The Gospel Coalition

"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.

HeavenisforrealtheaterposterI'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.


Comments:

Sabrina Lee

March 4, 2014 at 02:57 PM

Mark 9:38-39 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,

Becky

March 17, 2014 at 02:43 PM

Thanks Carl! I couldn't agree with you more! I hope you enjoy the Joe's book as much as I did!

Becky

March 14, 2014 at 12:00 PM

I agree that we do not have to read a book or see a movie to know that Heaven is real. However, I do find these kinds of books to be interesting and I enjoy looking into some of the miracles that take place in a near death experience. For instance, I just recently read "Held By The Hand Of God: Why Am I Alive" by Joe Laws http://heldbythehandofgod.com/. I was very fascinated with Joe's near death experience, but even more fascinated that he had undergone such physical trauma during his accident, and lived to tell about it... he shouldn't even be alive, yet he is. That is a miracle in itself!

Carl

March 14, 2014 at 02:09 PM

Well said, Becky. It's good that the film and book have been bringing more awareness and interest in God. I will check out Joe's book - looks very good. Thank you. God bless you.

Sola Wednesday 1/29/2014 | Going to Damascus

January 29, 2014 at 09:44 AM

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January 29, 2014 at 08:26 AM

[…] 3. Nancy Guthrie explains how we can know heaven is real […]

Trent

January 28, 2014 at 10:32 AM

Are you serious? There is a movie on it now?
A funny thing is that the book would seem to prove the filioque lol

Betsy Durand

January 28, 2014 at 10:17 AM

I don't think Nancy is denying that our experiences as believers hold no weight, but it should not be the measure by which we measure everything....including our dreams, our desires, etc. What's alarming is that often we take everyone's experience as "truth" (you even give that impression when you assume that God is indeed the one who revelead "glimpses of what is to come.") instead of looking to the clearly revealed Word of God. It's scarey that as believers we are often more drawn to the "exciting" experiences of others and find ourselves bored with the testimony of Scripture as those it is not the "exciting and complete" Word of God. Our excitement should be rooted in the Gospel and, when others experiences line up with God's Word, we should be excited as well.

Andy Garfield

January 28, 2014 at 07:39 PM

Just a side note, Luke actually wrote more of the NT than Paul :)

Barb

January 28, 2014 at 07:14 AM

Tim Challies reviewed it and noted,

"First, 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 only biblical example we have of a man being caught up to heaven is Paul and it’s very interesting that he was forbidden to tell anything about it. And the reason he even mentioned this experience was not to offer encouragement that heaven exists, but to serve as a part of his “gospel boasting.” He saw heaven and was told to say nothing about it. This was a unique experience in a unique time and for a unique reason...If you struggle believing what the Bible says, but learn to find security in the testimony of a toddler, well, I feel sorry for you. And I do not mean this in a condescending way. If God’s Word is not sufficient for you, if the testimony of his Spirit, given to believers, is not enough for you, you will not find any true hope in the unproven tales of a child. This hope may last for a moment, but it will not sustain you, it will not bless you, in those times when hope is waning and times are hard."

[…] Guthrie has a great post here which […]

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Daniel Poe

January 27, 2014 at 10:08 PM

Well said!! We only need the Holy Scriptures to know about the reality of Heaven and not some testimony of someone who claimed to go to Heaven and come back. Hope the Christian Church will come to know these facts.

Daniel Poe

Hal

January 27, 2014 at 09:06 AM

It's just not really Biblical, is why not. We have nothing like this little boy's testimony in Scripture. Even the apocalyptic passages have a prophetic character which is consistent with the overall message of the Bible. Judgment/justice is coming, God will deliver His faithful people, etc. These kinds of family details don't occur in the Bible. You don't have anything about John's stillborn sister or Zechariah's grandpa. They're intriguing and fascinating, but not prophetic. So I'm not buying it.

Jess

January 27, 2014 at 08:59 PM

Thank you so much! This is exactly what I believe the Spirit was saying to me but I couldnt put it into this kind of detail. I am so re-encouraged and reminded of the solid Scriptures as our foundation!

