by John MacArthur
You’re probably aware of the hit movie “Heaven Is for Real” and the popular book it’s based on. Recently, various television news programs have invited John MacArthur to explain why he rejects the story of Colton Burpo’s trip to heaven. But in those brief, edited interviews, much of John’s biblical critique ended up on the cutting-room floor. We thought it would be appropriate to take a short break from our current blog series and explain in more detail why the truth about heaven isn’t found in hallucinations and near-death experiences, but in the Word of God alone. –GTY Staff
Given the rising tides of militant atheism, postmodern skepticism, biblical illiteracy, self-love, and gross immorality, what are we to make of the current interest in heaven?
One thing is clear: It does not signal any significant upsurge of interest in what biblical revelation teaches about heaven. On the contrary, the data actually seem to indicate that lots of people are simply making up whatever concept of heaven pleases them. The ideas about heaven that get the most press are mostly figments of the human imagination that bear little (if any) resemblance to that glorious realm of Christ’s kingdom as it is described in God’s Word.
We would of course expect New Age practitioners, cranks, and cultists to abandon the Bible in favor of their own dreams and fantasies. But this trend of inventing one’s own personal concept of heaven seems to be an even bigger problem in the evangelical community than it is in the world at large. Evidence of this can be seen in several recent evangelical mega–best sellers.
One of the most talked-about books of 2011 was Heaven Is for Real, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent. The book recounts four-year-old Colton Burpo’s vision of heaven (as told by his father to Ms. Vincent). Colton claims he visited heaven during surgery after a burst appendix nearly took his life. His stories of heaven are full of fanciful features and peculiar details that bear all the earmarks of a child’s vivid imagination. There’s nothing transcendent or even particularly enlightening about Colton’s description of heaven. In fact, it is completely devoid of the breathtaking glory featured in every biblical description of the heavenly realm. That doesn’t deter Todd Burpo from singling out selective phrases and proof texts from Scripture, citing them as if they authenticated his son’s account.
It may be quite fascinating to read these intricately detailed accounts of people who claim to have come back from heaven, but that hobby is as dangerous as it is seductive. Readers not only get a twisted, unbiblical picture of heaven from these tall tales; they also imbibe a subjective, superstitious, shallow brand of spirituality. There is no reason to believe anyone who claims to have gone to heaven and returned (John 3:13; 1:18). Studying mystical accounts of supposed journeys into the afterlife yields nothing but confusion, contradiction, false hope, bad doctrine, and a host of similar evils.
Nevertheless, the current popularity of such books shows how hungry people are to hear about heaven. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, of course. In fact, it is a desire that can be harnessed for good, as long as we look to Scripture and let God’s Word inform our knowledge and shape our hopes.
Indeed, it is right and beneficial for Christians to fix their hearts on heaven. Scripture repeatedly urges us to cultivate that perspective: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1–2 ESV). “We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 ESV). “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20 ESV).
Such a perspective is the very essence of true faith, according to Hebrews 11. Those with authentic, biblical faith acknowledge that they are strangers and pilgrims on this earth (v. 13). They are seeking a heavenly homeland (v. 14). They “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (v. 16 ESV). The “city” that verse refers to is the heavenly Jerusalem, an unimaginable place—the very capital of heaven. It will be the eternal abode of the redeemed. No wonder Christians are intrigued with the subject.
You simply cannot gain a better understanding of heaven than we are given in Scripture—especially not from someone else’s dreams and near-death experiences. In the words of Charles Spurgeon:
It’s a little heaven below, to imagine sweet things. But never think that imagination can picture heaven. When it is most sublime, when it is freest from the dust of earth, when it is carried up by the greatest knowledge, and kept steady by the most extreme caution, imagination cannot picture heaven. “It hath not entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Imagination is good, but not to picture to us heaven. Your imaginary heaven you will find by-and-by to be all a mistake; though you may have piled up fine castles, you will find them to be castles in the air, and they will vanish like thin clouds before the gale. For imagination cannot make a heaven. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered the heart of man to conceive” it. [Charles H. Spurgeon, The New Park Street Pulpit, 6 vols. (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1856), 2:20-21.]
What God has revealed in Scripture is the only legitimate place to get a clear understanding of the heavenly kingdom. This is a point we will come back to repeatedly: The Bible is our only reliable source of information about heaven. I want to show you why it is misleading and dangerous to probe and dissect people’s near-death experiences, as if they could give us some important truth about the afterlife that we are lacking from Scripture. We’ll do that next time.
(Adapted from The Glory of Heaven.)
#1 Posted by
Rose Michels | Monday, April 28, 2014at
My own pastor is touting this movie [Heaven is For Real] as a great, family movie to go see, without having seen it himself. *face palm* What is a person/congregant to do when that kind of stuff is coming from the pulpit.? No discernment, just take it for face value and pass it along.
