Is The Gag Order
On Reports Of Heaven Absolute
There are several recently published books that focus on the reality of heaven. The books are based on actual visits by people who temporarily died and report the sights, sounds and feelings they experienced while there.
Though this topic catches the interest of many people it evokes very diverse responses.
Some people believe there is no heaven and view the books as nothing more than hopeful thinking. A few of these types, however, are open minded enough to read the books.
There are many who believe heaven is a reality but they don’t all agree on how to view these reports.
- Some read the books with a sense of hope, asking no questions at all.
- Some approach the issue skeptically, not allowing the possibility of a temporary visit to heaven or at least not allowing any reports about it afterward.
It is interesting that this second group are the ones who are the least thoughtful. They dismiss the reports out of hand “claiming” the Bible does not allow such things, assuming the devil is behind it all, attempting to deceive the faithful.
- Others are fair enough to ask important questions and search the Scriptures to see if the reports match what the Bible actually says.
One book that has become popular is Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo. I’ve listed a few questions to help stimulate questions about his son’s (Colton) visit to heaven, but since then more has been added.
The book became so popular the author decided to produce a DVD-Based Conversation Kit for families or small groups. It includes five sessions lasting 10 to 18 minutes each featuring Colton and his parents, Todd and Sonja, answering questions about heaven and their experiences.
To be honest, I think the videos are a bit preachy and often stray off topic. The questions asked aren’t always answered well but it does give you a glimpse of the people behind the story.
And the story is quite interesting.
Just under 4 years old when he visited heaven, Colton was quite a bit younger than most who report the same kind of experience. His book makes a great read and his experience, coupled with the Bible, makes a great study source and that is why I put a few discussion questions together specifically for this book. The questions are intended to explore:
- Accusations undermining the validity of the experience.
- Misunderstandings about Bible teaching on the subject.
- Confusion around the differences between Colton’s experience and that of others.
Hopefully you will find the questions thought provoking regardless which category you fit in. And the DVD Kit will make the study personal. It brings the Burpos into your study group.
- If the devil is behind these reports, what exactly is his purpose? What deception is he trying to promote?
- Does the Bible say absolutely that visits to heaven are not possible? Has anyone been to heaven and come back to tell about it?
- How does Colton’s experience compare to that of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)?
- How does Colton’s experience compare to Paul’s visit to heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)? Note: some believe Paul was describing himself and some believe it was another person. I am taking the position that Paul was referring to himself in the third person.
- Does the Bible put an absolute gag order on reporting visuals of heaven or only on some of the things heard there? Exactly what is being disallowed?
- Does the book mention anything about Colton’s salvation before his visit to heaven? How does this influence your thinking on the age of accountability?
- Why was Colton allowed to see Jesus, even talk with Him, while other reports of heaven never mention seeing Jesus at all? Who would have greeted Colton on his arrival to heaven if Jesus hadn’t?
- Why did it take so long for Colton to reveal his entire story? Why didn’t he say something when he woke up in the hospital? From a child’s perspective how do you think he saw this experience?
- Is it reasonable to expect his experience in heaven to be exactly like every other person’s visit to heaven?
- How does his experience change the way you view heaven and this life?
These are just a few possible questions to spur your thinking and stimulate discussion. After you have read the book and given it some thought please share any other questions that come to mind.
Look here for a comparison of Don Piper’s and Colton Burpo’s experiences. It includes similarities and differences.
Heaven Is For Real is a bio of a “near death” experience (NDE) but without all the “weird” and “sketchy” images that usually accompany such stories.
It doesn’t focus on “long tunnels with lights at the end” or the sensation of watching medical personnel feverishly operate from a hovering out-of-body perspective. The details aren’t blurred and unanswered questions don’t abound. It is a matter of fact story shared from the perspective of an almost four-year-old child who had no preconceived ideas beforehand and explains everything casually.
Companion books are:
A similar book is “90 Minutes in Heaven”. A true life story that covers 15 years of Don Piper’s life and is best described as a tragedy with an unusual twist. We know what is happening in Don’s life now and where his journey eventually ends. What is surprising is the beginning.
A great companion book is “The Shack,” a fictional story of one man’s experience with tragedy and God’s compassionate response. The book is theological in a very down to earth way.
These are books to read more than once and discuss with family and friends.