Monday, September 6, 2010

Books About Going to Heaven and Back

I have been reading Don Piper’s book, 90 Minutes in Heaven and I have been asked what I think about such books. John MacArthur, in his excellent book, The Glory of Heaven, responds to this question with the following:

“I’ve read many accounts of people’s near-death experiences and visions of heaven. What is most remarkable to me in virtually all of them—even the ones that supposedly reflect a “Christian” perspective—is that they are not the least bit like the descriptions of heavenly visions in Scripture.
Such a vision of “heaven” plainly has nothing to do with the heaven spoken of in Scripture. In fact, the modern visionaries make a stark contrast to people in Scripture who were given glimpses of heavenly glory. The apostle Paul, for example, relates his account only reluctantly, fourteen years after the fact, framing it as a third-person narrative:
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) how that he was caught up into paradise.
      —2 Cor. 12:2–4
When it comes to relating specific details of what he saw in heaven, the apostle is simply not very talkative. He only says that he “heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (v. 4, emphasis added).
Here we learn that the apostle Paul, who had been called to one of the most important apostolic roles in the early church, regarded the details of what he saw and heard in his heavenly vision as unlawful things to recount. How does that compare with people today who fill up whole books, reporting what they supposedly saw and heard on their trips to heaven?
Clearly, because Scripture is the Word of God, we must reject every anecdotal account that contradicts what Scripture teaches. Ultimately, we are forced to conclude that the Bible is our only reliable source of information about heaven. There’s no point in probing and dissecting people’s near-death experiences, as if they would give us some important truth about the afterlife that we are lacking from Scripture. What Scripture teaches us about heaven, angels, and the afterlife is sufficient and accurate. God has already given us all we need to know to equip us fully for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). There’s nothing an eyewitness testimony could reliably add.
Furthermore, those who demand to know more than Scripture tells us are sinning: “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever” (Deut. 29:29). The limit of our curiosity is thus established by the boundary of biblical revelation.
As we get into our study of what Scripture teaches, you’ll see that although there are many questions left unanswered, Scripture does in fact give us a remarkably full and clear picture of heaven and the spiritual realm.[1]
It is the inerrant biblical truth about heaven that should grip our hearts and minds—not a lot of fantastic and delusional ideas from someone’s near-death experience.”

May God bless us in our study of heaven!

-          Bro. Dave

No comments: