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We Don't Have to Read the Book or See the Movie to Know Heaven Is Real
The Gospel Coalition ^ | January 24, 2014 | Nancy Guthrie

Posted on 01/28/2014 10:16:06 AM PST by Gamecock

"Have you read Heaven Is for Real?" I've been asked this question more times than I can count. So let me just tell you—no, I haven't. I was actually asked by the publisher to read the manuscript to offer an endorsement before the book came out, but I declined. And clearly the lack of an endorsement from me has not hindered sales.

Heavenisforrealtheaterposter

I've been hoping that the hoopla surrounding this book and so many of the other "died and went to heaven and came back" books would end. And then I went to the theater over the holidays and saw previews for the upcoming movie based on Heaven Is for Real. So before you ask if I am going to see the movie, let me just tell you—no, I'm not.

Do These Books Encourage Genuine Faith?

People sometimes say these stories encouraged their faith or the faith of someone they know. But I think they actually diminish biblical faith by elevating claims of a supernatural experience over the substance of the Scriptures. Most of these claims of seeing into heaven focus on earthbound concerns and stunted human desires that lack what the Bible describes as the heart of heaven—the glory of God, the Lamb who was slain, on the throne of the universe. In embracing these stories we're saying the Bible is simply not enough, that someone's mystical experience is needed to verify or "make real" what God has said. But saving faith is putting all our hopes in who God is and what God has said as revealed in the Bible. It is being confident of what we can't see (John 20:29; Hebrews 11:1), not being convinced by something someone else supposedly saw.

Interestingly, Jesus himself spoke of the uselessness of such testimony for generating genuine faith. Jesus told a story about a rich man in the place of the dead who calls out to "Father Abraham" to go and warn his brothers so they will not end up in the place of torment (Luke 16:19-31). The rich man wants someone who has died and gone to heaven to come back to life and tell about his experience so that his family members will believe what the Scriptures teach about the consequences of failing to become united to Christ by faith.

In Jesus' story Father Abraham says, "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, (meaning, if they won't believe what the Bible says) they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead." Jesus is saying that everything we need to put our faith in the promises of God, everything we need to find comfort and hope regarding the life beyond this life, can be found in the Scriptures.

Testimonies You Can Trust

There are only five testimonies of seeing into the realities of heaven that we are obligated to believe. These testimonies clearly develop rather than diminish biblical faith. There is Isaiah, who saw the Lord high and lifted up, seated on a throne (Isaiah 6); Ezekiel, who was given a vision of the future new heavens and new earth that he describes as garden-like city in the shape of a temple called The Lord Is There (Ezekiel 40-48); Stephen, who, before he was stoned by the people of Jerusalem "gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'" (Acts 7:55-56); John, who saw the risen and glorified Jesus seated on the throne of the universe being worshiped by all the people of the earth, all the creatures of the earth, and all the angels of heaven (Revelation 1, 4); and the apostle Paul, who was caught up into the third heaven and "heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter" (2 Cor. 12:1-7). Isn't it interesting that Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, did not include details about what he saw in his personal guided tour of heaven and said, in fact, that it should not be talked about?

None of these witnesses claims to have died and come back to life. None of these testimonies focuses on meetings with other people who have died. These witnesses are clearly captivated by God alone. We read that they fell on their faces as their eyes beheld the glory of God radiating from his being.

Of course, the Bible does tell us about some people who died and came back to life. Yet it doesn't see fit to record their testimony about the experience. Evidently it just isn't worthy of being presented to us as a foundation for faith. If it were, wouldn't there be a book of Lazarus in which he gives us a run-down on those four days in the grave before Jesus called him back to life (John 11)? Matthew tells us that when Jesus died, "many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised" (Matt. 27:52). Amazingly that's all we're told. If the testimonies of those who have died and gone to heaven and come back to life provided something of value to help us to put our faith in the promises of God, wouldn't the Gospels contain their testimonies?

How We Really Know Heaven Is Real

The question really isn't about whether or not a 4-year-old's description of heaven lines up with what the Scriptures teach. The question is whether or not we really believe that God in his Word "has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3). Admittedly the Bible does not provide as much detail about what awaits us beyond this life as some of us might like. It does tell us four significant things:

1. We will be with Christ (Luke 23:42-43Phil 1:21-23).

2. It will be far better than life on this earth (Phil 1:21-23).

3. We will be away from the body (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).

4. Our spirits will be made perfect—completely cleansed of sin (Hebrews 12:22-23).

Since we know that to be at home with the Lord is to be away from the body, when one of these books describes physical bodies in heaven that are healed and whole, we know instantly that it is not a genuine account of the current realities of heaven. One day the physical bodies of those who are united to Christ will be healed and whole like the body of the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22-23; 1 John 3:2). But that will not be until the day Christ returns and makes all things new. Right now "we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body (Philippians 3:20-21).

