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on April 21, 2006
We know of two people, from Scripture, who were privileged to see heaven. Both of these men, the Apostles Paul and John, were alive and well when they were given a glimpse of the wonders of heaven. Don Piper, a Baptist pastor, claims to be a third, though unlike the Apostles, he first had to die. Returning home from a conference, Piper's car was crushed under the wheels of a truck. Medical personnel declared him dead at the scene of the accident. But ninety minutes after this accident, a pastor, waiting at the scene, was told by God to pray for the dead man. He did so, and Piper immediately returned to life. For the 90 minutes that his body lay lifeless inside the car, Piper claims to have been in heaven. He now carries with him memories of paradise and in <em>90 Minutes in Heaven</em>, a book which has sold over 500,000 copies, he seeks to encourage other Christians with a description of our eternal home. "Because I was able to experience heaven," he says, "I was able to prepare [a friend] for it. And now I am preparing you."

The title may be deceptive. One might assume, from the title, that a significant portion of the book is dedicated to describing heaven. The reality is that the author's time in heaven comprises only 15 pages of this 205-page book. A further seven pages, appended to the end of the book, engage very briefly and unsatisfactorily with the "why questions." The bulk of the book describes Piper's accident, rescue and convalescence with some attention to the ministry opportunities that have arisen since his time in heaven. The book is, in reality, a biographical sketch of Don Piper and a lengthy description of the trials he faced as he recovered from devastating bodily injuries. Following the description of heaven, there is little further reflection on paradise. There is little attempt to describe how the author's life and perspective on Scripture have changed because of his experience. There is little interaction with the Bible. There is no gospel.

Piper's description of heaven left me cold. I was dismayed to find that his heaven seems largely man-centered. In fact, if you were to ask your unbelieving friends and neighbors to describe heaven, they would probably create a place very much like this. Piper did not see Jesus, nor did he see God, though, to be fair, he saw only the "outskirts" and did not pass through the gates. Despite this, he was exceedingly joyful and feels that he experienced the very joys of paradise. For ninety minutes he walked through heaven, greeted by those he knew in this life, all of whom were (quite conveniently), the same age they were when he had last known them. As I read this description of heaven I thought immediately of a quote from John Piper's book <em>God is the Gospel</em>. He asks:

The critical question for our generation--and for every generation--is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever say, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

From the descriptions in <em>90 Minutes in Heaven</em> we would would have to respond, "yes!" It seems that Don Piper's heaven is a heaven where we are fulfilled without Christ. Piper's heaven was a place of reunion with loved ones, a place of beautiful music and a place of literal pearl (or "pearlescent") gates and literal streets of gold. It is a heaven that can be so easily described to a human mind using mere human words, as if it had originated in a human mind. Piper is able to describe it in some detail, but what he presents is surely far too human to be heaven.

A further troubling aspect of the book is a clear lack of theological precision. For example, Piper continually describes miracles that surrounded his rescue and recovery, yet these are often not the type of events that theologians would classify as being miraculous. They may have shown God's grace and power, but they were not, strictly speaking, miracles. He also uses his experience to minister to people who lack assurance of their faith. But what true, lasting assurance can we find in the dubious experiences of another mere human? Our assurance is to be in God and His promises through Scripture, not in man.

I do believe Don Piper is a sincere man and one who loves God. He seems to sincerely believe that he experienced heaven and has been called by God to share his experience with others. But I do not believe that he did see heaven. I cannot say what his experience was, whether it was purely psychological or whether it was even some type of demonic deception. What I do know is that the Scriptures are wholly sufficient for believers. We do not need to see or experience heaven in this life. Nor should we desire Don Piper's heaven.

I see no reason to believe that God wants us to know more about heaven than He has revealed to us in His Word. As the old hymn asks, "What more can he say than to you he has said?" God surely desires that we desire heaven, but only if we desire heaven primarily so we can be with the Savior. This is the heaven which we glimpse only dimly in Scripture, but which we await with eager expectation. It is most certainly not Piper's 90-minute heaven.
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on December 21, 2007
There is no small amount of interest in what happens when we die. There are countless books, articles, shows, and discussions centered on this subject. Too often such discussions end with, "We'll find out one day." Well, Don Piper is here to stop such speculation and provide a first hand account of one who has actually been to heaven and returned.

