In a few days the movie based off the best selling “Evangelical Christian” book of the last decade, Heaven is For Real, debuts. Some of the truths in the sentence I just wrote frighten me and cause me to wonder if we have a biblically discerning, “Berean” culture in today’s Evangelical Church (cf. Acts 17:11). If you have not read the book, the basic premise of this supposedly true story is that a little boy is pronounced dead during an emergency surgery, goes to heaven, is revived, and recounts what heaven looks like in the ensuing months. There are all kinds of verses that come to mind that raise concern for our discernment about this story. David Platt highlights two of them while quoting John McArthur in this video clip from last year’s Secret Church
However, my biggest concern is the number of Christians who say this book bolsters their faith. These responses concern me greatly because they betray our lack of confidence in the sufficiency of the scriptures. Why do we look to a story about a boy’s “experience” with more excitement and awe than we do the Word of the Living God? But this type of demand for additional assurance than biblical truthfulness is nothing new. We have seen this before—in fact, about 2,000 years before. Jesus tells us a story about such a man in Luke 16:19-31 in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The parable is about the rich man dying and going to Hell while Lazarus dies and goes to Abraham’s side. The climax of the story records the rich man’s plea to Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead. Here is what is recorded for us in verses 28-31: “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house-for I have five brothers-so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.‘”
Christian, you do not need a dream of a 5 year old boy or someone spending “90 Minutes in Heaven” to prove to you that Heaven is for real or bolster your faith. You have the Prophets and Apostles! For 2,000 years they have been shouting to us through the Word that One came back from the dead and offers us both a resurrection like his and eternal life. Yes, Heaven is for real, and it’s a certainty for the believer. We shouldn’t garner our hope in the testimony of a 5-year-old boy, but in the power of our Lord and Christ who vacated a tomb in the Middle East and is right now at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. After all, we know Heaven is for real because in Christ we have already been raised from the dead and are right now seated in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6).
All this we know because the Bible told us so.
Post by Nate Akin, director of B21 and Pastor for Disciple-Making at Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, NC