Titled The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, this 2010 bestseller from Tyndale by Alex Malarkey and his father Kevin Malarkey has sold more than a million copies. And why not, we ask, for a book that purports to tell the story of six-year-old Alex, who sustained head injuries in a vehicular collision that left him comatose for two months and paralyzed permanently. While in the coma, said Alex, speaking through his father, he died but eventually came back. Alex’ adventures while dead include a trip to heaven escorted by angels, topped off by a visit with Jesus himself.
This month (January 2015), Alex published an open letter in which he stated that he made up the whole story to get attention, that many people had been hurt by believing lies, and that everyone should be content to know whatever the Bible actually says about heaven.
This is not the first time someone has exploited the gullible, the spiritually shallow, and the thrill-seekers who occupy much of today’s evangelicalism, especially in America, and it likely will not be the last. However, it is one of the more embarrassing scams, because the very statement of Alex’s most central fibs should have set off such a cacophany of sirens and red lights that no one could ignore the warning or shut it out of mind. Following are a few Bible truths (according to my understanding) that apparently went missing from the minds of many somewhere along the way.
TRUTH #1 — People who really die do not come back to life now. We live once, die once, and answer once to God for that life (Heb. 9:27). Life after death depends on resurrection by God, not some shadow of a soul or spirit that plays around the margins when dying, but that cannot really die (2 Cor. 4:13-14). The myth of immortal (deathless) souls originated in pagan philosophy. Scripture points us to God, the creator and only source of life now and forever.
TRUTH #2 — As yet, no one from earth has died and gone to heaven except Jesus Christ who originally came to earth from heaven (John 3:13). The redeemed will enjoy Christ’s company forever, but the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven to them; they do not pack up and move from earth to live in heaven apart from earth (Rev. 21:1-5).
TRUTH #3 –The general resurrection will occur when Jesus comes again; it does not happen one by one now as various individuals die (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Greek philosophers who were converted during the first few Christian centuries so subverted Christian thinking about death and whatever lies beyond it, that pagan ideas of immortality often drowned out the clear gospel message of Jesus’ resurrection on which our hope beyond death firmly rests.