by Mike Benson
Some months ago I stumbled across a title in the local religious bookstore — “90 Minutes In Heaven.” The back of the book offered the following information:
“On the way home from a conference, Don Piper’s car was crushed by a semi that crossed into his lane. Medical personnel said he died instantly. While his body lay lifeless inside the ruins of his car, Piper experienced the glories of heaven, awed by its beauty and music.”
How do we deal with this and similar kinds of claims? Do we simply accept them at face value and add this alleged information to what little we know from the Bible? Is it unloving or unchristian to compare Mr. Piper’s beliefs, claims, and teachings to what the Word of God has to say? May I kindly suggest real love exposes and corrects when error is taught (1 John 4:1; 1 Peter 1:16).
It is not my goal, nor intent, to judge Mr. Piper’s sincerity. I don’t know his heart. I’m inclined to believe that a person is being honest unless there is significant evidence to the contrary. Having said that, it is possible to be sincere, and yet wrong (Acts 26:9; Proverbs 14:12).
With these thoughts in mind, permit me to make a few observations for your personal study. Consider:
1. There’s a critical difference between a man who claims he was dead for ninety minutes and a man who had no respiration, nor pulse, and a flat EEG for four days (e.g., Lazarus–John 11:17). Clinical death is obviously reversible; biological death is not.
2. The only people who ever really came back from a state of biological death are those very few people in Scripture that the Lord or one of His prophets or disciples raised (examples: Luke 8:54-55; 7:14-15; Acts 20:8-12).
3. I find it interesting that of the generally few examples of resurrection in the Bible, not a single individual came back to tell his peers what it was like on the other side. None of them ever authored a book about their experiences or made the talk show circuit. And yet, somehow, Mr. Piper was able to penetrate the veil of the grave and bring us back that which Scripture has not revealed. Ponder that (1 Peter 1:3).
4. Peter taught at Pentecost, “For David did not ascend into the heavens…” (Acts 2:34). David’s body experienced corruption, while his spirit went to Hades (not Hell, cf. Acts 2:29; Revelation 1:18; 20:13; Luke 16:22-23). Since David’s spirit is in the unseen realm of departed spirits, awaiting the resurrection (John 5:28-29), and NOT in heaven, how is it that Mr. Piper has been able to visit where the Shepherd King has not?
5. We need to be cautious about elevating the recorded experiences of modern, uninspired men to the point that they are equal or even superior to the Word of God (cf. Romans 3:4).
I’m forced to conclude that Don Piper did not go to heaven as he has alleged in his book (cf. John 3:13). Friends, the ONLY reliable source of information about the afterlife is the Bible. And any experience a person claims to have had must ultimately be evaluated by the Word of God.