Heaven is for Real

Heaven is for Real   The New York Times bestseller, “Heaven is for Real” is now a popular movie. And many Christians are no doubt thrilled to see this movie in theaters.

But I’m not one of them… and I don’t recommend this movie to anyone who wants an accurate understanding of what heaven is really like. They won’t find it in this movie.

“Heaven is for Real” is about a four year old boy who reportedly slipped out of consciousness during an emergency surgery and saw glimpses of heaven full of graphic details.

The little boy’s dad is a pastor in Nebraska, so the book and movie have a number of biblical references and seem to go along with many basic evangelical truths.

Both this book and movie (like the Noah movie) have become very popular inside and outside of Christian circles. But are such accounts and depictions correct?

Is this movie a legitimate report of heaven? And the biblical answer is, no.

I can’t give a point-by-point treatment of each assertion or even a general review but, allow me to address the whole subject of personal experience books about heaven with some observations from Scripture.

With the exception of the resurrection of Jesus and the dead saints who came back to life after the resurrection mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53, there are only six people mentioned in the New Testament who died and then returned to the earth.

They are (1) the daughter of Jairus; (2) the son of the widow at Nain; (3) Lazarus; (4) Tabitha (a.k.a “Dorcas”); (5) Eutychus; and (6) the Apostle Paul.

These six are the only people mentioned in the New Testament who went to heaven and then came back, other than Jesus and the saints mentioned in Matthew 27.

The profound point to notice in this observation is that with the exception of the Apostle Paul and Christ Himself, not one of these people is ever quoted in the New Testament.

Now Paul is quoted and he even tells us that he went to the third heaven, but he never talks about anything he saw there (2 Cor. 12:2).

In fact, Paul specifically says in 2 Corinthians 12:4 that “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.”

This is the apostolic teaching about reporting on things in heaven. Think about this!

The others who were raised from the dead are not even quoted once in the entire New Testament!

That’s especially noteworthy in the case of Lazarus, who was a close friend of Jesus. His sisters, Mary and Martha are both quoted, but Lazarus himself is never quoted. He isn’t quoted after he was raised from the dead… nor was he ever quoted BEFORE he died.

The same is true of each of the other four resurrected persons mentioned in the New Testament. They are never quoted. And there’s a reason for this emphasis.

As far as the New Testament is concerned, the only One who has ever gone to heaven and then returned to earth who has authority to speak about heaven is Jesus Himself.

No other Person is authorized by God to speak about life after death, or about heaven, or things to come, regardless of how sympathetic its author may be to Christian theology.

As a pastor, I know that many people are hurting from the loss of loved ones who have died. These individuals want to absorb every detail they can find about life after death and about heaven in particular.

Others are just curious and desire to know any details that aren’t given to us in Scripture. People are hungry for extra-biblical revelation about heaven and the afterlife.

Yet there’s also a particular danger for some who read these popular books who forget they’re reading extra-biblical experiences and may begin to hold the author’s presentation as if it had the weight of Scripture, when it doesn’t.

These subjective books may even become a replacement for what the Bible actually teaches about heaven.

Many times it seems the enemy will use the credibility of the Bible to market his lies and deceptions about life after death to our gullible culture. But don’t be deceived.

For these reasons, I won’t be reading the latest personal experience “I-died-and-went-to-heaven” books. Nor will I be recommending the movies based on such books.

These authors, regardless of their intent, are not authorized to speak on heaven. So their personal experiences are just that.

But the greater danger is that their reports of heaven are actually leading many people away from the truth about heaven revealed only in Scripture.

Therefore, let the reader (and moviegoer) beware!

Yours in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin




Blinding Grace

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” [Luke 11:34, ESV]


photoI’ve been thinking a lot about eyesight and the contrast between light and darkness these days.

Back in mid-February, I preached a sermon from the Gospel of Mark which included some teaching about suffering and looking to God’s sovereign purpose in it.

