Discernment: are people's visits to hell actually true?
So what are we to make of all this?
Lies. All lies.
Let's take a look at the visits to hell. I've written several times about the trips to heaven. The bible says that even though you may have had a personal experience, we have a more sure word. Peter wrote that, and he was referring to his own personal visit from Jesus at the Mountain, and having seen the heaven glory and Jesus transfigured. Even Peter says that the word is more sure than a personal experience!
"And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation." (2 Peter 1:19-20).
Peter is saying that the prophetic word, which is the word spoken by the prophets, is sure. Remember Jeremiah 23:16, "Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord."
Peter is not saying we should not interpret scripture, he is talking about the source of it. In 1 Peter 1:10, Peter wrote, "Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,"
In other words, the prophets heard the word from the LORD, and they carefully searched out what it meant. The false prophets did not have to search out what it meant because they made it up. Explaining it was just as easy- they made up the explanations. And the word was almost invariably happy, too. See what Jeremiah says,
"They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’" (Jeremiah 23:17).
Sound familiar? I know that it does.
Peter's credentials were impeccable, being hand chosen by Jesus and endowed with miraculous powers to heal, raise from the dead, and preach! Every single person who came after Peter has credentials which are less stellar, so by default, if he says not to trust his experience, we trust the bible and not our own experience. Otherwise you're saying, "I trust Jesus Culture's Kim Walker Smith's experience of seeing a Gumby Jesus, she seems to be more credible than Peter."
Laughable, isn't it? The word is sure!
Now about the people who travel to hell, what of them? Well, those visions and visits are false, too. How do I know? Look at Lazarus.
If we are to believe the people who visited hell, then we are to disbelieve the holy word. First, because we would believe that Jesus changed His mind about sending people from hell to tell the story, and secondly that before, while we are told that people would not believe even a dead brother returned to life telling his family, but now they will believe an unknown person telling the world on Youtube.
Wiese says that he encountered Jesus in hell, who told him to tell other people that hell is real. This varies directly with the word. Do we have a more sure word, or do we not have a more sure word?
Some people are totally unbelievable and are obvious charlatans. Others, like Wiese, or Don Piper, for example, are likable and sincere. However, sincerity of their message does not make it true. Only the word is surely true, and if what someone says is against what the bible says, you must disregard the person's message and not the bible.
However, isn't that the point of what satan is doing, with all these Charismatic visions and visits? Even though Piper or Wiese's message may be good, the source is demonic. Look at what Paul did when the fortune-telling slave girl followed him around.
What was Paul's problem? After all, she was saying something that was true. The problem is, her source was from satan, and a divided house cannot stand. Clarke's Commentary says, "The Gentiles, finding that their own demon bore testimony to the apostles, would naturally consider that the whole was one system; that they had nothing to learn, nothing to correct; and thus the preaching of the apostles must be useless to them."
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary explains, "Paul being grieved-for the poor victim; grieved to see such power possessed by the enemy of man's salvation, and grieved to observe the malignant design with which this high testimony was borne to Christ."
Isn't the phrase 'malignant design' so very wonderful!
Matthew Henry says of the slave-girl, "Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel, who are confounded with them by careless observers."
So even though the message at one point or another from one false prophet or another, may be true, satan's malignant design in using the message will always be dishonoring to Christ. Bill Wiese and Mary K Baker may be sincere, but satan's design is to usurp the authority of the Word, just as he was trying to do against Paul (who was speaking the true word) in using the slave-girl who was possessed.
Be discerning about these visits to heaven and hell, and of people's tales of visitations from Jesus in visions. It is not enough that their message borne from experience may seem consistent with the bible, the bible tells us that we have a more sure word in the Prophets. And that is enough, more than enough, for me. I hope it is for you too.
Justin Peters essay "Your Best Afterlife Now: (An examination and critique of claimed visits to heaven and hell"
Tim Challies reviews Heaven Is For Real and 90 Minutes In Heaven.
Pertinent part begins at 41:14--