Until then, we do not need the testimony of an impressionable 4-year-old boy, a neurosurgeon, spine surgeon, sports writer, or even a pastor to know that heaven is real. We have everything we need in the Bible. Its testimony is enough to generate genuine faith in Christ, as well as a greater longing for unending life in his presence.

Nancy Guthrie and her husband, David, and son, Matt, make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. She and David are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches around the country and host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. In May 2014 they will be offering a Respite Retreat in the UK for the first time. Nancy is the author of numerous books, including Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow and is currently working on the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.



TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 01/28/2014 10:16:06 AM PST by Gamecock
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To: Gamecock

No one goes to Heaven and comes back to talk about it. Anyone who “comes back” wasn’t dead.


2 posted on 01/28/2014 10:34:09 AM PST by I want the USA back (Media: completely irresponsible traitors. Complicit in the destruction of our country.)
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To: Gamecock
This essay is beside the point.

People who believe in God aren't asking themselves "Is there a Heaven?" People who are uncertain about whether there is a God are asking themselves "Did this boy really see Heaven? Because if he did then maybe there is a Heaven and maybe there is a God after all."

So telling people to read scripture is pointless. The people who already believe in scripture already believe in God and in Heaven. The people who question whether God exists also question the veracity of scripture.

If God is giving some of us sneak peeks at Heaven and the evidence they provide leads some unbelievers to the scriptures then that is all good in my book.

3 posted on 01/28/2014 10:35:56 AM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: who_would_fardels_bear

The essay is the point.

Why believe a four year old boy? Does he present the Gospel to someone who hears they hype on the news?

We are saved by hearing what God has given us, not some peripheral chatter, that quite frankly could come from our adversary.


4 posted on 01/28/2014 10:38:34 AM PST by Gamecock (If you like your constitution, you can keep your constitution. Period. (M.S.))
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To: who_would_fardels_bear
telling people to read scripture is pointless.

Telling people to read scripture is never pointless! I recommend it daily

5 posted on 01/28/2014 10:43:11 AM PST by HonkyTonkMan
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To: Gamecock

We are saved by accepting Jesus Christ as our personal savior. How we get to that point is entirely an individual matter. There is no one-size-fits-all path to enlightenment and acceptance. What convinced me may not convince the next person.


6 posted on 01/28/2014 10:47:10 AM PST by BykrBayb (Somewhere, my flower is there. ~ Þ)
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To: who_would_fardels_bear
So telling people to read scripture is pointless.


"I find your lack of faith disturbing!"

7 posted on 01/28/2014 10:49:19 AM PST by Gamecock (If you like your constitution, you can keep your constitution. Period. (M.S.))
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To: BykrBayb

Except these books/stories don’t teach Salvation.

They are usually presented as some squishy form of universalism. They don’t point anyone to Jesus, and yest Christians get a tingly feeling down their leg because the story hints at an afterlife.


8 posted on 01/28/2014 10:51:55 AM PST by Gamecock (If you like your constitution, you can keep your constitution. Period. (M.S.))
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To: I want the USA back
Hmmm. So I guess that story about Lazarus was just a lie, then.

Thank you for sorting that out for us.

9 posted on 01/28/2014 10:52:19 AM PST by Oberon (John 12:5-6)
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To: Gamecock

Faith WITHOUT seeing is best! But people lap this stuff up and refuse sound doctrine.


10 posted on 01/28/2014 11:03:42 AM PST by avenir (I'm pessimistic about man, but I'm optimistic about GOD!)
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To: BykrBayb

I agree.


11 posted on 01/28/2014 11:07:07 AM PST by Irenic (The pencil sharpener and Elmer's glue is put away-- we've lost the red wheelbarrow)
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To: Gamecock

I find your lack of logical reasoning capability disturbing.


12 posted on 01/28/2014 11:11:18 AM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: I want the USA back

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. (2 Corinthians 12:2–4)


13 posted on 01/28/2014 11:12:16 AM PST by Sheapdog (Chew the meat, spit out the bones - FUBO - Come and get me)
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To: who_would_fardels_bear

I find your dismissal of God ordained means as seen in Scripture frightening.


