This fall, much of the Christian world was excited to see the movie released, “Heaven is for Real”, based on the book by the same title. “Surely this will prove what we have been saying all along!” “Finally, an eye witness of those things that we long to see when we die!” These types of sentiments were said and thought by many. We chose to turn our attention away from the Word of God and rest our confidence in the word of a child. There are three books that tell stories like this. “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven”, “90 Minutes in Heaven” and this, most recent, “Heaven is for Real”. Alex Malarkey was six years old when the event happened that led to his comatose state and the ensuing story of meeting Jesus. Don Piper, a grown man, recounts a similar story in “90 Minutes in Heaven”, and “Heaven is for Real” relies on the testimony of a four year old.
These books, which have been come to be called “heavenly tourism”, are dangerous. Why? Because they stand on testimony alone. Now, please do not misunderstand me, testimonies are glorious things. We should all have the story of our conversion – of meeting Jesus and how He has changed our lives – on the tips of our tongues and ready to share any time. We should be aware of the ongoing work that God is doing in our lives and we should be ready and excited to share that with others. Testimonies cannot be refuted. You cannot tell your story and someone say, “that’s not true” in response. They can disbelieve you, but apart from empirical proof that you are lying, your word will stand.
But in this is the danger: everyone has a story. As convincing as our stories are of transformation and salvation, people in other religions can have stories too. Satan is at work, and his demons are working signs and wonders in order to deceive people. We cannot refute their stories either.
So what is the solution? Finding the absolute truth which must function as the standard against which all stories and testimonies are held. That Truth is the Bible. God has revealed Himself to us throughout history and it has been documented in the Scriptures. The Gospel is outlined for us in detail – four times, actually – in the New Testament, and it is through that story that we learn of the offer of forgiveness. The epistles offer us instruction for how to live out the commands that Jesus gave while He was on Earth and how to logically understand the theology of it. The Bible is enough. Our stories do not add to or enhance the Bible, because our stories come from us. The Bible is the breathed Word of God.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
– 2 Time 3.16-17
My conclusion is simply this: let us place our hope and trust in Scripture alone. Scripture has everything that we need.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
– 2 Peter 1.2-3
And we have learned this week perhaps the greatest reason to not place our trust or allow these types of testimonies to “emphasize” Scripture. Alex Malarkey has come back and confessed his story a lie. He wrote this letter:
“An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”
Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.
I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.
I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.
It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough.
The beauty here is that Alex has come to faith, has come to know God, and has come to understand that Scripture is indeed enough! To add to it only does harm and robs God of His glory. To trust in something alongside of God and Scripture can lead us down a path we do not wish to travel.
Is it possible that people have died, or have visited Heaven? Yes. I believe it is. Because we know that both Paul and John had such experiences. But these testimonies must be examined against Scripture, and unless they are in complete accord with what God has revealed about Himself and Heaven, we should consider them a false witness. But even if they are true, they cannot be a benchmark for our assurance. God has given us everything we need. Beware of sensationalism, friends, because not only can it disappoint, it can lead us to Hell.