Heaven is For Real – Polemical Review


Heresies taught in this book (click the links to find out more) include:

Montanism

Mysticism 

Reviews

Before explaining why Heaven is For Real, in particular, teaches heresy, please take the time to watch this video from our friend, Justin Peters, discussing “Heaven Tourism.”

Regarding Heaven is For Real, Pulpit & Pen writes…

Now, keep in mind that the Apostle Paul speaks of himself “being caught up in the third Heaven” in 2 Corinthians 12:2 – and what does not follow is the Apostle Paul then explaining to us the interior decoration of Heaven, Jesus’ horse of many colors, or any other aspect of Heaven that God chose to not reveal in the written revealed Word of God. Neither was the Apostle Paul receiving this vision as an accidental, premature visit to Heaven from a near-death experience. Maybe we should take a hint.

What’s forgotten is that Burpo’s book (and Wallace’s movie by the same name,Heaven is for Real) is nothing new, novelty, or unique. Phil Johnson gives a good listof books with similar testimonies that have become so prominent in the evangelical marketplace that Tim Challies has come to call the genre “Heaven Tourism.” Johnson gives the list including My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life, by Marvin J. Besteman; Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash . . .A Lone Survivor . . .A Journey to Heaven—and Back, by Dale Black; To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story, by Mary Neal; 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life, by Don Piper; Nine Days In Heaven, by Dennis Prince; 23 Minutes In Hell: One Man’s Story About What He Saw, Heard, and Felt in that Place of Torment, by Bill Wiese.

Johnson writes:

This is not a totally new phenomenon…What’s different about the current crop of afterlife testimonies is that they are being eagerly sought and relentlessly cranked out by evangelical publishers…

These books are coming out with such frequency that it is virtually impossible to read and review them all. But that shouldn’t even be necessary. No true evangelical ought to be tempted to give such tales any credence whatsoever, no matter how popular they become. One major, obvious problem is that these books don’t even agree with one another. They give contradictory descriptions of heaven and thus cannot possibly have any cumulative long-term effect other than the sowing of confusion and doubt.

Johnson continues…

Why Christians who profess to believe the Bible would find these stories the least bit compelling is an utter mystery, but it is a sure sign that many in the evangelical movement have abandoned their evangelical convictions.Specifically, they have relinquished the principle of sola Scriptura and lost their confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture. Why else would they turn from clear biblical teaching on heaven and seek an alternative view in mystical experiences that bear no resemblance to what Scripture tells us?…

Evangelical readers’ discernment skills are at an all-time low, and that is why books like these proliferate. Despite the high profile, high sales figures, and high dollar amounts Christian publishers can milk from a trend such as this, it doesn’t bode well for the future of Christian publishing—or for the future of the evangelical movement.

At the heart of it, our infatuation for these extra-biblical revelations don’t merely speak of our lack of discernment (although that’s frightening enough). Our infatuation for these extra-biblical revelations speak of our disinterest and disenchantment with the sufficient, written Word of God.

T.A. McMahon writes

Heaven Is for Real is a nonfiction account that documents the experience of a three-year-old boy who believes that he visited Heaven. The story is told by the boy’s father, an evangelical pastor. He and his wife initially seem to be rather startled by their son’s revelations, which he shares over a period of about three years. There is nothing not to like about this Christian family, and much that is quite admirable. The little boy is a typical three- or four-year-old–hardly precocious, but simply matter of fact in relating what he seems to have experienced.

That experience took place when three-year-old Colton was undergoing emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. Not too long afterward, he told his parents that he saw them praying for him outside the operating room. When they asked how he knew what they had been doing he said, “Cause I could see you….I went up out of my body and I was looking down and I could see the doctor working on my body. [Scripture tells us that death takes place when the spirit vacates the body. Yet there was no medical report of a clinical death during Colton’s surgery.] And I saw you and Mommy. You were in a little room by yourself, praying; and Mommy was in a different room, and she was praying and talking on the phone” (pp. xx-xxi). The accuracy of Colton’s disclosure rocked his parents to the core. But that was just the beginning of revelations that far and away defy natural explanations.