#2 Posted by
Sunny Shell | Monday, April 28, 2014at
Thank you. I'll add this as another resource to the article I wrote last week. The Lord bless you Pastor MacArthur.
#3 Posted by
Brad Kennedy | Monday, April 28, 2014at
Rose (#1), it may be helpful for you to listen to today's (4.28.14) radio broadcast.
#4 Posted by
Rose Michels | Monday, April 28, 2014at
Brad Kennedy ... thank you for the link suggestion. I did listen to it but I'm not sure what you wished me to glean from it as it pertains to my question. Today's radio broadcast was about bearing fruit vs barrenness. There was one part about 'giving him over to Satan' after going to them about their sin. Is that possibly what you meant for me to hear? Your clarification would be appreciate. :)
#5 Posted by
Brad Kennedy | Monday, April 28, 2014at
Rose (#4), I apologize for being vague. And I feel your pain. It hurts when our pastors say things that unveil sin, especially when a severe lack of reverence for that which is holy is revealed. Pastor MacArthur reminds us in today’s broadcast that there are times when a believer is fleshly, barren, unproductive, and useless; as useless as an unbeliever-and it confuses us as Christians. When a person becomes focused on earthly things, he or she develops a ‘spiritual myopia’ or spiritual blindness. Recommending that you listen to today’s broadcast was a way of leading you to better understand why your pastor may have made such a foolish statement more than what your reaction should be.
I will admit that if my pastor made a statement such as yours did, I might feel obligated to speak to him based on the principle given in Galatians 6:1-5 (and only if my own conscience allowed me). At the very least I would probably go to other brothers and sisters and ask if I actually heard what I thought I had heard. Truth is established by two or more witnesses and there is wisdom in seeking counsel from the faithful.
#6 Posted by
Melanie Gibbs | Monday, April 28, 2014at
I don't know if it is true or not, but you have to remember it was an account by a four year old at the time. If Colton did see heaven, he probably describe it the best he could.. Even Godly men in the Bible had to described unfamiliar things the best they could about the future.
#8 Posted by
Cameron Buettel | Monday, April 28, 2014at
Melanie, I realize that you are not endorsing the Burpo testimony. But I would argue that your position of neutrality is also dangerous.
Your comment, "Godly men" did "the best they could" regarding what they prophetically wrote in the Bible is troubling. Peter gave this description concerning the precision of Scripture;
"[K]nowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21).
I hope you will continue to read this series, because it will reveal the blatant contradictions between Colton Burpo's testimony and the Holy Spirit's written revelation.
#7 Posted by
Marilyn Grenkow | Monday, April 28, 2014at
Thank you John MacArthur for being stayed upon the Word of God. It surprises me how many christians
seem to think something is valid if it mentions Jesus. I do not think this movie is at all 'christian', and it is shameful to me that it is held in this high regard of importance... as 'proof'(? really?) that there is a heaven. How harmful a witness this is to the truth in God's Word.
#19 Posted by
Elaine Toomey | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
I really liked your comment, that just becuz Jesus is mentioned ppl are so willing to believe with out checking it out! I have family n friends who constantly do this n then repeat it! Breaks my heart n I keep praying n begging them to read the Bible for themselves. Only thru knowing Christ, reading the Bible n praying for wisdom n knowledge, which He will give us if we ask will we know n be able to discern. Thank you n God bless.
#9 Posted by
Mark Foy | Monday, April 28, 2014at
I appreciate your ministry Pastor MacArthur.
Subjective experiences lack the "2 or 3 witnesses the Bible requires for validating matters. Thanks for speaking out against harmful errors that have arisen in the Church. God bless you and keep you in His Grace.
#10 Posted by
David Hay | Monday, April 28, 2014at
I work with 4 year olds, I know 4 year olds and their word on most things is mostly fairy tales anyway.
Shocking how many take the word of a 4 year old over the Bible.
#11 Posted by
Louis Bell | Monday, April 28, 2014at
I heard it said by a wise man once; "if they died and went to Heaven they would still be there."-John Macarthur
#12 Posted by
Ronald Radford | Monday, April 28, 2014at
After all of the careful study pertaining to the "afterlife" discussions which I also find all too contradictory within itself in comparison with scripture, I have but one question for any who would like to respond. Why have all of these accounts in whatever forms, books, movies, shirts, coffee cups, etc with its conflicting messages been allowed to be promoted for profit within the resource establishments as any well known, without naming of course, Christian book stores? Should not this "stuff" and all promoters with the applicable leadership be held accountable ? Have we forgotten why Christ overturned the tables of the money changers? Where is our integrity? Our hearts should ache at how we (church) are lacking in discernment! We are told to watch and pray lest we are deceived. Have we become?
#13 Posted by
Mark Costik | Monday, April 28, 2014at
Pretty scary how many people are going to see this and Noah.
