Is Heaven Real? Today hosts
of people are citing and circulating their favorite book to support
their assertion that heaven is real. But their favorite book
may not be what you think? It's not the Bible and, in many
cases, it is quite different than the Bible. The same goes for
the question "Is Hell Real?" The Book list
continues to grow for both of these questions. Not only are
they best sellers in the Christian world, a number have become
so-called crossover hits surging to top positions on secular
best-selling book lists too.
As anyone who knows me is aware,
that Heaven and Hell
are real is indisputable. How do I know this? On what
authority am I resting that such places exist? I know and
believe them to be so, solely because the Bible says so. What I
know about them is only what the Bible teaches. The Bible as
God's complete and full revelation of Himself, and all that I need to
know of the spiritual realm, is all that I need to confirm what is
true and expose what is false. So a question remains; "Why
all the hype and popularity of the plethora of heaven and hell
experience books in the last few decades?" And perhaps a
second question should be added; "Should we (Christians) be
promoting these works?"
So how do people select which
account they like? The following seems to be the most popular methods:
1) The vision matches up with the
reader's preconceptions about what the place is like, or at least a
majority of it.
2) The author holds to a similar
religious view as the reader.
3) The vision seems to match up
with another that was felt to be good.
But what exactly is being
taught? What message is being sent by these books? To
answer this question we'll examine a scattering of such accounts,
many relatively current and a few going back quite a few years.
Yes, this type of book or account has existed throughout many
centuries, though I would suggest that it has increased in the last
half-century or so. Showing modern acceptance, the
International Association of Near-Death Studies ("an educational
nonprofit 501(c)3 organization", www.iands.org) gathers and
disseminates these accounts (currently around 1000 of them) and hold
conferences about "Lives Changed Forever". When one
or more of these match-up with your personal beliefs, they seem
great, but many of these events are from wildly differing
perspectives; Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, New Age, and
Atheist. Not surprisingly many of the accounts conform nicely
to all or some of their respective religious convictions.24
So what does the afterlife truly hold?
Heaven is for
account which has generated the most recent buzz is "Heaven is
for Real" by Todd Burpo (published November 2010). This
account is not his own, it is that of his son - his four year old son
Colton. Perhaps that is its highest selling quality... how
could the account of an innocent four year old be anything but true?
A quick summary of the Burpo
story goes like this:
During a life threatening delayed
operation Colton has a near death experience (NDE). It is not a
traditional NDE as he never clinically died, so it may be better to
call it a vision. During this time Colton professes to have left his
body, viewed some earthly happenings and then gone to heaven,
subsequently coming back with memories of all this.
While in heaven...
Colton meets Jesus and sits on
his lap 3
He meets John the Baptist 2&3
Some people have rings of light
over their heads, or halos. 8
Angels sang to him (Colton) -
specifically "Jesus Loves Me" and "Joshua Fought the
Battle of Jericho". The angels refused to sing a rock song
(We Will, We Will Rock You) when Colton asked. 1&4
He met his great-grandfather Pop
who had died 15 years before at age 61. (Colton says his
great-grandfather didn't look like the man in the photo in his house,
but instead looked like the man in the picture sent months later by
his Grandmother, a young man without glasses at age 29.) 1
He met his sibling who had died
in his mother's womb (miscarriage) before he was born. When his
mom asked who told him about this, he said "she did Mommy, she
said she died in your tummy). He told his mother that she was a
girl and that "she looked familiar and she started giving me
hugs and she was glad to have someone in her family up
there". She didn't have a name in heaven because her
parents never named her. Colton's parents claim they never had
told him about the miscarriage. 1&3&4
Colton describes the appearance
of Jesus. He saw "marks" on Jesus' hands and
feet. Jesus had the most beautiful eyes, brown hair, a beard, a
white gown, a purple sash and a crown. 1&3&4&5
He talks about Armageddon and how
God told him his father would fight in this future final battle.
Colton's dad claims he never talked about these things with Colton
Satan is not in hell yet (until
after the battle of Armageddon). The angels use swords to keep
Satan out of heaven. Colton saw Satan but refused to talk about
There are thousands of colors we
have never seen. 3
No one is old in heaven, but many
are children (in other words old people get to be young adults,
babies and children get to be older children). All people had
wings of various sizes and flew around (including Colton while
Jesus sits on a throne at the
right hand of God and Gabriel is on the left. 3
There were all kinds of animals
It never gets dark in heaven
because God the Father and God the Son are the lights. The
gates to heaven were made of gold and pearls and the city was made of
something shiny. 3&4
Jesus "shoots" power
down from heaven to his father while he is preaching. In fact
Jesus had gone to Colton's dad and told him he wanted him (dad) to be
a pastor. Jesus was now really happy that Colton's dad became a
Colton saw and understood that
God is a Trinity, but could not describe the Holy Spirit but he was
colored blue. Colton sat on a small chair next to the Holy
Jesus rode a rainbow colored
horse. Brilliant colors of the rainbow were in heaven. 4&5
When asked what they did in
heaven, Colton said it was like school; Jesus was the teacher and he
taught the children. 5
Colton claimed he came back to
his body because of prayers and that Jesus sent him back to earth
from heaven. 5
Colton saw and experienced all
this and more (enough to fill 162 pages of a book) in the three
minutes he was in heaven. In fact, Colton professed to be able
to see events in the operating room and in other rooms at the
hospital during the time he left his body and went to heaven.
