You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘heaven is for real’ tag.

What Hollywood gets wrong about heaven

Opinion by Drew Dyck, special to CNN 

(CNN) – The 4-year-old boy sees angels floating toward him. They start out as stars, then slowly become more visible, wings flapping behind orbs of white light.

As they approach, they sing a melodious song. The boy cocks his head, squints into the sky, and makes a strange request. “Can you sing ‘We Will Rock You’?”

The angels giggle.

So do people in the theater.

The scene is from “Heaven is for Real,” the latest in a string of religious movies soaring at the box office. Based on the best-selling book of the same name, the film tells the real-life story of Colton Burpo, a 4-year-old boy who awakens from surgery with eye-popping tales of the great beyond. The film took in an estimated $21.5 million in opening on Easter weekend.

Even Colton’s religious parents (his dad, Todd, is a pastor) struggle to accept the celestial encounters their son describes: seeing Jesus and his rainbow-colored horse, meeting his sister who died in utero, and talking to his deceased great-grandfather, “Pop,” who, Colton exclaims, has “huge wings.”

The book and film are part of a larger trend. Depictions of journeys to heaven have never been more numerous or more popular. There’s “90 Minutes in Heaven,” “To Heaven and Back,” “Proof of Heaven,” and “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” just to name a few

So what should we make of such accounts? And what does their popularity say about us?

Some may be surprised that the Bible contains not one story of a person going to heaven and coming back. In fact Jesus’ own words seem to preclude the possibility: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven  the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

Scripture does contain several visions of heaven or encounters with celestial beings, but they’re a far cry from the feel-good fare of the to-heaven-and-back genre.

In Scripture, when mortals catch a premature glimpse of God’s glory, they react in remarkably similar ways. They tremble. They cower. They go mute. The ones who can manage speech express despair (or “woe” to use the King James English) and become convinced they are about to die. Fainters abound.

Take the prophet Daniel, for instance. He could stare down lions, but when the heavens opened before him, he swooned. Ezekiel, too, was overwhelmed by his vision of God. After witnessing Yahweh’s throne chariot fly into the air with the sound of a jet engine, he fell face-first to the ground.

Perhaps the most harrowing vision belongs to Isaiah. He sees the Almighty “high and exalted,” surrounded by angels who use their wings to shield their faces and feet from the glory of God. Faced with this awesome spectacle, Isaiah loses it. “Woe to me!” he cries, “I am ruined!” (Isaiah 6:5)

New Testament figures fare no better.

John’s famous revelations of heaven left him lying on the ground “as though dead” (Revelation 1:17). The disciples dropped when they saw Jesus transfigured. Even the intrepid Saul marching to Damascus collapsed before the open heavens  and walked away blind.

How different from our popular depictions. And it isn’t just “Heaven is for Real.”

For the rest of the post..

Heaven Is For Real
by Todd Burpo
Embarking on a short tour of the afterlife is all the rage, it seems. Don Piper got it started with 90 Minutes in Heaven, a really bad book that sold millions of copies. Then there was23 Minutes in Hell, another bestseller and another awful book. And now hot on their heels comesHeaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. It’s currently sitting atop the New York Times list of bestsellers and has over a half million copies in print. I wonder if I’m the only one who finds it a mite suspicious that now that these books are selling like proverbial hotcakes, more and more people find that God wants them to tell their stories of heaven and hell. Probably not.

Heaven Is For Real is written by pastor Todd Burpo and it tells the story of his son Colton who, at age 4, visited heaven. His visit came while he was on the operating table after suffering a burst appendix. He told his parents his story several months later and his parents then waited 6 or 7 years to record it in a book. That book has shot to the top of the charts, resulting in many of you sending me emails to ask, “Have you read it?” So I went ahead and read it. Because that’s the kind of guy I am.

You will probably not be surprised to learn that this is not a good book. What I want to do here is offer a very brief review and then I want to tell you why you can legitimately dismiss this book and all the others like it, because I think that’s where many of us feel the tension—what gives me the right to dismiss another person’s experience?

I’ve already given you the broad outline. Colton dies (or something close to it) and visits heaven for an unknown period of time. He returns to his body and over the months and years that follow tells his parents about his time in heaven. He tells about spending time with Jesus, about meeting the sister he never knew he had, about fluttering around with wings, about the pearly gates, and on and on. Along the way you’ll get descriptions of Todd’s various afflictions and you’ll read the fine details of Colton’s battles with constipation and the great relief he experienced passing gas. Riveting stuff, this.