Piper is a Baptist pastor who was in a tragic accident in 1989. He states that he died that day, went to heaven, spent 90 minutes there, saw some friends and relatives and then returned. He wrote a book about it and many people are reading it, over 2 million people actually. Upon a recent visit to Borders I could not resist the urge to pick up the book and begin reading myself.

The title 90 Minutes in Heaven led me to believe that the book would be an extensive description of Piper's time in heaven. I was disappointed to find that less than 10% of the total pages in this book actually dealt with his alleged time in heaven. The majority of the book dealt with Piper's recovery in the hospital, his transition back to `normal' life, and the subsequent speaking ministry that he has enjoyed. Regrettably there was more detail given to his description of an enema than his time in heaven. I do not say this to be crass but to express personal disappointment with the promotion of the book as an expose on heaven and instead I got unmentionable details concerning such things as this. Seriously, it was gross.

So here is the story in a nutshell, Piper is coming home from a conference, his car collides with a tractor trailer, and he is quickly pronounced dead on the scene. Shortly thereafter another Baptist pastor shows up (it is Texas after all) and begins praying for the recently deceased Piper. It is important to note that the pastor indicates that God told him to pray for Don Piper. Now as Protestants we typically do not pray for dead people, we leave that to Catholics, because it is not in the Bible; however, according to this pastor God is giving new revelation that contradicts the Bible. After a time of praying the pastor indicates that Piper began singing with him.

It was during this time that Piper states that he went to heaven. His description of heaven was nothing that you haven't heard before. There was a gate, gold, music, singing, and of course all of his relatives and friends were there. In fact there was, according to Piper, a reception committee awaiting him. There was no God sighting or a view of the throne or King Jesus. To be fair, Piper asserts that he didn't get all the way in past the gate.

So Piper comes back to life and is in the hospital. It should be noted that no one knew that Piper had died at this point, including his wife. "No one knew that I had died hours earlier....Eva (his wife) found out I had died from Dick Onerecker (the pastor who was praying) almost two weeks after the accident on one of Dick's visits to see me in the hospital." (p. 48) I find this strange that this alleged miracle of resurrection would not be on everyone's lips in and around the hospital. After all, how many people have come back from the dead?

Furthermore, it wasn't until nearly 2 years later that Piper told anyone about his experience in heaven. "Until then I had never talked to anyone about my heavenly experience. In a general sense, I had talked to Eva (his wife), but I always closed off the conversation before she asked questions. She tacitly understood that part of my experience was off-limits." (p. 123)

I will be honest with you, I do not believe the story. I do think that Piper really believes it, I do not think he is parading around the country with selfish motives. However, I have nothing in Scripture to convince me that his experience is genuine and the details he gives me leave me with more questions than answers.

From a Christian perspective this is a troubling book. There are a number of concerns that I have with it and they serve as a list of reasons why you should save your 13 frog-skins.

/1/ The Elevation of Experience as Authority: This book pivots on the authority of the personal experience. However we interpret our various circumstances becomes God communicating to us. Suddenly heaven is all about seeing grandpa, our neighbors, and hearing a hymn or two.

/2/ The Demotion of Scripture from Authority: Aside from the verse at the beginning of each chapter this book is devoid of the Bible. In fact, I would argue that this book is what you would write if you did not have the Bible. Piper's view of heaven is more akin to what you would see on Oprah rather than what you would read in Revelation. The Bible portrays heaven as being the glorious stage of Christ, he is what makes heaven heavenly (Rev. 5.11-14). Except for an occasional name drop this book is devoid of Jesus. Say what you want, but to elevate personal experience to the chief authority here is to demote the Bible.

This is troubling.