It took the Burpo's four years to get the whole story out of Colton.
"If he was making it up, he
would have gotten something wrong," Todd Burpo says. "But
he got nothing wrong. He got it all right. That's what started our
But is it "all
right"? Or are some things wrong? And is it right if
there is no way to verify it? This leaves lots of questions...
Where does it say that Gabriel is
on a throne at the left hand of God? (Consider the view of
Revelation 4 & 5)
Where does it say that some
people will be nameless in heaven because they had no name here?
Does not the Bible say that every believer in heaven has a name
written down in the Lamb's book of life from before the creation of
the world? (See Revelation 20:15, 17:8)
Is knowing something hidden or
secret on earth proof of this being heavenly in origin? Is
there other ways Colton could have known about "unknowable"
things (ie grandfather, dead sister, where his father and mother were
at hospital, etc.)? Don't even demons have knowledge of private
physical events happening at present and in the past? (See Acts
19:13-15) Are signs and miracles of this type valid proof?
(See Matthew 24:24)
Does the description of Jesus
match John's description of Jesus in heaven?
Revelation 1:12-17a I
turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I
turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was
someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching
down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head
and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were
like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace,
and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right
hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp
double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its
brilliance. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though
Why does Colton's view of the
present heaven have aspects of the New Jerusalem (or final heaven),
including pearly gates and golden streets? (See Revelation 21:18, 21)
Where are people in heaven shown
to be anything other than adults, or that there would be lesser or
greater people in heaven (as some being children and some being
adults who imply)? In fact doesn't the Bible imply that until we have
our new bodies at the resurrection that we may still have appearance
of our old body? For example, when the witch of Endor was
surprised to get to see the spirit she was summoning, she described
Samuel as "An old man wearing a robe is coming up. (1 Samuel
28:14, emphasis mine)"
Where does the Bible show any of
us in heaven as having special concern over our physical family on
earth? Is not our only focus in heaven our ultimate family (See
Revelation 6:11, 12:10, 19:10 "brothers").
Where does the Bible ever show
angels singing to any but God? Is the focus in heaven people,
or God? (See Revelation 4 & 5)
Why is seeking knowledge from the
dead forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:10-12), but seemingly
permissible as long as the person professes to have gone to heaven to
do it (as did Colton)? This includes having messages to bring
back to others about their earthly life. No person in the
Bible, given opportunity to visit or see heaven, is ever shown
speaking to departed people to gain knowledge or wisdom from their
previous earthly existence. In fact, a primary wicked earthly
example is Saul with the witch of Endor and he was judged for this (1
Samuel 28:7-19). Even using this to find out for sure if
someone is in heaven (as they did with Colton's great-grandfather
Pop) is highly dubious. It is all functionally a
"Christian" version of an old fashioned séance.
Where does it say that any other
than angels have wings in heaven? We are not even told for
certain, in Scriptures, that all angels have wings merely that some
of them do. (Consider Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 1, 10:5, 16;
While halos are common in old art
works and even cartoons, there is no basis for them whatsoever in Scriptures.
Prophecy and Prophets
Even if you attempt to set aside
that Colton has given a message that is being accepted by many as if
it was Scriptures, consider its' specific content. Colton
revealed things that are said to be messages from Jesus to
individuals and predictive things regarding the future. This
makes him one speaking prophetically. If he professes to be a
prophet, the same standard applies in the New Testament as did in the
Old for discerning whether someone is a true prophet (Deuteronomy
13:1-5, 18:20-22). Plus, in the example of Scriptures, all
authenticated prophets gave testable prophecies that would be
fulfilled in their lifetime wherein God had also given them a future prophecy.
While the church is commanded
very clearly to not despise prophecy, we are additionally called to
judge any that come to us with a message that is beyond God's written
word (which was always by authenticated prophets and apostles).
This is God's standard for the church both then and now:
5:20-21 Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test
everything. Hold on to the good. (NIV)
The standard God set for testing
prophecies is fixed and unchangeable: His written Word! If we
don't test Colton's prophecy by that Word we are in violation of
God's command to "Test everything". Testing by how we
feel, or based on our emotions, doesn't come close to meeting this
standard and is a subjective trap which can quickly lead astray.
Colton's parents kept questioning
him on what Jesus looked like, showing him numerous traditional
earthy paintings and drawings, each
of which he rejected - except for one. It was a representation
by Akiane Kramarik, a girl, who started having visions at age four
(even though born into a family that was atheistic). Colton's
parent's now believe they are "looking at the face of Jesus"
when they look at her painting.
More on this young girl and her
paintings will be in the second section of this article.
Does confirmation from another
person's vision provide proof that their personal experience is
truth? While Scriptures command us to legally establish
everything from the mouths of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy
19:15; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19), the context is
earthly and verifiable things. It also presupposes reliable and
consistent witnesses. Even with all this, it does not guarantee
the truth; it becomes a good minimum standard. In regards to
spiritual things, whether two or three witnesses or 10,000, it makes
no difference if they contradict God's written word. God is the
most reliable witness and any who contradicts or add to His word is
shown to be a liar.
