When People Claim They’ve Been to Heaven and Back, Beware!
I wrote an earlier article on Mary C. Neal, To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk With God. I cautioned that this book is devoid of the gospel of Christ. It lacks any call to sinful people to repent of their sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ in full and genuine faith, else they will end in hell. A couple of comments indicated that I was being too harsh on Neal. But I have yet to have any one produce examples from her book in which she in fact does what I maintain she does not — present the true gospel of Christ. And, by the way, I have completely read this book:)
This all-accepting naivete that accepts claims like Neal’s is of the very same spirit that accepts the words of evil men / abusers in our churches. The thing is directly related. Rather than searching the Word of God and comparing what someone is saying with that truth, Christians are taking the easy way and embracing most anyone who talks about “god.”
Listen now to Neal’s opening words and as you read them, ask yourself what claim Neal is making for herself. What is she telling us that she was appointed as? Here is what she says:
“God and His angelic messengers are present and active in our world today and this involvement and intervention is both ordinary in its frequency and extraordinary in its occurrence. Despite leading what I would consider a very ordinary life, I have had the privilege of being touched by God in visible and very tangible ways. One of these experiences began on January 14, 1999, when I was vacationing in South America with my husband. While boating, I was pinned underwater in my kayak and drowned. I died and went to heaven. After a brief stay, I was returned to my body. I returned to my Earthly life with two shattered legs and severe pulmonary problems. I was hospitalized for more than a month, wheelchair bound for even longer, and did not return to my orthopaedic surgery practice for more than six months. Many have described my accident as terrible and tragic. I describe it as one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. The series of events surrounding my accident and recovery were nothing short of miraculous. Not only did I have the privilege of experiencing heaven, but I continued to experience the intensity of God’s world and conversed with angels several times in the weeks after my return. Through this experience and conversation, I gained an understanding of many of life’s important questions, such as “What happens when we die?”, “Why are we here?”, and “Why do bad things happen to good people?”. I also gained an understanding of the disciple Paul’s statement from 1 Corinthians 13 that of faith, hope, and love, the most enduring is love. I already had reasons to believe in miracles, but taking a journey to heaven and back transformed my faith into knowledge and my hope into reality. My love remained unchanged and everlasting. One of the several reasons for my return to Earth was to tell my story to others and help them find their way back to God. During my initial recovery, I was invited to share my story with small groups in my community and these people shared my story with their friends and family. As it was spread to many parts of the country, I was often told of the profound impact my story made on the lives of the people who heard it. In the process of sharing, I realized that my story does not really belong to me, but to God and is meant to be shared. It has inspired many people, stimulated discussion, and has often resulted in a rejuvenated relationship with God. It has lessened people’s fear of death and increased their passion for living a full and meaningful life. My story has deepened people’s faith and given them hope for the future.”
Neal, Mary (2011-03-01). To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God . Circle 6 Publishing. Kindle Edition.
What is she claiming? She is announcing that God has appointed her as a prophet, given her His Word, and sent her back into this world to preach it. She says that her message lessens people’s fear of death. This is her message.
Actually, we do not have to go any further at all to reject her claims. She is a false prophet, and her message is a false gospel. Everything she claims God told her — “What happens when we die?” “Why are we here?’ “Why do bad things happen to good people?” — has already been fully and finally addressed in Scripture, and in some cases the answer is “that is not for you to know right now.” The faith we have has been once and for all delivered to us and we are to earnestly contend for it and against anyone who would come along preaching a different gospel (Jude; Gal 1). Let me ask you this: Does the Bible’s message — do the Words of Christ Himself — universally instill in every human being that they do not need to be afraid of death? Of course not! Yet this is Neal’s message.
What has all of this to do with abuse? I have had more than one abuse victim tell me that some “prophet” told them what the Lord had to say to them about their abusive situation. And how many of our readers can tell stories of the many times that people, claiming to be speaking for Christ, have given them absolutely terrible and wrong information? People like Neal are no help to victims of abuse.
I am going to present several more quotes here from Neal’s book, and you tell me what she obviously believes about how a person gets right with God — indeed, if she even thinks that it is necessary to do so:
“The Bible describes many times when angels are sent by God to help those who are in need; often in times of turmoil, life-threatening situations, or at the moment of death. Miracles appear to be universal and are reported by Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Hindus. The Quran describes a miracle as the “supernatural intervention in the life of a human being.” The Catholic Church describes miracles as “works of God,” usually with a specific purpose, such as the conversion of a person to the faith. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a miracle as an “extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention.”
Neal, Mary (2011-03-01). To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God . Circle 6 Publishing. Kindle Edition.
“Although I had been baptized as an infant and confirmed in the Presbyterian Church, I chose to undergo a full-immersion baptism during one of the alter calls at the Oakland Road Christian Church. It makes me chuckle to think about this, as I am pretty much of a social introvert. The very idea of my responding to a public altar call and being immersed in a Plexiglas tank set into the front wall of a full sanctuary is enough to make most of my friends laugh out loud. Regardless, I actually did this and the Holy Spirit must have descended upon me, for when I emerged, I felt light as a feather. I was energized, euphoric, and ecstatic. I felt cleansed and reborn; I became a new person. God’s promise that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV) was fulfilled.” [Notice no mention of sin, no mention of repentance, no mention of Christ’s death on the cross.]
Neal, Mary (2011-03-01). To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God (pp. 9-10). Circle 6 Publishing. Kindle Edition.