Kaya

January 27, 2014 at 08:22 AM

It made me think of Zechariah 1:8 where Jesus is seen riding a red horse. I have no problem believing Jesus has a rainbow-coloured one. Why not?

BG

January 27, 2014 at 07:27 AM

Most words, deeds, and testimoney are extra-biblical...just saying

Check out | HeadHeartHand Blog

January 27, 2014 at 05:00 AM

[…] We don’t have to read the book or see the movie to know that Heaven is for Real Nancy Guthrie isn’t going to see the movie and doesn’t think anyone else should either. Instead she calls us to exercise faith in the only reliable testimony, the Word of God. […]

bondservant

January 27, 2014 at 04:51 PM

Nancy's point is one of the reasons my wife and I didn't "see for ourselves" "The Passion of the Christ." And why we try to avoid anything that looks like a bandwagon coming through town.

To be lovingly blunt, does it really matter whether "it moved you?" My question would be "where were you located to begin with that made it necessary for you to be moved?" And "where did it move you to?"

God can use "anything" - but do most believers need to have a Saul/Paul/Damascus road experience to see, or shouldn't their eyes already be open enough to see the basics?

Jon Wood

January 26, 2014 at 09:35 PM

Mrs. Guthrie,

This is one of the best posts I've seen on The Gospel Coalition website. Thank you for your insight and commitment to uphold the sufficiency of Scripture. Oh, that pastors and teachers in our local churches would respond to books and movies like this with the same clarity.

-Jon
Nashville, TN

Hal

January 26, 2014 at 03:38 PM

What about Jesus' rainbow colored horse? Got a verse for that? That's where I had to put the book down.

Kaya

January 26, 2014 at 01:56 AM

I agree with Chris concerning ‘Re: Mark Driscoll’ but I very strongly agree with your sentiments concerning this current article.
Nancy’s point seems to be that you shouldn’t put your hope of seeing your miscarried child in the book ‘Heaven is for Real’ but I disagree. There’s no reason not to believe it. It doesn’t contradict scripture and there is strong evidence to show that the boy’s experiences were real. So I encourage you to be encouraged! I hadn’t thought of John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb so thanks for that point. I always think of David when it comes to babies who die (whether before or after birth) - I think David believed he would see his son again (2 Sam.12:23) - but it’s a little dependant on your interpretation (and translation). hmmm. False hope isn’t a good thing either, but I’m convinced. It didn’t surprise me at all to read Colton meeting his sister in Heaven - it seemed totally right. Praise God that he’s so gracious!

Tracy

January 26, 2014 at 01:13 PM

Excellent article! A much needed perspective. One other thought I believe is worth mentioning ...

As far as I can tell, there is no way to verify that the boy's experience is genuine or actually from God. Satan is quite capable of counterfeiting spiritual experiences, of "informing" the boy of the mother's lost baby and of loved ones who have passed on, etc. We don't know that it was the Lord who revealed this, or whether these lost loved ones are really in heaven at all (assuming we don't know where they stood with Christ).

Maybe the experience is genuine, and I agree that God can use people's experience in our lives. But this kind of experience must be questioned for the very reason that it can't be falsified. To say "It encourages me and strengthens my faith" isn't enough, because it begs the question: Faith in what? If it leads us to faith in experience over Scripture, or to faith in a god that is not consistent with the one of Scripture, or to a focus on personal comfort over pursuing truth, it is not a faith that honors Christ and draws us to him.

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Lori

January 25, 2014 at 09:19 PM

I also wanted to add that near-death experiences just aren't particularly convincing "proof" of heaven (or anything) to people not already inclined to believe it. There are very plausible neurological explanations for why near-death experiences happen, and why they are so often similar, that probably ultimately conflict less with the Bible than the belief that some people are ushered into heaven for a brief period of time than snatched back out of it. So as apologetics, these stories present a very poor case.

