“Heaven tourism” is a phrase I believe was coined by blogger Tim Challies, picked up and used frequently by teacher and lecturer Justin Peters. It is a phrase indicating that a person has had some sort of trauma like a car crash or medical issue, or perhaps was in desperate emotional state, and in the unconscious portion of their trauma, they claimed to have visited heaven.
When ‘coming to’ they remember their alleged visit or vision, and write it down, later to become a book or a movie.
None of these visits are real. No person has gone to heaven and returned, (John 3:13; Deuteronomy 30:12) with the exception of the few persons in the Bible such as John, Paul, Ezekiel, or Isaiah and having subsequently written inspired text. John Gill’s Commentary says of the John 3:13 verse:
And no man hath ascended into heaven,…. Though Enoch and Elias had, yet not by their own power, nor in the sense our Lord designs; whose meaning is, that no man had, or could go up to heaven, to bring from thence the knowledge of divine and heavenly things; in which sense the phrase is used in Deuteronomy 30:12
John MacAthur’s sermon says of the John 3:13 verse,
You either take what Jesus says, or you’re a fool because, you can’t ascend into heaven and find the answers for yourself.
And yet these books keep coming. it is part of the demonic delusion and apostasy that satan, god of this world, instills in the vulnerable, ignorant, or hapless.
A new book is out by a man named John Burke. You see in his summary below that he did the typically wrong approach to biblical interpretation. He collected man’s stories and experiences, affirming them as true and credible, and then compared them to the Bible. He is in effect saying that the experience, simply because it occurred and mimicked something from holy text, that it must be true. The blurb says, their ‘experiences point to the heaven promised in the Bible’. Well, it’s the Bible that points to heaven, and as a matter of fact, the Bible’s version of anything is the only credible word on anything, because it comes from God, who cannot lie.
Burke shows how the common experiences shared by thousands of near-death survivors–including doctors, college professors, bank presidents, people of all ages and cultures, and even blind people–point to the exhilarating picture of Heaven promised in the Bible.
This thrilling journey into the afterlife will make you feel like you’ve been there, forever changing the way you view the life to come–and the way you live your life today. You’ll discover Heaven is even more amazing than you’ve ever imagined.
We should be exhilarated at the glorious future awaiting us not because John Burke said so. We should be exhilarated by our glorious future not based on the flimsy experiences of man but by the word of God as revealed in the Bible. These heaven tourism books, like the one above, are specifically saying to you, “Never mind what God said about heaven, John Burke’s version will exhilarate you! Joe Schmoe’s tale will really get you going!” Blasphemous, isn’t it.
The Bible says we never look to experience first, it can be faulty. We look to God’s word first. Even the Apostles who were privileged to see a vision of Jesus transfigured along with Moses and Elijah, said that they do not preach their experience but test all things against the word of God. If that was the Apostle’s approach, men whom the Lord chose to carry His first message and were personally taught by Him, and who later wrote His words by Spirit-inspiration, would have preached their experience. But none of them did.
How much more important would it be for us today to follow their command and avoid preaching our experience? More to the point, how much more prideful and narcissistic is it to reject their commands and do it anyway? (2 Peter 1:20).
Do not preach your experience. Here is an excerpt from an essay written by Dr Bob Luginbill from the University of Louisville titled Scripture versus Personal Experience. I’m not familiar overall with the teaching of Dr Luginbill, but everything I read on this page discussing scripture vs. experience is explained well and accurately from the Bible.
In reality, of course, God is the One who determines how and when He communicates to us, and as it says in the book of Hebrews, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son”, even though before the incarnation He had spoken to us via prophets “at many times and in various ways” (Heb.1:1-2 NIV). So it is Jesus who is the Message; and He is “the Word of God” (Rev.19:13). We now have the whole written word of Him who is the Living Word, and that is the place to which we are now to direct our attention, namely to the truth of the holy scriptures. And we can certainly do so, because not only do we all have Bibles, and not only is the Body equipped with teachers who can illuminate it for us, but we all also actually have the Holy Spirit indwelling us for illumination, and He is “the [very] Mind of Christ”
It certainly made sense for God to speak directly to, say, Enoch, before the Bible existed in any form. But if He really were communicating directly to believers in a verbal way today, wouldn’t that undermine the authority of the Bible, and all pastor-teachers, and in fact everything anyone else might say or have said to us except this special person – because after all the person with that special channel would be getting it directly from God. But the Lord has established His Church for a reason, and the mutual support we give each other for learning the truth is a very large part of what we are supposed to be about – this service is a large part of the basis for our eternal rewards. If there were a direct channel, we wouldn’t need each other much at all.
I do not recommend the Burke heaven tourism book or any of the books in this panorama below, many of which I have read myself and have found them to be unbiblical.
If you want to read books that are based on the Bible’s presentation of heaven, please consider some of the following. I’ve read all of them.
John MacArthur: The Glory of Heaven
A quick look at a list of bestselling books and you’ll see that heaven is a hot topic. After all, who doesn’t wonder and long to know more about the place you’ll forever live in the presence of God, untouched by sorrow, pain, and fear. What will it be like? What will you do in heaven? How will you recognize and relate to loved ones there?
The problem is, runaway books about heaven are selling—and misleading people—by the millions. They are filled with fabricated, fictional accounts that claim to tell the truth about heaven. John MacArthur critiques those claims—and offers an in-depth, biblical explanation of God’s eternal city—in a fully revised, new edition of The Glory of Heaven. You’ll discover what the Bible really teaches about your glorious future home.
Erwin Lutzer: One Minute After You Die
“One minute after you die you will either be elated or terrified. And it will be too late to reroute your travel plans.”
Death comes to all, and yet death is not the end. For some, death is the beginning of unending bliss, for others, unending despair. In this latest edition of the bestselling book One Minute After You Die, Pastor Erwin W. Lutzer weighs the Bible’s words on life after death. He considers: Channeling, reincarnation, and near-death experiences; What heaven and hell will be like; The justice of eternal punishment; Trusting in God’s providence.
Randy Alcorn: Heaven
What will heaven be like? Randy Alcorn presents a thoroughly biblical answer, based on years of careful study, presented in an engaging, reader-friendly style. His conclusions will surprise readers and stretch their thinking about this important subject. Heaven will inspire readers to long for heaven while they’re living on earth.
Randy Alcorn/Charles Spurgeon: We Shall See God- Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven
Some of Spurgeon’s most powerful sermons were those that he preached on the topic of Heaven. … Randy Alcorn has compiled the most profound spiritual insights on the topic of eternity from these sermons and arranged them into an easily-accessible highly inspirational devotional format complete with his own comments and devotional thoughts.
The Bible is the only reliable source regarding heaven. Honor our Jesus, who descended from his abode in glory to live as a man on an earth whose ground had been cursed, absorbed all God’s wrath meant for us, died a horrible, humiliating death, and was buried in a borrowed tomb. His life of preaching and teaching and the Spirit’s subsequent inspired texts should be honored as the first and the last word. If you would rather look at heaven through Joe Schmoe’s eyes and not through the Spirit’s truth, you have a serious problem.
A Justin Peters video teaching: Heavenly Tourism (one hour)
Tim Challies on the topic of Heaven Tourism