Over the years, there have been several books written (and even some movies made) about people who have allegedly had “near death experiences”. Many of these people said they went to heaven, saw God, angels and even the devil. These stories, books, and movies have been, appropriately, labeled as “heavenly tourism”, due to the claims that these people got a tour of heaven. For the most part, Christians cheered such stories, apparently out of a desire to show that heaven and God are indeed real after all.
In 2010, there was a book titled The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, published by Tyndale House Publishers, a company that publishes Christian books. It was also made into a television movie. The book is about a boy, Alex Malarkey, who was in a traffic accident in 2004.
He claimed he died and went to heaven, gives specifics on what the devil looks like, that there’s a hole in heaven through which people come up from earth, and other un-Biblical views of heaven. Sadly, Tyndale and other Christian book publishers love these types of books because they sell. They do not seem interested in whether or not they are true.
Although the falseness of these books is obvious if one simply compares what they say to what Scripture says, the co-author of this particular book recently released a statement so as to remove any doubt. Alex himself put out this short note on the Pulpit and Pen website on January 13, 2015:
We praise God that Alex has issued this statement. Although other Christians, as well as Verse by Verse Ministry, have warned believers that these stories are un-Biblical, it’s hard to ignore the author of one of these stories flatly stating that he lied about his “experience”.
Sadly, the Christian publishers and sellers of these books ignored this, despite knowing for quite some time that Alex’s story was a lie. Well known Christian apologists Phil Johnson and Justin Peters, working with Alex’s mom, Beth Malarkey, have tried to get the publisher to pull this book from the market for about two years. It was not until Alex’s recent statement that Tyndale pulled the book, and publicly acknowledged Alex’s statement that the book was not true. Similarly, Lifeway, a Christian bookstore, also knew this story was false, yet continued to sell this book despite being told it was a lie. They, too, just recently removed the book from their stores.
Unfortunately, I doubt Lifeway and other Christian bookstores (as well as publishers) will pull ALL of these “heavenly tourism” books from their stores. The books appeal to emotions, and so many Christians apparently desire emotional books. As a result, the publishers and the bookstores ignore what Scripture says, all so they can profit from books that are clearly un-Biblical and therefore untrue. Alex’s story makes it clear that this is the case. While we don’t expect similar recanting from other authors, these books should be pulled immediately to ensure believers are not mislead.
In addition, this has the potential to be seen as a mark against the truth of Christianity. The world’s newspapers and websites are all over this breaking story, some, no doubt, happy that this negatively reflects on Christianity. On the other hand, it’s good that the truth of these false, near death experiences is being made known. If more people know they’re false, there’s less chance more of these books will be published in the future.
This whole issue highlights the fact that believers should always test all things against Scripture, to see if they are so (Acts 17). We should not let our emotions drive what we believe. God does not appeal to us through emotions, but through our mind. In Isaiah 1:18, He says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” The Lord tells us to renew our minds: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Now that we are in Christ, we are to grow to maturity in Him, so that “14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” This can only be done by studying the word of God, by which the Holy Spirit will sanctify and mature us.
I’m thankful that Alex Malarkey repented and told the truth. However, Christians should have been suspect of his story from the beginning. Some will no doubt say it’s a coincidence, but have you considered his last name? “Malarkey - speech or writing designed to obscure, mislead, or impress; bunkum.” How true it is in this situation. I don’t believe in coincidences; even in the name, God mercifully warned believers about this book. Better yet, go to the Word, which is the Truth (John 14:6). The Word is all we need to know that God and heaven are real.