What is a biblical view of Angelica Zambrano's vision of heaven and hell?
Angelica Zambrano is a woman who claims she had an experience as a teenager in which she was dead for 23 hours, met Jesus, and had a vision of heaven and hell that was given to her in order to return and warn others about the judgments of the afterlife.
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Some aspects of Zambrano's account reflect biblical concepts. For example, she presents Jesus as the "good guy" of her account. Heaven and hell are real, literal places in the afterlife. She is urged to tell people about Jesus in order to avoid hell.
However, other aspects of her story do not reflect the Bible's teachings. For example, she speaks of Jesus returning for a "holy people" that appears largely based on human efforts to serve God rather than on salvation by grace through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). In addition, to claim Jesus would take a person into heaven and hell and back is something not seen elsewhere in Scripture. Jesus dwells in heaven with the Father (Acts 1:11). At most, her account could only be a vision or dream rather than a literal visit to heaven and hell.
Further, Jesus Himself gave evidence that those who go to heaven or hell remain there. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus we read, "And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us" (Luke 16:26). In other words, Angelica would not be led from hell to heaven and back to earth in any literal way, for this would contradict what is presented in Scripture.
While many have been quick to defend Zambrano's experiences, the Bible is clear that it is important to test everything and to cling to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). We are to be as the Bereans, who studied what the apostle Paul taught on a daily basis in order to determine what was true: "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11).
It is true that the Bible presents accounts of God revealing information to people in visions and dreams. However, believers are also to biblically evaluate such experiences to determine faithfulness of claimed visions to God's Word. Further, visions are ultimately personal experiences. There is no objective way to determine if a vision happened or not, nor how to determine what really occurred during the vision. Instead, all that can be done is to evaluate the content of the claimed vision and the fruit of resulting lifestyle of the person who claimed to have such a vision.
The faith of the believer is based upon the Word of God. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
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