Piper says it best, "I have changed the way I do funerals. Now I can speak authoritatively about heaven from firsthand knowledge." (p. 129). This is a terrible statement. He writes as one who does not have a Bible. There is no difference in what Don Piper is doing and what the cult leaders have done in elevating their own revelation to a peer or superior status with the Bible (cf. Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, Christian Scientists, etc..). He should not get a free pass because he is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.

/3/ An Improper view of Trials: This is a text book on how not to deal with trials. Instead of embracing a trial as the providential means by which God means to sanctify his children and make them more like Jesus (James 1.3-5) Piper resists the trial at every turn.

/4/ A lack of theological precision: Piper is just plain theologically sloppy. You may think I am being mean here, but remember he is a pastor, he has been to seminary, he is supposed to be able to handle the Word like someone who is going to give an account (Jam. 3.1ff, 2 Tim. 3 & 4). Piper attributes the following items to be miracles: wearing a seat belt, the accident occurring on a bridge, not having a head injury, the identity of the surgeon, people praying for him. These may be items of providence but they are not things which theologians would typically call miracles. A miracle is typically referred to as a less common outworking of God's sovereign control or providence over creation. Wearing a seat belt is not a miracle. A pastor should know better than this.

/5/ An Inadequate View of Heaven: I alluded to this above. It is a big problem when you miss the whole point of heaven. Heaven is not about seeing grandpa or your old baseball coach it is about worshiping Jesus. To rip off the heaven of heaven and package it as some subjective family reunion at club med with nice background music is reproachable. And to furthermore affix some "God-told-me" talk to it to bolster its authority is also troubling.

There is enough heavenly beauty, glory, and treasure in the Bible. Read it and you will long for the heaven of the Bible where Jesus is central.

Save your money, this book is not worth it.
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on December 23, 2012
Don Piper is a pastor with a bias towards the supernatural. He experienced a horrific car accident which caused him to be declared clinically dead. What he perceived to be real during his state of unconsciousness can not be proven true or not true. The burden of proof is on those who make a positive claim. If Don Piper claims his experience is real, he has the burden of proof to provide physical and/or presentable evidence, if he expects others to believe him. Unfortunately, he doesn't have any proof but his own testimony and the hearsay of others. Since he, himself believes it to be true, I will not call him a liar. However, believing something to be true doesn't make it true. Scientific studies prove that the human brain can and often does hallucinate when oxygen deprived, so it is reasonable to suspect that that is indeed what has happened.
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on January 20, 2006
I never buy these kinds of books. I have always viewed them as a type of preying on believers or , at best, a sleazy attempt to cash in on faith. This book was different. I read the title and synopsis and passed over it many times but something kept drawing me back to this book. I didn't know why at the time, but I had to buy this book.

I loved it from the very first page. It has a ring of truth. Most of the book is about what happened to Mr. Piper after his experience in heaven and during his long, painful recovery. I bought many copies and gave them to family and friends, urging them to read it as I believe it has the power to transform lives.

About a month after I 1st read this book my son was killed in Iraq. I now know that God was preparing me for what was to come and not be afraid but be joyful that my son is with Him in an indescribly beautiful place, in His presence. I have a peace of mind I NEVER would have known if I had not read this book. I will be forever grateful for this.
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on May 23, 2007
I was so excited to listen to this book! To hear what it's like in Heaven - wow! But Mr. Piper talks of his moments in Heaven for just minutes on the first disk, then the other 4 1/2 disks (rest of the book) is all about his injuries in the accident and how he recovered. I was very disappointed. I expected more on Heaven, not so many details on his health condition each day. So if you want a story about a man that beat death with many prayers, this is it. But if you wanted a story, like me, that tells you every detail of Heaven and how wonderful it is, skip it. Sorry.
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on September 30, 2011
There have been a rather large amount of "celestial visit" books written over time. 23 minutes in Hell, Heaven is Real, Heaven is 4 Real, etc. Don Piper's book doesn't offer anything that hasn't been said already, and as many of the reviewers have noted, a majority of the book (like 4/5) are about Piper's recovery from his accident (which lead to his NDE). If you're looking for an encouraging "I went to Heaven" book, I'll say what I always do: Read the book of Revelation, or Isaiah 6 if you are short on time. They will profit you FAR more than any of the current offering from all the people who claim to have gone to Heaven.

