I will admit that I am more selective in my reading these days. This is partly due to trying to be a better steward of my time. But I have also lived long enough to recognize that not everything that gets published is actually worth reading. In fact, some of it is genuinely without value.
In 2010, two separate books were published, each purporting to tell the story of a different little boy having died and gone to Heaven and then having returned to tell his story of what all he had seen and experienced. Last week, one of those boys who had supposedly had the experience of going to Heaven and returning to earth fully recanted his story.
In an open letter to nationwide Christian book retailers, he stated the following:
"I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible."
He astutely concluded, "Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough."
Now I will confess that I chose to read neither of these books, either when they first came out or when they were recommended to me. And here is my reasoning.
In his Second New Testament Letter to the Corinthians (12:1-10), while defending his own Apostleship, the Apostle Paul states the following:
1I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
5I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7or because of these surpassingly great revelations.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Now, two things are of note here. First, Paul, like all of the ancients of his day, understood that there were three Heavens: the sky immediately above us where birds fly; the heavens above that where the sun and moon and planets reside; and then, the third Heaven above that, where God Himself abides.
But according to verse 4, the point is that whomever it was that Paul was speaking of that was caught up to “Paradise” or “the third Heaven” (even if himself), that individual was not permitted by God to speak of what all he had seen. Second, even if he had been permitted, Paul considered it wrong for that person to boast of any such experience.
How interesting is it is, then, that there are certain people today who presume to have had such an experience; and that they would then go on to print it, package it, promote it, and sell it!
Besides, the words of Jesus Himself in the third chapter of the Gospel of John (3:11-13) are quite apropos here:
11Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
He then concludes his thoughts with these very significant words:
13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.
Wow! The only person who ever experienced Heaven and then came to earth was Jesus Himself! And He was apparently far more concerned that we focus on the relevance of His message for living in this world than in the world to come!
The truth is that all we need to know about Heaven has been revealed to us in the Bible. (If we had needed to know more, then God would surely have reveled more to us.) The rest will all be revealed to us when we finally get there. And I, for one, am okay with that.
Because of this, no matter how snappy the title, I will most likely not be spending any money or time, not even “90 minutes”, reading about anyone else’s purported trip to Heaven. For the Word of God itself tells me all I need to know about Heaven; and because of that alone, I already know that “Heaven is for real”!
One of the most prolific Christian writers of all time was Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). One of only thirty five individuals to achieve the title of “Doctor of the Church”, Aquinas is known for the extensive list of theological and philosophical works that he produced.
His writings include:
three theological syntheses, or Summas,
nine treatises in the form of academic disputations,
twelve quodlibetal disputations,
nine exegeses of Scriptural books,
a collection of glosses from the Church Fathers on the Gospels,
eleven expositions of Aristotle’s works,
two expositions of works by Boethius,
two expositions of works by Proclus,
five polemical works,
five expert opinions, or "responsa",
fifteen letters on theological, philosophical, or political subjects,
a liturgical text,
and two very famous prayers.
Of these, his most famous work is the Summa Theoligica (sometimes spelled Theoligiae), or Summary of Theology. Written as a basic theological textbook for students, it consists of over 3,500 pages. And yet it is unfinished. Why?
According to Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Aquinas was in church one day (December 6, 1273) when he had a vision of Heaven “that so affected him that he wrote and dictated no more, leaving his great work the Summa Theologiae unfinished. To Brother Reginald’s (his secretary and friend) expostulations he replied, ‘The end of my labors has come. All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.’ When later asked by Reginald to return to writing, Aquinas said, ‘I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.’”
One would hope that the implications of this story are self-evident when it comes to this business of desiring to be known as someone who somehow has insider information on Heaven!