Proverbs 30:6 Do not
add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a
Romans 3:4b Let God be
true, and every man a liar. (NIV)
third witness for Colton comes from another published author, Don
Piper, who professed to have his own heavenly journey. He has
subsequently endorsed Colton's account, saying: "Compelling and
convincing. It's a book you should read." More on
Piper and his books, "90 Minutes in Heaven" and "Heaven
is Real", in the second section of this article.
De facto equivalence with Scriptures
General Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church [the denomination
Colton's father is a pastor with], Jo Anne Lyon, wrote this about
this story: "Colton's story could have been in the New
Testament-but God has chosen to speak to us in this twenty-first
century through the unblemished eyes of a child, revealing some of
the mysteries of heaven. The writing is compelling and the truth
astonishing, creating a hunger for more." 5
(Square parenthesis mine for clarification)
Are we supposed to be adding to
Scriptures? Quite specifically, are we to be adding to God's
revelation of heaven and the end times?
22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the
prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add
to him the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone takes
words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him
his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are
described in this book. (NIV, See also Proverbs 30:5-6 and
Does the writing create a hunger
for more of God's word or merely more "secret"
revelation? (i.e. Amos 8:11-12). Is the first thought
after reading such an account, "I must seek out more of what the
Bible teaches" or does it merely fuel desire to seek out another
individual's sensational account that with give me more previously
Writers of Scriptures were always
authenticated prophets or apostles. Is Colton (or others like
him) qualified to be a writer of Scriptures?
Ephesians 3:4-5 In
reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into
the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other
generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy
apostles and prophets. (NIV)
2 Peter 3:2 I want you to
recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the
command given by our Lord and Savior through your
Even if not accepting Colton's
revelation as Scriptures, in the least does not his
"revelation" become a greater interpreter of Scriptures
than the Holy Spirit? Things that the church has wrestled with
throughout history become crystal clear statements in these new
revelations. For example:
It makes clear that all
Preterists, Amillennialists, and others who hold to a less literal
view of Armageddon are wrong. It clarifies, with authority,
something that many godly people have wrestled with from Scriptures
(On a side note, it also
authoritatively rejects the beliefs of Advent Christians and others
who hold to "soul sleep" that we sleep in the ground at
death until the time of the resurrection.)
It guarantees that babies go to
heaven... again something that people have wrestled with due to the
relative silence of Scriptures.
It guarantees that there are
animals in heaven. While there are some Bible passages that
imply such in the new heaven's and earth, nothing is said of these in
the present heaven.
Those last two statements are
emphasized as new revelation, in this fashion, by one Christian book
reviewer, who said: "There are a couple things I learned about
Heaven from this book that made me really happy". 6
Obviously God had failed to provide these details for almost two
A pastor wrote:
Colton Burpo's story was a
refreshing and surprisingly accurate portrait of what awaits each of
us whose destiny is Heaven. ... There were a couple of things
that made me raise my eyebrow but I can't quote a verse that says
Heaven couldn't be like that, just a couple of things that didn't fit
my expectation or interpretation of what Heaven would be like. 10
When someone can make both of
those statements, in the same review, it's dangerous. How can
you judge accuracy, except by the word of God alone? And if the
word of God alone, why do you need this book? Ultimately the
extra details (that you can't prove or disprove) become the focus and
a source of new revelation.
So, in effect, does this make
Colin's work a better "revelation" than the Book of
Revelation or Scriptures as a whole?
appears that Colton's dad has, to some degree, come to accept them
in this fashion.
When the stories first began,
Todd Burpo says he didn't want to hear them. "It scared
me," he admits. After Todd Burpo began preaching about his
son's story... 2
A pastor is called to preach the
infallible word of God and not the fallible account of anyone,
whether his own son or otherwise. Colton's experience being
preached elevates his words to being equivalent to the word of God
and calls on the listener to accept them as such.
Puffed Up and Richer
Everyone likes to point out the
humility of this book writer 9 and, of
course, the child himself. But does this meet the test of what
God has shown regarding visits to heaven?
2 Corinthians 12:1-10
I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will
go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in
Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven.
Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know - God
knows. 3 And I know that this man - whether in the body or apart from
the body I do not know, but God knows- 4 was caught up to paradise.
He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to
tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast
about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose
to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the
truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is
warranted by what I do or say. 7 To keep me from becoming
conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was
given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he
said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is
made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more
gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10
That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults,
in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak,
then I am strong. (NIV)
The apostle Paul, to us a pretty
humble guy, was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him down to earth
after his personal visit to heaven. Not to mention that he was
not permitted to speak of this personal journey - it was not intended
to be Scriptures. John, whose Revelation was intended to be
Scriptures by God, did not need another thorn, he was already in
exile and ongoing suffering for the cause of Christ. Does being
on every talk-show and celebrity venue have anything to do with the
humility displayed by Paul or John?
Can you image Paul or John
selling their account "that God wants everyone to hear" for
$13.95? Does making many tens or hundreds of thousands of
dollars from this professed revelation have any comparison to Paul or
John? 23 Even if some of this
gain is publicly given away, as the Burpo's did with at least a
little 7, even for a good cause or
two, does this aid in humility or act as a means to conceal the
fullness of their personal gain? Paul specifically made this clear...
2 Corinthians 2:17
Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the
contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent
from God. (NIV)
Is All Experience Wrong?
