Heaven is for Real But the Movie Isn’t
by Aaron Binion
Be careful little eyes what you see. On April 16th (2014) a $20 million production of the New York Times best seller “Heaven is for Real” hit the box office. The book has sold over 1.5 million copies and more people will probably see the movie. Sadly, books and movies similar to this make big money at the expense of theology and scriptural interpretation because Christian discernment is at an all-time low. Instead of searching the scriptures to see if what is being presented is real or not (Acts 17:11), many Christians are gullible to believe the extra-Biblical information being provided to them.
The story plot seems innocent enough. A four-year-old little boy, Colton, suffers from chronic constipation and the book speaks of the relief he felt when passing gas. I’d personally watch a movie about that for comedic relief, but not a movie that portrays an unbiblical ideal of heaven like this one.
The child’s appendix bursts and during surgery, he and his parents believe he went to heaven for three minutes and met Jesus even though the medical report states otherwise. According to the medical report, the child never died. Great news for the kid, but this is where the film nose dives into fiction. Several months later Colton starts to tell his parents about his trip to heaven and the story fills in the details. The critical issue for any Christian media, book, or movie is what is being communicated? Colton’s dad is a pastor of a Wesleyan church.
Growing up as a preacher’s kid (PK), it’s no surprise the little 4-year-old would have some scriptural knowledge. PKs often are the first to hear a preview of the Sunday sermon. To the undiscerning viewer, the fact that the dad is a pastor would lend credibility to the child’s story. However, that is only true if the dad is sound in his teaching. Instead of the dad teaching the boy about heaven, the little boy teaches his dad. As the story unfolds the little boy will give a piece of information and the dad will go to the Bible to try and find a scriptural proof text, but with terrible inaccuracy. That’s a hermeneutical fallacy called an eisegesis. Each time his dad does this, the little boy gets bored and runs off. If the movie were about the consequences of scripture interpreted incorrectly, it might be worth its $20 million price tag. Instead it’s being sold as authentic. T.D. Jakes – a “Word of Faith” preacher and false teacher – is the movie’s producer. Already, the theology behind the movie should be suspect. Spoiler alert – Heaven will be far better than what this movie could ever portray.
The movie viewer has two options: Accept the kid’s trip as legitimate because the little boy says so, or practice discernment and compare what the kid says to the Bible to see if he’s right. Colton is either right, lying, has a great imagination, hallucinated, or the father and son are false prophets (Matthew 24:24). Adding to the Bible or saying something inaccurate carries severe consequences (Deuteronomy 18:20, Revelation 22:19).
Is it possible for someone to die and come back from heaven? Not according to Jesus. He said in John 3:13 that no one has ever gone to heaven except the one who came from heaven – the son of man. Hebrews 9:27 says that it is appointed for man once to die and then the judgment. Lazarus died and came back but he said nothing about going to heaven. Why would Lazarus and the Bible be silent on the issue if he died and came back? Quite simply, death is final and resuscitations are not. God wouldn’t be just, he’d be cruel for letting someone into heaven and then sending them back to earth. Numerous people are claiming the movie will serve as a tool for evangelism. However, the story of the rich man and the other Lazarus proves the opposite (Luke 16:19-31). Abraham said they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them and if they don’t listen to Moses and the Prophets then they will not be persuaded even if someone comes back from the dead.
Supporters of this movie will say that Paul went to heaven and came back. 2 Corinthians 12:2 says, “I know a man in Christ fourteen years ago who was caught up in the third heaven. Whether in the body or out of the body I do not know but God knows.” He heard inexpressible things man is not permitted to tell. Paul isn’t saying he died and came back. He didn’t know if he was in his body or not implying this was a vision. He said he couldn’t describe it because it was inexpressible. He couldn’t write about even if he were allowed. Paul wrote 2/3 of the New Testament and couldn’t describe it. Does the 4-year-old have a better vocabulary than the apostle Paul? If he does, then the movie watcher has to examine what Colton says about heaven through the lens of scripture. True faith can only be a byproduct of God’s word and His character. Jesus came from heaven and His first message was repent. If Colton’s story were real, wouldn’t his message be repent? Instead Colton says Jesus explained that he had to die so everyone could see his daddy. There’s nothing in the book or movie about repentance, faith, or sin because that wouldn’t sell. Instead there is a scene where the Pastor/Dad specifically tells a grieving mother that God loves everyone, so if He loves anyone enough for one to go to heaven then so will her son. That is universalism. At the conclusion of the movie, He states that we see heaven in the cry of a baby, etc., and that we all create our own version of heaven. That’s New Age spirituality. If this movie were real it would do a better job at presenting the gospel.
So what did Colton say he saw?
- He saw God. Problem: The Bible teaches differently. John 1:18 says that no one has ever seen God, but the Son, the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. 1 John 4:12 says, “No man has seen God at any time.” I guess this child is the exception. In the book, Colton describes God as a very big person who could fit the entire world in his hands. But he told TBN that God was a huge angel with massive wings. God isn’t an angel or a person. God made both of them. If Colton’s story were true wouldn’t the details about God be consistent? John 4:1 says God is a spirit. Colton said he saw the resurrected Jesus and sat in His lap.
- Jesus’ markers were in the palms of His hands. Problem: Under Roman crucifixion, the nails would have been in the wrist not the palm (the palm wouldn’t have supported the body).
