THE HEAVENLY HASH
OF MARY K. BAXTER
A CRITICAL LOOK OF HER CELESTIAL REVELATION
by G. Richard Fisher
The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy: Teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables (1 Timothy 1:3-4). Christians must realize that when we move away from the clear and precise teachings of Scripture we end up moving into a land of fable and human imagination.
Mary K. Baxter, like others before, claims to have gone to heaven and returned. Declarations of this nature have gained momentum and frequency in recent years and those claiming trips to the other side constantly contradict one another with their extraordinary and fantastic assertions.1 Some self-proclaimed heaven-hoppers have been exposed as fakes, such as Betty Malz and her best-selling volume, My Glimpse of Eternity.2
In Baxters new book, A Divine Revelation of Heaven, she recounts her celestial visitation, which came a number of years ago and followed her divine revelation into hell. (It should be noted that the thought of anyone going to hell and leaving is contrary to all of the Bible. Read Luke 16.)
She turned the former adventure into a perennial best-seller, with over one-half million copies in various languages in print. In fact, according to Baxters latest book, Jesus has told her that these tours through the nether region and paradise are the very purpose of her life:
For this very purpose you were born, to write and tell what I have shown and told you, for these things are faithful and true. Your call is to let the world know that there is a heaven, that there is a hell, and that I, Jesus, was sent by the Father to save them from torment and to prepare them a place in heaven.3
Baxters alleged proposition above says in no uncertain terms that Scripture is, at best, ineffective in its ability to let the world know that there is a heaven, that there is a hell, and that Jesus was sent to save mankind from the latter.
All we need to know about heaven and all that God wants us to know about heaven is contained in the Scriptures. If we needed any more, certainly God would have given us a larger Bible. Gods divine revelation ended with the Book of Revelation (Revelation 22:18-19).
Contrary to the title and Baxters claim of a divine revelation, this book is more human imagination than anything else. Perhaps, as well, more information on heaven may not be understandable by us. We dont try to teach calculus to first-graders, either. God knows how much we can comprehend.
The New Geneva Study Bible explains:
We can form an idea of the perfect life of heaven from what we know imperfectly now. ...it is destined to be realized in a way beyond imagination.4
If all the so-called divine revelations of cult groups and spiritually abusive manipulators were true, we could only conclude that God is confused and contradicting Himself. The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12:4, taught that heavens glories are inexpressible. Baxter would have us believe otherwise. To think that Baxters book can give us more than God already has, is a not-so-subtle denigration of the Scriptures. God has been holding out on us at least until the coming of Mary Baxter.
Baxters book can be classified as science fiction splattered with Bible verses to prop it up and give it some credibility. Like her earlier volume, A Divine Revelation of Hell, this new book is filled with biblical inaccuracies, imagination, and myth.5
Baxter is simply following in the train of the 18th century occultist and mystic heretic Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborgs work, Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell, tells us not only of his finding secret meanings in every word of Scripture (called Arcana) but also of his purported trips to both heaven and hell. Amazingly, though Swedenborg predated the oneness Pentecostals by 150 years, he aggressively taught oneness doctrine.6
For the Christian, there are volumes on heaven that are more accurate, trustworthy, edifying and biblical for the student of Scripture. One classic volume is Wilbur Smiths The Biblical Doctrine of Heaven.7 Smith has an expansive bibliography which may well be the most extensive in any volume. The 13-page bibliography lists over 140 books just on heaven.
Another fine and more recent study on heaven is renowned pastor and author John MacArthurs book, The Glory of Heaven.8 MacArthur is biblical and warns against the current wave of Gnosticism by debunking some by name. He also reproduces sermons on heaven from stalwarts like Richard Baxter, Thomas Boston, J.C. Ryle and Charles Spurgeon.