I am a pastor, and I frequently get asked "have you read...?", so I gave this book a read one day to know what it says and formulate a response to people who ask about it. Let's get to brass tacks:


- Piper is a decent writer. He knows who he's writing to and doesn't write with too much complexity.

- The book attempts to not speculate about the esoteric questions about Heaven (i.e. do pets go to heaven?) and only attempts to relay Piper's experience.

- It's short and I made it through in about 1.5 hours.

And, well there's not much else I could say positively. Read on...


- Piper clearly went somewhere. I don't doubt that he experienced SOMETHING, but he claims that he actually went to Heaven. Do his claims stand up to scripture?

Well, Piper makes some strange claims, like:

a. He somehow went to Heaven and didn't see either God the Father or God the Son (page 26 & 37). Piper went to Heaven and only saw dead friends.

This is utterly unfathomable. Every Old and New Testament saint who went to heaven had several common experiences, the foremost of which was that everything was oriented around God! Everyone that went there in the scriptures encountered God because heaven is ALL about God, not about being reunited with loved ones.

b. The conversations and attention of everyone in Heaven was devoted to Don Piper (page 30). Don experienced perfect love when everyone welcomed him and paid attention to him (page 31).

The people in Heaven were all focused on Don Piper and devoted themselves to glorifying his presence?

c. There were hundreds of worship songs being sung at the same time (page 34) and though such would be cacophony on earth, it somehow worked in Heaven.

Well, not according to places like Rev. 5 where everyone sings in unity.

d. None of the songs were about Jesus death or anything sad (page 35).

Again, this is utterly contrary to the scripture. Rev 5:9-10 & 5:12 suggest that the death of Christ is what everyone IS singing about in Heaven.

e. After Piper left Heaven, the thing he missed most was the MUSIC (page 36).

Not God? Not Christ? The music? Seriously?

f. The angels had wings in Heaven (page 33).

Well, not according to the scriptures. The only creatures in heaven are the cherubim/seraphim, there's only 4 of them, and they're ALWAYS around the throne. Is. 6, Ez. 1, and Rev. 4 talk about the only creatures in heaven with wings. The rest of the angels consistently are not described as beings with wings.

g. The gates of Heaven were not fashioned from a single pearl, but instead shimmered like pearls (page 38) and had streets that were paved with literal gold (page 38-39).

"And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass" - Rev 21:21.

Piper not only disagrees with the scripture on the gates, but he even confuses the current Heaven with the New Jerusalem, which is what is described in Rev. 21. The current Heaven is NOT the place with pearl gates or gold streets. That place is a'comin.

Piper seems to have experienced a Heaven that looks more like what one would see on TV shows than what is revealed in the Bible. All his obvious objective and theological errors remove any question of whether Don Piper actually went to the current Heaven. He may believe he went to Heaven, but place he describes sure doesn't sound like the place the Bible describes.

- Secondly, the fruit of Piper's journey was basically depression and bitterness. The rest of the book goes on with Piper recalling how he was so angry that he was shown Heaven and didn't get to stay, but rather had to come back and suffer with months of recovery.

In a nutshell, Piper's visit to Heaven resulted in a whole bunch of sin.

I don't have a clue how to make sense of that. A great revelation of God doesn't result in increased sin in one's heart or life, at least if I'm going by the biblical examples of people like Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Saul of Tarsus, Peter, etc.


This book is a cacophony of error that pretends to come from a reliable first-hand witness. The more reliable witness (God's word) disagrees with Piper and calls his interpretation of his experience into question.


One final note - Some people, well most people, will be offended by my review. Many will think I am rude, or unloving, in saying that Don Piper is basically confused and spreading false teaching.

