Alex Malarkey, the boy who wrote “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” came clean this week and said his book is full of malarkey. It never happened. He said he just wanted attention, which is not unusual for a six-year-old boy. Here are five thoughts.
1. Give credit to the boy for owning this. That takes guts. It also points to some strange family dynamics, as he and his mother seem pitted against his father, who alone signed the book contract and is collecting the money. The Washington Post article doesn’t indicate that Kevin and Beth Malarkey are divorced, but it’s hard to imagine them living in the same house. Unless it’s as large as a New York Times Bestseller can buy.
2. It’s strange that so many Christians would put so much stock in the story of a six-year-old boy. Small children are reliable guides for Dora the Explorer and their physical condition—“Tell mommy where it hurts”—but it seems foolish to take their word on something considered to be so important.
3. I know one person who went to heaven and came back, and he claimed he “heard inexpressible things” that he was “not permitted to tell” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). I’m suspicious of heavenly tourists who tell all, especially when there’s money involved.
Here’s my little joke on this subject from The Last Enemy (p. 111):
“Everyone wants to know what happens when we die, and they eagerly read books that promise to tell them. One such book is Don Piper’s description of what he saw and heard during his 90 Minutes in Heaven. This popular book spawned two other bestsellers which tell the stories of boys who went to heaven and returned: The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven and Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. It also inspired a book that went in the other direction, 23 Minutes in Hell. (Now we only need a Roman Catholic book to complete the afterlife trifecta—perhaps something with the title 7 Minutes in Purgatory, which seemed like forever, because, you know, it was purgatory).”
4. The Bible tells us almost nothing about heaven because heaven is not our home. It’s not the goal. Heaven is the intermediate state, where Christians go when they die to await our resurrection. Scripture only tells us that in heaven we are with the Lord (Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 5:6-8; Phil. 1:21-23; 1 Thess. 4:14). That’s all, and that’s enough.
5. I wish Christians would get over their fixation with heaven and put their longings where Scripture says, on the New Earth (Isaiah 65:25; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4). I’ve just written a book that explains what practical difference this earthy focus should make in our everyday lives. Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life? will be released on February 3, but you can purchase it already on Zondervan’s website.
Malarkey’s book may be full of what his name suggests, but the title is the truth for all Christians. We all will go to heaven when we die, and we all will come back.