The question of what happens to us when we die is one that every person asks at least once in life. For the person who doesn’t know what the Bible says about heaven, all they have are their best guesses. For the person who does know what the Bible says about heaven, we find ourselves left with gaps in our knowledge. We can’t help but want them filled in, to know what to expect, and to comfort us when those we love have left us behind.
Books dealing with alleged visits to heaven are so prevalent that an entire genre has been created, called “heaven tourism.” The accounts of children, doctors, pastors and more who claim to have experienced a trip to heaven and back grow monthly, and interestingly, differ significantly from one another.
Mark Hitchcock is a pastor and author whose books often have to do with prophecy and end times. He has a great gift for writing balanced, easy to understand and insightful books on a number of other topics as well, and now he addresses this subject of visits to heaven in his book Visits to Heaven and Back: Are They Real?.
While never denying that people have had some type of near death experience, Mark Hitchcock shines the light of scripture on specific experiences recounted in several popular books on this topic to see if they align with what God Himself says about Himself, heaven and the afterlife. This book is worth the price just for the first two chapters, and it gets even better from there. He’s super readable, fair, balanced and biblical, making this is an important book.
He looks at popular titles from the past that really started this genre, as well as current releases. Some of these books are written by those professing faith in Christ, some are not, and all conflict with one another, begging the question, why? This is an emotionally charged subject, making it even more important for us to know what the scripture says to guide us through the minefield of emotions this topic stirs up in us, especially those who are grieving.
Dr. Hitchcock lays out what he calls the ABC’s of Near Death Experiences, and also looks not only at those accounts of trips to heaven, but trips to hell as well. There are three helpful appendixes to the book:
- Answers to Common Questions about Death and Heaven
- Recommended Books on Heaven and the Afterlife
- Scripture Passages about Heaven
Together all this material helps us to focus on the things we do know, be at peace with the things we don’t know, and lay aside the things we discover to be error. Because like it or not, all these accounts cannot be true, the vast differences in the accounts cannot be explained away. Some have subsequently been exposed as untrue by the person who allegedly had the experience, and LifeWay Christian stores has removed the entire genre from their stores, you can read about that here.
I have always appreciated the way Dr. Hitchcock approaches with respect those who hold to different positions than he does. His pastor’s heart is evidenced in this book by the care he takes to encourage and not discourage those who have turned to these books for answers. A book you may also consider is 55 Answers to Questions about Life After Death, also by Mark Hitchcock. Concise answers help the follower of Jesus know how to answers questions for people who are unfamiliar with the scriptures, as well as bring comfort to their own hearts.
Visits to Heaven will not only answer many questions, it will also help us to learn how to think critically and biblically. Today, we need that more than ever. This is an important book to add to your library.
Read well, friends.