I get that, but he's a pastor who is using a role of spiritual leadership and authority for the purpose of giving his book credibility and he's saying things that are demonstrably false. Titus 1:9-11 instructs me, as a pastor, to take serious task with someone who uses a spiritual office for the propagation of lies. Titus 1:11 instructs me to not simply ignore stuff like this, but to literally muzzle the people who are trying to pass off spiritual error as spiritual truth.

I have no ill will towards Don Piper, and I have no idea as to heart motivations or any sort of standing before God.

I can address his propositional claims and check them against the Bible, which is all I have attempted to do.
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on April 11, 2010
I wanted to give this book a real chance to speak it's message to me, but I just couldn't get past the fact that the author claims to have been dead, not to have had a near-death experience, but to have actually be dead, deceased, past away. Scriptually, there are only 2 people who have come back to life from the dead: Lazarus and Christ. Is the author claiming to be the third? His description of Heaven is so ridiculous and shallow that it can only speak to the fact that he was in a deep unconscious state and in that state saw what he had been taught as a child (as we all are) that Heaven has pearly gates, etc. I was actually embarrassed to be reading about all his dead acquaintances running to see him at the pearly gates. I'm just glad that I didn't actually pay to read this - I downloaded it for free on my Kindle. I couldn't even finish it although I tried really hard, I really did.
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VINE VOICEon July 31, 2010
The experience told in this book is amazing and incredible. I don't want to say much, as to not ruin this experience for those who want to read it for themselves. The author told about some awesome things.

But the book is not all comfortable. The author suffered much pain and suffering. The way he described it, I don't want to ever have to go through it. Being in a terrible auto accident, and then recovering isn't cozy and comforting. It is horrendous and frustrating.

But after the deepest intensity of horrible pain, discomfort, and suffering, it seems the major purpose of his personal ministry is to reach out to others, whether in physical pain or spiritual pain, or both. He seemed to have reached a lot of people, in ways that he could not have done if he had not been in that horrible accident and suffered such deep pain. People listened to him because he had been through their same pain, or just because of his personal experiences.

His physical healing was (and I'm sure, still is) a long, hard, painful, discouraging, and frustrating process. I'm sure there are lots of people who have emotional injuries that are just as hard to heal. Those people need the type of emotional treatment and care and comfort that he received for his physical injuries. Just as his physical injuries caused a lot of emotional grief, emotional injuries cause physical grief. Sad thing is, too many people who are suffering emotionally or spiritually are not receiving the care and treatment they need. But I feel this person's personal ministry is touching lots of people, both physically and emotionally and spiritually. When the book was written, lots of people had already been reached.
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on December 21, 2008
Don Piper has been an ordained minister since 1985. In 1989 he was involved in a car accident, where he was clinically dead for 90 minutes. In this NYT bestseller, he attempts to convey his glimpse of heaven but it falls flat. In the acknowlegements, Piper admits that "he has seldom satisfied anyone with quick answers or brief encounters retelling his experience" and "generally left more unanswered questions than satisfactory responses". Anyone expecting more from this book will be wholly disappointed.

Piper describes the accident from his perspective and from what he learned afterward. He talks a lot about his physical, emotional and spiritual recovery from his debilitating injuries. However, the reader is most interested in the 90 minutes he claims to have been in heaven. Disappointingly, Piper constantly falls back on the failure of earthly adjectives to adequately convey anything of what he saw or felt during that period. Tiringly so. After awhile, the reader will realize that he could have described the 90 minutes in about 5 minutes.

If you're interested in an inspirational story of overcoming tremendous physical difficulty and maintaining a healthy perspective about life following tragedy, then this book will not disappoint. If you're interested in a description of heaven brought back by someone who has been there and returned to tell the story, you will be disappointed and unsatisfied as Piper forewarns in the acknowledgement section.
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on May 15, 2010
Though the shelves of bookstores are lined with books from authors of all walks of life claiming out-of-body and near-death experiences, few of them rise to nationally-known status. Even when such books do garner national attention, very seldom are such books even acknowledged by the broader Christian community. Most are rejected outright, and rightly so. Their claims of post-mortem experiences, disembodied voices, bright lights, and long-dead loved ones somehow lack the veracity to make them even slightly believable. So, when a book of this ilk has penetrated the Christian community, it gets my attention.

