I kept seeing various attacks against anyone who had given an account of having been in Heaven. The attacks often take the form of accusations that the accounts violate Scripture: “fanciful” “contrary to everything God’s word says about Heaven.” I wonder how many people took the time to read the accusations fully and to search the Scripture to see who is lying? I was compelled to do just that and to write this article. However, I’m not writing as an expert on this subject and I haven’t spent a great deal of time. If you happen to know more about this than I wrote here, feel free to let me know. This article only reflects what I found when I did my research.
These accounts were from people who were confessed Christians. The attacks were not from Atheists and Secularists. The attacks were from Christians. So, who do you believe? In these cases, the first place to look is in the Bible. What we need to do is examine the accusations in the light of Scripture. We’ll look at the various accusations one at a time and see if they are Scriptural. They all claim to be Scriptural.
1. The only Scriptural account of anyone going to Heaven and coming back is Paul. Paul was forbidden to tell about it.
1 Corinthians 12:2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
Some said that the Bible says, “no one is permitted to tell” the things heard in “Paradise.” However, the Bible doesn’t say that Paul couldn’t tell about his trip to Heaven. He wasn’t forbidden to talk about it. He was writing about it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. That’s how we know about it. It says that he heard some unspeakable or unspoken words that it’s not lawful for a man to utter. Through Scripture, God doesn’t make the generalization that these folks made. That’s just how easy it is to add to God’s Words or to minimize God’s Words.
Suppose that the assumption is correct. What if Paul were commanded not to speak of anything that he saw or heard. This might indeed have been the case. If that hypothesis were correct, are we to assume that the same applies to every other person for eternity? Assumption is the thinking tool of Secularists, not Christians. Assumptions add to God’s Words or diminish them.
2. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Therefore, we don’t need any personal testimony of God actually doing anything real.
That conclusion is non sequitur. It doesn’t follow from the premise. The premise is that Jesus said that those who have not seen and yet believed are blessed. You have to add to what Jesus said to think that personal testimony is forbidden or that God doesn’t consider it necessary.
Consider this Scripture:
1 John 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
2 peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
3. Stephen and the Apostles Paul and John were alive when they saw Heaven. They didn’t die or have a near death experience.
Well, that might be true, although it might not be true for Paul. However, even if it is true, how would a new law then be written that God can’t reveal Heaven to anyone who dies and is brought back to life like so many were in Bible days? The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises.
This particular claim adds to God’s words. God asks us not to add to His Words.
4. Don Piper didn’t see Jesus or God.
Consider whether this is a disqualifying point. I don’t know of a Scripture that says that it would be impossible that someone should go to the outskirts of Heaven and be directed back without seeing Christ? Where is the source for this objection other than in human assumptions about Heaven.
Piper described a wonderful place but didn’t say that He physically saw Christ. Some have gone so far as to assume that this means Christ wasn’t there. When one Christian begins to assume things about another Christian, trouble starts. When a Christian begins voicing his or her assumptions implying that they are facts, that’s gossip.
James 2:4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5. The Heaven described is far too human to be Heaven.
What criteria would such a person have to make a judgment about that” It would be either extra-biblical revelation or extra-biblical speculation.
6. The vision of Heaven was either “psychological” (What do you think that implies?) or “demonic deception.”
That’s quite an accusation based on no evidence at all. He didn’t offer the possibility that it was symbolic, as many visions are. He didn’t offer the possibility that the part of Heaven that Piper saw could have been exactly what Piper saw. It’s amazing how dogmatic we humans can become concerning things about which we know little or even nothing at all.
7. God doesn’t want us know know any more about Heaven than He has revealed in the Bible.
Where, in the Bible, does it say that? No Scripture reference was offered.
8. The books and movies about Heaven are made by people focused on themselves.
This is an ad hominem argument. It is a criticism against the person rather than dealing with the subject matter.
Focus on self is always a problem for any Christian who gets any attention. I would suspect that every preacher, author, singer, or other famous Christian struggles with the temptation to glorify themselves rather than Christ. In fact, looking at the way Churches are built, you will usually see that they are built with a focus on the speaker rather than being built for a 1 Corinthians 14 church service. Many organizations focus on a certain person. Even those that have several pastors, generally have a preeminent pastor. No such office is mentioned in Scripture. So, this argument can be used against every man and woman who teaches or preaches on radio or TV. It can be leveled against many pastors in many churches around the world. It can be leveled against many authors and singers if it’s valid.
9. The writing is of inferior quality.
Is there a Scripture that implies that the best writers are inspired by God and those who aren’t that skilled are unable to speak for God? No such Scripture was offered.
10. The teaching is simplistic.
Is there a Scripture that implies that teaching must be complex? None was offered.
11. Too long.
Is there a Scripture that sets the limits for the length of the book?
12. Too boring.
Is that a Scriptural method to judge ministry? To whom was it boring? I know some teenagers who think that anything to do with God is boring. Is the entertainment value and important prerequisite for truth? If so, I don’t know of a Scripture to support this.
I’m neither endorsing nor condemning any of these books or movies. I’ve read two of the books and seen one of the movies. I don’t think that we know enough about Heaven to judge. I wasn’t able to find a single Biblical problem. That doesn’t mean that the books or movies are correct in every detail. It just means that the articles gave a false impression. More importantly, the Church has been divided mainly by speculative doctrines that add to God’s Words and that diminish God’s Words. Those divisive doctrines have led to competitive organizations with a party spirit drawing people together around the organizations rather than around Christ. The intellect is worshiped, and the personal nature of the relationship with Christ is minimized while the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit is minimized.
The advertising for the articles written against these books and movies implied big problems with Scripture. Perhaps these authors are correct and there are grave problems, but I couldn’t find them. Am I missing something?
These books and articles certainly tell about things that aren’t detailed in Scripture. However, any personal testimony of any experience would also give details that couldn’t be found in Scripture. For that matter, when a teacher teaches from Scripture, that teacher invariably says things that are not written. Often that person interprets the Scripture based on whatever theological framework he or she learned. Sometimes, that person is acting as the oracle of God, which is what God commands all of us to be. Only spiritual senses that have been exercised by reason of use can tell the difference. I make no such claim.
If you, the reader, have spoken or written about others, reading into what they were saying, making them seem wrong and evil, I want to encourage you to put the best construction on everything. There is false doctrine, but there is no guarantee that your doctrine or my doctrine is absolutely complete and perfect rendering of what God is telling us through Scripture. Of course, every man’s way is right in his own eyes–women too. Yet, we need to realize that we are not all-knowing, and we don’t know everything God wants us to know. In fact, God says that if anyone thinks that he or she knows any thing (any doctrine, truth, concept, theory, science, etc.), that person doesn’t know it as he or she ought to know it. A demagogue gets his or her popularity by demonizing others. It seems to be a good way to succeed. So many popular Christians make their living this way. If you’ve done this, confess your sin to God. If you’re tempted in this sin, follow the Holy Spirit rather than your own fleshly nature.