Simon

January 25, 2014 at 06:38 PM

I hear you JJ

I'm hanging out for "The New Earth is for Real". Seriously, Where are the Christians who talk about the resurrection of the dead as their great hope rather than "going to heaven".

Sin produced death and the reversal of that is not corporeal floating in heaven, its the physical resurrection of the dead on a renewed earth. Yes, it seems we will have access to the heavens but earth is our home and it requires physicality. Too much platonic philosophy has infiltrated and distorted the biblical worldview.

TANTOH

January 25, 2014 at 01:51 AM

No Mike, God will not do something 'extra-scripture' to strengthen your faith. The lamp here is the gospel by words and deeds! It is clear to me that, 'extra-bible' descriptions of the reality of heaven cannot be faith building because it is here that the Apostle John in Revelations specifically said we shouldn't add or subtract anything. This kinds of experience is essentially closed.

marshall

January 24, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Mark,
your response is poppycock. If anyone is usurping scriputure it is you. You are making Christ bound to you. Christ can do what ever he want's, but will be consistant with His revelation of Himself in the Scripture. If Christ chooses to give someone a revelation of Himself who are you to say other wise??? You are limting God on what he can an cannot do. If he choose to reveal himself to a child in the way a child can understand who are you to say other wise? I personaly have read this book and about 15 other books on the topic, it did not contradict the bible, but did bring up some interesting questions?

Bryan H

January 24, 2014 at 12:37 PM

My wife and I suffered a miscarriage (8 weeks into the pregnancy) several months ago and were deeply grieved and devastated. A good friend recommended this book to my wife due to a story in the book when the 4 year old meets his sister (while in heaven) who he had never known because she too passed away while in the womb. This story brought comfort to my wife and I that we have the hope of one day meeting our son or daughter in heaven and that God cares about them and they are adopted into His family. It also reminded me of Luke 1:41 when the baby in Elizabeth's womb leaps at the news of the forecoming birth of Christ.

My point is why blantantly bulldoze this book Nancy when the focus is to lift up the name of Jesus? This book doesn't promote false teaching and is not prosperity gospel hoopla or anything. like that. The book repeatedly focuses on Jesus and claims made in the book don't at all go against scripture and the boy repeatedly says "Jesus loves the children!" I've seen the trailer for the movie and agree that it seems like it is going to be pretty disappointing because I did not hear the name of Christ once and it seems like it is going to completely remove the Gospel out of the story but the book is clearly not like the movie if you have read the book and seen the trailer.

Another question for anyone reading this: why are articles like this even published on The Gospel Coaltion? I've been reading articles on here for years and have been blessed by them but it seems lately that articles are being published that only focus on shooting other believers who are genuinely trying to live for Christ and spread the Gospel (i.e. see http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/gospeldrivenchurch/2013/12/18/re-mark-driscoll/).

Has the focus on the Gospel in the name "The Gospel Coalition" been diminished?

Sara

January 24, 2014 at 12:15 PM

Articles like this make me sad. God gives us each opperunities to trust him, so he can show his glory. We are meant to share our personal experiences of faith to point others to The Lord. We are meant to share and draw others closer and give them a desire to read the bible and learn more, and to seek him and trust what he can do in each of our lives!

[…] The remainder of this article can be viewed here: We Don’t Have to Read the Book or See the Movie to Know Heaven Is Real – The Gospel Coalition Bl…. […]

J.J.

January 24, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Yes, I think point #3 above about being away from the body is a misunderstanding. The Christian hope is not merely "to go to heaven when you die." The Christian hope in the NT is the re-creation of all things, paradise restored and transcended. Revelation describes the new creation as an earthly, terrestrial restoration, not some disembodied spirit floating on a cloud somewhere else in the cosmos.

The NT indicates that Christ was the firstfruits of the resurrection. In his resurrection, Christ didn't leave his body behind (i.e., the tomb was empty). Instead, Christ's body was transformed into something that was still physical, yet transcendent too. And in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes the resurrection bodies we will receive, but he basically says our resurrection bodies will be like our bodies but not like our bodies.

