Matthew R. Perry

Did Don Piper’s “90 Minutes in Heaven” Reflect the Biblical Heaven?

In Book Review on March 2, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Recently, someone let me borrow a book called 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. The premise of the book is that Don Piper, a Baptist minister, was in a horrendous car accident and was dead for 90 minutes. During that time, according to Piper, he was in heaven. He spoke of its beauty, of seeing relatives and loved ones, and how the place almost overwhelmed the senses.

What interested me was his chapter on heavenly music. Praise was everywhere, he said, filling his heart with the deepest of joy. But what really caught my attention was his remark on p. 35:

Many of the old hymns and choruses I had sung at various times in my life were part of the music — along with hundreds of songs I had never heard before. Hymns of praise, modern-sounding choruses, and ancient chants filled my ears and brought not only a deep peace but the greatest feeling of joy I’ve ever experienced.

As I stood before the gate, I didn’t think of it, but later 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 were no sad songs in heaven. Why would there by? 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.[1]

With all due respect to those of you who have read through this book and found it so joyous and hopeful, I found myself not wanting to read another word. Why? Well, if we need to see what heaven is like, the Bible is clearly sufficient for that, so we must look to see if Piper’s vision of heaven matches the Scriptures. And on at least two occasions it clearly does not. Rev. 5:9-10

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll

and to open its seals,

for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God

from every tribe and language and people and nation,

[10] and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,

and they shall reign on the earth.”

Let me ask you: do you believe those in heaven realize how they made it there? It is because of Jesus reconciling us as sinners to God who is holy through … what? The Cross! The elders and the whole company were singing about the cross even in heaven! Also in Revelation, the Spirit reveals a Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Why is Jesus called a Lamb? Because Lambs were sacrificed, but Jesus was the once and for all sacrifice and all who partake of this are recipients of Christ’s reconciling and atoning work on the cross!

Let us be very discerning about the things we read — even bestselling Christian books! My dad warned me, “Not everything that’s in print is worth reading.” I shall read through the rest of Piper’s book, I pray that the rest of it is more in tune with the biblical account and will reflect more of the Gospel.


[1]Don Piper, 90 Minutes in Heaven (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2004), 35.

  1. Here’s what gets me about these type of books. Mary Baxter had some other books along the same lines several years ago. Why can’t we simply trust what the Word of God has already said about heaven? Why do we need more “revelation” when in fact God has given us the complete revelation, without error, and full of authority by the Spirit? I think I would rather trust what the Spirit wrote about heaven (or hell) than these guys.

  2. A member of our church asked me to purchase this book for our church library. I read it, before processing and I have two observations. One is that perhaps the story needed to be written not to give the “revelation” of heaven, but rather to encourage those who have to live with the kind of pain that Don Piper experienced. It seemed to me his emphasis was on helping people who wore a ‘fixator’ or something like that.

    The other observation is that perhaps the Apostle Paul experienced something similar which he described in II Corinthians 12:2-4. According to my calculations, he had been stoned in Lystra about 14 years prior to the writing of II Corinthians.

    Now, for my comments. Paul stated that what he heard was “unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” I am not sure why his experience would be different unless it is because Don Piper did not actually go through the gate. He may not have heard, the unspeakable words? Notice I am asking, not telling.

    As for the music, could it be that the reason he did not hear the “old songs” was because he was hearing “new songs”? Had he gone through the gate, he may have heard exactly what John heard as well?

    I am usually somewhat skeptical of NDE, but this book did seem to be different and I felt the Lord’s presence as I read it. I have heard a lot of people say that the book has blessed them or encouraged them. I never want to go outside of the Bible looking for God’s truth and yet I found the book to be a blessing and encouragement as others have indicated and I really did not see anything that the Bible has not already taught.

    I am very interested in what other Christians think about this.

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