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Heavenly Days

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“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)?

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  • Apparently your "video presentation" link for the David Platt piece goes to the home page of Justin Taylor's blog. You may wish to correct that, or, if that was intentional, give further instruction on how to get to the David Platt video from Justin Taylor's blog.

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  • Guest - Eric Landry

    Thanks, Frank. We corrected the link.

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  • Guest - Nancy Carpenter

    I listened to your guest on tonights show who spoke on the historical Jesus. I think his name was Carl Evans.
    I understood that he has written a book on this subject. What is the name of the book and where can it be purchased.
    Is it available on Kindle?
    Yours in Christ, Nancy Carpenter

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  • Guest - Eric Landry


    We recommend two books from Dr. Evans:

    Fabricating Jesus and The Holman QuickSource Guide to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Eric Landry
    White Horse Inn

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  • Guest - Michael Caldwell

    Like most evangelical critiques of "Heaven is For Real", I wonder, did you even read the book, which is the first-hand account of the events?

    The main character, Todd Burpo, is an evangelical pastor wrestling with your exact concerns - how do I square a little boy's experience with God's Word which is the ultimate authority on Heaven? In the end, he found his son's experience to remarkably uphold Scripture's teaching rather than contradict it. Read the book. What would you conclude if your four-your old told you the exact same type of things?

    I like your program and consider myself Reformed in many respects. But I'm sure even if you did read what you are criticizing, at the heart of your concern would be "new revelation". Colton Burpo does describe additional details about heaven not mentioned in the Bible (not contradictory, but add'l). I personally expect God to continue to speak and act in history. Mind you I don't put somebody's experience on par with Scripture, but I also have little reason to question it when it affirms Scripture at every turn.

    I can't ulitmately vouch for a Nebraska family I don't know personally. There are a lot of "near death experiences" out there, many of which we should be suspicious. But I would challenge that many evangelicals, especially of the Reformed persuasion, have become automatically dismissive of any "experience".

    Should we not expect the very Truth of God, the reality which will be the uttermost Reality for eternity, to occasionally be verified by experience?

    "Lord...you have hidden these things from the wise...and reavealed them to little children" (Mt. 11.25 ESV).

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  • Guest - Michael Horton

    Jesus said that no one has seen the Father but he and that he alone is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." It's not just that he says that there is nothing that contradicts this claim, but that there can be nothing in addition to it.

    We are in a position in Christian (even Reformed) circles today where "enthusiasm" is spreading like wildfire. It is not innocent, but deeply flawed and dangerous to the faith. It has nothing to do with a disparaging of experience, but everything to do with a rejection of religious experience beyond the Word.

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  • Guest - Eileen

    Is it possible that these near death experiences of Heaven are on a different level. I remember somewhere in scripture of being drawn up to a third or seventh heaven. So I am wondering (and not liking the idea) that maybe there is a waiting place before we are all called up to the heaven where God dwells fully. That maybe these souls are in the heaven but not yet call for the finial judgement because the time has not yet come. Really messed up on this thinking.
    Please send places I can go besides the Bible for clarity.

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  • Guest - Rhonda Dubois

    Michael Horton,

    Because of you I am converting to Catholicism. Well, not to give you all the credit; it's been quite a journey, but attending a reformed church and reading your cold-hearted, searingly "intellectual" posts/essays really pushed me over the edge. Well the one that really pushed me over the edge was your essays on hymns.

    A pastor with a famous father of the same name told us he met you in person, and you are a really nice man. I'm sure you are, but if you knew how distancing and cold your blog posts/essays sound, you would be horrified.

    P.S. Hymns need not be 100% bible nuanced. Some of us love Jesus so much, uh, we do admit to getting a bit emotional and romanticizing the whole bit. You know, like "In The Garden", that hymn you obviously abhor. Emotion. Something the reformed church just can't seem to tolerate. Man, you must shake your head when you hear Pope Francis talk!

    In any event, believe it or not, the best to you. But I'm so relieved to be gone. There, I finally said it. Out loud. Now I can go back to being nice.

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