Every one of Colton’s experiences, or very nearly every one, follows a pattern. He tells his father some little detail. His father experiences a gasp or feels his heart skip a beat. “I could hardly breathe. My mind was reeling. My head was spinning.” A Scripture verse comes to dad’s mind that validates the experience. Colton gets bored and runs off. Repeat.

The story is told with short chapters and grade school-level writing. Fine literature it is not. The point of it all is to encourage you that heaven is a real place. Colton went there and his experience now validates its existence. Just like Don Piper went there and his experience validates its existence. Just like Bill Wiese went to hell and can speak with authority to tell you that you really, really don’t want to go there. Just like the Apostle Paul went there and told us all about it in order to…oh wait.

Now, what do I do with a book like this one? It seems to me that there are only a couple of options available to me. I can accept it, agreeing that this little boy is legitimate—he went to heaven and is now telling the tale for our edification. Or I can reject what this boy is saying—he did not go to heaven and this book is fictitious. If I go with this second option (which is exactly what I am doing) I now have two choices before me: either the boy (and/or his parents) is a liar or he genuinely believes he experienced something that he did not actually experience. I know which way I would lean, but I suppose that’s neither here nor there.

Either option is very uncharitable and each one leaves me with a further problem: on what grounds can I dismiss this as fiction, as a book that is completely unprofitable?

If I wanted to disprove Colton’s experience on grounds of logic or consistency I might point in a couple of different directions. In the first place, Colton is a toddler who speaks like an adult. His verbatim quotes sound nothing like a 4-year old, and I think I can say this with some authority as the father of a 4-year old. I’d also point to the fact that dad routinely remembers circumstantial detail that there is very little chance he would remember 6 or 7 years after the fact, something that, at the very least, tells me that he is filling in details where he feels he needs to. But there are better grounds.

The better strategy, I think, is to look to the Bible.

For the rest of the post…

Heaven Is Real, but Heaven Is for Real Is Really Not

Article ID: HIR20140416 | By: Hank Hanegraaff

HeavensGate

See Hank’s special video resource: Hank articulates ten reasons why both the book and film,Heaven is for Real is a dangerous diversion. Click here to view the video.


To read Hank’s related article: Heaven Is Real, please click here.


There is nothing new under the sun. From the time occult parapsychologist Raymond Moody coined the moniker “Near-Death Experience” (NDE) to the present, bestsellers on NDEs have abounded—Embraced by the Light by Betty Eadie; Beyond Death’s Door by Maurice Rawlings;Life after Life by Raymond Moody; The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin Malarkey; 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper; My Journey to Heaven by Marvin J. Besteman; Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander—to name just a few.

The following are ten reasons I consider the movie
Heaven Is for Real to be a dangerous diversion:

1. It is more than noteworthy to point out that NDEs are predictably contextualized by the backgrounds and belief systems of those who experience them. As such, they hardly provide a unified conclusion regarding the matters of life and death, heaven and hell, and most importantly the nature of God. Muslims encounter the Holy Spirit as the archangel Gabriel. Buddhists are inexorably guided down the pathway to nirvanic realization of “no self.” And the Burpos, who interpret the Bible literalistically, are now convinced that God the Father has enormous wings, blue eyes, and yellow hair, and God the Son is wingless, with sea-green-bluish eyes, brown hair, and a rainbow-colored horse. And the Holy Spirit? Well, He is bluish! Who would have thought?

 2. The subjective recollection of NDErs are wildly divergent and mutually contradictory. Logically, while they can all be wrong, they cannot all be right. Orthopedic surgeon Mary Neal, in the wake of a drowning accident, felt her soul being inexorably pulled toward the entry of a “great and brilliant hall,” in which the dead are given “a final opportunity to choose God—or turn away—for eternity.” Conversely, in Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, Dr. Eben Alexander experiences an afterlife in which such choices are wholly unnecessary—“You have nothing to fear.” “There is nothing you can do wrong.” This, writes Alexander, “is not only the single most important emotional truth in the universe, but also the single most important scientific truth as well.” In short, Neal, Alexander, and, for that matter, the Burpos and a host of other NDErs paint entirely different and conflicting portraits of the afterlife.

