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Some people say they've been to heaven or hell but others say they are not true. What does the bible say?
Thank you for asking such an important question. I pray considering this topic will help both you and others who are struggling with it.
There are many people that say they have been to heaven, or hell, or both. Some of these testimonies are very convincing and at one time I believed that some of them were true.
Today I take a different point of view. Here is why. The parable Jesus teaches in Luke 16:19-31 offers two points, against which there is no credible defence. I suggest you quickly read that parable and then read the following.
Firstly, in this parable, Jesus teaches that those who experience Hell cannot escape. Ever. The place where the rich man went Jesus calls 'Hades'. But it's obvious that this is what we traditionally think of as Hell. Jesus gives us an horrendous description of this place: words like 'torment' and 'agony' are used repeatedly, and fire is everywhere. There is no question about it: this rich man is in Hell. The question is, will he ever get out?
In verse 26 Father Abraham tells the rich man: And besides all this, between us and you [that is, between Lazarus in heaven and you in Hell] 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. In other words, Jesus teaches that nobody can escape Hell and cross over into heaven. And just in case we might think that it may just be possible to escape Hell and head back to earth to warn the family, the rich man knows this isn't an option. That's why in verse 27 he pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus in his stead. The rich man knows that as far as he is concerned, there isn't any way he is ever getting out of Hell. As one preacher put it so well: 'Hell has no exits' (Leonard Ravenhill).
So we can say this from a biblical perspective: no matter how convincing someone may tell us otherwise, if they are still living on planet earth, they have not ever, ever been to Hell!
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly for our day and age: Jesus teaches in this very same parable that in order for people to be warned about Hell, God doesn't need other people's testimonies, and nor does the human race. Mankind only needs the Scriptures. Scripture is the only adequate and sufficient warning of Hell that is available to us. No other warning will do. The importance of this teaching is greatly stressed in this parable. Notice the rich man pleads with Father Abraham to send Lazarus to the rich man's brothers. He thinks that if Lazarus is sent back from the dead to warn his brothers that this will be the best thing for them. 'If someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent' (Luke 16:30). He thinks that someone coming back from the dead will do the trick and convince people on earth that Hell exists. Notice carefully that this is the unspiritual view-point, the sinful opinion of a man burning in Hell. Obviously it's not a good opinion to hold.
God holds to a very different point of view. In verse 29, Abraham says: 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them'. But when the rich man implies that his brothers won't listen to the warnings in the Scriptures, but insists they will listen if someone comes to them from the dead, Abraham gives this very final conclusion: 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead'. (Luke 16:31).
Jesus is saying that the only thing, the only warning, the only possible protection from Hell that people need is the Scriptures. 'Moses and the prophets' – and by extension, since the time of Jesus' death and resurrection, the New Testament too. All we need is the Bible.
The implication of this is enormous. Humanity doesn't need the apparent 'witness' of all these hosts of men and women who try to convince people they've been to Hell or Heaven and have come back to let the world know that it's all really real, and we can now believe God after all. People should believe Hell is real not because someone says they've been there and seen it, but because Scripture teaches that Hell exists! Humanity ought to listen to what the Bible says.
To conclude, we have to make a decision. We will either believe these other 'witnesses' or we believe the Son of God; there is no middle ground. It is good that you want to know what the scriptures say and place your faith there. It is not just difficult to reconcile people's views with that of Holy Scripture. It is impossible, because Scripture teaches something quite different. Scripture does not teach that it is possible to experience Hell, or heaven for that matter, and come back to tell the tale. Scripture affirms that it is not necessary for someone to have such an experience and tell us all about it if we are to believe in these places.
They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them ... If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. (Luke 16:29,31)
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