God unquestionably does use
experience to confirm things to us personally - but experience is not
an infallible source of authority. People like to rest in using
their experiences solely because it is almost impossible to argue
with. How can you say that someone else's experience is
wrong? Some churches even say that you should make your
experience the focus of your witnessing, solely because it's hard to
argue against. But in the end, this elevates your experience
above God's perfect word. And, in the post-modern mindset, the
contradictory nature of all experience makes it easy to dismiss
everything as being merely your own truth. This is why all
experience must be judged by an infallible authority, namely the word
of God. If any experience is contradicted by properly
interpreted Scriptures, the Bible wins every time! The Bible is
clear that Scriptures is wholly sufficient in preparing us for life,
the experience is good when it confirms this and to be rejected when
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All
Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,
correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God
may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)
So, do I lightly dismiss Colton's
vision? Not at all. It is professedly his
experience and we can read it as that. He, and we, must judge
it by the absolute standard God has set.
Helpful or harmful to the
cause of Christ?
"So far, the book shows no
signs of slowing down. It's a true phenomenon," says Matt
Baugher, vice president and publisher of Thomas Nelson, which
specializes in Christian books and Bibles. "We now have 3.4
million books in print, and that doesn't include the popular e-book
version. This little book of hope and comfort is being bought in bulk
by people all over the world." 2
My answer to the heading
"Helpful or harmful to the cause of Christ?" is where I'm
sure to get hate mail: I believe that all such works are
harmful to the cause of Christ. Here's why:
1) They hold subjective truth to
a higher value than objective truth (God's Word).
2) They confuse people as to what
is true and important. If God's word is complete and
sufficient, give them God's word and have them learn from Him.
3) When used for witnessing, they
convert people to a human theological view rather than to the God who
is revealed in fullness in His word. This is a shaky foundation
4) They implicitly (and sometimes
explicitly) teach that experience can be elevated above Scriptures or
to clarify Scriptures, rather than using Scriptures to clarify experience.
5) They implicitly allow people
to seek truth from anyone's experience or vision. For
unbelievers this enables them to find it in Catholic mysticism,
cults, hosts of false religions, and from virtually any professed
believer who has a fantastic experience.
Colton's work is perhaps more
widely accepted that some other similar heavenly visits for one main reason:
"This one is very specific,
in a voice people can relate to, from a child's point of view. From
the mouth of babes, as they say," she says. "People buy it,
believe it, and talk to their children about it." (Comment by
Jane Love, religion book buyer for Barnes and Noble) 2
Why do we believe a child is less
likely prone to error, or to being deceived, than an adult? As
one who has had children and works with children on a regular basis,
I can testify to something the Bible makes very clear: we're born
sinful. Apart from the grace of God a child can be as deceived
as an adult and even demon possessed (consider Mark 9:17-22).
I'm not claiming that Colton is possessed, merely that we have to
consider the possibility that, yes, even a child can be a willing or
unwilling party to a deception.
Any perceived apologetic value
that could come from the truth that is intermingled throughout the
unverifiable experiences and thoughts within this book make it truly
useless as an apologetic work. How do we expect an unbeliever
to be able to pick through such a work, recognize and cling to God's
absolute truth, and discard the human and unreliable aspects?
Truth mixed with error is dangerous as it makes the error more
palatable for an undiscerning mind. 11
John 8:31b-32 Jesus
said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you
Michael Patton's very valid
remarks on this subject bear being repeated:
In the book [Heaven is for Real],
it is told that a baby sitter heard Colton's testimony. She was a
Christian who was wavering in her faith, riddled with doubt. As the
story goes, her faith was confirmed by Colton's experience. This is
the type of stuff that scares me. When our faith is built on this
type of tabloid theology, true or not, we can expect to have a
tabloid faith. We do not need stories about people who have come back
from the great beyond to confirm our faith and we certainly don't
need these as the foundation of our faith. So, from an
apologetics standpoint (defending the faith), please don't hand this
type of book out to your unbelieving friends. (Square
parenthesis mine for clarification, italics his) 3
For those wanting more specifics
and examples this section provides such. In giving this it is
not necessary to repeat much of what has been already said and which
certainly stills applies. For this reason, this section should
not be read apart from the first. I cannot attempt to be
exhaustive; accounts go back for hundreds of years 25,
some attracting widespread and long lasting followings.
example, one famous individual is Emanuel Swedenborg's (1688-1772),
father of the cult of Swedenborgianism or what is also called
"The New Church". Within his writings is the claim
that he had been given permission to freely visit heaven and hell for
a twenty-eight year period. His subsequent testimony is filled
with unorthodox beliefs including a denial of the Trinity (in
contrast to Colton's experience in Section 1).
towards the present, other books that could be examined include the
New York Times bestselling book (78 weeks at number 1) "Embraced
by the Light" by Betty J. Eadie. This 1992 book, which
sold over 13 million copies, was followed by other books all to teach
what she professed to have learned from Jesus during her 1973 Near
Death Experience. The decidedly New Age Jesus that she portrays
deviates widely from the Jesus portrayed in Scriptures. Yet her
works profess to be giving you the message Jesus wants you to hear on
"why there are so many religions; why evil exists; the effects
of abortion and suicide; the meaning of life; dreams, visions, NDE's,
do pet's go to heaven, and many more." 18
Other elements of her experience include a stereotypical review of
her life's works and more exotic things such as see souls getting
ready to come to earth (i.e. preexistence of the human soul).