The reason Paul says what he does in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 is because he's describing what happens to a believer when they die *before* the resurrection at the end of time. Somehow and in someway he's saying that believers that have passed away are already present with the Lord, but they haven't received their resurrection bodies yet (they are "naked" or "unclothed," which are metaphors for such a status).

Possibly, part of the reason the Thessalonians misunderstood as if believers who passed away would miss out on the resurrection is because they might have misunderstood Paul's teaching on this (as stated in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8). But Paul makes clear in 1 Thess 4:13-18 that those who have died will be resurrected in a way that is different than merely dying and being with the Lord in an unresurrected state (as 2 Cor 5:1-8) is describing.

Anyway, hope this is helpful.

Ryan

January 24, 2014 at 10:41 AM

The Bible is our foundation, however I believe that God uses people's testimonies in great ways to bring glory to His name. You seem to belittle that notion in this article and put God in a box, limiting Him on how He can move. We should not ground our faith from these testimonies but they can certainly encourage us in our faith.

On another note, thank you so much for your ministry with GriefShare! it has helped my family and countless others out immensely.

Mark

January 24, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Very well-written and Biblically-presented. I like how Nancy keeps the premise of knowing the afterlife in Christ grounded in the Scriptures that produces genuine faith. She makes a stark contrast between the impressionable young child who has visions of heaven that correspond to the "stunted" desires of the human heart - vs. the glorious, if incomplete, visions of Christ on His Throne, the Glory of God.

A view of heaven from a man-centered worldview, a place centered on 'bliss,' 'happiness,' and where you can see your loved ones has one fatal flaw - it can produce a false sense of complacency where there is no judgment or accountability to come. Whereas Heaven described by the Word of God is the place to be for those given the right to become children of God, to be with Him and remain with Him forever. A man-centered view of heaven can turn into idol worship; a Bible-centered view of heaven gives future reminder for the saints to endure and keep pressing onto the goal that is Christ Jesus Himself.

Grace D

January 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM

I DID read the book, and came to very similar conclusions as those in this article:
1. The focus of the book is that this little boy's story of his experience will lead to belief that "heaven is for real." But then we are trusting this story of experience, NOT the words of Scripture.
2. The boy's experience is more about warm fuzzies of seeing all kinds of people who have died, NOT about the glory of God, the awe of His presence. Yet Biblical descriptions of heaven are all about God, not about reunion with dead loved ones.

Nate

January 24, 2014 at 10:24 PM

John,
I don't think that is the point of that passage at all. Nancy's interpretation seems like it missed Jesus' main point. He wasnt teaching doctrine about how people shouldnt speak of supernatural encounters. This passage seems to be a foreshadowing of Jesus own resurrection, which the Pharisees would refuse to believe. Jesus was telling the Pharisees they rejected the prophets and they will reject him too.

Jeremy

January 24, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Thanks for this post! While visiting my mom recently, she showed me a children's version of this book. I flipped through it and she asked me what I thought. I told her I thought it was a little bizarre. Even if the story is true, why would this family go to the measures of publishing books and speaking at events about it? Her defense was that the family stated they are not receiving any of the profits and that the dad is a pastor. That maybe true, but it's far from an authentication. But my bigger concern is how easily exploited nominal Christians are by celebrity. I'm worried for the Christians not grounded by the scriptures as Nancy states in this post. People who are blown around like a leaf from the vine. I'm praying for my mom. Her mouth got really tight and she called me a doubting Thomas because I don't believe this story.

Jo

January 24, 2014 at 09:19 AM

I agree with Nate. Whilst I understand the sentiment behind what you're saying, I do think it's so exciting to hear these sorts of stories! That God would reveal glimpses of what is to come to people of today is, for me, exciting! No, it's not the basis of my faith, but it's so exciting. Just like healings. I know people will be fully healed and restored in Heaven, but it's soooo exciting when people are supernaturally healed on Earth! Why deny yourself that sort of excitement?

