Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Book Review of Visits to Heaven and Back -Are They Real?

Visits to Heaven and Back-Are they Real?by Mark Hitchcock
Who would tell a complete stranger, and a Baptist church librarian at that, that he didn’t put any stock in Colton’s account of his trip to heaven in the book, Heaven is For Real? Even when the church librarian heard his explanation and responded that she still endorsed the book as a way to get people to think about heaven and the afterlife, who would point out that the book could also lead people astray? Mark Hitchcock not only boldly makes these claims, but he has written a convincing argument in Visits to Heaven and Back-Are They Real? that near death experience stories that tell of the afterlife do not line up with the Bible’s teaching on Heaven.

Books on this topic are multiplying. The author makes it clear that he is not questioning the motive of authors who write, but he believes they did not go to heaven and back. Hitchcock then proceeds to assess the claims made in several of the bestsellers of these books. He gives credit to the ones who share a clear message of salvation, but finds fault with all of them. Here are some of his concerns:

-authors tell of things that go beyond what Scripture says
-the emphasis is often on the author’s self focus and not on the glory of God
-the Bible never portrays God giving someone a choice of whether to stay in heaven
  or return to earth
-many authors suggest we can find salvation after we die
-no one needs to fear death for all is well for everyone

Hitchcock uses quotes and details from many of the books he critiques and explains how they do not pass the test of what Scripture teaches.  He also quotes other Christian leaders who have found error in these types of stories.

The last half of the book, Hitchcock outlines what the Bible teaches about Heaven.  He lists what will be there, what won’t be there, and who will be there. In the chapter entitled, “How to Be Dead Right”, he lays out the truth that Christ Jesus is the only hope of heaven and eternal life. The book finishes with several appendices answering common questions about death and heaven and recommended books on heaven and the afterlife.

The author is passionate in his desire to uphold the truth of scripture and he keeps consistent to that purpose throughout the whole book. In the first chapter he answers the most common reaction of his critics who view stories of heavenly experiences as innocent and helpful in encouraging many. “…What’s the big deal? Why pick on these books that seem to be giving so many people comfort and hope?...The prevailing notion today is that it’s unloving and uncharitable to question someone else’s experience or private revelation from God…I have nothing personal against any of the people who have written about trips to heaven and back…it’s incumbent on believers to discern the truth of the claims being made and to think biblically about heaven and the afterlife.”

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

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