3 Reasons I’m Not a Fan of the “I Went to Heaven” Books

by Mike Leake on November 29, 2012 · 30 comments

Within the last couple of years I have had an influx of requests from publishers to read and review a host of “I went to heaven” books.  The more popular varieties of these books have often led many within our congregation to ask whether or not I’ve read these books and what I thought.

I’ll start out by saying that more than likely I have not read the books.  I’ve maybe skimmed a couple of them.  Before you criticize me, though, for dogging books that I haven’t read please hear me say that you don’t need to read the books to make these statements.  The very presence of the books is the problem not even necessarily what they contain.  Here are my 3 reasons:

  1. We don’t need them.  To believe that we do and that somehow they help exposes our lack of confidence in the Scriptures.  I really appreciate that The Gospel Project called out these books by saying, “The Bible doesn’t need our fantastic experiences to verify it.  It is the very Word of God from the very breath of God”.  Amen.
  2. They misplace our focus.  The point of heaven isn’t the streets of gold.  These books often are attempts at helping satisfy our curiosity about what heaven is going to be like.  The Bible doesn’t seem to care.  Notice that when Paul was contemplating death in his letter to the Philippians he only said, “To depart is to be with Christ and that is far better”.  He didn’t say, “To depart is to get a sweet mansion, gold teeth, and endless rides down the neck of winged-purple dinosaurs.”  The point of heaven is unhindered relationship with Christ.  Anything else only reveals our earthly idols.
  3. Paul couldn’t write about his experience.  In 2 Corinthians Paul mentions that he had a rockin’ heavenly vision.  It would have been a certain best-seller if he could have figured out a way to churn out a bunch of papyrus copies.  But the Scriptures say that rather than a multi-million dollar book deal the Lord gave Paul a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble.  If the apostle Paul couldn’t speak of his heavenly vision what makes these authors believe that they have the green light?

If you are dying to know about heaven I’d suggest reading the Scriptures, spending time with believers, enjoying sunsets, and wage war against idolatry and other God-belittling sins.  Slowly but surely our vision of Christ will expand and we’ll catch a glimpse of what it will be like, though we still look as through a glass dimly, to know Him as He truly is.  That will give you a taste.  You don’t need these stories to distract you from what really matters.

If you are just dying for a book on heaven the best one I’ve read is Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.

1 Steve Young November 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Dave,
Thanks for the post. I was beginning to feel I was the only one that felt this way. Your three points are some of the ones I have made. Thanks again.
Steve in Montana

2 Frank L. November 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm

4. They are not true.

There is a great gulf fixed (Luke 15).

Two years ago I saw the “White Light.” I was near death from a very unexpected heart attack. My pulse was nearly gone and I was right behind it. As life ebbed from my body, I saw it–the White Light.

It was the light of the operating table. It makes a really good story until I get to that last part which seems like a downer for those I’m telling the story to.

But, actually, I thank God for that “white light.” I was ready to meet Him, but apparently He wasn’t ready to meet me.

3 Frank L. November 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Correction: Luke 16

4 John Fariss November 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm

By the way: I will consider revising my opinion if anyone can show me the record of one of these near-death, out-of-body experiences of going towards an intense white light if it is from someone born at night, at a home lit by candles or kerosene lamps. But all I have ever encountered were of people born in modern hospitals. It seems to be a mid- or late-20th Century phenomenon, which itself is rather telling.

John

5 Steve Lamb December 1, 2012 at 1:39 pm

That “chasm” is between heaven and hell, not heaven and earth. Again, not necessarily trying to argue the other side, I am probably somewhere in the middle as somewhat of a skeptic, but that reasoning doesn’t work.