3. There is a substantive difference between clinical death and biological death. Put another way, to be almost dead and absolutely dead are two entirely different propositions. We may rightly suppose that what is experienced during clinical death and what will be experienced at the climax of death are not one and the same. The point here is that NDEs do not provide definitive knowledge of what happens after death in that NDErs by definition have not actually experienced biological death. In short, a near-death experience is the subjective recollection of an experience that occurred during a state of unconsciousness precipitated by a medical crisis, such as an accident, suicide attempt, or cardiac arrest. As such, an NDE is notoriously unreliable as a means by which to determine what awaits us when “the silver cord is severed” (Ecclesiastes 12:6).

4. There is a clear and present danger in turning to Burpo rather than the Bible respecting those things that allegedly will happen in the future. Has Burpo indeed been shown the future? Is he really a direct eyewitness who is now empowered to settle theological issues that the body of Christ has struggled with throughout its history? Has he really had face-to-face communication with the resurrected Christ, John the Baptist, David, Peter, John, and even the archangel Gabriel? If so, Burpo is a treasure to the body of Christ like unto the Bible. If not, we should dismiss the subjective recollections of a three-year-old and instead hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

5. While Christ does not tell us the time of His second appearing, Colton is more than happy to! Indeed, according to Colton, it is within the lifetime of his own father. As a result, Pastor Burpo not only knows that he will be alive during the final battle of Armageddon but also that he will personally slay monsters during this cosmic battle with either a sword or a bow and an arrow.

6. Among the biblical writers who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), not one dared say that like their Lord they could speak authoritatively about heaven from firsthand knowledge. Nor, in contrast to Burpo, did one of them dare prophesy the century of Christ’s return!

7. In the 14th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Dr. Luke chronicles the near-death experience of Paul.

For the rest of the post…

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (BP) — How do you compete with cuteness?

Everybody loves the cuteness, innocence and honesty of children. Now comes the story of Colton Burpo who, at age 4, told of a three-minute trip to heaven and returned to tell us Heaven is for Real, a New York TimesBestseller published by Thomas Nelson in 2010.

Millions have read the gripping story that will soon be seen by predictably larger numbers when the movie version is released in April just in time for Easter.

Should this amazing testimony be taken at face value? Or as Todd Burpo, Colton’s father asked in the book’s prologue, “How could he [Colton] have known?” And, “Could this be real?”

Todd concluded that there is only one explanation for his son’s knowledge — it’s an eyewitness account in heaven itself. Therefore, what Colton said must be real. Reading various reviews and endorsements of the book, it appears that many, including evangelical leaders, have come to the same conclusion.

But how should a Bible-believing Christian respond?

The cuteness, innocence and honesty of 4-year-olds as well as the testimony of adults must bow before the divine revelation of God’s Word.

On the one hand I am happy the movie is coming out. What a great opportunity to get people talking about heaven! Those who view the movie will be open to discussing its views of heaven compared to biblical teachings. A clear and accurate presentation of the Gospel can easily flow from this.

On the other hand I am saddened. Many people will succumb to the real temptation to base their view of heaven on the word of a 4-year-old boy instead of the Word of God. This type of reaction has already followed the book.

Space will allow just a few areas in the book that cause concern and may be part of the movie version:

  • Colton said that in heaven, “Everybody’s got wings” (p. 72), and “Pop [Todd’s grandfather] has really big wings” (p. 87). This is not found in the Bible. This description could further a common misunderstanding that humans become angels in heaven; but we do not.
  • Speaking of Pop on another occasion, Colton said, “He’s in heaven. He’s got a new body. Jesus told me if you don’t go to heaven, you don’t get a new body” (p. 136). The Bible assures believers they will get a new body, but the new body is not received until the resurrection. During the time between physical death and resurrection we continue to exist, but not in a physical body (1 Corinthians 15:12-582 Corinthians 5:1-8).
  • Then there are odd revelations by Colton that seem to be accepted without question: God’s throne is “really, really big, because God is the biggest one there is” (p. 100) and the Holy Spirit is “kind of blue” (p. 103). These descriptions are not supported by Scripture.
  • My greatest concern is seen in the mostly subtle inferences, and sometimes direct statements, that God’s Word is somehow confirmed by the testimony of Colton. The Bible stands true on its own merits and is not dependent of one’s experiences to confirm it; on the contrary, the Word of God must confirm all experiences.

Remember Todd’s first question, “How could he [Colton] have known” some of the things he talked about? How could a person know information about dead loved ones they didn’t even know existed?

For the rest of the post…

NANCY GUTHRIE

We Don’t Have to Read the Book or See the Movie to Know Heaven Is Real

“Have you read Heaven Is for Real?” I’ve been asked this question more times than I can count. So let me just tell you—no, I haven’t. I was actually asked by the publisher to read the manuscript to offer an endorsement before the book came out, but I declined. And clearly the lack of an endorsement from me has not hindered sales.

