2 Corinthians 12:4b
…and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
In his book, “Ninety Minutes in Heaven”, Pastor Don Piper describes what some would call an out-of-body experience. After a serious car accident, Pastor Piper believes he died and went to heaven for ninety minutes. However, we really don’t know for certain if he actually saw heaven and spent time there — only God does.
From my perspective, we need to be very careful with Pastor Piper’s conclusions from a theological point of view. He says, now that he has “been to heaven”, he can speak “with more authority” than before. At funerals, his words of comfort to family members “are spoken with greater conviction.” Although some of this is good, I still think it is very dangerous ground. Why? Because anyone is wrong who states that their own personal experience has given them more authority to manage the hope of heaven than the perfect truth of Scripture. What if Pastor Piper’s memory of the event drifted somewhat in the retelling? What if he had a different “dream” that caused him to lose hope for eternity? And what if people who were desperate to find hope, found or lost it by following a pastor or other person, and not the Lord?
On the surface, Pastor Piper’s experience seems to be similar to the one Paul has been discussing in our present section of Scripture. However, there are a few glaring differences: first, Paul hadn’t spoken of it for over fourteen years; second, he didn’t claim it as his own experience (it was far too personal); and third, it was impossible and prohibited for Paul to describe what he saw (our passage today). The way Paul handled his own “out-of-body” experience makes me somewhat skeptical of anyone who “died” on the operating table (or in some other way), and then returns to write a book about it. Paul’s response was to immediately go back to preaching the Gospel — not write a book about it.
Questions to Ponder:
My hope is placed in Christ alone, not in the experiences of any man or woman. Stories of heaven, like Pastor Piper’s, are just that — stories — and should be treated as such. We must let the Lord and His Word be our inspiration. What is the source of your hope?