I occasionally write book reviews, and the one that has attracted by far the highest amount of hate mail has been my review of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, an account of a child who ‘died and went to heaven’, much like many other accounts out there.
Now, I’m never sure what to believe about these stories. I’m not for a moment saying I think the author of that book, or Heaven Is For Real, or whatever else, is lying – on the contrary, I’m convinced that they’re presenting what they consider to be a true version of events – but I just don’t know whether visiting heaven and coming back to earth is actually possible.
Some people get pretty angry about this on both sides (for ‘pretty’ read ‘aggressively’) – you only need to read the comments on my review, or Tim Challies version of things to see that – but let me try to sum up a fair reflection of what I think:
You only live once
The Bible tells us that ‘man is appointed to die once’ (Hebrews 9:27) – it seems odd that some selected people would experience something suggesting that some die twice.
The age of the Spirit
According to the prophet Joel we ought to expect in these days that anyone could have a supernatural vision. I have no issue admitting that these people could have seen something but that doesn’t mean they’ve actually visited heaven.
Define : heaven
This is probably my biggest issue: each of the authors seems to have an idea of heaven which isn’t the Bible’s. The Bible says that heaven is God’s dwelling place, where he dwells in perfection. To visit heaven would surely mean death for any human. The ‘heaven’ these guys talk about seems to be the made-up heaven where Christians seem to think we’ll all end up, but isn’t found in Scripture. Eternity with Jesus will be spent on the perfect new creation made of the combination of the new heaven and the new earth – it seems odd to me that if these people really did visit a place that God would give them an experience to justify, rather than correct, their misconceptions.
People are genuinely brought to faith by them
God can use anything, so if people are becoming Christians I’m happy. ‘In every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.’