There is no message of repentance and need of salvation, merely
"what Betty learned is the greatest of all God's gifts:
unconditional love". 18
This leaves us to focus on some
accounts that have gained widespread popularity within the
evangelical Christian word, as did Colton Burpo's.
Kramarik is the child of a Lithuanian immigrant and an American
father. She and her siblings were homeschooled and had no
television and few books. Because of this, when she started
telling her parents about seeing visions at age four they were fairly
certain it wasn't from outside influences. She began writing
poetry and sketching and advanced to painting by age 6. Akiane
told Children's Digest "I am a self-taught painter. God is
my teacher" 12 Both of her
parents were atheists at the time but have since converted to
Christianity on account of her paintings and visions. Her first
completed self-portrait sold for $10,000 and she continues to sell
original artworks and prints based on her visions.
Her paintings and thoughts invoke
statements such as the following:
Children are so fresh from God
it's no wonder some of them are given visions and signs from heaven.
Their innocent and trusting natures allow them to believe what we
adults would never accept. This must be part of what Jesus meant when
he said: I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like
little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven - Matthew
One published comment about one
of her visits with God is as follows:
"I was with God again, and
He told me to pray continually. He showed me where He lived. I was
climbing transparent stairs; underneath I saw gushing waterfalls, and
as I was approaching Him, His body was pure and intense light.
What impressed me the most was His hands - they were gigantic! I saw
no bones, or veins, no skin or blood, but maps and events. Then He
told me to memorize thousands upon thousands of wisdom words on a
scroll that did not look like paper, but more like intense light.
And, in a few seconds, I got somehow filled up. From now on I will
get up early to paint. I hope one day I'd be able to paint what I was
Whether this description or her
widely circulated image of a blue-eyed Jesus ("Prince of
Peace"), are either representative of how Jesus and the Father
are represented in Scriptures? Does it really matter that some
have claimed her image is compatible with the image found on the
Roman Catholic Shroud of Turin? 14 What message is she selling
to the world through her book (Akiane: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry)
and venues such as Oprah, World News Tonight, Lou Dobbs Tonight, Good
Morning America, Craig Ferguson and more ("Featured on almost 50
international television shows and documentaries" 15)? My
wording "selling" is not accidental; she has certainly
capitalized on her message as her website features the claim
"Inducted into the Richest Kids-Entrepreneurs of America" 15.
When asked how she knows that
it's God who is speaking to her, her response was "Because I can
hear His voice....quiet and beautiful." 13
The Scriptural test for recognizing the voice of God has never been
its beauty, rather it's remains the message. God will not
contradict his revealed written word. Remember even the devil
can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).
A few more quotes from Akiane
will help to understand her overall message: 16
Akiane: Some of the things he
shows me in the first vision I do remember but I am not allowed to
tell. It is a secret between me and Him, but probably later in life
Akiane: All I can say is heaven
is soooooo beautiful. It's so huge and there are many different
colors there. There is so much nature, so many flowers, animals, it's
Shawn: So there are animals in heaven?
Akiane: OF COURSE!
Shawn: Like our pets?
Akiane: OF COURSE! Why do you
think he gave them to you in the first place! They are part of your family!
Akiane: Each time I go up to
heaven it feels like an eternity there but it's only a few hours down
here. One story when I was around five years old I was literally
missing, no one could find me. I was physically taken up to heaven.
In Rolla Missouri the police were looking everywhere for me. I was
there for around six hours. Then I appeared right in the middle of
the room where they were with my family.
Akiane: This is a self-portrait
of me and I blended myself in the universe and am painting and co
creating with God. This is how I envision me and God creating
together. Like when he creates a star, I take the color from that
star and we work together. You can see the pallet is in the
background. I am creating with God.
Shawn: This is one of the most
meaningful paintings for me that you have done. You know me, I love
all your paintings especially the space ones and creation ones. But I
loved the theme that we don't just help God create but we get to be
co-creators. You opened something up that not many people even think about.
Akiane: I can't count it
Paula: Is it more than once a week?
Akiane: A lot, almost every day
Akiane certainly has one up on
the Apostle's Paul and John, who only got to see heaven once.
And as with many such accounts, she got to establish doctrine nowhere
established in Scriptures, such as that we get to keep out pets for
eternity. Heaven help the poor person who had 100 cats in their
lifetime! But serious, is this not an addition to the
Book of Revelation? (See Revelation 22:18-19).
Heaven is So Real
Nam Thomas, a Korean American, became a Christian in 1992. Two
years later she had a vision of Jesus at her church (Neighborhood
Assembly of God in Tacoma Washington). In 1996 she professed to
have been taken to heaven and this visit and subsequent visits
("17 different times") became the subject of her book
"Heaven is So Real". It has been translated into at
least 43 languages and has been endorsed by the well-known Korean
Assemblies of God pastor David Yonggi Cho (his church is called the
largest in the world with over a million members).
This grandmother spells out
clearly some of what she professedly learned in heaven...
