Heaven Is For Real, a book about a four-year-old boy’s supposed visit to heaven, has sold over 1.5 million copies and is currently the # 6 best seller on Amazon. It has broken Thomas Nelson’s sales records and is popular with Independent Baptists. One pastor told me that it is “circulating around many of our IBaptist camps; many are recommending it.” The book is the true story of Colton Burpo, a Methodist pastor’s son who allegedly visits heaven during emergency surgery. There he meets a dead sister and great grandfather, sees Jesus and God the Father and the Holy Spirit and Satan, and learns things not revealed in Scripture. We don’t doubt that the little boy is convinced that he visited heaven, but we don’t believe for a minute that it actually happened.
First, the book is contrary to the testimony of Scripture that the apostles were the last to see the resurrected Christ. This was one of the evidences of apostleship (Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7). Paul said that he was the last of the apostles to see Christ, meaning that he saw Christ some time after the other apostles had seen him (1 Cor. 15:8). This occurred on more than one occasion in his life as described in the book of Acts. Paul gave this testimony in the context of giving the eyewitness evidence for Christ’s resurrection. We also know that the apostle John saw Christ on the island of Patmos as described in Revelation 1. All of the evidence we need for our faith is found in the testimony of Scripture and in these particular eyewitnesses.
Second, the book is contrary to Paul’s statement that when he had visited heaven he heard things that he was not allowed to repeat (2 Cor. 12:4). Obviously, then, a person cannot visit heaven and describe whatever he sees and hears there.
Third, the book Heaven Is for Real is contrary God’s emphasis on the priority and sufficiency of faith and Scripture. The book contains testimonies of how people have believed in God and heaven because of Colton’s alleged visitation, but the Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), and faith comes by hearing God’s Word, not by signs and wonders (Romans 10:17). In his account of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus taught that if someone does not hear the Scriptures, he will not “be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). All of the signs and revelation we need are found in the completed canon of Scripture (John 20:30-31). The Bible is able to make the man of God “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works “(2 Timothy 3:16-17). God has told us everything He wants us to know about heaven at this time.
Fourth, the book Heaven Is for Real is contrary to the Bible’s plain teachings. For example, Colton says Jesus’ horse is rainbow-colored (p. 63), whereas the Bible says it is white (Rev. 19:11). Colton says the Holy Spirit shoots down power from heaven (p. 125), whereas the Bible says the Holy Spirit came from heaven at Pentecost and He is the power (Acts 1:8). Colton says everyone has wings in heaven except Jesus (p. 72), that the angel Gabriel sits on the left hand of God’s throne (p. 101), that the Holy Spirit is blue and sits in a chair near the throne of God (p. 102), and “for our Catholic friends” the book is happy to report that Mary stands in heaven beside Jesus (p. 152). Some might ask, how Colton could learn secrets about his dead sister who died in the womb and facts about his great grandfather that he had not been told. The answer is demons. Paul warned that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15). The book Heaven Is for Real also promotes the visions of child progeny Akiane Kramarik, who began “seeing heaven” at age four (pp. 141-144). Colton claims that the “Jesus” that he saw in heaven is the same “Jesus” that Akiane drew from her visions at age nine. But Akiane’s religious faith is a New Age type faith in a vaguely defined “God.” It is religious mysticism rather than faith in an infallible Revelation from God and the blood atonement of Christ. Even if we knew what Jesus looked like, we are forbidden by God’s law to make His likeness (Exodus 20:4).
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