Within the last couple of years I have had an influx of requests from publishers to read and review a host of “I went to heaven” books. The more popular varieties of these books have often led many within our congregation to ask whether or not I’ve read these books and what I thought.
I’ll start out by saying that more than likely I have not read the books. I’ve maybe skimmed a couple of them. Before you criticize me, though, for dogging books that I haven’t read please hear me say that you don’t need to read the books to make these statements. The very presence of the books is the problem not even necessarily what they contain. Here are my 3 reasons:
- We don’t need them. To believe that we do and that somehow they help exposes our lack of confidence in the Scriptures. I really appreciate that The Gospel Project called out these books by saying, “The Bible doesn’t need our fantastic experiences to verify it. It is the very Word of God from the very breath of God”. Amen.
- They misplace our focus. The point of heaven isn’t the streets of gold. These books often are attempts at helping satisfy our curiosity about what heaven is going to be like. The Bible doesn’t seem to care. Notice that when Paul was contemplating death in his letter to the Philippians he only said, “To depart is to be with Christ and that is far better”. He didn’t say, “To depart is to get a sweet mansion, gold teeth, and endless rides down the neck of winged-purple dinosaurs.” The point of heaven is unhindered relationship with Christ. Anything else only reveals our earthly idols.
- Paul couldn’t write about his experience. In 2 Corinthians Paul mentions that he had a rockin’ heavenly vision. It would have been a certain best-seller if he could have figured out a way to churn out a bunch of papyrus copies. But the Scriptures say that rather than a multi-million dollar book deal the Lord gave Paul a thorn in his flesh to keep him humble. If the apostle Paul couldn’t speak of his heavenly vision what makes these authors believe that they have the green light?
If you are dying to know about heaven I’d suggest reading the Scriptures, spending time with believers, enjoying sunsets, and wage war against idolatry and other God-belittling sins. Slowly but surely our vision of Christ will expand and we’ll catch a glimpse of what it will be like, though we still look as through a glass dimly, to know Him as He truly is. That will give you a taste. You don’t need these stories to distract you from what really matters.
If you are just dying for a book on heaven the best one I’ve read is Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven.