9 Minute Read + Scripture readings
Today’s Bible Reading:
Today’s Bible Verse(s):
2 Corinthians 12:3–4 (CSB): “I know that this man—whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know; God knows—4 was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a human being is not allowed to speak.”
Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):
I remember a time when I was gathered with a group of Christians. We were enjoying food and lite conversation.
Then, one of the ladies asked: “We are hearing about people who have died, gone to Heaven, and then come back to tell us about the experience. What does the Bible say about that?”
I LOVE those kinds of questions. They are relevant to contemporary culture and they seek an answer from God’s Word on the matter.
Well, what would you say? How would you answer?
Before I recount how I answered, let me highlight one of the many benefits of reading God’s Word and writing about a verse or two every single day. Because I engage in this practice, I am forced to think deeply about a biblical subject and try to present it in a cogent manner. Doing so has enabled me to continually build a database of knowledge from which I can tap into when “tough” questions come up.
“Reading maketh a full man; conference (conversation) a ready man; and writing an exact man.” – Francis Bacon
Well, when I heard the question about out-of-body experiences, my mind was immediately drawn to the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16, particularly the last part of the story.
Let’s dig into the story…
Luke 16:27-28 (CSB): “‘Father,’ he said, ‘then I beg you to send him to my father’s house – because I have five brothers – to warn them, so they won’t also come to this place of torment.’”
Notice how the Rich Man begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to his (the Rich Man’s brothers). He was asking for Lazarus to have an “out-of-body experience.”
The Rich Man believed that if Lazarus could go back to earth to tell people what Heaven is like, then it would be a powerful evangelistic opportunity.
Now, listen to Abraham’s response…
Luke 16:29 (CSB): “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’”
Abraham would have none of it. He puts no stock in “out-of-body experiences.” His trust was in the Word of God.
When he said “Moses and the Prophets,” he was referring to the Old Testament that was readily available to the Jews of the 1st century. Abraham clearly discounted “out-of-body experiences” and highlighted the incredible value of the Bible.
Clearly, the Rich Man (in the place of torment) and Abraham (in Paradise) disagreed as to the value of God’s Word…
Luke 16:30 (CSB): “No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’”
Abraham, who is in Paradise, honored God’s Word. He believed that true saving repentance would come to those who were confronted with God’s Word, brought to a point of conviction over their sin and guilt, and then repented before God.
But, the Rich Man, who had an unconverted heart in Hell, did not value God’s Word. He believed that it is insufficient. He was thoroughly convinced that an “out-of-body experience” would be much more powerful and effective than the Bible.
Friend, can we stop here and just say that this is the lie that so many in contemporary Christendom have bought into? There has been a substantial number of books and movies that have been produced in the past 15 or so years in which someone who apparently experienced an “out-of-body experience” came back to tell us what Heaven is like.
And so many in contemporary Christianity have played the part of the fool, spending their money to watch a movie so that they can hear someone, sometimes even a toddler, tell them what Heaven is like. (Click the Play button to watch the following movie trailer.)
I know that I used harsh language a few moments ago (“played the part of the fool”) but let me restate what I said:
Christians, who want to be respected by the world, spent their money at a movie theater to listen to a toddler tell them about Heaven rather than spending time studying God’s Word (free of charge). Friend, doing such things makes us look foolish to the world who already thinks that they would have to check their brains at the door to become a Christian. And we lose credibility when we say that we highly regard the Bible. The world simply doesn’t believe us.
And then there are books like: “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.” Money was made hand over fist as Christians bought the book and devoured it.
… and then we learned that the whole shorty was a lie, a bunch of malarkey (click here for story).
Friend, we will either fall for the insanity of reading books and watching movies to hear what children can tell us about Heaven … or we will believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. It cannot do both.
If you believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, that God has told us everything that we need to know in order to be “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17), then you will find these books and movies disappointing, maybe even appalling. And it will break your heart that so many “Christians” would rather get their theology from toddlers and children than from the Word of God.
Might I also mention that as I have watched, “Heaven is Real,” and read through a couple of books in this genre, that God’s Word is rarely (if ever) quoted. Essentially, the testimony of an eyewitness who had an out-of-body experience trumps the authority of God’s Word.
The fact that so many Christians don’t notice this, or don’t care, should cause us to grieve over the state of Christendom in 21st century America.
Friend, I hope you realize, like Abraham, that God’s Word (not people’s supposed experiences) is the final authority.
Luke 16:30-31 (CSB): “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said. ‘But if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ But he (Abraham) told him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”
Scripture is so clear on this matter, isn’t it?
The Bible is authoritative. Out-of-body experiences are not.
The Bible is the final and ultimate authority for leading people to Christ. Out-of-body experiences are seen by those in Heaven to have no evangelistic value.
One final thought: What are we to make of the stories of people who have supposedly experienced out-of-body experiences? Do they happen or don’t they?
My answer is that a few people among us have experienced something. We just lack the ability to properly interpret what they experienced.
In fact, if the Apostle Paul was referring to himself in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 (and I believe he was), it appears that he had an “out-of-body experience.” But, notice in the following, final Scriptures that he was keenly aware of his inability to understand exactly what was going on. Further, he waited 14 years before saying anything about it and only said a few words (no book or movie deal).
2 Corinthians 12:1-5 (CSB): “Boasting is necessary. It is not profitable, but I will move on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether he was in the body or out of the body, I don’t know; God knows. I know that this man — whether in the body or out of the body I don’t know; God knows — was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a human being is not allowed to speak. I will boast about this person, but not about myself, except of my weaknesses.”
So, as people of the Word, we rely upon Scripture as our ultimate and final authority, not on people’s experiences.
Do you believe this? Friend, I sure hope you do.
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Lord Jesus, I say that I am a Bible-believer. But, there may be times when my actions demonstrate otherwise. I pray that I would become an even more devout and passionate student of Your Word, allowing Your Holy Spirit to teach me what it says and how it applies. I want to be a thinking Christians who fills my mind with Your Word. Amen.