90 Minutes in Heaven
by Don Piper
Fleming H. Revell, 2004
See also Embraced by the Light | Visiting Heaven and Hell | Comments | “Close Encounters…”
On his website, Don Piper introduces himself with these words:
“Best selling author, speaker, actor, syndicated columnist, former CBS & CBN Television network executive, former youth minister, education minister, senior adult minister, Baptist Student Ministry director, long-time single adult pastor and senior pastor….
“Piper is in great demand in pulpits across the United States and around the world as a conference leader on effective prayer ministry, the reality of Heaven, single adult issues and as an evangelist. He has led revival meetings and seminars all over North America and Europe. Don Piper is a dynamic speaker and the author of New York Times bestseller, 90 Minutes in Heaven – a True Story of Death and Life….
“Now in its 35th printing, 90 Minutes in Heaven has sold more than 1.6 million copies in the United States. It also is enjoying worldwide success as a bestseller in Sweden, Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.”
In spite of its popularity, his book prompts more questions than answers. Did Pastor Piper actually walk through the “gate” into heaven during those 90 minutes? His own statements seem to rebut that impression. Nor did he meet “Jesus.” Actually, he only mentions the name of Jesus three times in the book. (Those references are marked in red below) In fact, Jesus seems almost irrelevant in Pastor Piper’s conflicting testimony. Instead, the center of adoration throughout this “heavenly” experience was Pastor Piper himself. On pages 20-26, he writes,
“…I died… In my next moment of awareness, I was standing in heaven.” (pages 20-21)
“As the crowd rushed toward me, I didn’t see Jesus, but I did see the people I had known. As they surged toward me, I knew instantly that all of them had died during my lifetime. Their presence seemed absolutely natural. They rushed toward me, and every person was smiling, shouting, and praising God.
“Although no one said so, intuitively I knew they were my celestial welcoming committee. It was as if they had all gathered just outside heaven’s gate, waiting for me. The first person I recognized was Joe Kulbeth, my grandfather. He looked exactly as I remembered him, with his shock of white hair. …as I stared into his face, an ecstatic bliss overwhelmed me. … I couldn’t get past the joy of our reunion. How either of us reached heaven seemed irrelevant.” (page 22)
“More and more people reached for me and called me by name. I felt overwhelmed by the number of people who had come to welcome me to heaven. There were so many of them, and I had never imagined anyone being as happy as they all were…. I spotted two teachers who had loved me and often talked to me about Jesus Christ. … Everyone continually embraced me, touched me, spoke to me, laughed and praised God.” (page 24)
“Our conversations centered on the joy of my being there and how happy they were to see me.” (page 26)
“Even now, years later, I can sometimes close my eyes and see those perfect countenances and smiles…. Just being with them was a holy moment and remains a treasured hope. When I first stood in heaven they were still in front of me and came rushing toward me. They embraced me, and no matter which direction I looked, I saw someone I had loved and who had loved me. They surrounded me….
“Coming out from the gate–a short distance ahead — was a brilliance that was brighter than the light that surrounded us, utterly luminous.” (page 27)
“I paused just outside the gate, and I could see inside. It was a like a city with paved streets. To my amazement, they had been constructed of literal gold.” (page 34)
“I continued to step closer to the gate and assumed that I would go inside. My friends and relatives were all in front of me, calling, urging, and inviting me to follow…. Just as I reached the gate, my senses were even more heightened, and I felt deliriously happy.
“I paused…. just outside the gate. I was thrilled at the prospect and wanted to go inside. I knew everything would be even more thrilling than what I had experienced so far. At that very moment I was about to realize the yearning of every human heart. I was in heaven and ready to go in through the pearlescent gate.
“During that momentary pause, something else changed…. I had become part of the choir…. I had arrived at a place I had wanted to visit for a long time; I lingered to gaze before I continued forward. Then, just as suddenly as I had arrived at the gates of heaven I left them.” (page 36)
That’s the end of heavenly encounter! This mysterious “experience” occupied 16 pages (from 21 to 36) of the entire book. The rest of the book deals with more earthly concerns and challenges. But let’s return to that last statement for a moment. Pastor Piper tells us he didn’t go through the “pearlescent gate” — the entrance into heaven. Yet he supposedly spent 90 minutes in heaven. He had “arrived at a place” he “wanted to visit” — a place where he was showered with human adulation — yet he never met our Lord! Was he inside or merely at the threshold of heaven?