I also feel that your final paragraph is slightly unfair - 'impressionable 4-year-old boy' sounds a little presumptuous for someone who hasn't even read the book? And whilst I totally agree that we have everything we need in the Bible, what for those who are still on a journey to accepting Jesus? Those who haven't yet decided to trust the Bible wholeheartedly? Could this not be one of the many, mysterious ways that God uses to instil faith in one who is 'sitting on the fence'? :)

Brad C.

January 24, 2014 at 08:59 AM

Excellent points. I'm glad I'm not the only one who dislikes these testimonies. Another simple reason to show skepticism is how often people who our not believers come out with stories of heaven. Can anybody give a comment on this "away from body" argument? I've heard a lot of pastors suggest that one of "all things made new" will include a new body. I'm not sure I see 2 corinthians as saying that will not be the case, only that we will be away from our current bodies. I can see where she gets her argument, however I'm not sure about other verses that discuss this. Just curious. Thanks!

Mike

January 24, 2014 at 08:45 AM

When God does something incredible in someone's life, I believe it is absolutely Biblical to testify to that fact to others. (i.e. Matt 5:15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.) Otherwise, why do we share the Gospel? According to your reasoning, we should leave our own experience with Christ out of the equation and simply point others to Scripture. Then when they ask, "what does Jesus mean to you?" are we supposed to reply, "I'm sorry. I can't talk about that. I don't want you to place experience over scripture." Scripture and experience work hand-in-hand. True, all experience must be evaluated in light of Scripture, but it is foolish and unbiblical to immediately disqualify all experience in drawing others to Christ.

JR

January 24, 2014 at 08:37 AM

This and other similar books are discussed well in this article by Randy Alcorn:

http://www.epm.org/blog/2011/May/9/heaven-real-90-minutes-heaven-and-other-books-abou

Barb

January 24, 2014 at 08:24 AM

Hi Nate,

I haven't read the book myself, but other reviewers have expressed concern with the expression of Heaven that is put forth in the book which do contradict to what we are told in Scripture. If we're to be encouraged by anything, it has to be that which is True.

John

January 24, 2014 at 08:13 AM

But that's the point in Luke, it is contradicting scripture for someone to claim these personal revelations, it was told the rich man that his brothers had Moses and the Prophets and if that was sufficient. The Lazarus which Christ raised from the dead surely would have had great knowledge of heaven if anyone would, however there is no account. It contradicts scripture that God would allow people to experience heaven then come back and relate it to the living. So either they contradict scripture, the people making the claims experienced something but are confused of what happened, or they are deceiving others. I'm not sure how we can get around the fact that God does not allow such things to happen if the bible is inerrant and inspired.

Derek

January 24, 2014 at 07:44 PM

Honestly, I know this will sound crude and mean and perhaps it is, but I just think it needs to be said:

Reviews like these, and reading reviews like these (i.e me), really makes me think we have far too much time on our hands.

Micah Burke

January 24, 2014 at 07:35 PM

| My point is why blantantly bulldoze
| this book Nancy when the focus is to
| lift up the name of Jesus?

Because it presents a false Jesus, from a false source, outside of the God-breathed Word. My experiences are not the Gospel, and this little boy's story isn't the Gospel. Stories like this do not bring people to Christ, the Word of God found in Scripture does.

Nate

January 24, 2014 at 04:59 AM

...someone's (besides the Bible's) authentication of the fact that heaven is real. However, I think there is a difference between basing your faith on an extra-biblical testimony and allowing your faith to be "encouraged by" someone esle's story. While I haven't done more than skim several of these testimonies about heaven (90 minutes in heaven, Heaven is for Real, etc...), I do find myself encouraged. I think any testimony (about how a person endured great suffering, was healed from a disease, etc...) can serve that purpose. By the logic you use, I should never allow myself to experience that. The Bible is the basis for our faith, but God certainly uses other means to encourage us. I also think that while its important to have an appropriate amount of skepticism, we would do well to have a larger dose of the faith of a child. As long as someone's account isn't contradicting scripture (ie Jesus told me to kill my parents), then why not embrace their story?