Heaven is so Real is our Lord
Jesus' end time book. He only used my body to write this book. He
wants all believers and unbelievers to read it and prepare for His
coming. He said, He is letting people know what it takes to enter His
Kingdom, through this book. 17
Remember, none of our salvations
are secure until the end. We work out our salvation with fear and
trembling (Philippians 2:12). 17
The Lord himself took me to
heaven 17 different times, in my transformed spirit body... and
showed me countless things in heaven that He has prepared for His
people, and showed me hell twice. 17
He also showed me things during
the time of the tribulation, after He took His people to heaven. 17
This book is a great tool for the
salvation of souls. Those who read this book and convicted by it, are
sharing it with others. Some get dozens, hundreds, and thousands to
give away.The book is our Lord Jesus' end time book and He wants all
Christians to read it and witness with it to others so they can
prepare for His coming. ... The devil hates this book. 17
Currently over 60 countries are
translating and re-printing this book and most of the translations
are being done by pastors who were transformed by the book after
reading it. ... it was the #1 bestseller in Korea. All these things
are happening because it is our Lord's book. It is truly an end time
Whoever judges "Heaven is so
Real" and other prophetic books should read Matthew 7:1-6,
repent and stay ready for the rapture before it's too late.
Christians should never judge other Christian's work of God. Remember
any kind of message from God that doesn't bear fruit is not from God.
"Heaven is so Real" is bearing more fruit than most
prophetic books around the world. The Lord has been saying that
because of this book, at least 1,000,000 people will see His face. 17
I was certain the rapture would
happen in 2009 but it did not and I was very, very disappointed.
During the first week of 2010 the Lord explained to me that the
rapture was supposed to have happened in 2009 but He had delayed it
for only a twinkling of an eye. 17
The Lord said children up to 7
whether they believe or not will be saved. 17
Jesus' heart aches for His people
every second, but there is nothing He can do for those who don't
believe in Him. 17
Let me summarize a few thoughts
from all these statements...
1) God added another book to the
Bible for these end times and it's her book (Why add to the
book of Revelation when you can add another whole book?)
2) God will use her book to save people
3) God passively cannot do
anything about or for those who don't believe in Him
4) All children go to heaven up
to age 7 (If you took Romans 9:3 and merged it with this thought,
would you be great if you killed as many children as possible before
they go to be 8 years old?)
5) Pre-Tribulation is the only
correct eschatological view for end-times.
6) God changes his mind regarding
the date of the rapture. (Contrast this to 1 Samuel 15:29;
Numbers 23:19; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 6:18)
Once again, the
"revelation" of her writings pales in comparison to God's
word. True experience confirms God's word; deceiving experience
is not "His book". The church, contrary to her
misquoted Bible reference, is repeatedly called to judge what is
taught by God's absolute standard: His Word (Matthew 7:2; 1
Thessalonians 5:20). Fruit is not judged by how many copies of
a book are sold or the popularity of a message.
Ninety-Minutes in Heaven
pastor Don Piper professes to have spent 90 minutes in heaven
following a catastrophic vehicle accident, where he was pronounced
dead at the scene. Another pastor, waiting at the scene of the
accident, prayed for him after 90 minutes and Piper was returned to
life. His memories of paradise are a small portion of his book
(less than 20 pages). To be fair, the remainder of the 205 page
book spends more time chronicling the accident, his rescue and
recovery, plus and lessons learned and applied. This book also
became a New York Times Bestseller (with over 4 million in print).
Since this heavenly encounter is
so short, it provides far less material to evaluate. Actually
it doesn't intersect with the Bible in too many places. Another
reviewer has said this well:
Piper's description of heaven
left me cold. I was dismayed to find that his heaven seems largely
man-centered. In fact, if you were to ask your unbelieving friends
and neighbors to describe heaven, they would probably create a place
very much like this. Piper did not see Jesus, nor did he see God,
though, to be fair, he saw only the "outskirts" and did not
pass through the gates. Despite this, he was exceedingly joyful and
feels that he experienced the very joys of paradise. For ninety
minutes he walked through heaven, greeted by those he knew in this
life, all of whom were (quite conveniently), the same age they were
when he had last known them. As I read this description of heaven I
thought immediately of a quote from John Piper's book God is the
Gospel. He asks:
The critical question for our
generation-and for every generation-is this: If you could have
heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on
earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure
activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever
say, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human
conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with
heaven, if Christ was not there?
From the descriptions in 90
Minutes in Heaven we would have to respond, "yes!" It seems
that Don Piper's heaven is a heaven where we are fulfilled without
Christ. Piper's heaven was a place of reunion with loved ones, a
place of beautiful music and a place of literal pearl (or
"pearlescent") gates and literal streets of gold. It is a
heaven that can be so easily described to a human mind using mere
human words, as if it had originated in a human mind. Piper is able
to describe it in some detail, but what he presents is surely far too
human to be heaven. 19
Two further excerpts from Don
"I didn't think of it, but
later I realized that I didn't hear such songs as "The Old
Rugged Cross" or "The Nail-Scarred Hand." None
of the hymns that filled the air were about Jesus' sacrifice or
death. I heard no sad songs in heaven." Page 35 20
"I was in heaven and ready
to go through the pearlescent gate". Page 39 20
While it's not a sad song, the
Bible clearly tells us that one of the heavenly songs is about Jesus'
sacrifice and death (see Revelation 5:9 & 12), which contradicts
Piper's experience. As with Colton Burpo's account, Don Piper
also seems to have merged details of the New Heavens and Earth
(including streets of gold and pearly gates, see Revelation 21:15
& 21:21) with the present heaven, yet they are clearly two
separate places in Scriptures. It sounds to me more like the
product of a fallible mind than a perfect revelation. Moreover,
I agree with the reviewer quoted earlier, Piper's heaven is too down
to earth and doesn't sparkle with the wonder of seeing Jesus which is
what heaven will be all about (and what John is so clearly fascinated
with in the Book of Revelation).