HeavenisforrealtheaterposterI’ve been hoping that the hoopla surrounding this book and so many of the other “died and went to heaven and came back” books would end. And then I went to the theater over the holidays and saw previews for the upcoming movie based on Heaven Is for Real. So before you ask if I am going to see the movie, let me just tell you—no, I’m not.

Do These Books Encourage Genuine Faith?

People sometimes say these stories encouraged their faith or the faith of someone they know. But I think they actually diminish biblical faith by elevating claims of a supernatural experience over the substance of the Scriptures. Most of these claims of seeing into heaven focus on earthbound concerns and stunted human desires that lack what the Bible describes as the heart of heaven—the glory of God, the Lamb who was slain, on the throne of the universe. In embracing these stories we’re saying the Bible is simply not enough, that someone’s mystical experience is needed to verify or “make real” what God has said. But saving faith is putting all our hopes in who God is and what God has said as revealed in the Bible. It is being confident of what we can’t see (John 20:29Hebrews 11:1), not being convinced by something someone else supposedly saw.

Interestingly, Jesus himself spoke of the uselessness of such testimony for generating genuine faith. Jesus told a story about a rich man in the place of the dead who calls out to “Father Abraham” to go and warn his brothers so they will not end up in the place of torment (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man wants someone who has died and gone to heaven to come back to life and tell about his experience so that his family members will believe what the Scriptures teach about the consequences of failing to become united to Christ by faith.

In Jesus’ story Father Abraham says, “If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, (meaning, if they won’t believe what the Bible says) they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.” Jesus is saying that everything we need to put our faith in the promises of God, everything we need to find comfort and hope regarding the life beyond this life, can be found in the Scriptures.

Testimonies You Can Trust

There are only five testimonies of seeing into the realities of heaven that we are obligated to believe. These testimonies clearly develop rather than diminish biblical faith. There is Isaiah, who saw the Lord high and lifted up, seated on a throne (Isaiah 6); Ezekiel, who was given a vision of the future new heavens and new earth that he describes as garden-like city in the shape of a temple called The Lord Is There (Ezekiel 40-48); Stephen, who, before he was stoned by the people of Jerusalem “gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'” (Acts 7:55-56); John, who saw the risen and glorified Jesus seated on the throne of the universe being worshiped by all the people of the earth, all the creatures of the earth, and all the angels of heaven (Revelation 1, 4); and the apostle Paul, who was caught up into the third heaven and “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Cor. 12:1-7). Isn’t it interesting that Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, did not include details about what he saw in his personal guided tour of heaven and said, in fact, that it should not be talked about?

None of these witnesses claims to have died and come back to life. None of these testimonies focuses on meetings with other people who have died. These witnesses are clearly captivated by God alone. We read that they fell on their faces as their eyes beheld the glory of God radiating from his being.

Of course, the Bible does tell us about some people who died and came back to life. Yet it doesn’t see fit to record their testimony about the experience. Evidently it just isn’t worthy of being presented to us as a foundation for faith. If it were, wouldn’t there be a book of Lazarus in which he gives us a run-down on those four days in the grave before Jesus called him back to life (John 11)? Matthew tells us that when Jesus died, “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt. 27:52). Amazingly that’s all we’re told. If the testimonies of those who have died and gone to heaven and come back to life provided something of value to help us to put our faith in the promises of God, wouldn’t the Gospels contain their testimonies?

How We Really Know Heaven Is Real

The question really isn’t about whether or not a 4-year-old’s description of heaven lines up with what the Scriptures teach. The question is whether or not we really believe that God in his Word “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). Admittedly the Bible does not provide as much detail about what awaits us beyond this life as some of us might like. It does tell us four significant things:

1. We will be with Christ (Luke 23:42-43Phil 1:21-23).

2. It will be far better than life on this earth (Phil 1:21-23).

3. We will be away from the body (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

4. Our spirits will be made perfect—completely cleansed of sin (Hebrews 12:22-23).

Since we know that to be at home with the Lord is to be away from the body, when one of these books describes physical bodies in heaven that are healed and whole, we know instantly that it is not a genuine account of the current realities of heaven. One day the physical bodies of those who are united to Christ will be healed and whole like the body of the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22-231 John 3:2). But that will not be until the day Christ returns and makes all things new. Right now “we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).

For the rest of the post…

May 2019
S M T W T F S
« Apr    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Archives

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.