Nate

January 24, 2014 at 04:48 AM

Nancy,
I think I understand where you're coming from, and I agree that Christians would do well to not put their hope in

Debbie B

January 24, 2014 at 03:37 PM

Nancy, Your Scripturally based, theological arguments are the same filter I used for reading Heaven is For Real. Why read books like this then? Not because I needed some assurance to the reality of heaven, but because the book is so popular. We all come across people of different persuasions: people full of questions and doubts about the meaning of life. These kinds of books can be springboards to further dialogue- a door to the gospel.
As believers, who stand on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ, we can have confidence in following His example in engaging the culture. It is for the mature believers to discern truth where ever it may be found, and use it to magnify and bring glory to God.
I leave you with this to think about:
"If one gives an answer before he hears (reads), it is his folly and shame." Proverbs 18:13

Bri

January 24, 2014 at 03:37 PM

What specifically contradicts?

Chris

January 24, 2014 at 03:36 PM

I don't see that article as shooting another believer at all. It was very respectfully written. The person to whom it was written to has most decidedly created a world without accountability, this is well documented. Many are writing criticisms *about* him that aren't exactly loving, but this was nothing short of a love infused plea from a true friend.

Praise God someone here at G.C. had the guts to write it.

Chris

January 24, 2014 at 03:16 PM

Amen Mike. Amen.

Kaya

January 24, 2014 at 03:07 PM

I’m shocked. You’re really quite unfair in what you write. I agree with your emphasis on the importance of biblical faith, but…

1. “I think they actually diminish biblical faith by elevating claims of a supernatural experience over the substance of the Scriptures.” - Almost certainly the best aspect of ‘Heaven is for Real’ is the emphasis it places on Scripture by cross-checking everything the boy experienced with what’s written there. There is no elevation of supernatural experience over Scripture in this book. I can imagine the book would a great door-opener for reaching sceptical non-believers, helping them to ‘bridge a gap’ to the Bible. In contrast, your short article, I can easily imagine, will cause damage if read by someone who shares your prejudices and your refusal to read the book and as a result is misled by what you say and imply about the book. For example…
2. Twice you group ‘Heaven is for Real’ with “died and come back to life” books - but it’s not. In fact it is explicitly spelled out in the book that this did not happen.
3. “…not being convinced by something someone else supposedly saw” - where does that actually leave us with regard to the eye-witness accounts in the Bible? They are the word of God but they are also eye-witness accounts written by ordinary men.
4. “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” - You should have written more sensitively and made comments like this in the context of a book where this is true, rather than in the context of ‘Heaven is for Real’.
5. “In embracing these stories we're saying the Bible is simply not enough” - not at all. The Bible is the only book we can’t do without but that doesn’t mean we don’t read or believe anything else, like a newspaper, for example.
6. The Parable of Lazarus concerns people turning to faith or not, it is not about encouraging faith that already exists.
7. Paul “heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” - something reiterated, not contradicted, by this book. Again, you should have read it first.
8. Has anyone actually said that you need to read this book in order to believe/know that heaven is for real? If they did, they’d be wrong and you’d be right to have written this.
9. “We will be away from the body” - I don’t agree with this (i.e. your interpretation of 2 Cor. 5) but as it happens, if you read the book you would have seen that the boy was away from his body.

I’d like to add my voice to Mike’s comment: “When God does something incredible in someone's life, I believe it is absolutely Biblical to testify to that fact to others.” Absolutely.

In short, you should have read the book before writing such a derogatory article. I’m not used to reading stuff like this on TGC and I hope neither Todd Burpo nor his family read this. Please re-think whether or not you want to leave this here, it’s upsetting.

Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

January 24, 2014 at 02:17 PM

Haven't read the book. Probably not going to. Not that excited about it. Not that against it either.