Later that same week, I woke up with partial blindness in my left eye. For the next several weeks, waves of panic began to come in the night.

Suddenly, I felt like I had gone from the mental portion of the lesson and straight into the field test. Yet God remains both sovereign and good in every way.

The fact is, nothing will ever enter our lives as believers that hasn’t been lovingly handed down to us by a nail-pierced hand. All that comes into our lives as believers is the outworking and application of Christ’s exceedingly good purpose for us.

Some of those purposes must include temporal pain and temporal losses.

For many years, we’ve sung the hymn “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. As you know, it has that wonderful line, “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

And we understand Newton’s spiritual metaphor as Christ opening our eyes through regeneration. He makes us “see” in a spiritual sense. We were once blind to His grace and blind to His gospel, but now we “see” in that saving sense.

I love this spiritual sight! For over 35 years, I have enjoyed both physical sight as well as spiritual sight. Both forms of sight impact every part of my life from day to day.

Yet spiritual sight is far more valuable than physical sight alone.

In fact, those who are totally blind in a physical sense but have faith in Christ will behold His glory in His presence forever. They will see His glory with eternal vision. There are many beloved Christians who have borne witness to this fact through their physical blindness with joyful confidence in Jesus Christ.

However, those who say they can see and yet reject Christ and never gain spiritual sight, those people will suffer in outer darkness forever (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).

But as wonderful as spiritual sight is, I’ve been learning through this recent suffering another lesson about God’s grace. It is this: there is a form of seeing and vision that is actually enhanced through physical blindness or any other form of suffering in this life.

Or to say it another way, all of our infirmities and physical pains have the potential to make us more diligent partakers of God’s grace in the common hours of daily life. And in that sense, all of these infirmities and trials become a rich form of God’s grace to us.

In my case, it has been this “blinding grace” that potentially enhances my spiritual sight.

Since the onset of my partial blindness, I’m now starting to “see” things that I never saw with two working eyes.

For example, I’ve seen more of the love that Christ’s people have for one another. I’ve seen the uplifting influence of praying people who tell me of their petitions on my behalf.

I’ve seen distant friends reach out and make contact again. And I’ve even seen a deepening of relational love and communication in my marriage.

It may very well be that my one blind eye is the best eye I have in ministry.

Don’t misunderstand, I still want God to heal my blindness and I continue to pray that He will. But I don’t want to forget the lessons He’s been teaching me through this affliction.

The scary truth is that God cares much more about the growth of our character than the preservation of our personal comfort. In fact, He will destroy the latter to enhance the former.

In that sovereign sense, God isn’t what we would call “safe.” In referring to Aslan, C.S. Lewis writes about Lucy’s question as to the great lion’s safeness.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Sometimes it is the trials that come our way that draw us closer to God and remind us that He is good… and sovereign. He’s the King, I tell you.

Some of us are dealing with great trials. Some are dealing with smaller trials that are difficult nonetheless. And others may not feel there are any trials at all right now.

In the grand spectrum of earthly woes, my partial blindness appears relatively small.

Yet wherever we fall on the spectrum, we can trust that though we might never understand it, God is actively working all these things out for our good (Romans 8:28).

What doesn’t seem good to me now may make sense later. Yet some things may never make sense in this life. This is why we need doctrine from God’s Word.

Doctrine (the teaching of Scripture) gives us assurance when the lights go out in life and when the affliction isn’t healed. Feelings can’t do that.

When I’m totally honest, I do want my vision back. And even when I’m not totally honest, I still want my vision back. And at the same time I want God to have glory.

The good news is that they’re not mutually exclusive. But even if they were, I’d ultimately choose a greater encounter with God’s glory over any temporal gain… even my sight.

For greater visions of His glory,
Pastor Kevin

“In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part,
He sympathizes with our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.

With boldness, therefore, at the throne,
Let us make all our sorrows known;
And ask the aids of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.”

– Michael Bruce, circa 1764