Some people say they have died, seen heaven or even God himself for a few seconds or minutes and come back to life after. Can we believe such statements?

As a young boy, I lost my grandfather whom I was very close to, and only until recently, never was sure that he became a Christian and whether he was in heaven or not (praise God, my aunty recently confirmed that he did accept Christ before his passing, and that at the hospital, after he passed, I (aged 4) pointed out the window and said that I saw him going up to heaven). As a young man, I was also fascinated by a Robin Williams movie, “What Dreams May Come,” which was about someone dying and going to heaven (of course, from a non-Christian and very imaginative, almost-Buddhist like concept of nirvana, enlightenment).

Recently, there was a movie based on a book “Heaven is for Real,” about a pastor’s three-year-old son who, after a near-death experience (NDE), started to share accounts of visiting heaven and meeting God. The book has crossed sales of more than a few million. However, several Christians have been critical of its contents and claims. One scholar, Hank Hanegraaff, has written an excellent piece on this. Here’s a summary.

  1. NDEs are predictably contextualized by the backgrounds and belief systems of those who experience them.
  2. The subjective recollections of NDErs are wildly divergent and mutually contradictory.
  3. There is a substantive difference between clinical death and biological death.
  4. There is a clear and present danger in turning to NDErs rather than the Bible respecting those things that allegedly will happen in the future.
  5. While Christ does not tell us the time of His second appearing, some NDErs are more than happy to!
  6. Among the biblical writers who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1.21), not one dared say that like their Lord they could speak authoritatively about heaven from firsthand knowledge.
  7. In Acts 14, Luke chronicles the near-death experience of Paul. While it may have been useful to concoct a miraculous resurrection from the dead in the narrative, Luke does no such thing.
  8. Some NDErs are greatly biased by the subjective specter of hyperliteralism.
  9. Psychological factors, including fantasy proneness, may play a part in some NDEs.
  10. Finally, there is the very real issue of apostolic authority. In point of fact, with the death of the apostles, there can be no new revelations.

Read the full article here.

In summary, there are things that God has revealed about heaven in the Bible, and there are things not revealed. Ultimately, we have to trust and rely on God’s unchanging and unfailing word, that is sufficient for life and salvation. The other issue is about predicting or claiming to know when Christ will return again.

In Matt. 24.36-51, Jesus Himself says

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man … Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come … So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant … It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.

Jesus reminds us not to be overfixated on knowing about the afterlife, future or speculate about His 2nd coming. Rather, we are to remain watchful, ready and faithful. May God grant us the strength and wisdom to live lives worthy of Him and His gospel whilst we are here on earth. For those who have lost loved ones, may God’s grace be sufficient, and His comfort surround us, with the hope and confidence of one day being reunited with God in heaven.

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