Heaven

They Saw Heaven . . . Or Did They?

Several years ago a little boy named Colton enjoyed worldwide news coverage by declaring that he had gone to heaven. The following excerpt from the book published recounting his story claims:

Heaven Is for Real is the true story of a four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who experienced heaven during emergency surgery. He talked about looking down to see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn’t know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.

“In heaven, Colton met his miscarried sister whom no one ever had told him about and his great-grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. He shared impossible-to-know details about each. Colton went on to describe the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how ‘reaaally big’ God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit ‘shoots down power’ from heaven to help us.

“Told by the Colton’s father often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is that heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and to be ready . . . there is a coming last battle.”

In more recent days, a neuroscientist named Holley Alexander, who lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, claims that he too has seen heaven—having gone there after nearly dying when a terrible E. coli meningitis infection attacked his brain and placed him into a week-long coma. While in the coma, the man had an experience which he ascribes as, well, heavenly. Mr. Alexander saw in heaven a lovely place, having traveled there on a beam of spinning white light attended with beautiful, melodious sounds. Upon arrival Mr. Alexander was met by a beautiful woman. They both had the ability to float through the air on the wings of a butterfly. While in heaven Mr. Alexander claimed the assurance of love, and the declaration that he can do no wrong. He was also told that he had nothing to fear.

Sigh.

It must have been a nice experience and I am glad he can remember the details after recovering from his coma. Truly, the Lord is good.

Unfortunately, it was not an authentic biblical experience of heaven which Mr. Alexander enjoyed.

The Bible says that if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us and so, as lovely as this experience must have been, it is not a Christian experience for all experience must be measured against the Word of God. When experience and the Scriptures are not in agreement, the Bible must prevail. A good experience does not overcome biblical revelation. Therefore, “Let God be true and every man a liar,” if we are forced to choose between what an adorable child has seen and what a brilliant scientist has experienced, and what the Word of God teaches. God cannot contradict Himself nor would he give misleading messages to a child and a man to bring back to earth. The Christian remembers that Satan does not come to us with a red epidermis, horns on his head, and a forked tail. He comes to us as an angel of light with a comprised or conflicting message of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 11:14, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

More than this, the apostle Paul records for us that he was caught up in the “third heaven,” saw the wondrous things of God, but was not permitted to tell about his experience (2 Cor. 12:1–3). Why then should we suppose the Lord permits ordinary Christians—two millennia after the apostle—to describe the nature of the afterlife? What’s changed?

My simple exhortation is this. Beware of counterfeit experiences that convey a gospel message contrary to what the Bible teaches. And remember the words and warning of the apostle Paul who wrote, “though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8–9).

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