14 posted on 01/28/2014 11:14:54 AM PST by Gamecock (If you like your constitution, you can keep your constitution. Period. (M.S.))
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To: Gamecock

I thought the Scriptures were filled with “supernatural experiences”


15 posted on 01/28/2014 11:15:52 AM PST by conservativepoet
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To: conservativepoet

That doesn’t mean we are to go looking for them now.

They were used as teaching points, not normative experiences.


16 posted on 01/28/2014 11:18:07 AM PST by Gamecock (If you like your constitution, you can keep your constitution. Period. (M.S.))
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To: Sheapdog

Excellent point. I find all these books about after death experiences extremely narcissistic and completely unbiblical. As the Bible states it is appointed unto men “once” to die and then the judgment. No mention in scripture about doing it twice.


17 posted on 01/28/2014 11:18:50 AM PST by 426cuda
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To: I want the USA back

And in the words of Lazarus, “What?! Dead again?” It’s interesting there’s no mention of what Lazarus saw when he was dead. I would have thought that he’d go around proclaiming what he saw and what happened.


18 posted on 01/28/2014 11:20:30 AM PST by SkyDancer (Live your life in such a way that the Westboro church will want to picket your funeral)
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To: Gamecock
People sometimes say these stories encouraged their faith or the faith of someone they know. But I think they actually diminish biblical faith by elevating claims of a supernatural experience over the substance of the Scriptures. Most of these claims of seeing into heaven focus on earthbound concerns and stunted human desires that lack what the Bible describes as the heart of heaven—the glory of God, the Lamb who was slain, on the throne of the universe. In embracing these stories we're saying the Bible is simply not enough, that someone's mystical experience is needed to verify or "make real" what God has said....

....Interestingly, Jesus himself spoke of the uselessness of such testimony for generating genuine faith....In Jesus' story Father Abraham says, "If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, (meaning, if they won't believe what the Bible says) they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead." Jesus is saying that everything we need to put our faith in the promises of God, everything we need to find comfort and hope regarding the life beyond this life, can be found in the Scriptures.

I'm confident that, somewhere, someone's cruising the Internet looking for something to get offended about. They just haven't found this thread yet.

Four-year-old Jeremy Werdt says he went to heaven during emergency spleen surgery, and his testimony of seeing Jesus and deceased relatives thrilled his Christian family and landed him a book contract....

....“To have Jeremy back and talking about this amazing experience of being with the Lord was the most wonderful day of our lives,” says his mother, Brenda. “He named all the relatives he’d seen and we just sat there crying. Then, after a while, we realized he hadn’t said anything about my mom, Grandma Spencer....Every time we asked he just shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘Nope. Not there,’” says Brenda. “We suggested maybe he didn’t recognize her because she looked younger in heaven. He smiled and said, ‘Mom, you recognize everyone in heaven. Grandma wasn’t around.’”
-- from the thread ‘Grandma not in heaven’ boy reports


19 posted on 01/28/2014 11:21:51 AM PST by Alex Murphy ("the defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades")
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To: Gamecock
Scripture tells us to read scripture.

Scripture tells us that the only thing we really need to read in order to live the lives God ordained for us is scripture.

But how do we know scripture is right? Because scripture tells us.

But how do we know scripture was written by God? Because scripture tells us.

This may be convincing to someone who already believes, but is not much help to an atheist or doubter.

It's called circular reasoning.

But maybe scripture is so compelling that reading it makes it clear to anyone who will see that it is perfectly correct and had to have been written by God?

But the Bible is the best-selling book of all time and there are copies all across this world and many people who have read it have not been convinced of its perfection or Godly authorship. Even believers have a hard time slogging through certain parts such as Numbers, and have concerns about God's instructions to His chosen people to commit genocide against the Hittites and the Jebusites.

And then you have the case of people of good will with very strong faith who have read Scripture and come to completely different conclusions on very important issues. And some of these issues are considered to be of such high importance that the wrong opinion could lead one eventually to Hell.

So merely instructing a person, especially an atheist or doubter, to "read Scripture" is generally a pointless exercise.

20 posted on 01/28/2014 11:26:21 AM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: who_would_fardels_bear

To someone not inclined to believe a heartwarming story like above won’t matter either.

Jesus said so.


21 posted on 01/28/2014 11:30:43 AM PST by Gamecock (If you like your constitution, you can keep your constitution. Period. (M.S.))
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To: Gamecock

We walk by faith and not by sight.

The problem is that too many people these days ar ewalking by sight.

