Christian leaders Ray Comfort and John Piper each recently discussed their views on "Heaven is for Real," the book turned into a movie starring Greg Kinnear and Connor Corum.
"Heaven is for Real" is about a four-year-old boy who claims that he went to Heaven during a near-death experience. The small boy tells others about the things that he saw in Heaven, including details about deceased family members whom he had never met before. The movie is meant to be told from a Christian perspective and to intrigue those who question whether there is an afterlife.
Christian evangelist and author Ray Comfort saw the movie upon its release, saying that it was enjoyable and somewhat comparable to "Little House on the Prairie." It was, however, lacking the essential message of the Christian faith - the Gospel.
"It's a tear-jerker with a very shallow message," says Comfort - "God is love, Jesus is friendly, and it seems all is well between Heaven and earth. God's wrath doesn't abide on the sinner, and it doesn't quite fit that Jesus is going to be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels 'in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ,'" he says, quoting 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10.
Comfort laments that many will leave the movie theater wondering whether the little boy was telling the truth about the existence of Heaven - "We know that it does [exist], because we have God's Word on it. That's enough," he says.
Comfort explains that God's word is true, and can be tested through experience - "It says, 'You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.' I believe the Bible, not because I welled up some sort of faith in its words, but because the Gospel came to me 'in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance.' It authenticated itself because it took me out of darkness and brought me into light." Born again Christians throughout the ages have attested to the same authenticity of God's word, that the Bible has been tested and found true. "Therefore every other promise in it about the joys of Heaven, the pains of Hell, and everlasting life is utterly true altogether," Comfort concludes.
Recently retired Christian pastor and author John Piper also gave his thoughts on the book recently in an "Ask Pastor John" episode. "If books go beyond Scripture, I doubt what they say about Heaven," he says. Piper doesn't bother to read extra-Biblical books about Heaven because he knows that the only infallible source on Heaven is God's word - "I have my Bible, which already tells me what I can know for sure about Heaven. Everything in those books, I do not know for sure ... it's all guesswork," he says.
Piper once began to read a book similar to "Heaven is for Real," but put it down after finding something which contradicted the Bible in its early chapters. "I don't believe these books, I'm very skeptical about these books - mainly [because] I have a Bible that tells me what I need to know," says the seasoned saint.
What's more, the Bible forbids séances and necromancy - communicating with the dead. In Isaiah 8:19, God rebukes His people for inquiring of the dead when they should have inquired of Him. Doing so "Belittles the sufficiency of His communication," Piper says - God has told us everything that we need to know in the Bible, and we dishonor God when we try to pursue things which He has chosen not to reveal to us in this way.
So, what does the Bible teach about Heaven? Piper summarizes, "Here's what we're told - just a taste. The Bible tells us that in Heaven, and in the age to come, there's going to be no disease, no calamities, no depression, no guilt, no shame, no misery, no pain, no sinning, no being sinned against. Perfect joy, perfect peace, perfect righteousness. Fellowship - intimate fellowship with Jesus. We're going to see God ... He'll write His name on our forehead, He will grant us to sit with Him on His throne."
God's word has much to say about Heaven, and it is wholly trustworthy - "These things take a lifetime to probe into, and they are absolutely authoritative, absolutely certain," says Piper. He recommends reading Jonathan Edwards' sermon, "Heaven is a World of Love" for a glimpse into what the Bible teaches about Heaven.