A few weeks ago I went to see the movie “Son of God”. Targeted marking filled the preview venue with other faith-based and Christian movies that are coming out in the near future, and one preview that had the entire crowd muttering anticipation was a movie entitled, “Heaven is for Real”. It is based on the book and story of a three-year old boy who believes he died and went to Heaven for a brief period of time, evidenced by the recounting to his family things that he could not have known unless it had truly happened like recognizing a picture of his great-grandfather and having met his miscarried sister of whom he had no previous knowledge.
This book is a New York Times best seller. Released in 2010, it had sold over one million copies in a year and a half.
May I ask you a simple question?
Would you take the word of a three year old, who spoke of Jesus riding on a rainbow-colored horse, over the indisputable and infallible word of God? Doctors regularly witness the inexplicable and miraculous. Accounts of people on death’s door range from a white light, music and hope to terrifying shadowy spider-like creatures quickly approaching, fire and screaming. Out-of-body experiences where patients can look down and see themselves and other fantastic stories of the supernatural are quick to catch our attention. I personally have often wondered about the people in the Bible who are restored to life; Lazarus was dead for four days. But the Bible tells us nothing of what he experienced during that time! Many others were dead for shorter periods of time, but the emphasis is simply that God Himself holds the power over death and life and can restore life to whomever He pleases. But I would love to be able to ask Lazarus what he experienced during that time, wouldn’t you?
We want proof. It is only natural.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
– Matt 12.38
The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.
– Matt 16.1
Unfortunately for our insatiable minds, the Bible tells us that we have, within this single book, “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1.3). There will be no further revelation from God beyond the Scriptures until Jesus comes back to take us home (Rev 22.19). And Jesus chastised those who asked Him for a sign,
But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
– Matt 12.39-40
If His Word is not enough for us, but we look for more, Jesus calls us evil and adulterous. It is not evil for us to ask sincere questions about things which we do not understand. The disciples regularly asked Jesus to explain Himself and even asked questions that showed their lack of understanding of His purposes. But being people of faith, He gently taught them. However, when people approached Him in skepticism and demanded of Him to prove Himself, this He called wicked. It was not a heart of faith.
Heaven is for real. Jesus returned there and is there with the Father until the end of the age (Acts 1.9-11). The Bible is our foundation of faith. It has never and will never be disproved, but only affirmed as we near the end. It is enough for us! It is also important to remember that we will never live in Heaven. We learn in the book of Revelation that at the end, this Earth will be destroyed, we will be taken and there will be a New Earth on which we will reside forever (Is 65.17, 2 Peter 3.13, Rev 21.1). This does call to question where exactly those people are who have gone on before us. We learn in Scripture that for the believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with God (2 Cor 5.8), but we also know that we will not enter into His rest until the final judgment (Matt 13, Rev 20.11-15). So it is a matter of faith and an issue that God has chosen to not reveal to us as to the nature and location of the dead.
Did Colton Burpo go to Heaven? Did he meet Jesus face to face? I don’t know. I will not try to affirm or deny what his family considers to be a miraculous experience. But I do know that if we require extra-Biblical testimony of God’s or Heaven’s existence, we do not have true faith. If we get caught up in the story of a three-year old boy instead of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ – the death of Almighty God, descent into Hell and victory over death unto our salvation – we are an evil and adulterous generation who is missing the point.
Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
– John 20.29