#14 Posted by
Mike Giesenhagen | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
Forgive me for what may be a lack of understanding, but I am not sure that I agree with the usage of John 3:13 and 1:18 as a definitive source that disproves the Burpo's testimony. I understand the importance of taking the Bible seriously, and therefore would like to pose a question derived from the Biblical text itself.
I am an early seminary student, and my understanding of the Greek language is shaky, at best. Please correct me if my understanding is wrong, but it seems that the passages in John are referring to events that have taken place in the past. According to my rough translation work, they use the perfect tense of the verbs, to a past event with current implications. Even if nobody had seen heaven and God at this point, does that really close the door for it happening in the future?
If so, then I have another question. Acts 7:55-56 (NASB) reads, "55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'"
This passage comes from the stoning of Stephen, after he gives his testimony. In this passage, it seems clear that Stephen does not ascend to heaven and return, but the language used for the heavens is the same as the text in John, and it appears that he has some sort of vision of heaven, including some sense of seeing God, as he knows Christ is "standing at the right hand of God."
Obviously, this is not a direct parallel, but it seems like there is biblical precedent for someone to have a vision of heaven while still living on earth, and this doesn't even take into account the book of Revelation, where the author seems to have an extensive vision of heaven. If the argument is whether Colton "visited" heaven, I can understand the disagreement. Biblically, however, it seems like there may be room for God to provide a "vision" of heaven to people this side of death.
Thank you for making an effort to prioritize the Bible, and I look forward to any comments received!
#15 Posted by
Darren Death | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
I am at a point in my life where my faith has diminished. I am so open but can not find my way to a place of faith.
I accept that my mind is full of conflicting views (church members/leadership that have no clue, Media, my own bias).
I was hoping that this article was going to create more light then heat but basically said this movie is bad and the bible is good.
While I don't argue that the bible is good some of us out here need some help.
Where can I turn to find an understanding that the writer of this article shows very clearly? I want to believe again but I have become so synical.
#18 Posted by
Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin) | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
In this world where we are all confronted with mixed and contradicting messages from every direction, you're not alone. There are many who are confused and don't know what to believe. The reason this article didn't explain more is because it is the first in a series, all of which are adapted from John MacArthur's book The Glory of Heaven.
I would encourage you to keep reading in this series, and also get a copy of the book. The only way to sort through the mixed messages we all receive is to focus our attention on the only message that matters—Scripture. God's Word alone is authoritative on all matters. And when it comes to heaven, it's amazing the clarity and simplicity with which Scripture speaks. It doesn't answer all of our questions, but it tells us enough to give steadfast hope in what the Lord has in store for those who love Him.
What sets The Glory of Heaven apart from all the heaven tourism books is that John MacArthur rejects experience-based information about heaven, and instead examines and instructs based on what the Holy Spirit has revealed about heaven. His is not the only book that does this, but it is among the better ones.
So I would encourage you and all others who are confused and cynical to be cynical about man-centered, unverifiable experiences, but be confident in God's inerrant and authoritative Word on the matter.
#20 Posted by
Randy Johnson | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
Grasping spiritual truths requires spiritual receptiveness. But no man has this by nature. It is a supernatural gift from God. I was exactly as you describe many years ago. The best advice I received then was "tune in Jesus". The content of our faith has to begin with the Person and Work of Jesus the Messiah. The Holy Spirit used a radio preacher to lead me to faith in Jesus by explaining the "Romans' Road" as I drove to work. This was what I thought was meant by "tune in Jesus."
#16 Posted by
Sterling Brown | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
Thank you for giving us the truth of God's inerrant and infallible Word in such a deceptive world, where there is a famine in the land for the truth of God and a plethora of lies everywhere you turn.
#17 Posted by
Tom Yates | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
Yes, Heaven is real, but what people really need to understand is, so is Hell.
#21 Posted by
Rebecca Schwem | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
When I was around 3 years old, I had surgery. I had my tonsils removed. It was pretty uneventful. I was anesthetized and slept through the whole ordeal.
While asleep, I saw myself along with my doctor and nurses in a row boat on a lake that was like glass. It was so peaceful. I wasn't scared at all that my mother wasn't there. Just a nice little row in that boat in a beautiful setting. Did my parents have a boat? No. Did we frequent lakes? Not that I can ever recall. We lived close to the beach but no lakes. Did anyone talk to me about lakes and rowboats before I went under? Nope. The only thing I knew about lakes and rowboats was the song. Row, Row, Row Your Boat. I can still see the picture in my head. A lot of details for a little kid.
Did I really leave that operating table with the medical personnel and take a boat ride? Well, if I did, shame on my parents and that doctor for not putting a life vest on me! The brain is such a mystery. It is collecting data when you aren't even realizing it, when your parents didn't even realize it. It is capable of pulling it out and creating a movie in your head that can last anywhere from minutes to hours. I had an imaginary row boat ride. That was it. Maybe not as imaginative or glamorous as a near death experience? But don't think just because that hasn't happened yet, that it can't happen too.....in Technicolor!
