Friday, October 5, 2012

Heaven is not for Real

            I knew that title would grab your attention!  Don’t worry I do believe heaven is a real place and one day all those who have placed their faith in God will end up there, but I want to talk on the reliability of the book Heaven is for Real.  It is a book about a young child who dies when his kidney erupts, goes to heaven, hangouts in the celestial city with Christ, Gabriel, and everyone else, and then returns to life to tell the story.  I will not go on talking about the story; you can read a synopsis of it elsewhere.  What I want to do is analyze the book with Scripture to show how this book is not true.  I am not trying to discrediting the character of Todd or Colton Burpo.  In the book, they seem like nice people who have the best intentions at heart.  All I want to say is: The accounts in the book cannot be accurate and the Bible be the true inspired Word of God.
            The first point I would like to disagree with the book is that heaven is not a current place to go to.  One day it will be.  Christ will come back, he will raise the saints up and create a new heaven. This is the heaven that will have streets of gold and gates made of pearls.  Right now the saints who have died are in an intermediate state; this state is called “Paradise” in Luke 23:43.  Secondly, Colton said he say people with bodies and wings on them; however, the bodily resurrection will not happen until Christ’s second coming.  It will be then that the transformation of these sinful bodies will take place, but until then the bodies will not be transformed.  Third, the book seems to have a focus on getting back to that “heaven” Colton was at, but as Dr. Jeff Gibbs astutely notes, “There is not one crumb, not one word in Heaven is For Real that God’s full plan of salvation in Christ means eternal life now, and on the last day, full bodily holiness and immortality for all believers and for the whole cosmos.  There is no appreciation for the importance of our bodies, and of God’s promise in Christ to redeem them and raise us to everlasting life.”[1]  Dr. Gibbs says the correct response to the book is to quote the Nicene Creed when it says, “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world (Greek, “age”) to come.”  Fourth I there is not statement in the Bible that God will take some to heaven and then send them back on earth.  It is actually quite the opposite of that.  In Luke 16 there is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.   When the rich man asks God to send back Lazarus God says “No!”  This leads into the last point, God said “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they hear when a man rises from the dead.”  This book has helped Todd and other comes to accept God’s promises in a better way (see pgs. 84, 126, and 130 in the Heaven is for Real); however, we are not suppose to accept God’s promises on anything less than God’s own testimony.  Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”  Peter also warned us not to trust any one’s experiences writing, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Peter 1:19). And Jesus himself said “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29).
            I am not trying to dismiss near death experiences.  There are plenty of people who have reported them.  I am disagreeing that young Colton went to heaven and then came to earth, or that Don Piper spent 90 minutes in heaven, or that Bill Wiese spent 23 minutes in hell.  It is not Biblical to believe so.  As Christians, we are not to accept the experience of others as authoritative, but we are to be searching the Scripture and comparing the Scriptures to man's experiencesto see if they match up.  Colton’s story is a nice story, but it does not match up with the Bible.  So I warn you, do not be deceived by these myths and fairy tales.  Do not be lead astray.  Heaven is real, but it not real because Colton says so, but because Christ says so.

**There are a few other good blogs out on this done by Tim Challis [here], C. Michael Patton [here], and T. A. McMahon [here].


  1. Zach
    You make some very valid points and more importantly, some very Biblical points. I was wondering how you view Colton’s experience. It obviously was real, because of the empirical evidence to suggest so. After reading your blog, I could not help but think of 2nd Corinthians 11: 14-15, “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness” (NIV). Do you think Colton’s experience, while real, was meant to lead others astray? Similar to the thought that while it might be real, that does not make it true. If I am understanding your blog, what Colton experienced might be similar to a psychic who produces loved ones and can give information about the person and other events because of a demonic influence. I would welcome your further thoughts on the matter.

    1. I do not think Colton's experience was "real" (I use real synonymous with true here. I think he thinks he went to heaven, but I do not think his experience of heaven was real. His thinking of his experience to be heaven might be real, but not the actual experience of being in heaven.). That was the point of the blog. He may have had an NDE where he had an out of body experience, but I am convinced he did not go to heaven. To answer why did God allow him/give him these visions of what he thought to be heaven would go beyond my knowledge of God's wisdom. I know it was to bring him glory and for the joy of all the saints, but what that practically looks like now I do not know. It could be possible that it was some sort of demonic vision. I am not sure, but what Scripture is clear on though (thus I know for sure), is no one goes to heaven and comes back to tell about it.

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  3. Zach,

    I too believe you had some rather well articulated Biblical support for your analysis. Before I go any further I want to express my own skepticism over this young man's account of heaven and all that he witnessed there. It is a bit of an eyebrow raiser when everything he describes sounds like what is commonly taught in Sunday School or that every image he paints seems to bare a striking likeness to most modern depictions of Christ and heaven. But, I feel the need to interject an idea for scripture that has not been mentioned yet, and that is the picture painted for us at the beginning of the fourth chapter of Revelation when John is caught up to heaven to bare witness of things to come. The passage reads, " “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, “Come up
    here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. 3 And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald." The descriptions go on and on concerning what John viewed in heaven but the larger point is that he was there and he gives us vivid descriptions of what he witnessed. It does seem possible for people to go to heaven and return (John's language reverts from topics of heaven to the churches again later on). What do we make of this? Again, I am not saying I believe in this young boy's account of heaven but I cannot fully discredit it either. What are your thoughts?


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