As I’ve mentioned before, part of my (unwritten) job description as a Director of Christian Education is to answer the question: “What do you think about the book, movie: (fill in the blank). Quite frankly, I don’t enjoy this recurring question, since my answers rarely gives the questioner a warm and fuzzy feeling. People tend to take their book/movie likes and dislikes very personally!
Every few years, there is a new hot-selling book on near-death experiences, replete with magnificent descriptions of heaven. I remember when “90 Minutes in Heaven” was all the rage in Christian circles. It claimed to be a true story of death and life. Then in 2010, the book “Heaven is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” was released. Not only is it the number one non-fiction Christian best-seller over the past ten years, it has now spawned a movie well-timed for the Easter season. No doubt, Christians and other religious folks will flock to this movie, seeking to learn more about the reality of heaven.
The problem is: God’s Word teaches us that no one has gone up into heaven and returned to tell about it. John 3:13 clearly states that only Jesus Christ can claim to have been in heaven and returned. No one else. Even the prophets in Scripture who “saw” heaven were given a vision of heaven during their lifetime. They did not have near-death experiences and come back to write a personal novel on the subject. As offensive as it may sound, people who claim to have been to heaven and back–even cute four-year old boys–either had terrific hallucinations or are deluded by the Enemy. They do not speak authoritatively about what the afterlife is all about.
I would write much more in this post about this subject, but David Platt says it so much more eloquently and forcefully. Take a moment to watch this short clip:
The argument I hear most from lovers of these sorts of books or movies is: “What if God uses it to bring people to salvation?” Now, how am I supposed to respond to that? What I hear is: “What if God chooses to use bad theology or outright heresy to save people?” Certainly, God can use anything and anyone to bring people to faith. But the real question is: Why are Christians so willing to look outside and beyond God’s Word for the truth about heaven? Heaven is for real because God’s Word says it is real. It alone tells us what we need to know about the Christian’s future home. Anything extra-biblical–even if it claims to reinforce the Biblical truth of heaven–is foolish and dangerous speculation.
Do you remember Christ’s Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16)? The Rich Man wanted Father Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to tell his five brothers about the reality of heaven and hell. Abraham refused, saying that they had “Moses and the prophets,” which was sufficient. In other words, they (and non-Christians today) have the very Word of God to show us the way to heaven. Isn’t this enough?