The Gospel for Christians

90 Minutes in Heaven

Sometimes I wonder how many times this book sells because people assume it was written by JOHN Piper.  If you aren’t familiar with either Don or John, let me introduce them to you.  Don Piper is a pastor who has written a book chronicling his experiences surrounding a terrible automobile accident.  He believes that he died and spent 90 minutes in heaven before God miraculously brought him back to life.

John Piper, on the other hand, also a preacher, has written dozens of books in which he presents the glorious gospel of the Savior, Jesus Christ, who died on a cross and suffered the condemnation and wrath of God that sinful humanity deserves so that those who are united with him through faith can experience reconciliation with God and the full enjoyment of God’s glory for all eternity in heaven.

In this post, I want to take a brief look at DON Piper’s book in the light of Scripture…

My 14 year old son read D.P.’s book and liked it initially, but the more we talked about it together, the more we came to the conclusion that there was something wrong.  Any experience that a believer has needs to be held up to the Word of God and evaluated in its light.  When we did this to D.P.’s experience we found the following problems.

1.  D.P.’s “experience of heaven” didn’t include Jesus

Surely Jesus is the “principal attraction” of heaven and would be prominent in any genuine experience.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” and in Philippians 1:23, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” When we die, we will immediately be with Jesus. We will not be in a tunnel and we will not be in heaven “waiting” to see him. I think that based on these scriptures it is safe to assume that Jesus will be the very first person or thing that we see when we die. D.P.’s experience just doesn’t seem to fit with these verses. Does that mean that he is a bad person or intentionally trying to deceive people? Absolutely not, but he needs to look at his experience and seek to understand it in light of Scripture.

It also strikes me that a friend of mine who follows another major world religion has had four surgeries and describes very similar experiences to what many Christians claim to have experienced through near death experiences–being in a long mirrored tunnel with very bright light at the other end. In his case, it strikes me as a demonic deception that he is “OK with God” spiritually and ready to die, and not a genuine experience of whatever lies beyond the grave for him.

2.  Scripture is clear that man dies only once.

Nowhere in Scripture is there any account of someone going “halfway.” There are, however, plenty of examples of people who actually died physically and were raised back to life, both before and after Christ. God certainly raises the dead and he may very well have raised Don Piper from the dead! But I find it interesting that in every single one of these recorded biblical resurrections absolutely nothing is ever said about what these individuals experienced.

Scripture also says that it is “appointed for man to die once, and then comes the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). In my thinking, the only way to understand Heb. 9:27 in light of the many recorded resurrections is that when those individuals died, even though they died physically, their souls did not go to heaven. I certainly don’t believe in the erroneous doctrine of “soul sleep”, but I think that this is a reasonable understanding of Heb. 9:27. When God determines to raise someone from the dead, he knows that it is not their time to die, and so he doesn’t take their soul to heaven, but rather restores physical life to their body. I understand that this is just an inference on my part, but I think it is a reasonable one.

3.  Scripture is clear that “back from the dead” experiences will not bring people to faith.

Isn’t it interesting that none of the resurrected individuals recorded in Scripture shared their experience with others? Perhaps it is because there was nothing to share! And even if there was some sort of experience to share, Jesus made it clear in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 that such experiences are not what God has sovereignly determined to use in the conversion of sinners. Luke 16:31 “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” Rather, “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:21)

What is lacking in D.P.’s book is the clear, straightforward presentation of the simple biblical gospel, (the one the other Piper preaches). Testimonies are great, but they should point to our wonderful Savior and what he did for us when he took our punishment upon himself so that we might be reconciled to the Father.

If you want to read my son’s review of the book, you can find it here.

6 Responses to 90 Minutes in Heaven

  1. Rene Jorgensen says:

    This book is not only a question of how to interpret scripture but also how to interpret the Near Death Experience that Piper had. It’s a good book and Piper should be congratulated for sharing his Near Death Experience. Only readers should be aware of one serious mistake he makes in the book which is to jump from hearing songs praising Jesus and meeting fellow Christians in heaven to religious fundamentalism. Research of Near Death Experiences show that there is no evidence to support that heaven is exclusively for Christians, or a narrow interpretation of the Bible, as experiences of heaven happen in all cultures and religions. Cross cultural studies of Near Death Experiences show that the Golden Rule truly means that we must love our neighbor – even if this person is of another faith – and “hell” is not something we can simply throw around when we disagree with people. If you have not fallen asleep in Christ, or simply use reason as well, and want to know what people who have Near Death Experiences truly experience in Heaven, have a look at my book Behind 90 Minutes in Heaven.

    • Bryan Jay says:

      Hi Rene,

      It seems that most of the comments I’ve been getting on my blog recently are from people promoting their own books! I guess that’s not a problem… we are all excited to share our opinions I guess.

      But the purpose of my blog is to go beyond the subjective, relativistic world of experiences and opinions to the rock-solid revelation that our Creator God has given us in his inspired word, the Bible.

      You mention research that points to non-Christians being in heaven, but if your research is based on near-death experiences, how can you be sure that what your informants experienced was really heaven? How do you know that it wasn’t a psychological phenomenon or a spiritual deception?

      Heaven is not about bright lights at the end of tunnels and angels flitting around and people with harps strumming lethargically. It is the white hot presence of God himself–the very God that we as a race rejected at the beginning of history and continue to reject daily. God is too pure and holy for us to come into his presence with that sin of rejection on our record. That’s why Jesus, God in human flesh, came to earth as a baby and grew up and offered his life on the cross as a substitute for us, taking upon himself the punishment that we deserve.

      I invite you to a new kind of research… instead of the subjectivity of looking at people’s experiences, check out the Bible. I trust that by God’s grace you will be enabled to see it for what it really is, an authoritative word from God himself on everything it is important for us to know about… including what heaven is like, and how we can get there through Jesus.


  2. Uriah T. says:

    Thank you for redirecting to Into the Book. Hopefully a lot of people will be warned about this failing in Mr. Piper’s book!

    In Him,
    Uriah T.

    • Bryan Jay says:

      No problem, Uriah. I don’t mind at all linking to quality websites like yours! Keep up the good work of reading critically and holding up everything to the infallible light of God’s inspired Word.


  3. Judy says:

    This 90 Minutes in Heaven movie opened yesterday. On one hand I’m really glad people are hearing about heaven, but does the film make it clear the only way to go is through Jesus Christ?

    Also, how do we know Don Piper actually visited heaven? It may have been a dream or he could even be lying, we just can’t verify it. Yes, we can verify heaven is for real in the Bible, but not any person’s claim to have been there. That’s the problem with these books and movies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m really happy people are talking about the reality of heaven. But does the book and movie clarify that heaven is only for born-again Christians? If not, I’m concerned it may give a lot of people the wrong impression that everyone who dies goes to heaven.

    Of course we know heaven is true, but when you’re dealing with movies such as 90 minutes in Heaven it’s not the Bible we are questioning or trusting, but a man’s story. It’s not that I don’t want to believe him. He may have had a dream about heaven and thought he went there. How do I know? I don’t see how we can ever really know for sure, that’s the problem.

    • Bryan Jay says:

      You’re absolutely right, Judy. The problem with books like this is that it puts experience above the authority of God’s Word. There is much in the book that indicates that Don Piper was not in heaven because it contradicts so many clear teachings of scripture, as I have mentioned in the post. When people are more fascinated by someone’s unverifiable experience than they are by the authoritative teachings of God’s Word, then we have a problem.

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