“When the opportunity arose, I also intermittently attended services at the Presbyterian Church, the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, and the non-denominational Christian churches in my family’s community. I have always appreciated the variety of religious denominations that are present in our world. Their different styles of worship and ways of communicating offer people in different stages of their life and spiritual journeys an opportunity to find the place where they feel most comfortable and a place where their faith can grow.”
Neal, Mary (2011-03-01). To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God (pp. 17-18). Circle 6 Publishing. Kindle Edition.
“I spent a great number of hours contemplating what God was asking of me. Even before my boating accident, I did not really believe in luck or coincidence as phenomena. I believed that God has a hand in most things and that most of what happens is part of a larger plan. I was laying in my hospital bed wondering about the purpose of my accident when I suddenly found myself sitting on a rock in a large, sun-drenched field. I was having a “conversation” with an angel who was sitting on a nearby rock. I call the being an angel, but I don’t really know what he was: angel, messenger, Christ, or teacher. I do know that he was of God, in God, and from God. As we conversed, I asked questions, and he gave me answers. We discussed how to “rejoice always,” even in the midst of terrible circumstances, and discussed the longstanding question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” During this conversation, I received the following wisdom. We are each given the opportunity and privilege to come to Earth for different reasons. Sometimes we come in order that we may personally develop and strengthen the fruits of our spirit: those of love, kindness, patience, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Sometimes we come to help someone else develop the fruits of the spirit. We all come to Earth to become more Christ-like, as noted in Romans 8. In preparation for our journey to Earth, we are able to make a basic outline for our life. This is not to imply that we, the humans, are entirely in charge of our life’s design. It is more like God creates it, then we review it and discuss it with our “personal planning” angel. Within the algorithm are written branch points in our lives at which times we may exit, returning to God, or we may be redirected to a different task and goal.”
Neal, Mary (2011-03-01). To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God (p. 98). Circle 6 Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Now, notice this one. It sounds so “orthodox” and “biblical.” Yet we know that Neal in no way interprets the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ as it is set forth in Scripture. How do we know? Because for Neal, virtually any religion or -ism is a valid path to God. Statements like this one that follows are quite typical of people who come along preaching “another Jesus” —
“My point is this; interpreting something that happens as being inherently “good” or “bad” is entirely a matter of perspective. Do “bad things happen to good people”? I’m not so sure. Jesus was certainly a very “good” man. His crucifixion would certainly be interpreted by many as a “bad” thing. His disciples were devastated, yet the Old Testament prophesies would not have been fulfilled and a new covenant with God would not exist if Jesus had not been crucified. From this perspective, it is difficult to declare that the crucifixion of Jesus was a “bad” thing. In fact, it is the very heart of the “good news” that Christians celebrate.”
Neal, Mary (2011-03-01). To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God (p. 104). Circle 6 Publishing. Kindle Edition.
But for Neal, any theology works —
“One day after I had recovered enough to return to my medical practice, a woman I knew arrived at my office without an appointment. She knew it was my busiest day of the work week, but she insisted on speaking with me. Now, to understand this part of the story, you must understand our shared history. Shortly after I began my medical practice in Wyoming, this woman’s husband came to me for care. He underwent a major surgery, which I performed, and had no difficulties. His hospital course after surgery was entirely uncomplicated; he felt great and by the third day, I was beginning to plan his discharge from the hospital. Unbeknown to me, my patient and his wife had visited with their Latter-Day Saints bishop prior to this surgery and had received blessings from him regarding this surgery. He had told my patient’s wife that she would have to give up the thing that she loved the most. He told my patient that God was very pleased with him, that the veil between this world and the next would be very thin, and that he would be required to make a choice.”
Neal, Mary (2011-03-01). To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God (p. 139). Circle 6 Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Ok, do I really need to go any further? Neal uses no biblical discernment as she allegedly converses with “angels.” The Bible tells us to test the spirits to see if they are of God (1 John 4) and that the devil himself comes as an angel of light. But Neal just “knows” her “angels” are of God. Furthermore, notice that she is teaching the pre-existence of the soul, and even says that we are conscious before we are born and that we have memories of that pre-existence, doctrines that are all totally foreign to Scripture. She denies the fallenness of man. No mention of sin at all. No need for repentance. Just strike up a relationship with God. But the Bible says that our God is a consuming fire, that after death comes the judgment, and that unless we are in the Lord Jesus Christ, we will not see Him as a warm, feel-good bright light, but as the holy, holy, holy God who cannot even look upon sin. Without Christ, we will perish in hell for all eternity.
And yet, with the very same gullibility and naivety about evil that allows them to be duped by abusers, listen to Neal’s welcome by numbers of churches who eat up her message with no discernment at all—
“A couple of months later, when I had physically recovered some and become a little more mobile, I was asked to speak to groups at several local churches. There was great interest in hearing my story and I was happy to share my experience of God’s miraculous interventions in my life. Portions of my story have been recounted on many occasions since then, and by numerous people. An audio recorded version of my original presentation is still being circulated. I see this continued interest in my story as a demonstration of people’s desire to be inspired by, and believe in, the possibility of God’s intervention.”
Neal, Mary (2011-03-01). To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor’s Extraordinary Walk with God (p. 135). Circle 6 Publishing. Kindle Edition.
I am very sorry for anyone who thinks that Mary Neal is a Christian, and that she is a prophet who has been given a wonderful message by God Himself. Because if you believe that, then there are far more weighty matters that you need to deal with than simply being upset with me. As for me, I take my stand on Christ and His Word and I heed the clear warning given in Holy Scripture:
Col 2:18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
If anyone thinks my words here are too harsh and just plain unkind, I refer you to the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1 regarding anyone who comes along preaching a false gospel.