This weekend moviegoers will be able to enjoy the Hollywood version of a best-selling book Heaven is for Real. Many are encouraged that yet another Christian story has come to the big screen. For my part, I am discouraged that so many church people needed something like this to assure them that Heaven is an actual place. Since it was written by a Christian pastor, we can assume that the book is a Christian book, whatever that means. But I have two questions: 1) Is it true; and 2) Why does it matter?
If you wanted to know something factual about India, whom would you trust? Would you believe the accounts of someone who came here after living in India for years? Or would you be more likely to take the word of someone who had never visited India, but had once spent an hour at the airport in nearby Pakistan?
If you want to know about Heaven, where should you turn? Will you prefer the descriptions of someone who came from heaven after living there for a long, long time; someone who performed unearthly miracles no one else has ever accomplished? Or would you get more excited about a stranger who survived something known as a Near Death Experience and is now marketing a book? No, it’s not rational, but tens of thousands of church people feel much better about Heaven now that a Nebraska pastor has written a book about his son’s NDE. Many months afterwards, the boy was able to describe what his parents were doing in different rooms while he was unconscious, without a heart beat in the surgical ward. Later he recognized a youthful photo of a deceased relative he’d never met, based on his hospital encounter, and lots of Christians find this to be compelling evidence for life after death.
Go figure! I have always believed Heaven is for real because Jesus talked about it. He lived there for the longest time before coming down to Earth for a while. He told us about the Kingdom, its upside down value system, angels ascending and descending, and the Heavenly Father who occupies the glorious throne room there. He assured his followers that we should not be anxious because he has prepared a place there for each of us, and will ensure that we reach that destination one day. And then he said something else quite telling:
“No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” (John 3:3)
Christ explained that no one before him had ever gone up to Heaven and returned to tell us about it- near death or otherwise. I take this to mean that no one else has done that since the resurrection either. If I really needed someone to confirm what Christ has already said on the subject, I would look for a book by Lazarus! But strangely, whatever he experienced in his three days of genuine death is never divulged in Scripture. I presume that means we should get our heavenly real estate info from the Lord himself.
While some are comforted by this new confirmation of Heaven, one should frankly be disturbed by the kind of eternal bungling that would be necessary for such things to occur. I realize that US politicians are helpless to secure our borders from outsiders determined to sneak in, but do you seriously believe our all-knowing God allows people to arrive in Heaven prematurely and must then correct his errors by deporting them back to Earth? If you really believe that, why is it reassuring? If some people mistakenly arrive in Heaven at the wrong moment, what other mistakes have been covered up or hidden? Maybe some people have erroneously arrived in Hell! Medical experts have serious reservations about so-called Near Death Experiences, and you should too.
If you’re still intrigued enough to see this movie you may find it wholesome and entertaining: The Chronicles of Narnia combined with Poltergeist III; all this plus a PG rating! So if it’s Friday night and you’re bored, Heaven is for Real will surely be less profane than The Wolf of Wall Street. But if you need to know about Heaven, read what Jesus has to say. Don’t wait for the movie.
And lift up the Cross!