezekiah-like prayer many years ago.
Last point: God may say yes to a time extension just so that a person may come to know Him personally and have a relationship with Him.
What happens when we die anyway?
This question could take two blog posts, but here is the gist: again, it depends on what you believe but either you go into the ground and that’s it, or your spirit transitions to eternal life -either in heaven or hell. Here is a little incentive for belief in life after life: many NDE stories report a “being of light filled with love” who greets them when they arrive in heaven. NDE accounts have been studied extensively and offered as proof of spiritual life after physical death. There is an eternal home waiting for those who know Jesus Christ as Lord. The ones that reach heaven want to stay because it is so incredibly beautiful, loving, and filled with an indescribable joy. And the “being” (it’s Jesus by the way) that loves them perfectly is there too, as well as many relatives who have passed. All departed friends and relatives whom they encounter are reported to be “in their prime” physically and very much happy and filled with joy.
Going to heaven is the mother of all “taking the red pill” analogies and most do not wish to come back to earth (many would like to stay but are torn because of their loved ones).
How to beat death for real:
Jesus came to die on the cross and atone for the sins of mankind, so that through repentance and faith in Him, we can all have eternal life. Jesus himself beat death. Here’s the kicker though: he did not actually “beat” physical death – he beat eternal death. He paved the way for everyone to experience eternal life!
John 11:25-26: Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
1 John 5:13: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”
Two last stories before we close which perfectly blend both delaying our time of death if it’s not our time to go, with a Hezekiah-type prayer for more time. Both of these concepts are possible with God!
Tom Papania was a high ranking mafia leader who answered directly to Paul Castellano (the head of a prominent mafia family) in the 1980s. One day Tom had an encounter with a pastor who led him to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Tom was completely changed and left the mafia. Unfortunately, Paul Castellano put out a contract on Tom’s life but by some miracle, that contract was never fulfilled. Later, while Tom was in prison, he met the three assassins who were hired to kill him and who attempted to take his life many times. These three professional hit-men relayed to Tom that they had come to his home many times, set up remote controlled bombs under his bedroom window, and attempted to detonate them. Strangely, the bombs would never detonate. The three men would then test them later and they would very easily detonate. They would repeat the process several more times, but not one bomb ever exploded.
God had a purpose for keeping Tom alive, and it had something to do with the three men. In addition to a thriving ministry, Tom led all three men to Christ, and each ended up leading many more men to the Lord. (To listen to his amazing story, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ng_wf89jQBQ. The part about his assassins is found at the 1:25 minute mark.)
Finally, my friend shared a story about how his mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer but had outlived her doctor’s diagnosis by ten years. After she had finally passed due to the cancer, her family decided to clean out the attic and found some of her old journals. They started to randomly leaf through her journals when they came upon a prayer detailing her terminal diagnosis. They read more of her prayers and were stunned to discover this one:
“Please Lord, give me ten more years to live.”
They looked at the date of the prayer recorded in the journal, and then compared it with her date of death.
The date of the journal entry was exactly ten years before she died.
“I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.”
PS: Below are the five articles I used for this post that I clipped so many years ago! And a bonus at the end!
Never saw Final Destination? The popular movie series can be summed up this way (Wiki):
All five films center around a small group of people who escape impending death when one individual (the protagonist of each film) has a sudden premonition and warns them that they will all die in a terrible mass-casualty accident. After avoiding their foretold deaths, the survivors are killed one by one in bizarre accidents caused by an unseen force creating complicated chains of cause and effect.