Movies about Heaven are nothing new. Old films like Heaven Can Wait, What Dream May Come, and even the animated All Dogs Go to Heaven have played on our concepts of eternity. Recently though, films like these have taken on a much more serious tone. The sudden surge in Christian media has turned Heaven from a place of mystery into a real location viewers want to see, feel, and experience. While this can be an effective tool for ministry, it still comes with its own set of problems, namely, creating a version of Heaven that’s contrary to scripture.
In a recent interview with The Christian Post, professor Scot McKnight shared his concern that films like 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is For Real were leading people away from a true understanding of God and His Kingdom. He states,
“’I find that, with many people either going to movies or reading these books and stories of near death experiences, I find that people believe these stories because they're so compelling and powerful and real, so people believe that they must be what Heaven is like.’”
“McKnight, who has studied more than 100 NDE stories, said believers should not rely on them as fact because they are not consistent with the Bible.”
“‘If we study what the Bible says about Heaven, we will come to the conclusion that what the Bible says about Heaven is seriously out of synch with what NDEs tell us about Heaven and that deeply concerns me,’ he continued. ‘I believe that reliance upon these stories can harm Christian theology and a biblical understanding of what Heaven is like.’"
This recent trend of “Heaven Tourism” is problematic for many Christians. The stories told about these afterlife experiences can be rich and intriguing, but they’re not altogether trustworthy. At least one person has recanted their statement, and others are still considered dubious at best. In the end, most Christians have been urged to practice strict discernment when discussing Heaven. When reflecting on the success of Heaven is For Real, Paul Mathenia stated that he was happy to hear so many people discussing the Gospel, but added,
“On the other hand I am saddened. Many people will succumb to the real temptation to base their view of heaven on the word of a 4-year-old boy instead of the Word of God. This type of reaction has already followed the book...”
“How should believers respond to Heaven is for Real? Be cautious. Have a holy skepticism. Judge everything by God's Word. Use the opportunity of this book and movie to talk about heaven. But of first importance, use the moment to share the Gospel of Jesus, the only hope of heaven!”
One day, we will all discover what lies on the other side of eternity. For now though, our place is here, and the work of Christ is far from done.