No Visit to Heaven After All

 

 

No Visit to Heaven After All

Richard Hollerman

Most of us have seen advertisements of a book that has been circulated far and wide. I refer to the book entitled, “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond this World” by Alex Malarkey. Numerous readers have eagerly read the account with the hope of finding out something of the life beyond. Evidently they want something to comfort their hearts for their own benefit and also want assurance for those loved ones who have departed. Maybe they want some human testimony that would reveal facts that Scripture hasn’t mentioned.

The book is described in this way on the Amazon site:

In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex—and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. “I think that Alex has gone to be with Jesus,” a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels who took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just terrible to a six-year-old. And most amazing of all . . . of meeting and talking to Jesus. The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven is the New York Times bestselling true story of an ordinary boy’s most extraordinary journey. As you see heaven and earth through Alex’s eyes, you’ll come away with new insights on miracles, life beyond this world, and the power of a father’s love. (amazon.com/Boy-Who- Came-Back- Heaven/dp/1414390211/ ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie= UTF8&qid =1421780534 &sr=1- 1&keywords=Alex+Malarkey %27s+ The+Boy+Who+Came+ Back+from+Heaven% 3A+A+Remarkable+  Account+of+Miracles%2C+ Angels%2C+and+Life+ Beyond+ This+World&pebp =1421780388944& peasin=1414390211).

But not all has been positive. Many “Christian” leaders have either expressed doubts on the authenticity of the account or outright disapproval. They point out that we are not to rely on personal testimonies like this, especially from a young child. What kind of verification is available that the child was telling the truth and reporting accurately?

Now the truth has come out—after eleven years. Alex Malarkey, who now has become a teenager, has openly admitted that he lied about the trip to heaven. He lied about the music he heard, the view of angels, and speaking with Jesus. In other words, he fabricated it. The account was not real for it never happened. Further, Malarkey had not died as he had claimed. As he put it, he was “seeking attention,” thus he concocted the story that was believed by many millions of readers and viewers.

One news organization describes it in this way:

In this Jan. 9, 2009 file photo, Beth Malarkey, left, covers up her son, Alex, right, with a blanket after surgery as Alex’s father, Kevin, watches at University Hospital’s Case Western Reserve Medical Center in Cleveland. Alex Malarkey was in a 2004 car crash left him paralyzed below the neck and was receiving an artificial breathing device. Spokesman Todd Starowitz of Tyndale House, a leading Christian publisher, confirmed Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, that Alex Malarkey’s “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond This World” was being withdrawn. Earlier this week, Alex Malarkey acknowledged in an open letter that he was lying, saying that he had been seeking attention. The book was first published in 2010. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File) (sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/ 2067230-155/best-seller- about-journey-to- heaven-is).

The story and background of the little boy’s tale was explained as follows from one reliable source:

Spokesman Todd Starowitz of Tyndale House, a leading Christian publisher, confirmed Friday that Alex Malarkey’s The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life Beyond This World was being withdrawn. Earlier this week, Malarkey acknowledged in an open letter that he was lying, saying that he had been seeking attention. He also regretted that “people had profited from lies.”

“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” he wrote. “When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough.”

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven was first published in 2010 and told of a 2004 auto accident which left Malarkey in a coma. According to the book, co-written by Alex’s father, Kevin Malarkey, he had visions of angels and of meeting Jesus. In 2014, Tyndale reissued The Boy, which on the cover includes the billing “A True Story.”

The facts of The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven have long been disputed in the Christian community, which has challenged reports of divine visions in Malarkey’s book and other best-sellers such as Todd Burpo’s Heaven is for Real. Last June, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution declaring “the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.” One of the leading critics has been Malarkey’s mother, Beth. In April 2014, she wrote a blog posting saying that the book’s success had been “both puzzling and painful to watch” and that she believed Alex had been exploited.

“I could talk about how much it has hurt my son tremendously and even make financial statements public that would prove that he has not received moneys from the book nor have a majority of his needs been funded by it,” she wrote.

“What I have walked through with Alex over the past nine years has nearly broken me personally and spiritually. I have wept so deeply for what I have watched my children go through, been made aware of how ignorant I was of some things, how selfish I was, and how biblically illiterate I was which allowed me to be deceived!”

onenewsnow.com/ap/ religion/best-seller- about-journey-to- heaven-is-pulled? utm_source=OneNews Now&utm_medium= email&utm_term=16780139 &utm_content=65720578211 6&utm_campaign=18128#. VLlpC2_nYuQ).

This is not the only account of someone going to heaven (or even hell!) and living to tell about it. Another very popular account is of a 4-year-old boy who “died” and this is recounted in the book, Heaven is for Real. This book is described as follows at Amazon:

A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.

Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn’t know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.

Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how “reaaally big” God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit “shoots down power” from heaven to help us.