By the time we are 3, the brain, much like a computer but better, has stored all kinds of sights, smells, temperatures, textures, colors, sounds, faces, emotions, etc. In once traumatic event, or even in one exhilarating event, the brain can search and search to make sense of it all while looking for all the different files it has created in order to know where to file the latest experience or observation. This is why we dream weird dreams. They usually are a composite of many different, non related events that happened at different times and our brains just runs them all together like a bad movie plot that makes no sense at all.
So why do we accept the bizarre? Because we like the bizarre and are attracted to the unknown. I'd be willing to say that even unbelievers like these weird, hard to explain spiritual experiences. Mystery. Man has always liked a good mystery. Let's face it, it's entertaining.
#22 Posted by
Sharyn Bents | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
Thanks Rebecca, your comment is so close to what I believe about the brain. Whatever our brain puts together in a dream consists of characters that we have seen at some time in our life, whether it be on TV, on the street or in a store. Our brain recalls much more than we focus on and think about.
I've taught preschool threes and fours. If you visited a preschool classroom you would see a wide range of maturity levels. Some of these kids talk and act like third graders and some remember everything. Kids can listen to something and repeat it back as if they were there, and they're great storytellers.
Darren, Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing the word of God". Christian radio has brought me from being a casual Christian to being a born-again Christian.
#23 Posted by
Mulugeta Degaga | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
Again thank you John
On this matter of people going to heaven is a very dangerous road, Satan the enemy of truth will do any thing for people to abandon the word of God. Let me put few points why these false claim is around, First is to make christians to focus on what they see and feel not on the promise of the Bible like we don't wait for the coming of Jesus christ we can go now and see him,you see that rather than waiting for the LORD ignoring all sorts of warning (Let no man deceive you by any means....2 Thessalonians 2:3,10-12) Second thing it vilolates God's order God has a time for every thing he does when he wills it mocks God and shows to the world that God is trying to convince people by showing them the flame of Hell and the goodness of heaven rathe than the revealed truth, Third one and I htink the big failure id totally abandon the ministry of the Holy Spirit what is the Spirit doing now convciting hearts and changing life it short circuit that.You see these people rather doing God's work with prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit preaching the cross they want miracles and going heaven all these fancy stuff no wonder world love his own make movie for it we know it is not from God. One more final point all these people claiming going to heaven are there for money they make money from their book and now yes why not from movies. Their end is not good but I choose to read God's gift his word and patiently wait for his Son arrival that time I don't need to prove heaven from a book or movie b/c Jesus glory will fill the whole world and it is coming soon that's what the Bible say.
#25 Posted by
Rebecca Schwem | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
#23, Mulugeta Degaga - Excellent, excellent points!
#24 Posted by
Barbara Henderson | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
There is no question that sometimes people have very 'odd' experiences. They can't be sought out on purpose. They can't be interpreted by Bible teachings. They can't be duplicated. There is no way they can be accounted as anything except an unusual and rare experience. They simply cannot be trusted. Thank God for the Bible - His written word. It can be trusted.
#26 Posted by
Belinda Cross | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
I hope that Christians are careful in their criticism of this movie. When we're criticizing and even ridiculing a movie and author whose main point is that heaven is real, I fear what message we could be sending to non-believers. I enjoyed the movie as Hollywood entertainment.....not as a Bible study. I fully understand MacArthur's point, but I pray that God can use the movie as an opportunity for me to share the Gospel and provide biblical truths about heaven. Heaven IS for real! :)
#27 Posted by
Mark Walters | Tuesday, April 29, 2014at
Belinda, sounds like you might be trying to say that we should abide by 2 Tim. 2.23-16 when dealing with this kind of thing!
#31 Posted by
Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin) | Wednesday, April 30, 2014at
Thanks for the comment! I understand where you're coming from. There is a sense in which there may be a redeeming aspect of all this, namely, an affirmation of the reality of heaven. Where I see that breaking down, however, is when the portrayal of heaven is not only false, but it actually prevents people from going there. What do I mean?
Enjoying this as Hollywood entertainment is not an option the creators want you to have. This is not a fictional movie. It is clearly promoted as a real-life portrayal of heaven. They don't want you to merely enjoy it, they want you to believe it.
To make matters worse, while trying to encourage belief about heaven, they completely leave out (in the book and movie) who gets to heaven or what one has to do to get there. The assumption is that everyone will go there, and therefore you don't have to do anything other than believe that "heaven is for real." One might say it is up to "us" to then have gospel conversations. And that is true. But the problem is out of the millions who view this movie, how many of them are surrounded by bold Christians who can articulate the gospel? Given the climate of the Church today, not many.
Those are two significant reasons why I think the book/movie must be criticized and repudiated by the Christian community. As John MacArthur has said, there is nothing "Christian" about it. Without changing a single detail t could just as easily be a Mormon movie, or Catholic movie, or Jehovah's Witness movie, or Unitarian Universalist, or...