6 John Fariss November 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Frank L., we don’t often agree–but this time we do! I had a heart attack in 2000; saw no white light, and all I can can is that as they were doing the cath, the doctor’s voice seemed to be getting farther and farther away. At the time, I though it was death claiming me. Now though I suspect that happened as he was ballooning the blockage, and the blood flow was getting cut completely off for a few seconds. As soon as the balloon deflated, I was back to normal. In other words, much of the “miracelous” can easily be explained medically. I suspect those with near-death, out-of-body experiences of going toward an intense white light are likewise vague memories of birth, exiting the birth canal toward the surgical array of lights. After all, science says that no memory is ever really lost (unless due to trama or other brain injury), but we lack an effective retrival system for early ones, which oxygen starvation may trigger. Bottom line: God does not live in the dark corners of science or ignorance, as these books and storiues would have us believe. He lives in the Light, as He is Light.

John

7 Frank L. November 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm

John, after all these discussions the only common ground we have found is a “heart-attack.”

There has to be a sermon in there somewhere :)

8 John Fariss December 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Yes that is common ground, and there is probably a sermon in there–but I am not convinced that is our only common ground. To disagree on theological issues also means we share a faith in which we can disagree, and that we speak a common language–not just English, but the language of Christ, not to mention our shared humanity. Were this not so, it would be like a rose bush trying to carry on a conversation with a frog, or a dog with a star–virtually no basis for communication at all.

John

9 Frank L. December 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm

John,

Those are encouraging words. I do believe you are correct. I think that outside of a blog, at a Starbucks perhaps, we could find much to agree on.

One thing would be: you should pay for the Starbucks.

10 Frank L. December 4, 2012 at 4:54 pm

John,

One thing that has become clearer to me hanging around, “Voices,” is that I can disagree with someone without disliking them.

I have not always owned this responsibility well.

11 Joe Dupree November 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Mike, I strongly agree with your points. I have that book by Don Piper, someone gave it to me, and read a couple of chapters, and the one thing that pointed out like a sore thumb was when he was talking about one of the first things he saw, was friends and family. That seemed a bit odd, since the first thing we’ll encounter is God in all His glory.

12 Jess Alford November 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I’ve also heard about people on the operating table going to Hell and comming back, and accepting Christ. I’m glad they accepted Christ, but they never went to Hell. This also goes for those that say they went to Heaven. The mind does strange things sometimes. This is why people love drugs and don’t want to get off from them.

13 Bob Cleveland November 29, 2012 at 11:51 pm

The Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die. After that comes judgment, not a trip back here to report on the experience.

I’ll stand on Hebrews 9:27.

14 Steve Lamb November 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I don’t know if I would make that statement as an argument against these books. I can list a couple of people in the Bible who were raised from the dead. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Lazarus die twice?
I have read two of the most recent books myself and I will admit that I am skeptical, but I am not ready to condemn them as false, misleading, or outright lies. I would not put it past a God who’s ways are higher than ours to give someone a vision of some aspect of Heaven and then expect that person to share it with others.

15 Bob Cleveland December 1, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I am not sure if Lazarus died again; I don’t recall the Bible saying that. Nor about the son of the Widow of Nain, or the son of the widow of Zarephath, but I see in those cases people who’d been given that power, exercising it. I do not see that today.

I’ll stand on the verse, regardless.

16 Steve Lamb December 2, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I guess we can agree to disagree on that. I believe we can assume that those who were raised from the dead did in fact live a normal life and then died in the typical way. Obviously they are not living now and we do have people who were taken up to heaven without dying (Elijah). Of course reasoning would cause us to say if it is appointed for man to die once, then not only can he not die twice, but he cannot also die 0 times. The verse does not say “It is appointed for man to die no more than once,” then you could include 0. If you are saying that Lazarus, who is not alive right now, can be taken up to heaven and have it not be considered death, then Elijah’s journey to heaven would not be considered death as well. Ergo, Elijah died 0 times, not once. I am not saying Lazarus wasn’t taken up in to heaven without dying, I am not ready to put God in that box, I just again don’t believe that verse is evidence God did it that way.