Colton’s other revelations included: angels singing “Jesus Loves Me” to him; his sitting on Jesus’ lap; meeting John the Baptist and the angel Gabriel; petting Jesus’ rainbow-colored horse; his descriptions of Jesus’ wounds and attire, including a crown with a pink diamond that Jesus wore; the prevalence of kids in Heaven; his description of everyone there having wings like the angels–all except Jesus, that is; his being recognized by his great grandfather, who died decades before Colton was born; and the description of God as “really, really big.”

Although most of Colton’s observations in Heaven are not outside the realm of possibility of what could take place there, they are nevertheless extra-biblical insights and information, some being more problematic than others. For example, Colton explains that “Everyone kind of looks like angels in heaven,” sporting wings (the size of which are dependent on the individual’s size) and a halo. Since the resurrection of believers’ transformed physical bodies has yet to take place, their form now in Heaven must lack physical attributes. Hence the need for wings of whatever size makes no sense. Moreover, other than the descriptive visions of the heavenly creatures known as cherubim and seraphim and the decorative designs in the Temple and upon the Mercy Seat, angels that appear to humanity are never described as having wings.

Many supporters of the book claim that any and all objections pale in the face of the supernatural knowledge that Colton reveals–things that were humanly impossible for him to know. For example, he said that he had met his other sister in Heaven. When told by his mother that Cassie was his only sister, his shocking response was, “No….I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” (p. 94). Colton had never been told of the “painful episode” of the miscarriage, and his parents never knew the gender of the fetus. Colton added, “In heaven, this little girl ran up to me, and she wouldn’t stop hugging me….She said she just can’t wait for you and Daddy to get to heaven” (p. 96). That revelation seemed to be the most convincing for Colton’s parents that their son had indeed visited Heaven: “We had wanted to believe that our unborn child had gone to heaven. Even though the Bible is largely silent on this point, we had accepted it on faith. But now, we had an eyewitness: a daughter we had never met was waiting eagerly for us in eternity” (p. 97).

Was Colton truly an eyewitness in Heaven to everything he described? Much of it is quite mindboggling, notwithstanding the fact that all of itis extra-biblical. Yet it provides alleged insights about Heaven; e.g., a girl dies as a fetus, grows into a little girl in heaven, and then is eagerly awaiting her parents’ arrival. What if one or both parents reject the gospel? Would there then be disappointment in a place of perfect bliss?

Consider how Colton’s father mentioned that “the Bible is largely silent” on a certain issue. It is also completely silent on the specific things that Colton has revealed. This raises the question as to why God would leave out something of value for us in His inerrant Word, which was given through His prophets “as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter:1:21)–only to reveal it later through a little boy (as well as many others who make similar claims). On the back cover of the book we read, “ Heaven Is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity, offering the chance to see, and believe, like a child.”

The Bible is God’s precise, absolute, and eternal communication to mankind (Luke:21:33; Hebrews:4:12). It did not come by nor was it left up to the will or imagination of man (2 Peter:1:20). Paul writes, “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians:2:13). Our faith can be childlike, but it is faith placed in God’s Word, not in anyone’s alleged “eyewitness” account, be they a child or an adult. Peter was an eyewitness to an incredible event. He saw Jesus supernaturally transfigured before his very eyes and heard the voice of God. We can be sure that the personal experience he had was true because it’s reported in Scripture. Nevertheless, he tells us that his personal experience (or anyone else’s) is not as trustworthy as the Word of God : “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (2 Peter:1:19) (source link).

The Gospel 

Please take the time to watch this short video so that you can understand the authentic Gospel.

 

Other Resources

Heaven Tourism Critique, Pulpit & Pen

Book Review, The Berean Call  

Book Review, Grace to You

Book Review, GotQuestions.org 

Book Review, Tim Challies 

 

 

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