#39 Posted by
Mulugeta Degaga | Thursday, May 1, 2014at
Let me put some points here Belinda Satan has an agenda, he is not a fool he knows what weapon we have on our hand which isthe word of God.He can do any thing to make our bible useless. He tried in he past by burning the bible and also killing who read the bible but the output was the opposite BIble is every where. As the only source of absolute truth Satan changed his tactic look an attack on the bible is every where if people can trust there dream and going to heaven will literally put the authority of the BIble in question.After all the Gospel is about Jesus Chris Death and resurrection. What truth w eare looking out there that is not stated in the word of God. All this bring confusion,restless,wondering above all untahnkful heart for the Holy Spirit led his servants to write his word. For the world Belinda even if the dead came to life they won;t believe you remebe the hostory of lazarus what was the out put they want to kill the guy came from the dead darkness is darkness only God with hi sword through the Holy Spirit can convince people and open their heart not extra bibilical book or movie, afte all movie is for the entertainment that is why people are going.
#29 Posted by
Marcus Ulland | Wednesday, April 30, 2014at
Thank You & praise God for Men like John MacArthur with his response in Dead Men Tell No Tales, Heaven is Real, Hallucinations are Not, Phil Johnson for the Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine, Hank Hanegraaff (equip.org)The Boy Who came back from Heaven, The Story Behind the Story, Tim Challies for his Heaven is Real, book review (warning) of 3 years ago.....and there are many more. ALL of these critiques use Scripture as their defense, "give every man a reason".
Hanegraaff points to the logic that the myriad of NDE stories can all be false but they can't all be true as they are too contradictory, simply too divergent.
Satan always wants us to take the anything goes, whatever you believe route. God's Word is either your Authority or it's not. And when it's not, it can be trumped
by the tales and Discernment of a 4 year old boy?
Director/Screenwriter of the movie, Randal Wallace wants people to walk away uplifted. "I hope that people will find encouragement in knowing that doubt is not a sin, We're not wrong to question; we're made to question. And we're loved as we are."
Really? We can defy/question God, "and we're loved as we are."
Word of Faith, Prosperity Preacher, denier of the individual persons of the Trinity, Bishop T.D. Jakes, one of the firm's producers, told CBN News the film sends a hopeful message to viewers. "I think this is a film that's a great opportunity to bring in the margin of our community that doesn't talk about faith or the afterlife. You walk away to believe that all things are possible."
So.....We are to tell the lost, their hope is that......all things are possible....???? Hmmm! (On a side note: Will have to give it to T.D. on that Prosperity stuff this time around.....Can you say Box Office CHA CHING!!!!
The film's other producer is Joe Roth. Past big wig at 20th Century Fox, Disney movie group as well as some others. The same Joe Roth whose kindly folks Lawrence and Frances volunteered him to be one of the plaintiffs for the ACLU's case (Engel v. Vitale) that went before the Supreme court of the United States. That case "only" settled the matter where by mandatory prayer in schools was abolished.......prayer in school became unconstitutional.
As I haven't seen the movie, I wonder if God shared his opinion with Colton Burpo, while he was in heaven, about that prayer in school stuff??? Just curious if he had an opinion one way or the other.
Discernment? Church pastors wanting to have a parade for this movie? Implying that "the world".....the lost.....those we know and love that are going to be separated from God for eternity are going to be moved by a 4 year olds tale rather than the work of the Holy Spirit in and through his Glorious Gospel.......
Shame on us. My head is spinning.
Maranatha, Come Quickly Lord Jesus!
#30 Posted by
David Owenby | Wednesday, April 30, 2014at
We live in a fast food culture where many "churches" replace the Bible with their feelings and they have a pastor who does the same and endorses it. This movie is simply another facet of marketing by an industry that has made billions over the years glamorizing lifestyles/habits/morals/family structures and their definitions/and it's getting worse... At it's simplest level, this is just another way to make money without monotonously recycling the same scripts with different endings and actors. The script now has become the bible, or more appropriately:The interpretation of God's word in a manner by mostly non believers and those who hold atheistic and agnostic viewpoints on everything written in it. With the glaring exception of when it comes to making it into a movie or series loaded with special effects, (and 3d of course) and a huge budget behind it. Put simply, these movies are directed to an untapped demographic that has been identified as a big money maker.
#32 Posted by
Rudi Jensen | Wednesday, April 30, 2014at
#21 Rebecca Schwem
Hi Rebecca, how wonderful to see you here again dear sister.
My wife works with children in that age as a profession, and have experienced how the questioning of small children by their parents, have led to severe accusations with no hold in reality. Sometimes it is the parents that are using leading questions that the child will give an affirming answer to, because it seems to make the parents happy.