A Divine Revelation of Hell
Divine Revelation of Hell (published in 1997) is in a similar genre
to heaven-visit books, of which there are others including 23 Minutes
in Hell by Bill Wiese. "A National Bestseller",
it found widespread acceptance in Christian circles and was widely
promoted by Christian booksellers and was subsequently translated
into Spanish. Its' author, Mark K. Baxter, was conveniently
granted a follow-up visit with Jesus that enabled her to publish a
sequel entitled "A Divine Revelation of Heaven" (published
in 1998). She has additional books featuring her
revelations on prayer, deliverance, spiritual warfare, angels, and more.
Baxter professed to have had many
meetings with Jesus "each night for forty nights", as well
journeys to heaven and hell. A look solely at her first book, A
Divine Revelation of Hell, will provide sufficient details as to the
types of things she is teaching.
"My child, I will take you
into hell by My Spirit, and I will show you many things which I want
the world to know. I will appear to you many times; I will take
your spirit out of your body and will actually take you into hell. 21
Tenderly Jesus spoke and said,
"My child, hell is real. But you could never know for sure
until you had experienced it for yourself. 21
Jesus said to me, "My child,
for this purpose you were born, to write and tell what I have told
you and shown you. 21
When Jesus first appeared to me,
He said, "Kathryn, you have been chosen by the Father to
accompany me through the depths of hell. I will show you many
things which I desire the world to know about hell and about
heaven. I will tell you what to write so that this book will be
a true record of what these unknown places are really like. My
Spirit will reveal secrets about eternity, judgment, love, death and
life hereafter." 21
to this, Mary was commissioned by Christ to write another book of
Scriptures. It would reveal secrets that no one ever knew
before. And certainly Mary's books are filled with such
fanciful things. Her description of hell attempts to rival
Dante 22. Perhaps the greatest
lie is one she attributes to Jesus, whom she has telling her the she
could never know for sure that hell is real unless she had
experienced it herself. I praise God that I can know hell is
real, solely from His word, and that I never have to go there.
This whole genre of books featuring "secret" knowledge is
merely a modern form of Gnosticism. God's word isn't hidden,
it's clearly revealed for all of us to read and know!
Rather than quote
from "Heaven is So Real" itself, in most places I've
referenced just a few of the multitudes of published comments from
other people who have read the work. This is intentional to
show how the same statements and issues are foremost in the minds of
a majority of the readers.
Reported on Fox 31 Denver News (kdvr.com).
Reported USA Today, 4/21/2011 by Craig Wilson
Reported in Reclaiming the Mind book review, 2/06/2011 by C Michael Patton
Reported in Fallen From Grace book review, 4/05/2011 by Bruce Gerencser
Reported in A Bible Commentary book review, 05/27/2011 by Mural Worthey
Prayer Kingdom book review, 08/22/2011 by K Zhang
"Colton's mother says the family already supports four orphans
in Kenya." 2
Reported in Facebook Blog on "Heaven is Real", "90
Minutes in Heaven" and other books about visits to heaven and
hell, by Randy Alcorn, 5/09/2011
An example of published statements include:
What allows me to
take this story seriously is the sense of humility and circumspection
present in the narrative. The Burpos tread carefully with Colton
letting him tell his story as he was ready. Seven years passed from
the first inklings of Colton's experience to the publishing of the
book. (Pastor Matthew Hickman, review on Amazon.com)
Book Review on www.amazon.com by Baptist pastor Micah Mauldin, 11/30/2010
Fiction or Non-Fiction: Colton's experience is selling as a non-fiction
work. While we have no particular reason to think that
Colton's experience is contrived, what makes a personal non
verifiable experience something to be labeled non-fiction?
Certainly the vision was truly something he experienced personally
but does that make the contents of his vision non-fiction?
Would this not make Joseph Smith's visions incorporated in the Book
of Mormon equally non-fiction? Traditionally only verifiable
accounts were considered to be, and sold, as non-fiction.
The Examiner.com, article: Akiane Kramarik: Visits to heaven and
visions of Jesus, 4/07/2011
New Connection, March/April 2006 Living Now "The Inspired
Vision of Akiane Kramarik"
Shroud of Turin Blog, post by Dan Porter, 2/23/2011
www.artakiane.com as of 9/9/2011
"I am Co-CREATOR" July 5, 2007, Interview of Akiane with
Shawn and Paula (http://kingthunder.wordpress.com/2007/07/05/i-am-a-co-creator/)
www.choothomas.com as of 9/9/2011
www.embracedbythelight.com as of 9/9/2011
Challies.com Book Review - 90 Minutes in Heaven, 4/23/2006 by Tim Challies
Book: 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper with Cecil Murphey
A Divine Revelation of Hell, 1997, by Mary K. Baxter
Dante Alighieri's 14th century classic "Dante's Inferno"
A recent announcement adds perspective on the marketing of Heaven is
licenses 'Heaven Is for Real'
The family behind
best-seller Heaven is for Real have signed a licensing deal with
apparel and accessory company Kerusso.