I see so much in the Pentecostal churches where people are always seeking for a fresh infilling, a new manifestation, something everyday, as if, if they don’t get them, their faith is shaken. I’ve coined a term for them of *experience junkies*. They always have to be after the next spiritual high.

But I finally realized, that those who constantly need to see, and hear, and feel, and touch, for all their claims for *great faith* , for *believing for God to move or work*, in reality, have weak faith. If they don’t *see* something, they think God isn’t doing anything. That’s not faith.


22 posted on 01/28/2014 11:37:09 AM PST by metmom (...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith....)
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To: Gamecock

The popularity of these kind of books and widespread acceptance is just a sign of the times.

A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed. Matthew 16:4


23 posted on 01/28/2014 11:42:00 AM PST by 426cuda
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To: Gamecock

Wow, these responses, where is the love? Isn’t it kind of neat he could recognize his “young” grandpa but not the “old”? Isn’t that kind of exciting we get our young bodies in heaven?

I know God is a radical God and will do the exceptional to send a message of His reality to this lost world.


24 posted on 01/28/2014 11:54:23 AM PST by RushingWater
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To: RushingWater

He did send a message. 2000 years ago.


25 posted on 01/28/2014 12:05:09 PM PST by Gamecock (If you like your constitution, you can keep your constitution. Period. (M.S.))
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To: RushingWater

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1


26 posted on 01/28/2014 12:10:53 PM PST by 426cuda
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To: I want the USA back

Matthew tells us that when Jesus died, “many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt. 27:52).

Why don’t you argue w Matthew?


27 posted on 01/28/2014 12:40:22 PM PST by G Larry
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To: Gamecock

It simply just confirms what has been preached all along.


28 posted on 01/28/2014 2:26:55 PM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: RushingWater

AMEN to what you say!


29 posted on 01/28/2014 2:27:48 PM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: who_would_fardels_bear

“But maybe scripture is so compelling that reading it makes it clear to anyone who will see that it is perfectly correct and had to have been written by God?”

In truth, God INSPIRED the persons who wrote the books of the Holy Bible to write the words.


30 posted on 01/28/2014 2:30:27 PM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: metmom

“But I finally realized, that those who constantly need to see, and hear, and feel, and touch, for all their claims for *great faith* , for *believing for God to move or work*, in reality, have weak faith. If they don’t *see* something, they think God isn’t doing anything. That’s not faith.”

Rather, the folks you describe are the SEAK faith. God Bless them.


31 posted on 01/28/2014 2:33:22 PM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: RushingWater

“I know God is a radical God and will do the exceptional to send a message of His reality to this lost world.”

God continues to SURPRISE us not just via HIS WORD, but by doing these messages of His reality.


32 posted on 01/28/2014 2:35:49 PM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: metmom

“Rather, the folks you describe are the SEAK faith. God Bless them.”

Correction, those who do SEAK faith.


33 posted on 01/28/2014 2:37:03 PM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: who_would_fardels_bear

AMEN to that too!


34 posted on 01/28/2014 2:58:48 PM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: Gamecock
The Bible doesn't always tell us what we want to know about the life of the age to come. And, what it does tell us can be hard to wrap our heads around.
But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” Then some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.”

Many, not content with what God tells them, have itching ears for novelties.

35 posted on 01/28/2014 4:36:39 PM PST by Lee N. Field ("You keep using that verse, but I do not think it means what you think it means.")
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To: Lee N. Field
itching ears for novelties.

Plenty of that going around upstream.

36 posted on 01/28/2014 4:39:32 PM PST by Gamecock (If you like your constitution, you can keep your constitution. Period. (M.S.))
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To: All

Rather, what is being seen is simply “confirming” what scripture says.


37 posted on 01/29/2014 2:33:06 AM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: All

http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/abbott/140129


38 posted on 01/29/2014 6:47:27 AM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: Gamecock

Gamecock I appreciate your genuineness, but this theology that God’s magnificent works are “only” for teaching is the primary reason the church suffers deep emotional and spiritual poverty. Evil gets to hit us with all kinds of dark artillery and then we tie up God’s wonderful personality with a withering theology where we won’t let Him be himself with us.

It’s the equivalent of someone valuing theory over actual encounter. The two can blend together well. It as if someone would rather theorize about kissing vs actual kissing.

No one suggests seeking experiences rather seeking God and letting him be himself with us, then one’s world will beautifully flower.


39 posted on 01/29/2014 9:03:27 PM PST by conservativepoet
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