Ask the Pastor: Three Levels of Heaven?

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(Don’t forget to submit your Bible questions to us – info@towerviewkc.com or in the “Question Box” outside the sanctuary.)

The question submitted this week from a congregation member is:

What are the three levels of heaven some people talk about?

Matt Slick from C.A.R.M. gives one of the best succinct answers to this question. I have referred many to this article in the past.  Please click HERE for this article.

What about the book “Heaven is for Real”?

Though it has been four years since the book was at its height of popularity, Heaven is for Real the movie was released in 2014.  For those of you not familiar with the book, movie, or if you have forgotten, Wikipedia summaries it well:

In the book, Christian pastor Todd Burpo writes that during the months after his emergency surgery in 2003, his son Colton began describing events and people that seemed impossible for him to have seen or met. Examples include his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born. Colton also claimed that he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus’ lap, while the angels sang songs to him, He also says he saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heaven_Is_for_Real

My aim of this short response is not to debunk the book in accordance to Scripture.  Please see well-respected pastors for biblical reviews:

Rather, my aim is to present 9 truths from Luke 16:19-31 that not only briefly debunks this book, but also informs the Christian and non-Christian alike as to matters of heaven and hell.

Here’s the passage from the English Standard Version:

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,

 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,

 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.

 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’

 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.

 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house–

 28 for I have five brothers– so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’

 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’

 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

  1. There is life after death (Luke 16:22; Rev. 20:10-15)
  2. There are people in both places, that is, heaven and hell (Luke 16:22-23; Matthew 25:31-46)
  3. God’s wrath is upon unbelievers because of their sin (Luke 16:23-24; John 3:16-18)
  4. Heaven and hell are both eternal (Luke 16:25-26; Jude 7)
  5. There is a heaven  and a hell (Luke 16:22-23; Matthew 11:23)
  6. No second chances exist—death is it (Luke 16:26; Hebrews 9:27)!
  7. No one can pass between heaven and hell.  Your eternal destiny is determined before you die (Luke 16:26).
  8. No one comes back to write books about the subject (Luke 16:27-28)
  9. The Bible is enough to show salvation and sufficient in all matters of faith and practice. (Luke 16:29-31; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)

 

4 Comments On “Ask the Pastor: Three Levels of Heaven?”

  1. Tara

    Interesting topic.
    I enjoyed your response… although it seemed to answer a different question. Now I see 2 topics…
    1.”What are the three level’s of heaven some people talk about?”
    2.”Is the book “Heaven is for Real” real?”

    I would love to hear your answer to the first. Someone in my family converted to a “loose” version of Mormonism. They believe in these 3 levels of heaven… but I see no scriptural basis for it. (Not that I think Mormonism is scriptural). Now that the question has been asked… I too am interested. Where does this idea of 3 heavens come from?

    Thanks,

    • Tara

      OOOPS…. I need to read your references 🙂
      You must still love me for my inability to fully read before responding.
      Thanks,

      • Darin

        Tara,

        Great question! Sorry for the delay. I didn’t get an alert for comments and was just checking it now.

        The CARM article listed above is the best overview for the topic. Here’s my response in more detail.

        The nearest thing in Scripture to there being different levels of heaven is found in 2 Corinthians 12:2: “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.”

        Some say this means there is a level for:

        -“Super-duper” Christians
        -Half-hearted Christians
        -Not faithful Christians.

        In short, this view has no basis in Scripture.

        Paul isn’t saying that there are three heavens or even 3 levels of heaven. In many ancient times, including 1st century Judaism, people used the term heaven to describe three different “realms”–the sky/atmosphere, outer space, & then a spiritual heaven. Paul was saying that God took him to the “spiritual” heaven–the realm beyond the physical universe where God dwells.

        The concept of different levels of realms of heaven may have come, in part, from Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” from the Dark Ages. There, the author/poet describes both heaven and hell as having nine different levels. However, it is a fictional work. The idea of different levels of heaven is foreign to Scripture.

    • Darin

      Good question on “Heaven is for Real”. It is wildly popular and deserves an answer.

      First, I would encourage reading the reviews in the links listed above. Those are very, very details.

      Second, biblically, there is a clear and present danger in turning to a young Burpo rather than the Bible respecting those things that allegedly will happen in the future. Has Burpo indeed been shown the future? Is he really a direct eyewitness who is now empowered to settle theological issues that the body of Christ has struggled with throughout its history? Has he really had face-to-face communication with the resurrected Christ, John the Baptist, David, Peter, John, and even the archangel Gabriel? If so, Burpo is a treasure to the body of Christ like unto the Bible. If not, we should dismiss the subjective recollections of a three-year-old and instead hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

      Among the biblical writers who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), not one dared say that like their Lord they could speak authoritatively about heaven from firsthand knowledge. Nor, in contrast to Burpo, did one of them dare prophesy the century of Christ’s return!

      Did he see something? Perhaps. Is it a child’s imagination? More probably so.

      While one might well imagine Paul writing an epistle after being “caught up to Paradise” (2 Corinthians 12:2), he did not so much as countenance the thought. Rather, he humbly refrained from boasting about his celestial experience so that “no one will think more of me than is warranted” (v. 6). In point of fact, unlike Colton Burpo, Paul was not permitted to speak of his “surpassingly great revelations” (v. 7).

      Hope that helps!

      -Darin

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