To wonder about the afterlife is to be human, is it not? I’m fairly convinced that while our feline and canine friends wistfully dream of apprehending mice and enjoying postal workers as chew toys, they are not in the least concerned about animal after-life.
But people have a unique sense of eternity that draws them to stories like Heaven is for Real. Our obsession with information, coupled with the need for reassurance, results in a fascination with all things heaven and hell.
If you’ve not read the book, this real life story follows the unlikely events of a pastor and his family in rural Nebraska. Little four-year-old Colton Burpo was undergoing emergency surgery, when he was granted a visit to heaven.
During this vision or near death experience, he witnessed and gained knowledge that would otherwise be impossible in the normal course of his life.
- He met an unborn sister who died in her mother’s womb – even though he had no prior awareness of her existence.
- He spent time with his great-grandfather, and was able to recognize him in a photo that his dad showed him.
- And he even witnessed the whereabouts of his mom and dad when they were praying for him during his surgery!
In our skeptical and perhaps even jaded culture, we would be tempted to write this story off as an hallucination or the product of previously placed images in Colton’s consciousness. In fact, those factors may even provide a plausible explanation for much of what Colton claims.
But it doesn’t and couldn’t account for all of what happened that day…
The power of this story, to me, lies in that reminder that there is much more to this life than we could even begin to imagine – and at the end of our short time on earth, there is a specific and definite reality into which we enter for eternity.
My conviction about this truth, however, is not founded in a best-selling book or heart-wrenching movie. While stories like Heaven is For Real add dimension to the veracity of the afterlife, I place my trust in the man who was given the same experience and wrote about it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit:
I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
The Apostle Paul was granted the incredible opportunity to visit heaven, either in a vision or in the body, and it was so astonishingly mind-blowing that he couldn’t even put his experience into human language! It may even be that if he was allowed to describe his round trip vacation to heaven, it would cause permanent dissatisfaction with this life for everyone who heard.
Why? Not because of blooming flowers or reunions with loved ones, but because of a Person. Heaven is heaven because Jesus is there – and He is the reason we anxiously anticipate the day we look into the eyes of our Savior.
Here’s the way Pastor John Piper puts it:
If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?
― John Piper
God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself
Yes, heaven is for real – and it is heaven, indeed, because we have the hope and assurance of meeting Jesus face-to-face. In the meantime, let’s not just read books and watch movies about the reality of heaven – let’s tell as many people as we can, as often as we can, about the place that will be greater than we can possible imagine. If heaven is real for you, share this truth with others! It’s news too good to keep to yourself.
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Heaven is For Real opens the doors for sharing the gospel with our friends and making disciples who make disciples. Don’t miss this great opportunity to tell people about the greatest place and the greatest Person in the universe!
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Jesus, thank You for creating heaven and giving us the hope of being with You face-to-face for eternity. Bless our efforts to let people know about heaven and the reality of salvation.
Read: 1 Corinthians 2:9.
That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”
Get: Then What? Need help launching into a spiritual conversation with your friends who need Jesus? Use this short, free YouTube video that raises the question “What happens after we die?” (Youth leaders, this clip is part of Dare 2 Share’s new, five week youth group resource, Salt…Creating Thirst, which focuses in on a different conversation starting video clip each week.)
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Big Idea: Heaven is for Real is a fascinating story about heaven, but we need to put our trust in God’s Word and look forward to being with Jesus.
Key Scripture: 2 Corinthians 12:2-4
- Do you think Colton actually went to heaven? Why or why not?
- How would you answer the question that John Piper asks about heaven?
- Will this movie make people more open to the gospel? Why or why not?
- How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause of making disciples who make disciples?