True Story though. Much of this film was shot in my city. A woman in my congregation who works in film did much of the casting. A number of my congregation ended up being extras. Everyone involved wasn't that keen on the idea - more so because of warm fuzzy schlockiness than theological stuff. But hey! People in my town were talking about stuff! And some of those extras were able to have real conversations about real Biblical stuff while they were waiting between takes. Praise be to God!

John K.

January 24, 2014 at 02:10 PM

Nancy communicated in this article what was bothering me about this book but could not articulate as well. So thank you. Did the book reinforce my faith? Not really...in my opinion, anecdotal, subjective experiences like this (from a 4-yr old child, nonetheless) cannot warrant serious consideration regardless of scripture verses that may reinforce the experience itself. Unless, of course, it's your own child. =) As others have commented, it's simply a testimonial read. A book about one family's journey and needs to be read with that in mind. Obviously not on par with a classic like C.S Lewis' "Mere Christianity" -- but I would argue his work is an intellectual/philosophical journey and testimony of his own conversion and subsequent conclusions.

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Nikki Barton

April 22, 2014 at 02:06 PM

The book HEAVEN IS FOR REAL was a fascinating read for me. For many it has given them hope for eternal life. To me, this is a far too important a subject to put my hope in a little boy's experience. I wanted to see what God had to say so I went to the Bible. I have written a Bible study about heaven. I would be delighted to send you a free copy. Email me at heaven.study@yahoo.com and I will email you a copy. If you have only seen the movie, I would suggest you read the book. The movie changed somethings, add things that did not happen and left out some great material.

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Linda Jarvis

April 18, 2014 at 11:49 AM

A good piece. However, we will only be apart from our bodies until Christ returns. Then the dead in Christ will rise, and we will have resurrection bodies.

Tom

April 18, 2014 at 04:08 PM

Paul seems to relate the experience to himself in verse 7, don't you think? "So to keep ME from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass ME, to keep ME from becoming conceited."

Jeff

April 18, 2014 at 02:10 PM

I am not a Bible scholar, and there are a lot of people who could answer the question better than I. Here is my take on this book and this passage. Please read the entire book of 2 Corinthians to get the context. After that try to focus in on Chapters 11 and 12. Paul had 2 goals in mind, The first was to establish his own credentials and authority to teach and the truth of the message he has received from God. Apparently, there were false teachers in the church trying to lead people astray and those who doubted his own authority. (2 Corinthians 6:11-13, 10:1-3, 12-13, 11:3-5, 12-15) The second point was to make sure that Christ, not Paul was the center and the focus, and glory would only be given to him (2 Corinthians 4:5-7, 18-21, . So when he is talking about Paul he tries to shift focus away from himself, but when he focuses on Christ and Paul's need for and dependency on Christ he goes back to the first person. He starts of "boasting of himself, first person, establishing his authority and that of his teaching 2 Corinthians 11:5,12, He goes on to boast of his weakness 11:30 - 12:1. In 12 1 he is going on to his own visions but still talking about himself first person :

2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting.r Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelationss from the Lord.

Here he is talking about himself, but trying to draw attention away from himself 12:2-4. When he can talk about his own weakness and Christ's strength and glory as the main focus he goes back to first person. Srarting with 1 Corinthins 12 5-10:
I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast,a I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say,or because of these surpassingly great revelations.Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh,d a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my powerh is made perfect in weakness."Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That
is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions,m in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The thorn seems to be given partially to keep Paul's pride in check after seeing the revelations, and partly to keep the focus on the source of the greater strength and glory Jesus. I guess there might be a third. That it shows us the the greatest revelation we can have is that of the face of Jesus and how we are nothing next to him, yet everything to him, and all we are and need and can do comes directly from him. That is perhaps the greatest and most important revelation of all.

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Lara

April 15, 2014 at 02:12 PM

I'm a little confused on one point. The sixth paragraph mentions Paul getting a "personal guided tour of heaven," but he says in 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 that he knows a man who was caught up into heaven and boasts on behalf of that man. How is he referring to himself?