Movie: Heaven is for Real?
There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9). In 203 CE, while awaiting execution, Saturus recorded a vision in which he and Perpetua entered the Throne Room of God. There are several other so-called experiences recorded in history. However, do they have any biblical warrant?
The Bible has some factual events of people going to Heaven, but not returning to earth: (1) Enoch (Gen 5:22-24) and (2) Elijah (2 Kings 2:11).
Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in a vision (Isa 6:1-4). Ezekiel saw visions of God (Ezek 1:1). Paul was caught up into Heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4), had numerous other visions (Acts 9:3-12; 16:9-10; 18:9-10; 22:17-21; 23:11; 27:23-24), and the Gospel was preached to him by revelation (Gal 1:11-12). The apostle John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day and saw visions of Heaven and wrote about the end times (Rev. 1:10; 4-6, et. al.).
Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John all focused upon the glory of God in their Scriptural accounts. They each mention their own humility, fear, or unworthiness in such experiences (Isa 6:5; Ezek 1:28; 2 Cor 12:1-10; Rev 1:17). Micah (2 Chron 18:18) and Stephen (Acts 7:56) had glimpses of Heaven, but essentially did not describe it.
Of course, there is a difference between a vision of Heaven and God and literally going there seeing them. John 3:13 says, "No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man." And John 1:18 says, "No one has seen God at any time." So, the incidents in the above two paragraphs are visions, not literal physical encounters.
And what about death and traveling to Heaven, seeing God, and then returning home to earth? Lazarus died and was buried and then brought back to life (John 11:38-44). However, there is no descriptions of Heaven or God from Lazarus. The same could be said of the widow's son whom Elijah raised (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Eutychus who was healed by Paul (Acts 20:9-12).
While Heaven is a real place, no one except for the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:13) has been there physically and literally returned.
The Movie:The movie was produced by Bishop T.D. Jakes, a member of the Word of Faith Movement; a cult deifying man and demoting God (see below). Colton Burpo, a little 4 year old boy allegedly went to Heaven after a burst appendix nearly took his life. Colton's description of Heaven is full of fanciful features (the mention that Jesus rides a rainbow-coloured horse) and other fairy-tale type details we often hear from children his age. It is a work of fiction.
Unlike biblical visions of Heaven, in Burpo's account there is no mention of humility or unworthiness when in God's presence. Actually, the story is devoid of any description of the glory of God. Moreover, it is not recorded in the Bible that Jesus has a crown with a pink type diamond in it (cf. Rev 1:12-16). Neither does the Bible state that everyone in Heaven has wings (cf. Phil 3:21). There are numerous other errors.
The truth that Heaven exists is not found in hallucinations of near death experiences. Rather it is found in Scripture alone (Rev. 21-22). Hell is just as real as Heaven as well (Rev 21:8). Our faith should be established upon a firm foundation, not Hollywood fairy-tales. "No man has seen God at any time" (John 3:13) is the truth of Scripture. This includes Colton Burpo. Such books and movies remind me of what Paul wrote to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:1-5 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
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Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).