By Mitiku AdisuHeaven is for real. Jesus said so! (John 3:13)
Heaven Is For Real is the story of a visit supposedly to heaven of a 3-year-old [some accounts say 4-year-old] eight years ago as told to his dad. The book is now at No.1 on The New York Times paperback bestseller list. The widespread appeal could be attributed to two potent combinations of events. One, it is an evidence of how hungry men and women are for the transcendent. Two, this is a story [and stories do wield uncanny power over us] and the fact that the story is told by a 3-year-old [representing for us a yeaning to regain a lost innocence]. Add to this the workings of the book publishing world, advertizing agencies, and all the tubes and webs you can think of – all diligently demanding their share of this newest of phenomena and you get a glimpse of what is going on.
This and similar books could serve as a good diversion from economic uncertainties and social and natural upheavals coming at us from every corner of the planet. Likewise, they could create the opportunity for presenting the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They could also lead to the trivialization of the subject matter.
In 1989 Don Piper was involved in an accident that left him dead for 90 minutes. Fifteen years later he wrote 90 Minutes In Heaven recounting that during the 90-minute absence he was in fact “experiencing heaven”. And then there is Heaven Is So Real  by Choo Thomas. Choo says her book “is our Lord Jesus’ end time book." We thought the book of Revelation was the end time book [Revelation 1:19; 22:18-19]. She continues, "He only used my body to write this book. He wants all believers and unbelievers to read it and prepare for His coming. He said, He is letting people know what it takes to enter His Kingdom, through this book. … The Lord himself took me to heaven 17 different times, in my transformed spirit body, at an age of about 15 to 16 years old and showed me countless things in heaven that He has prepared for His people, and showed me hell twice.” More here.
Finally, Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven  was written about an 83-year-old Eddie who finds himself in heaven having died while attempting to save a small girl from danger. Mitch’s story is meant to inspire, among other things, that no life is a waste.
It appears book editors are disposed to using the “heaven” card more and more to move book sales. A Slice of Heaven: The Ultimate Pizza Guide  by Levine, Ephron, and Blount. Almost Heaven  by McNaught. Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife  by Miller and The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears  by our very own Dinaw Mengestu. In the end, not all that sounds heaven is real heaven! And heaven where Jesus is not prefigured is simply a product of human imagination and no heaven at all.
We know Heaven is real because Jesus said so! The indwelling Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent after ascending to Heaven and his apostles confirm its reality. It is that Spirit-tug on the heart that confers a knowing that one is truly and undeservedly loved and that Jesus is both the initiator and sustainer of that love.
Let us for a moment move away from “experiences” and speculations and make three observations. There is a tendency on the part of some to want to construct their own personal “heaven”. Secondly, our understanding of heaven is/ought to be anchored on the life and teachings of Jesus and his apostles and thirdly, there is an instance in scripture where the apostle Paul recounts he was indeed “caught up to the third heaven” where “he heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. …But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say.” [2 Corinthians 12: 2-6; italics added].
More scripture here:
More scripture here:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.c The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:
“For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ. [1 Corinthians 2]
Some more here:
I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. [John 3:11-13]
For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. [John 6:33]
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. [John 14:1-3]
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. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell. I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say. Paul in [2 Corinthians 12:2-6]
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. [2 Corinthians 5:1]
After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. [Mark 16:19]
"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." [Acts 1:11]
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. [Luke 24:50-52]
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. [Hebrews 9:24]
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. [Philippians 3:20-21]
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. [2 Timothy 4:7-8]
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. [1 Thessalonians 4:16]
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life. [Revelation 21]