A T-shirt and
wristband will go on sale in stores from mid-October. The yellow tee
with the book title on the front and the message and you're
going to like it! on the back, will retail for $18.99-$20.99,
depending on size.
been overwhelmed by the demand for products, and Kerusso has now
taken that burden off us, said Todd Burpo, who authored the
account of his son Coltons near-death experience and account of
Nelson released the book late last year, it has sold 5 million
copies, been translated into 30 languages and rested on the New York
Times best-seller list for 42 weeks. A childrens edition of the
book releases in November. . . .
mission is Proclaiming the Good News to the world through
products about Jesus, said Vic Kennett, Kerusso
president and CEO. I cant think of a more exciting way to
do that than helping the Burpo family spread Coltons amazing
story. Were thrilled to help them tell the world that heaven
truly is for real. (Christian Retailing
"Serving the $4.6 Billion Christian Products Industry",
One published account, on a parody website, merges the contradictory
elements of many reports to illustrate how these narratives are
seemingly written to appeal to everybody...
The success of
Todd Burpos Heaven Is for Real has reinvigorated
the Christian base and allegedly proselytized former non-believers.
But Wendy Chousmatison, a 14-year-old student from Bennington Vale
[San Narciso, California], offered reporters a much different
depiction of Christs Kingdom this week.
Wendy was rushed
to the hospital on New Years Day after she was discovered
passed out on the kitchen floor by her parents. ... [She] was
clinically dead for three minutes before medical teams managed to
And Wendy, like
young Colton Burpo, also claimed to have ascended to Heaven during
her moments between life and death.
for real, said Wendy Chousmatison, but its not like
the Burpos book paints it. ...
there, in a way, Wendy continued, but he said that he had
many names, and Jesus was just one of them. He looked like a
dark-skinned homeless man. But kinda asexual. He couldve been a
woman. Hard to tell. Really, everyone in Heaven looked like that. And
poor. There was no wealth, and no one had any possessions. But then,
they didnt need anything. I met people who had been Jews,
Muslims, Hindus, Native Americans, Druids, you name it. There
werent any Scientologists, though. After a while, Jesus
introduced me to the Buddha and told me what a great influence he had
been. I guess Jesus traveled to India to learn about his teachings at
some point. Thats what he said, anyway. Then he reunited me
with my Uncle Carl, who was gay. I was blown away. But Jesus said
that God was gay too, because God was all things. Then he whispered
in my ear, I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I
must bring them also. It was truly a gorgeous
experience. (The Bennington Vale Evening Transcript.
Article "Local Girls Near Death Visit to Heaven Contrasts
Colton Burpos Account in Best-Seller Heaven is for
Real" by BC Bass, 03282011)
"Hundreds of years" is a gross understatement. After
first publishing this article I stumbled across a much older example:
It appears that
professed journeys to heaven and hell may be one of the oldest genres
in Christian history. The Apocalypse of Peter (or Revelation of
Peter), part of the New Testament Apocrypha, which was written circa
135 A.D. is an ancient text claiming such a journey. This book
is not to be confused with the similarly named Gnostic Apocalypse of
Peter as found at Nag Hammadi. The Apocalypse of Peter was one
of a number of Apocalypses that came on the scene following the
Revelation of Jesus Christ by the apostle John, all notably as
Pseudepigrapha (works published under the name of someone else, often
long dead). Clement of Alexandria (lived circa 150-215
A.D) and the Muratorian Fragment (circa 150 A.D.) both imply that
some churches actively considered this work to be Scriptures for a
time. Its canonicity was never upheld as it failed the test on
many levels, most of all being fraudulently attributed to an
apostle. While the content was not blatantly heresy, as many
other circulating works of the day were (filled with Marcionism or
Gnosticism for example), the substance of the work was still out of
character to the remainder of canonical Scriptures. It taught,
as do most heavenly or hellish journeys, things beyond (or in
addition to) Scriptures - including details that some people would
want to be true. For the record, a quick summary of some of its
have light coming from them and are inexpressibly beautiful.
everlasting flowers, beautiful trees, blessed and plentiful fruit and
The saints and
angels both wear shiny clothes of light
Everyone sings in
Infants are given
to a care-taking angel who educates and helps them to grow up.
hung by their tongue
are hung by their hair over bubbling mire.
Adulterous men are
hung by their feet with their heads in the mire.
Murderers are in a
pit of creeping things that torment them.
Men who act as
women and lesbians are repeatedly driven up and off a great cliff by
Girls who did not
keep their virginity until marriage will be dressed in darkness and
their flesh torn to pieces - with complete feeling.
Women who have
abortions are up to their necks in a lake of gore and blood plus they
are tormented by the spirits of their unborn children.
sorceresses are hung on a wheel to burn in a pit.
Those who lend
money with excessive interest are on their knees in a lake of foul
matter and blood.
While this work
may not be exactly the same as the visions and near death experiences
that this article is primarily examining, mostly due to its
fraudulent authorship, it is similar in that it professes to be a
first person journey into heaven and hell. It certainly opened
the floodgate of copycat works which would follow (including the 4th
century Apocalypse of Paul and the Apocalypse of the Virgin
[Mary]. These later works even have Paul or Mary persuading God
to give everyone in Hell a day of rest each Sunday).