#33 Posted by
Darrell Doster | Wednesday, April 30, 2014at
In scripture there are several instances were people were risen from the dead like the rulers daughter in Matthew 9 , Lazarus in John 11 and Tabitha in Acts 9 if they could remember what that saw wouldn't you think the disciples would have interviewed them and recorded it in scripture? Also Paul or someone he knew in 2 Corinthians 12 describes being caught up in Paradise the third heaven but was unable to tell us anything about it because it was unlawful for him to utter. Personally I can't think of anything worse than dying going to be with Jesus in glory and then being told you have to come back to this mess and go through all the pains of life and the death process again. Other than Paul's experience, not being dogmatic about this I think the others that came back had their memories wiped clear of the whole event. I'll stick to God's word as my only source of insight into the next life.
[Rev 5:11-13} 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power [Be] to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"
#34 Posted by
Ashley Churchill | Wednesday, April 30, 2014at
Here is my question- How did little Colton Burpo know things he should not have known? His little sister whom he never met due to a miscariage? The locations of his mom and dad were while in the hospital? How do you think this was possible?
#35 Posted by
Darrell Doster | Thursday, May 1, 2014at
With over a million copies in print and all the national media attention my personal opinion is they wrote the book for money. I know Colton wasn't present at those events but his dad was and he is the real author of the book. It is interesting to me that people even Christians flock to these kind of books to find comfort when we have all the proof in the world "Jesus rose from the dead" over 500 people saw him (1 Cor.15) most of whom were martyred for this confession. He is alive and He is coming again and this should bring the believer great comfort (1 Thes. 5:1-11) God's word is filled with all kinds of glimpses into the next life believers should find their comfort there. I will stick to what I know is reliable "God's word" everything else is questionable.
#36 Posted by
Linda Loutenschlager | Thursday, May 1, 2014at
Ashley Churchill, you took the words right out of my mouth! This is exactly what I want to know. How did Colton know these things, how was it possible?????????????????????
#38 Posted by
Todd Farr | Thursday, May 1, 2014at
It's hard to say what the motivation is behind something like this but if it doesn't line up with the truth from God's Word then it is not being used to glorify Him. From what I've heard (I will most likely never watch this movie or read this book), there's not a single presentation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus (in the movie anyways). Wouldn't a true shepherd of God's people, not one, but two (Todd Burpo, T.D. Jakes), find a way to "squeeze" the Good News into a movie about the eternal home of all believers? Believing in heaven does not mean that is where you will be.
John 14:1-2, along with the rest of God's revelation to us in His Word, is enough for us. Jesus promised this and that is enough. I don't need the testimony of a four-year old through his parents that isn't biblically based and doesn't even communicate the way to get there to know that heaven is real.
#42 Posted by
Jen K | Friday, May 2, 2014at
#34 and #36
Remember how Apostle Paul warns believers not to be deceived time and time again. We must be discerning! Discernment is not an option...it is a mandate. Sometimes people see or experience things that are so unexplainable that they automatically attribute it to God. People around the world report of visions of Mary and even Joseph Smith claims to have seen an angel...look what happened there. I actually believe he might have seen what he thought was an angel but was it from God? God might have allowed it but Joseph Smith is going to be accountable. We must remember how deceptive Satan is and how he disguises himself as an angel of light. I'm not sure how Colton Burpo knew those things but let me tell you that even fortune tellers can be very accurate about knowing a person's past. Fortune tellers and shamans are very sought after because they are so frighteningly accurate. Ask anyone who has been involved with these kinds of practices. It might be foreign in the states but very prevalent in other cultures. I myself have experienced strange things in the past but so what. It has only made me realize that I CANNOT rely on my experiences but that I must test these thing by the WORD of God...searching scripture by being a Berean. I am so very thankful that what I experienced only strengthened my understanding of how deceptive Satan is and why there are so many warnings about being deceived in the New Testament. I do not want to be held accountable for being deceived because I went with my experience.
#56 Posted by
Gabriel Powell (GTY Admin) | Monday, May 5, 2014at
Ashley (and Linda),
My answer would be this: before we accept that claim (which is unverifiable), we must first look at the claims that can be tested. In this case, the book makes numerous claims about heaven which are incompatible with Scripture (e.g. God has wings and is most comparable to the angel Gabriel). Therefore on the basis of the numerous questionable claims, I do not accept the unverifiable claims.
Just because someone says something (even if they claim to be a Christian), doesn't make it true.