17 Frank L. December 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

“”I believe we can assume”"

Steve, I see that statement as problematic. Bill is standing on a clear statement and you are disagreeing founded upon an “assumption.”

Also, if you read in Scripture (in the Old Testament) two people went to heaven without dying . . . yet. Enoch and Elijah. Interestingly, two “prophets” come to earth in the Book of Revelation and subsequently died.

I’m “assuming” these two prophets are Enoch and Elijah, and therefore, Hebrews 9:27, operates perfectly.

Also, there is something referred to in philosophy as a “sui generis,” which means “one of a kind.” These are events or issues that stand alone and often conflict with universally understood protocols.

Those raised from the dead were “sui generis,” and cannot be included into a broader universal principle, if in fact they did subsequently die — which neither you nor I can declare with biblical certainty.

18 Frank Darvish December 5, 2012 at 1:09 am

Frank L.-

“Also, there is something referred to in philosophy as a “sui generis,” which means “one of a kind.” These are events or issues that stand alone and often conflict with universally understood protocols.

Those raised from the dead were “sui generis,” and cannot be included into a broader universal principle, if in fact they did subsequently die — which neither you nor I can declare with biblical certainty.”

Could this be an argument which someone could use in favor of these books?

As for me, while skeptical, I am not ready to accuse these authors of lying for the sake of monetary gain. We can all agree that it would be out of the norm for God to give someone a vision of Heaven, but is that to say He wouldn’t? I won’t.

19 Zack Stepp November 30, 2012 at 10:11 am

Mike:

Thank you for this post. I think that your second point is really key: These books aren’t just benign. They actually serve to reinforce an unbiblical, winning-the-lottery-while-at-a-family-reunion view of heaven.

20 Mike Leake November 30, 2012 at 10:30 am

I think “at-a-family-reunion” might also be some people’s view of hell.

21 Bill Mac November 30, 2012 at 10:13 am

For as many near-death experiences that seem to support our theology, there are lots of others that do not. Oxygen deprivation is the best theory going.

22 Adam G. in NC November 30, 2012 at 10:25 am

In those books, is this how they spell Je$u$?

23 Dave Miller November 30, 2012 at 11:27 am

Sometimes, I wish we had a “like” button.

24 Mike Leake November 30, 2012 at 11:57 am

Figure out how to download Disqus and maybe you could make that dream true.

25 Clark Dunlap November 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

Thanks! Just Thanks for summing it up well! I’m relieved like I just got something off my chest and I didn’t even write it!

26 Jess Alford November 30, 2012 at 6:55 pm

My question is, why does so many people have those books? They are even passing them around to other folks. Some people will believe anything except the Bible. I never cease to be amazed.

27 Jess Alford November 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm

One more thing, I had a gentleman in my church that will flat out tell you that there is life on other planets. We are not the only people in the universe, because of a movie he saw on television.

28 Rob Ayers December 2, 2012 at 11:11 am

Like many I have a healthy sense of skepticism. Unlike most, I know that God is one of the metaphysical who works in His own way. I have read a couple of the most Christian centric “popular” works. They seem to me to be biblically centric – nothing in them contradicts the Scriptures (and Bob, this supposed issue of “silence” surrounding the second death of Lazarus is a bit of nonsense). As to the claim that “they are false” I will tell you honestly “I don’t know, I was not there.”

I agree with point 1 I agree in part and disagree in part. I don’t think we need these testimonies. But if true, who am I to say “I don’t need it.” As to point 2 there are many things (and idols) that Christians misplace their focus on. This blog is full of them. Point 3 is illogical. Paul was not given a green light – but who says that others cannot receive a green light? Many in Jesus earthly ministry were not given the green light to share with others about what He had done for them. But others were. I suspect it was a case by case thing. To give a concrete reason “not to” based upon one case is a bit obtuse IMHO.

Rob

29 Steve Lamb December 2, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I agree with you completely.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: