“Heaven Is For Real,” a movie about a child’s visit to heaven, reportedly grossed $21.5 million at its opening this past Easter weekend. A spate of similar books regularly climb to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. Judging by the continuing popularity of Jesus Calling (America’s #1 devotional), the nation—and especially evangelical publishers and readers—are craving revelation about the things that matter most. Yet it’s revelation apart from—or at least beyond—the Word of God.
How do we know that God exists and heaven is for real? The apostles answer with one voice: “We heard, saw, and touched him with our hands… and he is risen!” It’s amazing that at the time when Christians celebrate Christ’s bodily resurrection as “the first-fruits of those who sleep,” a completely different gospel, with entirely different sources of “revelation,” is broadcast in the name of Christ.
When it comes to heaven, particularly to the presence of the Triune God who makes it “heaven” in the first place, are we playing with fire?
Remarkably, one of the best critiques of this genre I’ve come across is a post on the CNN website. It’s by Drew Dyck, editor of Leadership Journal. “Yes, the Bible teaches that heaven is a place of ultimate comfort, with ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21:4),” he notes. “But it is also a place where the reality of God’s unbridled majesty reigns supreme – and that’s scary.” He adds, “We can’t truly appreciate God’s grace until we glimpse his greatness. We won’t be lifted by his love until we’re humbled by his holiness.” In conclusion, he states, “The affection of a cosmic buddy is one thing. But the love of the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who Isaiah says ‘dwells in unapproachable light,’ means something else entirely.”
Another very helpful resource is a video by David Platt. After pointing to the problem in pop culture over “trips to heaven,” Pastor Platt offers wise biblical counsel for “discerning the spirits.” And isn’t the safest ground to stay close to the words of the one who said, “No one has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father… I am the bread of life” (John 6:46, 48)?