#41 Posted by
Jen K | Friday, May 2, 2014at
#34 and #36
Remember how Apostle Paul warns believers not to be deceived time and time again. We must be discerning! Discernment is not an option...it is a mandate. Sometimes people see or experience things that are so unexplainable that they automatically attribute it to God. People around the world report of visions of Mary and even Joseph Smith claims to have seen an angel...look what happened there. I actually believe he might have seen what he thought was an angel but was it from God? God might have allowed it but Joseph Smith is going to be accountable for how he respondid. We must remember how deceptive Satan is and how he disguises himself as an angel of light. I'm not sure how Colton Burpo knew those things but let me tell you that even fortune tellers can be very accurate about knowing a person's past. Fortune tellers and shamans are very sought after because they are so frighteningly accurate. Ask anyone who has been involved with these kinds of practices. It might be foreign in the states but very prevalent in other cultures. I myself have experienced strange things in the past but SO WHAT. It has only made me realize that I CANNOT rely on my experiences but that I must test these thing by the WORD of God...searching scripture by being a Berean. I am so very thankful that what I experienced only strengthened my understanding of how deceptive Satan is and why there are so many warnings about being deceived in the New Testament. I do not want to be accountable for being deceived because I went with my experience.
#43 Posted by
Jim Parooly | Saturday, May 3, 2014at
It is so disheartening to see brothers and sisters turn to arrogance, sarcasm, and ridicule towards their fellow Christians based in their misunderstanding and intent behind the writing of this book. There is a significant problem in the reformed wing of Christianity of questioning the authenticity of someone's faith, not in a productive way, but in an insulting and critical way. This affliction seems to be present primarily in those who are dangerously close to idolizing John Macarthur, John Piper, and David Platt. It is no coincidence that they are excessively critical, sarcastic, and arrogant in their writings and messages. Very embarrassing for this Christian.
#47 Posted by
Todd Farr | Saturday, May 3, 2014at
"It is so disheartening to see brothers and sisters turn to arrogance, sarcasm, and ridicule towards their fellow Christians based in their misunderstanding and intent behind the writing of this book."
What exactly is the purpose of this book/movie? To confirm what God's Word has already revealed? Well, that can't be the purpose because there are contradictions to His Word all throughout Colton's testimony. Christ confirms the true intent of works such as this in one verse:
"An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed." Matt. 16:4
What type of sign were the Jews looking for out of Jesus? Back up to Matt. 16:1 and we find out:
"And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven."
A sign from heaven? Sound familiar?
"This affliction seems to be present primarily in those who are dangerously close to idolizing John Macarthur, John Piper, and David Platt."
I would fully expect this line of thinking to eventually end up labeling Christians who love and seek truth to be labeled as "idolaters of truth".
#44 Posted by
Joyce Bilodeau | Saturday, May 3, 2014at
I am so surprised at how many are so excited about this book/movie and just take it for truth. If they were half as excited about what God has to say to us through His Word they would be able to discern for themselves the Truth.
#45 Posted by
Jim Parooly | Saturday, May 3, 2014at
Not only is it presumptive to claim that they attribute more authority to this book than Scripture, it's also, in all likelihood a wrong conclusion.
#52 Posted by
Jen K | Sunday, May 4, 2014at
Then where is the GOSPEL MESSAGE??? How do you get there???
Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.
Heaven is real and so is Hell...the Bible tells me so.
#46 Posted by
Rebecca Schwem | Saturday, May 3, 2014at
#32- Hi there, Rudi. Good to see you again too, brother.
We know what God's Word says. While we cannot explain every phenomenon, that does not mean it has no explanation. We just don't know what it is for certain. Take for example, this little boy knowing facts, details that the parents claim he was never ever told. Now I can't prove he did hear something or certain things at some time and place and filed it away. It is odd to me that this Dad had not brought out a picture of his dad in years. It's odd to me that this mother never brought up the baby she lost in conversation with the dad or anyone else in years if ever. I can't prove any of my theories. And they can't prove theirs. I believe this. We could fill pages with all the different theories and it won't matter to certain people. We live in an age where people love the supernatural and want that experience or want to know someone who has had that experience. It's a kind of lusting we do. We lust after unique experiences.
What we do know for certain is God's Word and we are certain about all His Word has revealed to us and all His Word has not revealed to us. Because we cannot explain with certainty strange occurrences does not mean God wants us to fill in the blanks. We must stand on the authority of scripture. The Bible reveals to us exactly what God wants it to reveal. Sola Scriptura! Our faith and confidence is in Scripture alone, not a child's experience no matter how difficult it is to explain. I don't need to prove my position because my position in on the authority of scripture. When a Christian stands on the authority of God, all these strange occurrences do not matter. They are simply occurrences we cannot explain like so many other things in life. If we do not allow ourselves to be distracted by such matters and rely solely on God's Word, we will have on the full armor of God. However, if we allow ourselves to try to attach God to every mysterious event, we are putting ourselves at risk for spiritual warfare.
I am not doubting what strange dreams this child had while sick. But to believe the dreams are real life experiences and qualify as truth is not biblical at all and dangerous. We must not get swept away by these strange and even bizarre events because there are likely to be many in the days to come. There is no value, no benefit believing these stories are true. There is only value in God's Word. We must not compromise God's Word because we strongly desire something to be true.
#48 Posted by
Jim Parooly | Sunday, May 4, 2014at
Todd, Who asked for it? It was given without request. Who said to God "prove it" for him to give thus vision? Why are you making false accusations based on misuse of scripture?