- People in heaven look like angels and have wings. Problem: Since the resurrection of believers’ transformed bodies has not taken place, the body of a believer in Heaven would lack physical attributes. Philippians 3:21 says Jesus “will transform our lowly bodies that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” Jesus doesn’t have wings. Cherubim (Ex 25:20) and Seraphim (Isaiah 6) are two types of angels that have wings, but there’s no reference for people. When Colton first tells his parents about his trip to heaven, he states that Jesus made the angels sing for him because he was scared sitting on Jesus’ lap. Why would you be scared if you were sitting on Jesus’ lap (John 14:27, Philippians 4:7)?
- Colton found a painting that looked like Jesus. Well if the painting is Jesus why doesn’t the guy look Jewish? The Bible is very clear we are to make no graven images (Exodus 20:4-5). A graven image can also be images or paintings of Jesus, statues, or even movies. If Jesus wanted us to know what He looked like, there would be a description of Him in the Bible. But He doesn’t so his description isn’t included. If the painting were real, then why doesn’t the guy in the painting look Jewish?
What else isn’t so “real” about the film?
- In heaven, Colton asked Jesus if he could have a sword. Jesus replies, ”No, it would be dangerous.” What would Colton hurt in heaven with a sword?
- In heaven, Jesus helped Colton with his homework. Work in heaven is an oxymoron. We don’t know what we will do in heaven, but I’d prefer to believe Revelation 22:3: “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city and his servants will serve him.” That means whatever we will be doing will be centered around worshiping God. While in heaven Colton is upset because he doesn’t know what is happening. How could anyone ever feel fear, confusion, or apprehension while in the presence of the all mighty God? Good news! Colton says nobody in heaven is old or wearing glasses. That’s true, but the reason they don’t have glasses is because there aren’t physical bodies until after the resurrection. 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, Paul says I don’t want you to be ignorant about this. Verse 16 says “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.” What that implies is that the soul is in heaven awaiting to be reunited with the resurrected body at the end of time. With what kind of body will they be raised? How foolish Paul said. 1 Corinthians 15:40 says “There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of earthly bodies is another.”
- Colton’s got more good news for dad. Jesus shoots down power from heaven while his dad is preaching. The Bible says the only power Christians need – they already have in the Holy Spirit.
- Colton said the gates of heaven are made of gold. Revelation 21:21 says, “The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.”
What about the real Heaven?
Even though the Bible doesn’t indicate where heaven is, it is a real place. In John 14:2 Jesus said, “My father’s house has many rooms (not mansions like the KJV) if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” That’s the promise that heaven is real – not some stupid movie. Heaven is mentioned in scripture 550 times. The Old Testament word is shamayin meaning heights and the New Testament word is ouranos and it means that which is raised up. Therefore, Heaven is up. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says Jesus will come down from heaven and we will be caught up from earth into heaven. When God thinks about his creatures, he looks down and when man thinks about God, He looks up. There are three heavens. The first is the atmosphere, the second is the planets and the third is where Jesus is. God is there, Old and New Testament saints, our new name, inheritance, reward, treasure, and citizenship are in heaven. Heaven is our home. Do you want to know what heaven is like? The apostle John was the only one who took a trip to heaven and was allowed to talk about it. In Revelation 4, we read that a voice like a trumpet said, “Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this.” John, like Paul, probably didn’t know if he was in his body or not, but he was in the Spirit. This is most likely a vision. In this chapter, he gives us an authentic description of heaven and he focuses on God’s throne. John describes it with imagery. Someone is sitting on the throne and it looked like a jasper stone and a sarius. That’s a description of God’s glory, not that he looked like a diamond. Notice he didn’t say he saw God. Around the throne was a rainbow, not multicolored, but like an emerald, a symbol of God’s grace and mercy like the rainbow in Noah’s day. Surrounding the throne were twenty and four elders clothed in white garments and golden crowns on their heads. These aren’t angels because angels stand or hover. They don’t sit. We don’t know exactly who the twenty-four are. Some say they represent the 12 tribes and 12 apostles, but the thing to notice is what they are doing. They are worshiping and serving God. Not doing homework. From the throne proceeded flashes of lightning, rumblings, and thunder. This symbolizes the awesome majesty and power of God. Before the throne is a sea of glass and seven lamps. The sea of glass is like crystal reflecting the beauty of God’s glory throughout the universe. In the center and around the throne were four living creatures. We can speculate what this is, but the main focus again is what they are doing. Day and night they never stop saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was and is and is to come” (vs. 8). Toward the throne we find the top priority of what we will do in heaven – worshiping God. At the end of verse 10, they cast their crowns before the throne. Verse 4 said they are crowned with golden crowns symbolizing victory. But in verse 10 they throw the crowns down before the throne. That means they are too busy worshiping God to think about their own beauty, reward, or homework. The right response of any visit to heaven or vision of it is falling down before Him and worshiping Him. Revelation 21 and 22 also tell us about Heaven. Chapter 22:4 says we will see His face. That’s more exciting than anything else we will ever do there. One day we will see His face. Everything in chapter 21, although beautiful and amazing, will not compare to seeing His face. People get wrapped up in streets of gold and gates of pearl; if that’s what it’s all about, then heaven would get extremely boring. Who cares about streets of gold? Elvis had a golden toilet. But the fact that one day we will see His face – that’s something to live for. No night, no need for a lamp because God’s glory is so bright there will be no need of it.
While seeing the movie won’t necessarily be a sin, Christians must recognize that the movie isn’t real. All three biblical writers who saw heaven and described their visions give very little detail, but they agree perfectly (Isaiah 6:1-4, Ezekiel 1 and 10, Revelation 4-6). However, they do not agree with Colton’s story. A 4-year-old can’t be expected to know better than fabricating a story like this. Instead the parents, especially the pastor, should have corrected this. Want to have a good time learning about heaven? Pop some popcorn and read the Bible.