Archives For Alex Malarkey

We are now in the afterglow of remembering and celebrating the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even though this corporate focus and celebration occurs once during the Christian year, it is a truth that transforms every aspect of our lives, every day of our lives.

In light of the resurrection, and since I promised to follow up an earlier post, today is the day to do that. This addresses the confession made by Alex Malarkey that he actually did not die and go to heaven. As we learned the publisher, Tyndale House, pulled the book from circulation.

What do we think about the accounts of those who have died and gone to heaven, and have lived to tell the story about it? Why the interest, the fascination? When asked about it, how do you respond?

This question is raised now again, not because another book has been published in this genre, but because one about whom a book was written has retracted his story.

An emphasis on heaven and the realities of heaven are good. As Augustine stated, our souls were made by God and they will be restless until they find their rest in Him. Because we have been created in the image of God, there is something more for which our souls long. If it does not find its rest in God, then it will attempt to find its rest elsewhere, some created thing, for we are all worshippers (Rom. 1:25). The truth/reality of heaven is revealed in the Word of God. Granted, the details of this eternal destiny are not fully fleshed out. But what we know and all we need to know for now and for certain is found in God’s revelation, the Word of God. It is complete, sufficient and authoritative.

This genre consisting of afterlife accounts of heaven generate interest because people, often, long for more than God has revealed, so they want a “more sure” word on this matter. That means they begin to elevate experience, and in our day and age experience trumps truth. This means that many addressing this issue go beyond what the Bible teaches about heaven.

I still find it very sobering that the written word of God trumps experience. Jesus replies to the one who is suffering in torment when he raised issues of concern about his five brothers, which is critical for us to hear again today, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’” (Lk. 16:29-31). What is also happening among some who are writing about this after-life experience is that they are denying the reality of hell as eternal conscious punishment.

Heaven is for real. The way we know that is because God has revealed it in the Bible, not because of anyone’s experience. The exception, of course, is Jesus Christ’s, the One alone who has experienced death and been raised again and through that overcome death once-for-all. One does not intend only to be doubtful or skeptical, but one does not want to be gullible and be at a place where experience = truth, or experience determines truth or experience validates truth.

What I find intriguing and disappointing about this focus on dying and coming back to life again are these issues:

  • There are those who go beyond what the Bible teaches about heaven.
  • There are those who deny the reality of hell as eternal conscious punishment.
  • Many prefer these stories to the Bible.
  • Regarding eschatology, particularly eternal states, there is an insatiable desire to have certainty and biblical gaps filled in so that people are drawn to personal experience and testimony, anecdote and apocryphal renderings giving them canonical status.

I do not put much credibility in these stories. Could God do this? Certainly. Because he could does not mean that he would or does. Furthermore, even if one makes an extremely unusual “could,” one must not make that the norm. I often think of Luke 16:19-31. They have the highest and most credible testimony possible: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (16:31). There is no greater witness than the Bible!

If you want to know what heaven is like and about, read the Bible!

Alex Malarkey was six years old when he and his father, Kevin, experienced a car accident. Alex was in a coma for two months and is permanently disabled. Six years later Kevin, his father, wrote the book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2010).

Alex is now 16 and retracts the story: “An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.” 

An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.” 

Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short. 

I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. 

I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible. 

It is only through repentance of your sins and a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, who died for your sins (even though he committed none of his own) so that you can be forgiven may you learn of Heaven outside of what is written in the Bible…not by reading a work of man. I want the whole world to know that the Bible is sufficient. Those who market these materials must be called to repent and hold the Bible as enough. 

In Christ,

Alex Malarkey

Tyndale publishing responded to this retraction and no longer sells the book.

Here are a number of reports and responses to this retraction.

Christianity Today summarizes the retraction made by Alex: The ‘Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ Retracts Story

Beth, Alex’s mom, made statements that this account was not true in 2012 and again last April. The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven…not quite

Phil Johnson wrote about this two years ago in The Burpo-Malarkey Doctrine and he has a follow up post with this recent retraction as well: Setting the Record Straight 

The Guardian presents an overview of the history of this story of the Malarkey family: The boy who didn’t come back from heaven: inside a bestseller’s ‘deception’

Michael Wittmer gives good biblical counsel about how to respond to this and other personal accounts of heaven: 4 Reasons to Stop Obsessing About Heaven

Sadly, this sort of genre has become commonplace. Amazingly, or maybe not, they sell! Consider the following (and this does not include the books about those who have died and gone to hell):

Don Piper, 90 Minutes in Heaven (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2004).

Bill Wiese, 23 Minutes In Hell: One Man’s Story About What He Saw, Heard, and Felt in that Place of Torment (Lake Mary, Florida: Charisma House, 2006).

Erwin W. Lutzer, One Minute After You Die (Chicago: Moody 2007).

Don Piper, Daily Devotions Inspired by 90 Minutes in Heaven: 90 Readings for Hope and Healing (Berkley Trade, 2009).

Dale Black, Flight to Heaven: A Plane Crash…A Lone Survivor…A Journey to Heaven–and Back (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2010).

Todd Burpo, Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010).

Kevin Malarkey, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2010).

Dennis Prince, Nine Days in Heaven: A True Story (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma, 2011).

Marvin J. Besteman, My Journey to Heaven: What I Saw and How It Changed My Life (Grand Rapids: Revell, 2011).

Mary C. Neal, To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2012).

Why the interest? Why the fascination?

Tomorrow I will give a brief response I shared with those who asked about the Burpo and Malarkey books that were published in 2010, and then when the Burpo book was released as a movie last year.