#50 Posted by
Todd Farr | Sunday, May 4, 2014at
The book/movie is titled "Heaven is for real". Why? As if, before this supposed trip to heaven, the Burpos and those who put some type of faith or trust in this testimony didn't believe that heaven actually existed? They are seeking a sign from heaven through this supposed trip to heaven as well as all the other supposed trips to heaven. I don't understand how I have made false accusations or misused scripture. People who are looking for truth about heaven outside of God's written revelation on the subject of heaven are seeking signs in the same way that the religious leaders were questioning Christ. Putting any type of trust or faith in these NDE accounts shows a lack of trust and faith in the sufficiency and authority of the Bible.
Seriously consider this point. What reason does anyone who does not question the Bible have to read a book or see a movie titled, "Heaven is for real", besides to critique it? I'd hope you'd answer that a born-again believer wouldn't have a reason to read or see this. So, who then, is this book/movie made for? People who don't believe the Word of God.
#49 Posted by
Asha Jeyathas | Sunday, May 4, 2014at
Thank you Pastor John, Great explanation. I used to get links from family at times, but I delete them. I always think that if they go to Heaven, their experiences would be similar, but not difference in view. Jesus is the only one who ascended to Heaven, and we will see Him face to face when we die. I am really waiting for that opportunity. But one time in my vision, (may be) I saw Jesus, (it is true, I even wrote on my Bible, I think it was about 8 or 9 years ago.) That time I was going through abuse in my relationship, and I always cry out to my Lord. So He came stretched His arms, and I ran towards Him. He hugged me and told me not to worry, and He is with me. It is fresh in my mind still. But I did not see His face, only the white robe and brightness around. (I actually thought I was dead :)
#53 Posted by
Rudi Jensen | Monday, May 5, 2014at
#49 Posted by Asha Jeyathas
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown in thinking and poor emotional responses. Common symptoms include delusions, such as paranoia. Hearing voices or noises that are not there.
What distinguishes these claimed experiences from this description?
#51 Posted by
Jim Parooly | Sunday, May 4, 2014at
Todd, that's absurd. You made the assumption thy didn't believe before even though there is evidence and testimony to the contrary. Are you really making the claim that this pastor didn't believe in heaven before his son's vision?
Why would someone read this book? Perhaps for edification of their faith. Oh but why would they need that, we have the Bible? No you're right, Paul didn't instruct us to use our words to encourage, rebuke, or instruct each other. But of course why would someone read John MacArthur's books but to critique them.
#54 Posted by
Rebecca Schwem | Monday, May 5, 2014at
I have a question. How do you explain how some of us have very realistic experiences, very detailed, experiences that appear to be supernatural and yet we accept the complexities of the mind, emotions and circumstances as compared to those that have the same type of experiences I just described but accept it as reality and therefore, reject the complexities of the mind, emotions and circumstances? How do you explain that? How do you explain those that have their own unique experiences and see them as none other than dreams or overactive or over-reactive brain stimulation due to either illness or some sort of trauma? Do those that believe a child could have actually seen Jesus, been to heaven and back think the rest of us who don't believe are rejecting God? Do you see us as wrong for only standing on the authority of God's Word? Do think we don't have the Holy Spirit or enough of the Holy Spirit? Surely you don't think we never had any of these experiences, do you? Many have wanted to know how we explain such strange and vivid experiences. Now I want you who believe and trust such experiences to explain to the rest of us, how it is we are able to process our own experiences so differently? Do you think we are non emotional people, like dead wood? Do you think we are people that don't have a range of emotions? Do you think we are people that void of surprise, shock and awe? How do you explain like experiences and yet, drastically different understanding of it all? Anybody?
#55 Posted by
Belinda Cross | Monday, May 5, 2014at
"So, who then, is this book/movie made for?" Todd may have answered his own question. We can only pray that "people who don't believe the Word of God" would be the VERY people who see/read it. Then, as this movie is talked about at the workplace or on the baseball bleachers, Christians will realize that God might have used the movie to open the door for us to share biblical truths with that person who may never have walked into our church building. I don't want to put ANY limits on what God can do!
I didn't catch that the little boy went to heaven and returned to tell us all about it. I interpreted it to be a "glimpse" of heaven. I think that God has given MANY glimpses of heaven as He wraps His loving arms around us and comforts us in our times of grief or fear. Why do we have to question how He comforted this young boy? When the disciples criticized Jesus for wasting time with little children, He rebuked them in Matthew 10. Perhaps God gave a DREAM to a 4-year-old boy and perhaps the Holy Spirit convicted his father to share it. I don't know! But I do know that we can critique and discourage the movie or we can use it to share the Gospel.
I understand the theological debate, but there may be better ways to communicate that every detail in the movie is not biblical. It's a Hollywood movie based on a true story.......not a Bible study!