Sunday, January 22, 2012
Heaven is for Real
“Heaven is a place. It is not a state of mind,” our pastor stressed in his sermon. “The Bible says so.”
To Bible-believing Christians, there is no question that heaven is indeed a place. No matter what others say about heaven—bliss in one's heart or peace in one's mind, yada, yada—I know that those who have entrusted their lives to Jesus will go to that beautiful, breathtaking place someday.
I have read a few books that detail a short glimpse or tour of the afterlife, and I have actually talked to a child who claimed to have gone to heaven and back, but my belief in the heaven that the Bible describes remains unchanged.
Currently on the New York Times bestsellers list is a book entitled “Heaven is for Real” by pastor Todd Burpo. He tells the story of his son Colton who at age 4 (the age of Adrian, my grandson) visited heaven while he was undergoing a life-threatening surgery.
Most of Colton’s experiences are validated by a Bible verse. As a writer myself, I was curious as to how the author could put a story together which came in bits and pieces from the mouth of a growing boy for a period of 6 to 7 years. I couldn't put the book down.
What riveted me most was the part where Colton's sister (miscarried at two months) happily hugged Colton who had no idea who she was. The Bible is silent on what happens to babies who die at birth. But I have always believed that God's grace has something wonderful planned for all his creation, which includes my son Adrian who died 14 hours after birth years ago. Colton has painted for me one healing scenario.
So what's the point of the book? Well, it is to convince readers that heaven exists.
That's where book reviewer/blogger/pastor Tim Challies has a problem. Colton went to heaven and “his experience now validates heaven's existence?!”
He suggests that we go back to the Scriptures. “ . . . the Bible gives us no indication whatsoever that God will work in this way and that He will call one of us to heaven and then cause us to return. It is for man to die once and then the resurrection. To allow a man (or a boy) to experience heaven and then to bring him back would not be grace but cruelty.”
The trouble with a book like this is that, he adds, “through their experience we now find confidence that what God says is true.” It should be the other way around. A testimony of a child cannot, and must not, replace Bible truths.
After mulling this over, I am reminded that these are indeed the last days. Many new teachings that come in many guises can distract us from “keeping watch.”