People in the last couple of generations have had the wealth and time to travel like no generation before. People take cruises and tours on every continent. A very few have even traveled to outer space and back. But how many have been to heaven and lived to tell about it?
Several people claim to have made that amazing trip. And for a very small fee, the cost of a book, anyone can read the travelogue. Through what Tim Challies calls “heaven tourism,” we can all vicariously tour heaven with these author tour guides. Ireland, even outer space, pale by comparison.
But the Bible shows us that no one but Christ has been to heaven and lived. The prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the apostles John and Paul saw some of heaven, but that only in visions. This truth and more is explained in The Glory of Heaven, by John MacArthur, first published in 1996. Republished in 2013, it contains additional material to deal with the latest heaven travel journals.
MacArthur writes that our culture has moved from almost no interest in heaven to a fascination with the afterlife such that millions of copies of travel journals to heaven are purchased and are being taken seriously by Christians. The underlying problem with these travelogues is their source of authority. They are not based on Scripture. They entice people to believe what others profess to have experienced. (In this way, even a four-year-old child has become an authority on a spiritual topic!) Therefore, they undermine the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
MacArthur’s chapters on what the Bible says about heaven are exciting and uplifting. Based on Scripture, not on human experience and perceptions, they teach what God wants us to know about heaven. This world will pass away and God will create a new heavens and earth, with a new Jerusalem that will be exquisitely beautiful. To live in heaven, believers will be given glorified bodies. There will be no sin, so we can enjoy perfect relationships with each other and with God. Perfect fellowship of pure love will be greater than any we experience on earth.
He discusses the visions of Ezekiel and John, which give us a hint of a beauty and glory beyond our imagination. While it will be a place of extreme pleasure, our gratification is not what will draw our attention. In heaven, it is God’s glory that will be the most outstanding feature. Our greatest delight will be His presence.
The appendices are reviews of three heaven travelogues. I appreciate the amount of space MacArthur devoted to evaluating them and their false teachings because it increases my awareness and helps to sharpen my thinking. All three books fail to exalt God’s glory in heaven, which discredits them from the get-go.
In Embraced by the Light, Betty J. Eadie writes of her belief in the Mormon doctrines of the preexistence of human spirits, disbelief in the Trinity, the nobleness of Eve’s eating of the fruit, and the availability of salvation in the afterlife. She also incorporates New Age beliefs. Mary Neal’s book, To Heaven and Back, is similar.
Kevin Malarkey’s book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, is supposedly an account of the experiences of his son, Alex. Like the others, it presents an unbiblical description of heaven. Malarkey also believes in extrabiblical revelation through impressions and hearing a voice in his head, and other false ideas. I googled for Beth Malarkey’s website. There I found that she refutes her ex-husband’s book. She also writes of what her life is like caring for Alex. That website was well worth the visit.
I hope to read again the chapters on what heaven will be like. They were biblical, enlightening, comforting, and greatly encouraging. The exaltation of God was especially uplifting. Read this book and rejoice in the hope of heaven where we will get to glorify the Lord!