Pastor Piper prompts another question on page 31. He writes,
“As I stood before the gate, I didn’t think of it, but later I realized that I didn’t hear such songs as ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ or ‘the Nail-Scarred Hand.’ None of the hymns that filled the air were about Jesus’ sacrifice or death. I heard no sad songs and instinctively knew that there are no sad songs in heaven. Why should there be? All were praises about Christ’s reign as King of Kings and our joyful worship for all he has done for us and how wonderful he is.”
“Sad songs?” Are those precious old hymns about the victory through the cross really “sad”? Does God’s heavenly chorus of praise, like Pastor Piper, consider the message of the Lamb and the cross too “sad” to remember?
Not according to the Bible! What Pastor Piper “instinctively knew” clashes with God’s unchanging Word. It shows us that Jesus — the Lamb that was slain for us — became a central theme of angelic songs!
**Compare Piper’s certain “knowledge” with these choruses of heavenly praise:
“And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain…” Revelation 5:6
“And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals;
For You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood…” Revelation 5:9
“I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:11-12
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:8
The victory of the Cross
Do you wonder if Pastor Piper would consider the verse below too “sad” for heaven?
“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Revelation 6:9-10
That Scripture exposes another major error in Piper’s “vision” of heaven. Notice that it refers to “the souls of those who had been slain,” not their identifiable bodies. Though the conscious souls of believers (God’s redeemed children who are eternally part of His family) will be with Jesus immediately after death, our souls will not be “clothed” in “spiritual bodies” until God’s scheduled time for “first resurrection.” Yet, Piper claims to be welcomed by friends and relatives already wearing their resurrection bodies. :dizzy:
And what about Piper himself? Was he not only dead, but also resurrected, “changed” and clothed in his heavenly body? Not according to the Scriptures!
Notice in the following verses that the souls of faithful believers (now with Jesus) will not be clothed in heavenly bodies until the time ordained by God — a time to be announced when the “last trumpet… will sound.”
“…one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?…’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.'” Luke 23:39-43
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
“But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come? Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain — perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases….
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body….
“…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.'” 1 Corinthians 15:35-54
The final and glorious new heaven and new earth are part of our future, not present. Today we are still bound by time, and God’s scheduled order must be fulfilled.
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; ‘there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'” Revelation 21:1-5
“…the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope….” Romans 8:21-24
“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:3-5
In the book of Revelation, we can read the visions shown to the apostle John. In those visions, John didn’t meet or hug his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. He didn’t recognize any of his fellow apostles who had been tortured and killed for their faith. Human relationships were not the focus of John’s vision. Instead, God showed Him heavenly events and earthly judgments that would serve His specific purpose. These were consistent with both Old Testament prophecies — and with the prophetic message of Jesus in Matthew 24 (also in Luke 21 and Mark 13). They also add new details and warnings that would help prepare God’s people for the times ahead.
Don Piper’s vision is more in line with today’s emerging church:
• It’s feeling-centered, not fact-centered.
• It focuses on self, not on God.
• It includes some old information (i.e. streets of gold), but no new revelation.
• It emphasizes human emotions, not God-given Truth.
Discernment is sadly lacking in churches today, and no wonder! Many call themselves Christians but reject God’s absolute, unchanging truth! Apart from that truth, we cannot know whether a vision or message brings truth or deception.
Please consider the following Scriptures. They can help you discern the nature of Pastor Piper’s message:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
“They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:16-17
“Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! O Israel, your prophets are like foxes in the deserts. You have not gone up into the gaps to build a wall for the house of Israel to stand in battle on the day of the Lord. They have envisioned futility and false divination, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ But the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope that the word may be confirmed. Have you not seen a futile vision, and have you not spoken false divination? You say, ‘The Lord says,’ but I have not spoken.” Ezekiel 13:3-7
“Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,’ says the Lord, ‘and… cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them….” Jeremiah 23:30-32
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. “ Colossians 2:8
Finally, to avoid deception, “put on the whole armor of God.” [See Clothed in Christ]
“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-18