I have been thinking of the parade of “Christian” movies that have come out this year, and of more to follow. The movie Exodus is scheduled to be out this Fall, with Christian Bale playing Moses (Bale was the first choice of Darren Aronofsky to play Noah, but he had scheduling conflicts). Recently, we had “Son Of God”, a movie about Jesus that was produced by a professing “Christian”, Roma Downey- a woman who dabbles in the occult, speaks to her dead mother through a psychic, attended a New Age school founded by John Roger, listens to tapes by Eckhart Tolle and Tony Robbins- among other issues. Most recently was the movie Noah, which butchered the biblical account, and distorted the character of Noah, distorted the reason for the flood, and whose own director, an atheist, said that it is only a fable, and not a true account. For the most part, we can count on Hollywood to distort biblical truth, in exchange for what they really seek: money and fame.
But right now, the latest “Christian” movie to soon debut, Heaven Is Real, is coming out on April 16. It is based on the wildly popular book of the same title, which is an account of a four year old boy’s near-death experience, where later he amazes everyone with stories of his visit to heaven. It has been a book that has had great emotional effect on many people seeking comfort about death and the hereafter, and the movie is sure to elicit the same emotions. But is it biblical, and is it reliable? By the way, there was never any medical evidence that Colton Burpo was clinically dead during his surgery.
Is someone’s mystical experience necessary to validate the existence of heaven, or to teach how heaven is actually like? Keep this in mind especially in light of the trend in Christianity for people to want to “experience God.” This is very important, as Christians move from the objective knowledge of God’s reliable word, to placing more and more trust in subjective and unverifiable mystical experiences, including near death accounts of heaven.
(Disclaimer: I have read only parts of the book, but not the entire book from cover to cover. But I believe I have enough facts to comment on it).
On the Facebook page promoting the movie, there are thousands of comments, and the vast majority are in favor of it. Here are a few samples:
“I feel like this movie is going to be a huge change for many!!! And of course it comes to us through a child.
“Can’t wait!!! Ever since my daughter could talk she’s told us that she remembers being in heaven with Jesus and “choosing me” to be her mommy.”
“I just lost my son, and I believe this movie is going to help me to understand, some may question that I have, I know he is in heaven.”
“I read the book! I believe!!!”
If I told you the following, would you believe my testimony as a Christian was authentic and believable? If so, on what basis would you accept what I told you?
- Jesus rides a rainbow-colored horse (see Rev. 19:11)
- The Holy Spirit shoots down power from heaven (see Acts 1:8)
- Everyone in heaven has wings except Jesus
- The angel Gabriel sits on the left hand of God’s throne
- The Holy Spirit is blue and sits in a chair near the throne of God
- Mary stands in heaven beside Jesus
These statements are either contradicted by Scripture, or are outside of any Scriptural revelation. And then we have Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians:
12 It is doubtless[a] not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
If Paul is referring to himself, which I believe he is, note the humility this man had, so as not to draw attention to himself regarding this experience.
If I told you that I learned secrets about someone who died in the womb, and that I knew facts about a great-grandfather that had never been told to me, would you credit that knowledge as a revelation from God? Is it possible that the source of that information may have been a manipulation of some kind, or even worse?
Quoting David Cloud:
Some might ask, how Colton could learn secrets about his dead sister who died in the womb and facts about his great grandfather that he had not been told. The answer is demons. Paul warned that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:14-15). The book Heaven Is for Real also promotes the visions of child progeny Akiane Kramarik, who began “seeing heaven” at age four (pp. 141-144). Colton claims that the “Jesus” that he saw in heaven is the same “Jesus” that Akiane drew from her visions at age nine. But Akiane’s religious faith is a New Age type faith in a vaguely defined “God.” It is religious mysticism rather than faith in an infallible Revelation from God and the blood atonement of Christ. Even if we knew what Jesus looked like, we are forbidden by God’s law to make His likeness (Exodus 20:4).” (David Cloud, Way of Life website)
I am not saying that God will never reveal to us in one shape or another something that can only be explained as supernatural. I believe that the best we can say is that “it is possible” that it was a direct experience with the supernatural that was initiated by God. On the other hand, we can also know for sure that an experience cannot be from God, but is satanic in origin, if that experience is in direct, clear contradiction with scripture. Yet, even if it lines up with scripture, that does not mean the event actually happened, does it?
When my wonderful, godly mother passed away nine years ago, she experienced something the night before she passed away and went to be with the Lord. She was very weak physically, but was of a clear sound mind at the time. She was sitting in her bed and suddenly asked us, “who are all these men in white robes standing around my bed?” Did angels come to minister to her, and comfort her in her final hours? Perhaps. I do believe that was probably what happened. Will I tell you for sure that is what it was? Of course not. How would I know with full certainty, unless I saw the angels also?
I don’t tell folks much about this story, because my certainty and assurance of eternal life and heaven comes not from what may have been a supernatural occurrence for my mother, but my assurance comes from Jesus Christ and His word. No other experience can add to my confidence in my salvation, and in knowing that He has prepared a place for me.
Heaven is for real- because God’s word says it’s real. Scripture tells us that heaven is God’s throne (Isa. 66:1; Mat. 5:34-35). After Jesus’ resurrection and appearance to His disciples, ““He was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56). He spoke of how the Father has “many mansions” in heaven. He assured us that He would return and take us to be with Him in heaven. Because of His word, His assurance and promise to us, I know that heaven is real- and I need no other confirmation.
I am not telling you to not go see this movie. That is up to you. I myself do not feel the need to see this movie, particularly because of the things in this young boy’s story that contradict Holy Scripture.
It’s my prayer that you will rely solely on God and His word, the promises of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, which will never give you false information.