Today, I saw a headline on Instagram; Woman dies from suffering a heart attack and claims she went to Heaven and met Jesus. I thought of the man in the Bible who begged for someone to be sent to his brothers to warn them of the afterlife. Accounts of visits to Heaven and hell abound worldwide, from books to YouTube videos. Most of the stories I’ve heard are a little far-fetched, but hey, I’ve never been to Heaven, so who am I to judge. But here’s the thing the Bible itself doesn’t give us much information about Heaven, so we cannot test the experiences of people’s claims. But we do get a little bit of insight into handling these stories from three accounts in the Bible.
Let’s look at the account I mentioned at the beginning. Luke 16:19-31 LSB “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.20 But a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores,21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.22 Now it happened that the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom, and the rich man also died and was buried.23 And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things. But now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you are not able, and none may cross over from there to us.’27 And he said, ‘Then I am asking you, father, that you send him to my father’s house—28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. No story about Heaven or hell will convince anyone of their need for salvation, and as an aside, neither will healing nor a miracle convince someone to believe in Jesus. In Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus rebuked the cities where most of His works were done because the people did not repent of sin. The towns loved the miracles and the free food, but they still rejected Jesus. We must come to a place where we believe in the power of the preached gospel to save sinners. We don’t need to perform street healing; we need to present the gospel.
As Christians, our relationship with God should not be based on experiences of going to Heaven or the stories of others. I will be very blunt; leaders in the body of Christ who claim to go to Heaven frequently and come back with special revelation are wolves, they are charlatans, and they are not going to Heaven. You may wonder how I can say such a thing; it is simple. The Apostle Paul went to Heaven and said He saw things that could not be uttered, and even the Apostle John in Revelation gave little to no detail about Heaven. Heaven is the place of God’s glory, goodness, and presence. So pardon me if I think having a water fight with Jesus, Christmas Town, and uphill waterslides is nothing more than fabrication and vain imagination.
We need to be more discerning about the things we read and hear. If God wanted us to know a bunch of specifics about Heaven, He would have put them in the Scripture. Ask yourself why you need to hear these stories and why you desire to take a trip to Heaven. The hard truth is simple; the Scripture isn’t enough for us. I have heard the stories countless times, I read the Bible, but I longed for something more. When Scripture is no longer sufficient for information and instruction, we begin walking in dangerous territory. I don’t need stories; none of us should need stories of Heaven because Heaven is not about the streets of gold, water fights with Jesus, a mansion with everything you’ve ever wanted, or any other carnal desire. Heaven is about the very presence of God. So when you read a headline or hear some Charismatic leader begin spinning a web of things that cannot be substantiated by Scripture, stop reading and quit listening; Scripture is sufficient. There may not be much said about Heaven in Scripture; I believe that’s on purpose because Scripture is not about what is in Heaven but who is in Heaven; God, the Creator and King, Jesus, our Savior and Lord, and the Holy Spirit our Comforter and Teacher.