What is the open heaven concept?

Question
What is the open heaven concept?
Answer
The open heaven concept is a false teaching that has been making its rounds for a number years. It fundamentally teaches that heaven and its many blessings were open to the likes of Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John, etc., and therefore since believers today are like such believers mentioned in the Bible, then heaven is miraculously open to the believer today as well. It teaches that heaven is near to earth for all those that believe. It speaks of such things as "the seer anointing." When the heavens are open, the believer (the seer) has free access to everything in heavenly realms — a free flowing of God's abundant graces.

As is typical of messengers of false teachings, there is truth in part but they twist, turn, and torture Scripture to piecemeal their doctrine together. In the open heaven concept, for instance, does this with Jacob's dream in Genesis 28:12-13 where Jacob observed a ladder coming down from heaven with angels ascending and descending and God at the top of the ladder and his life was changed. Another example in the New Testament it’s Saul, who later was renamed Paul, who had an encounter with God on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:3-5); heaven came down to earth and transformed Saul's life forever. Also there’s John who had an open door to heaven (Rev. 4:1-2) and in his vision he entered the throne room of God. There are numerous other texts as well (Deut. 28:12-13; Ezek. 1:26-28; Mal. 3:10; Matt. 3:16-17; John 1:50-51; Acts 7:54-55; Acts 10:9-11, etc.).

True facts are represented, but the reader should notice that in each example above, God sought the person out, not the other way around. God initiated the activity, not man. Jacob never sought to have a specific dream, Paul definitely wasn't trying to be saved, and John wasn't attempting to have a spiritual revelation. As R.C. Sproul once stated: “If miracles are expectable then there is nothing miraculous about them.” [1]

Proponents of open heaven tell their followers to seek such experiences today. Todd Bentley of the previously renowned Lakeland Revival and leader of Fresh Fire Ministries Canada (and having an admitted questionable past) believes heaven is a place where a believer can experience and encounter God miraculously each and every day. [2] He reportedly has had visions, trances, and encounters with cherubim and seraphim and experienced thunderings and lightnings too. There are others in charismatic circles, such as Paul Cain, Bill Johnson, Bob Jones, Harold Herring, Mike Bickle, Rick Joyner, Stacey Campbell, etc. who reportedly teach similar things.

This is a false teaching that tells its followers to seek mere experiences rather than to seek the biblical will of God as shown in Scripture. In many ways it is just a repackaged form of the health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine that’s combined with other false teachings such as the worship of angels (cf. Matt. 4:9-10; Luke 4:7-8; Rom. 1:25; Rev. 22:8-9). Paul knew about and addressed such things: "Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind" (Col. 2:18).

Reference

[1] R.C. Sproul. Does R.C. Sproul Believe in Miracles? May 20, 2015 (https://www.ligonier.org/blog/does-rcsproul-believe-miracles/). Last Accessed 10 November 2016.

[2] Todd Bentley, Opening Our Eyes to the Angelic Realm. (http://www.angelfire.com/ca2/PrayerNotes/Lessons/TheAngelicRealm.html). Last Accessed 23 October 2018.

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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).