Perhaps that's the harsh synopsis, but I can assure you there was nothing gentle nor kind about the way these things were stated. It made me angry, partly because of the way the information was presented, but also because I do happen to believe at least some of these accounts, and therefore this video was telling me I am wrong.
Telling me I am wrong about something - I don't receive that well. But that's beside my current point.
So I've been pondering and thinking the points this speaker made, because while I don't like to be wrong, I recognize that sometimes I am. And if I am wrong in my beliefs, then I'd like to correct them. After going back and forth on the different points and arguments, I've come full circle and have not changed what I believed prior to seeing this video.
The speaker presented a biblically-based argument for why no one is able to visit heaven or hell and therefore why we should not believe these stories when we hear them. And I wondered if he has even personally read any of these books or listened to any of these accounts. I have done both, and I have at least a few friends who have experienced heaven for themselves. They are the kind of Christ-followers I look to for leadership and guidance because they possess a spiritual maturity I have not yet attained. Granted, not everyone's account is going to be true or accurate, and some people are just out to make a buck. But I don't believe that to be true of everyone. In fact, it's these people who have experienced God the closest who share their stories the least. Because they know what happens if they do; they would be casting their pearls before swine. People will discount them, attack and slander them. When they come in contact with people whom they know are ready to receive these words, then they share. They are wise that way.
After all my ponderings from this video, I feel I can defend why the opposite of each of the speaker's statements could be true, and biblically so. Basically it boils down to this: who are we to decide how God is going to choose to operate? I see that happen so many times in our politically-correct, comfortable, don't-want-to-be-challenged church culture. And we decide for God that if it's not word-for-word in the Bible and if we haven't experienced it for ourselves, then it must not be true.
Just because something is out of our realm of our experiences doesn't mean it's not true. This stands not just to argue whether or not people have had glimpses into heaven or hell, but into many other aspects of the modern church. Many congregations are ripped apart over issues such as speaking in tongues, prophesying, healing, music, order of service, style of preaching, color of the carpet...
I grew up in a very traditional, conservative church body. As a teenager I remember learning about the different spiritual gifts. The teaching I received pushed the idea that certain gifts no longer exist. I was even presented with verses (which are often taken out of context to fit the argument) to back up that statement. And I was confused about what to believe until our pastor said one of the most helpful things I have ever heard: "God is going to be God, and He is going to do whatever He pleases. It's not for me to decide how He is going to work."
We live in a world full of lies and deceit. Some of it even looks identical to the Truth. But God did not leave us unattended to flounder about helplessly. He equipped us with what we need to navigate these murky waters. We are to study the Word and check everything against it. He also gave us the Holy Spirit who grants us discernment to understand truth from lies. But even then we are left with many areas. Which brings us back to the bottom line:
God is God. He will do what He will do.
"[God] does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him, 'What have you done?'"