Told by the father, but often in Colton’s own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle. (amazon.com/Heaven- Real-Little-Astounding- Story/dp/0849946158/ ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie= UTF8&qid=1421792696 &sr=1-1&keywords= HEAVEN+IS+FOR+ REAL&pebp=14217925 51858&peasin=849946158).

Other accounts are likewise as spectacular. I attended a Charismatic convention one time and the guest speaker told of his “trip to heaven.” He told of all sorts of amazing things he saw in this celestial experience. The audience loved it!

A number of points become clear as we consider this case of dishonesty and mass belief of this lie by Malarkey. These points would have been doubted by some who gave ultimate trust in this story, but now it is much clearer. Here are some of the lessons we should learn from Malarkey’s story as well as other accounts of trips to heaven and hell:

First, we must not believe every spiritual story that arises in popular religion. This was true in the first century and it is likewise true today. John the apostle warned, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whet6her they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 5:1; cf. vv. 2-6). While this little boy (and his preacher father) may not technically be “false prophets” in the sense that John had in mind, we can say that a spirit—a false spirit—was involved in this deception. Further, we are to “test” such spirits to determine the truthfulness or falseness of their claim. Readers should have been more discerning about this and tested what the little boy was claiming.

Second, we must be reminded that it is very easy to be deceived, especially by a story or account that we really want to believe is factual. It is true regarding false claims of healing in the charismatic and Pentecostal community, but it is also true in popular religion as represented by Alex Malarkey and his father. Again and again, we read of warnings, “Do not be deceived” (Galatians 6:7a; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 15:33; Luke 21:8; James 1:16; 1 John 3:7). Paul adds, “Let no man deceive himself” (1 Corinthians 3:18). We can be deceived by others and we can deceive ourselves. In this case, the boy deceived vast numbers of people in the world, and likewise millions of readers and viewers wanted to believe the child’s account and chose to be deceived by a nice-sounding story. They failed to take the warnings of Scripture to heart.

Third, we must remember that Scripture gives no warrant to the idea that people can actually travel to heaven and return to earth to tell the story. Paul experienced some form of “visit” to heaven or paradise, but he was absolutely forbidden to tell anyone what he remembered about the experience. He said that “man is not permitted to speak” of such an event (2 Corinthians 12:4b). Further, there is no suggestion that anyone else can be taken to heaven where he or she might see and hear anything. Peter said that his readers had not “seen” Christ Jesus, but those who claim a trip to haven often say that they have seen the glorified Christ. What we say about heaven is likewise true of hell. There have actually been people who claim they have been taken to hell—the actual “lake of fire”! No, as in the case of heaven, no one has actually been taken to hell.

Fourth, Scripture emphasizes that God speaks to us through the written Word—the Bible. The Hebrew writer said, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (4:12a). Paul wrote, “We also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The writings of the apostles and prophets are God’s word to us; we need not seek for something greater and higher or more spectacular.

Fifth, the testimony of a single person is suspect and must not be believed. People can claim all kinds of experiences but when there is no verification of the experience, we should forthrightly reject it. Without “two or three witnesses” we should not accept accounts of personal experiences (cf. 1 Timothy 5:19; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; cf. Hebrews 10:28). We would wonder why anyone would accept the story of a young child who testifies to something that he claims to have experienced. But this is precisely what happened in the case of Malarkey.

Sixth, often money is a key ingredient in outrageous claims such as this. Peter wrote of false prophets in his day: “In their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:3a). Since so many copies of Malarkey’s book were sold, there must have been a substantial sum of money that came.  Tyndale House, the publisher, has now discontinued the book but what about the massive amount of money they received from this lie over the years? And what about the great amount of royalty paid to Malarkey and his family? Will they all make restitution? We don’t know what was paid and what will happen to this publishing profit, but we know that it will be a great temptation to keep all of this money regardless of the fabrication.

Alex Malarkey has finally admitted his lie and the fact that he misled everyone through his testimony, his book, and his movie. But what if he had not admitted this? Probably millions of people in America and elsewhere would continue to believe this lie.

Hopefully this experience has forced us to face this example of personal experience and personal testimony with honesty so that we might be warned not to fall for the same kind of deception again. Further, we hope that people will become aware that false witnesses are making all kinds of claims to having “heard” from God and now they will be much more apt to reject this kind of story. Scripture warns us: “A faithful witness will not lie, but a false witness speaks lies” (Proverbs 14:5). In this case, Malarkey was a “false witness” (and we wonder if his parents and others were as well) who spoke lies.

The written Word of God is what we need and anything that differs from what is written must be rejected. All Scripture is inspired by God and is “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Further reading:

nytimes.com/aponline/ 2015/01/16/arts/ ap-us-heaven-book -pulled.html?_r=0

sunherald.com/2015/01 /16/6021270/best-  seller-about-journey-to-heaven.html

utsandiego.com/news/2015/ jan/16/boy-who-came -back-from-heaven/

 

 

 

 

 


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