Monday, July 11, 2011

Trips to heaven

So recently, a young boy went to heaven at age 4, came back, and told his dad.  Two years later, he publishes a book about it and makes loads of money.  And sincere Christians believe this.  The book is  Heaven Is for Real and the dad is Todd Burpo, which in itself is a strange name. 

Here's the thing.  This book and Don Piper's 90 Minutes in Heaven are both supposed extra-biblical revelation which denies Sola Scriptura, denies that the Bible alone is enough to prove that heaven and hell are real.  The time for signs and wonders is over because Christianity is 2000 years old and does not need miraculous proof anymore.  The canon of Scripture is closed, and we don't want or need extra Biblical revelation. 

There is one place in Scripture where a man does go to heaven and comes back.  In 2 Corinthians 12, probably after one of his many stonings, Paul got to see heaven and then he came back.  The thing is, he did not talk about what was there or who he saw.  He goes on to mention an anonymous thorn in his flesh.  He never reveals what that means.  Clearly, Jesus told him to keep secret what he saw.

John got to see heaven on the isle of Patmos when he wrote Revelation.  He writes down what God tells him to write down and keeps secret what God says not to reveal.  We don't have details about who was there, what he saw other than Jesus and possibly Michael the angel.  There were streets of gold and pearly gates, but that could also be symbolic.  John MacArthur might disagree, but I suspect they aren't literal streets of gold or pearly gates, just like Christ isn't literally a lamb. 

And finally, Peter, James, and John got to see part of heaven when they saw Christ transfigured.  Moses and Elijah stepped out and Jesus glowed, and they couldn't even describe it.  Christ actually put a cloud over him and the two prophets after Peter tried to build shrines to them.  Christ clearly told them to not write what they saw, and at this point, I'm still not sure what happened just by reading the Gospel accounts. 

Now, I actually did read half of Don Piper's book, so I did read all of the heaven scene, which actually only takes up I believe one chapter if I remember correctly.  Most of the book is about him recovering and is quite tedious and even gruesome, so I couldn't finish it.  Don saw old friends of his that are dead now but were young and healthy in heaven.  Then he heard music, all different kinds playing at one time, but still sounding good, and no songs about the crucifixion.  None, because heaven is a happy place with no tears. 

I don't quite buy that.  If you're in heaven, why would you forget the thing that got you there?  Namely, the crucifixion and resurrection.  Statements like that reveal that people are still ashamed of what Christ did and act like the crucifixion was actually a defeat.  It's very much not a defeat.  God always planned to crucify Christ for our sakes, and there is no other way we could have been saved.  So, saying that there are no songs about the cross is really a slap in the face to God.  Some of my favorite hymns are "the Old Rugged Cross," "Where you there when they crucified my Lord?," "When I survey the wondrous cross" along with Chris Tomlin's chorus.  They remind me that my salvation is a gift and not anything that I deserve, but something I could not obtain on my own.  And again, Revelation 5, the first thing we see when we step into heaven is the Lamb that was slain.  That is how we know he is worthy to open the seven seals.  We're dipped in Jesus's blood and that's how we get white robes.  Even his robe in Revelation 19 is white but dipped in blood.  We're going to remember the crucifixion in heaven.

Someone else pointed this out, but Don never actually sees God or Jesus in his 90 minutes.  Now, he did write that if he had entered the gates and seen them, then he'd have never come back.  But someone, perhaps Tim Challies, pointed out that he hints that he would have been perfectly happy in that opening scene without the presence of God.  John Piper emphasizes that if we can imagine heaven without Christ, then would we be fine with that?  If so, then we probably aren't going there.  Even with the dead relatives, pearly gates, etc., heaven isn't heaven without God.  Jesus is heaven and he is the Gospel.  I won't get my panties too much in a wad over this because Don, not John, did say that if he had passed the gates and seen God he wouldn't have returned.

Finally, after Jesus's parable about the rich man and Lazarus, he said that even if a man returned from the dead, the people who don't listen to Moses and the prophets won't listen to the newly animated corpse.  If these books bring people to Christ, then that's great.  I'm glad God can use anyone and anything.  I'm glad he uses even me.  But if they aren't elect, then no reasoning or miracles will lead people to believe in the truth.  And even those who are edified by this, they still are being led to believe that you don't need the Bible for your spiritual awakening, and that is a huge mistake.

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