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Question:
What do you think of these books and accounts of people going to heaven or hell, then God tells them to come back tell everyone about it?

Answer:

I will tell you from study and research, that ALL the books of this type I’ve looked into end up having one or more of the following: metaphysical and occult ideas/imagery, extra-Biblical revelation and unScriptural (typically man-centered) descriptions, as well as Biblical error. Granted, you have to wade through all the sensational, Biblical sounding scenarios and descriptions, but they never stand up to Scriptural scrutiny.

Acts 17:11 …they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (NKJV)

Unfortunately, most of these books are accepted by Christians with little or no hesitation because of the same reason MOST error is accepted: PRAGMATISM. Pragmatism is the idea that something MUST be okay or Godly because 1) it gets good results, and adding an emotional component: 2) it feels right, 3) it helped me or 4) it didn’t seem to be against God. Pragmatism (with emotionalism and experientialism) has allowed the Church to embrace all manners of error ranging from humanistic theory, marketing techniques, seeker-friendly compromise, positive thinking, books like ‘The Shack’ and ‘The Secret’, the prosperity gospel and a seeking of sensational experience (just to name a few).

So Christians (and non-Christians) casually digest these types of books applying little or no discernment – books like Mary Baxter’s “A Divine Revelation of Heaven”, “90 Minutes in Heaven” by Don Piper or Todd Bentley’s absurd claims of being “beamed” to heaven and chit-chatting with Jesus (or pick any number of Word Faith big names who claim heavenly visits).

There is no way (nor is it our duty) to judge a person’s heart or sincerity, but we can make sensible evaluations about the source by observing their life, writing, teaching or public persona. Baxter is new ager, a fact made clear by her writings. Todd Bentley is a showboating, tale-bearing false prophet, an indisputable fact proven by his public activity. Don Piper however, by all accounts, seems to be someone who appears to truly love God.

Regardless, all these accounts have to be judged STRICTLY by Scripture, and they all fall short, some more than others. The bigger question is: does God want us NOW to know more about heaven than He chose to reveal in his inspired Word?

Acts 17:11 …they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (NKJV)

Think about it… the Apostle Paul went to heaven, and God told him “don’t talk about it”. The Apostle John saw many wondrous things in heaven that God told Him not to write down, leaving us only with the information we need to know about the final events of God’s plan for mankind (the book of Revelation). Are we then to believe that God came along and told Mary Baxter or Benny Hinn to reveal Heaven to us? As I often say to my kids, “I don’t think so, Scooter.”

God revealed what He wants us to know about heaven in the Bible. When a person “comes back” from heaven (or hell) with a story and description, they are in essence introducing NEW divine revelation, revelation that even Paul was not allowed to share. Mary Baxter makes no bones about the fact that Jesus TOLD HER to tell us what she saw. This is tantamount to divine revelation (exactly what she calls it), and SHOULD be every bit as authoritative and sacred as the Bible itself. Same source, same inspiration, same mission to write down God’s message.

Any time a human teaches something “new” or proclaims something that God did not choose to reveal in the Bible (as it pertains to the nature of God and His message to us as Christians), that person is claiming divine inspiration equal to Scripture. Anytime someone writes or tells a story that says “God said to me, to tell you…”, and it cannot be found in Scripture, they are making a statement of theology and by default, a claim of divine inspiration.

Therefore, assuming God would even give any “new” revelation today, they MUST be perfectly accurate and in line with what God has already given us in the Bible because God cannot contradict Himself. However, God is NOT giving new revelation today, but that is a lesson for another time, even though the emails rebuking me for saying that will come immediately.

For this reason alone, we should AUTOMATICALLY be skeptical (dismiss?) of anyone “visiting” heaven or hell, either in a vision or a “near death” experience. I would go so far as to say we should assume the accounts are a deception of some sort or a product of imagination, regardless of the sincerity of the person. We are ALL capable of succumbing to a deception or emotion, so sincerity is not a credible standard.

So far, EVERY extra-Biblical account of this nature, when evaluated carefully against Scripture, is found to be in error, and almost all have common elements of new age and demonic deception which of course makes perfect sense. If these “next life” or “heavenly” experiences are not from God, they are from someone or something other than God. Most likely, it is a common demonic deception or influence that is leading people from the pure Word of God into sensationalism and false teaching.

Acts 17:11 …they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (NKJV)

We should simply depend on God’s Word as our revelation, and not some “divine encounter” written by man, no matter how interesting or “heavenly” it may sound. My personal opinion is that we Christians are TOO distracted by this type of story or account. There is a SERIOUS and wide spread lack of discernment in the Christian body today. We have no obligation to read and accept any claim of divine experience or revelation knowledge. To the contrary, we have duty to be skeptical, alert and cautious about these things.

In fact, given the warnings of Scripture about the last days deception, we would do well to simply ignore all of it, and keep our nose buried in God’s Word.

Acts 17:11 …they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (NKJV)

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