In Ninety Minutes in Heaven, Baptist pastor and author Don Piper describes an experience in which he claims to have died, gone to heaven, and returned to earth. The book tells of Piper's death in an automobile accident in 1989. During the 90 minutes which elapsed while paramedics discerned no signs of life in Piper, the author claims to have truly been in heaven. He describes the sights and wonders that greeted him on his brief visit to glory before another pastor prayed for him and he was returned to life on earth.

There are elements of Piper's description of his time in heaven which trouble me. They teach a different view of heaven than that of Scripture. The most blatant of these issues is in Piper's description of the music of heaven. He tells that, though any songs he heard were familiar, he heard no songs such as "the Old Rugged Cross." Then he claims to have realized that in heaven, there would be no songs of Christ's sacrifice, because in heaven, there would be no songs of sadness.

Piper seems to have missed that John, in his biblically-validated visit to heaven, describes songs and sights that are completely focused on the sacrifice of Christ as a thing of glory. For example, Revelation 5:9 describes one heavenly song in this way: "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.'" Later in the same scene, John declares that myriads sang, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" (Rev. 5:12). Even in the description of the holy city, Christ is still referred to as the Lamb, indicating his sacrifice (Rev. 21:22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3). So Piper's claim that no songs in heaven will refer to the blood or sacrifice of Christ is simply unbiblical and imagined.

There are other elements of Piper's description of heaven that are troubling. It is disturbing that Piper describes in vivid detail his attention first being focused on the crowd of people who came to welcome him. When John was transported to heaven, his attention was first transfixed on the throne of God and not on others (Rev. 4:2-3a). The relatives who came to welcome Piper in his description were all expressing how glad they were to see him. This contrasts with the words in the mouths of those in heaven in the Scripture which focus almost exclusively on the glory of Christ. In fact, Piper was the center of attention, the real star of the show, if you would believe his description of his heavenly stopover. Piper even corrects the Bibles description of the heavenly city's gates, calling them pearl-looking in their sheen, not, as the Bible claims, "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl" (Rev. 21:21a).

Am I calling Don Piper a liar? Not really. I do not know what he experienced or what he believes he saw. He is not claiming, at least not in his book, to have brought back any sort of new revelation for the people of God. He simply is talking about what he believes himself to have seen. However, when a man decides to preach and teach things that are not present in Scripture or which claim to be experiences that go beyond Scripture, such a teacher is dangerous, regardless of how well-intentioned. The important thing for Christians to grasp is that no man's experience is as solid as is the Scripture, the word of God.

Allow me to show you this principle from the book of 2 Peter. Peter described in vivid detail his experience of seeing Jesus on the mountain of transfiguration (2 Pet. 1:16-18), using his experience with Jesus as evidence that his gospel was true. But Peter immediately followed up his personal testimony with these powerful words, "And we have something more sure, the prophetic word" (2 Pet. 1:19). Peter said that, even though his experience, his eyewitness testimony, was gripping, nothing was more solid and certain than the word of God.

Instead of relying on Scripture as the revelation of God, Piper regularly looks to other standards to claim revelation. He relies on circumstances, the responses of friends, inner voices, and personal peace as the tools to discern what is truly from God or God's will. Presenting such standards to credulous people has the potential to do them harm, leading them away from the genuine revelation of God, the Bible, and into mysticism and subjectivism.

What should be done with Don Piper and his book
? While I offer no condemnation for anyone who read and enjoyed the book, I certainly would recommend that others not do so. Other books, better books, have been written by authors who use the scriptures to give people glimpses into heaven (one suggestion : John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven, Crossway, 1998). Piper's description of heaven misses the mark from a biblical standpoint, and thus smacks of man's own imaginings. The Scripture must be our guide, and Christians should beware of any teacher who claims to know something that is beyond the Bible.
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