In a previous Quarterly Journal article,9 we introduced Mary K. Baxter from her promotional material as an ordinary housewife until through a series of revelations and dreams, she was taken to the very body of hell. We also noted that she was ordained at the Full Gospel Church in Taylor Michigan in 1983. Baxter is a minister with the National Church of God in Washington, D.C. In that 1995 piece we noted that Baxters ideas of heaven (given as a teaser in her first book), included a special planet for aborted and stillborn babies as well as animals. She presumes to speak where the Scriptures are silent (Deuteronomy 29:29). She also maintains that there is a file room where angels bring accounts of peoples lives for God to scrutinize, but cites no Scripture. This is akin to the progressive salvation and the investigative judgment of Ellen G. White and the Adventists.
Whitaker House, responsible for publishing the paranoid delusions of Dr. Rebecca Brown, is also responsible for publishing both of Baxters books. As more people abandon the Bible for experience and mythology (2 Timothy 4:3-4), this book already is being touted as a best-seller. People turning from the truth to fables is the only explanation for this book being the fifth-best-selling trade paperback10
STRAIGHT FROM THE BOOK
One of the ground rules of discussing heaven should always be that the interaction will be based on biblical material alone. Otherwise we are on a heaving sea of speculation, guesswork, and perhaps even human or demonic delusion or deception. Even the passages about heaven that seem materialistic (in the best sense), like streets of gold, and so forth, if taken literally, must not be pushed beyond the Bibles statements with wild elaborations, additions or embellishments. Where Scripture is silent, we dare not tread. Where the Bible stops, we dare not go further.
As the late apologist Walter Martin suggested many years ago, on some subjects there should be a reverent agnosticism. Even if some take a more literal approach to the New Jerusalem, it does not justify creating an imaginary heaven in the likeness of Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
What can we absolutely know about heaven? We can know much if we stick solely to Scripture. The Holy Spirit will make that material precious to us (John 14:26, 16:13-15).
The most frequently used word for heaven in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word samayin. In the New Testament, the Greek word ouranos is used. The Hebrew word means heights and the New Testament word means sky or air above the Earth.11 It is a wonderful choice of words because anywhere we are on Earth, there is sky above.
In short, heaven is a place. It is the home and throne of God. Christ ascended there and believers go there at death. It is the abode of angels. It is called Paradise and the third heaven and its size is inconceivable. It is a place of joy, pleasure and unending bliss. There, sickness, pain and death are absent. It is the believers hope and inheritance.12 We could meditate long and hard and study deeper and deeper on any one of those things mentioned.
It is problematic enough that Baxter gives so much fanciful extra-biblical information but a far greater problem is that her ideas contradict Scripture in no uncertain terms.
STRAIGHT FROM THE TOP?
There is no doubt that Baxter puts herself on a lofty plain. As noted above, she says her call in life was to write these books. She further asserts:
God, in His infinite mercy, has seen fit to choose me and show me visions from Himself. I praise God for this. When I am in prayer and meditation, seeking God on certain matters, I am allowed to see into mysteries by the Spirit. He reveals certain things to me. My calling in God is to receive dreams, visions, and revelations and to relate them to others. As the Lords anointed handmaiden, I am simply describing the things that He has shown to me. I believe this is my biblical role.13
So there we have it. This book is nothing less than the absolute Word of God from God. It, like the Bible itself, has the inerrant revelation of God.
What makes this book really dangerous is the blatant and overt message that the Bible is not quite enough. Perhaps the Bible is lackluster and incomplete but now there is the real word, the final word. There is now something better, more exciting, more revealing, more wonderful and a bit fuller than Gods Word. Of course, its about $10 per volume and published by Whitaker House. If the above unspoken supposition were not true (that Gods Word is not quite enough) the book would not have been written. The Bible would have been enough period. We must not forget that all cults have their extrabiblical revelations and their divine and anointed seers.
HAIL MARY AND HER X-RAY VISION
There is no escaping the exalting of self in this book. Baxter repeatedly places herself on par with the Apostles and Scripture writers. She extols: I saw the same scene that John saw in his vision that he described in Revelation.14 In fact, she appears to be greater than John in seeing things he never saw.
Baxter sees many other things as well: As the minister prayed for people who were sick or afflicted with diseases, it seemed that the Lord allowed me to see a dark spot in a lung, a leg, a heart, or wherever the affliction was.15
And Baxters visions are not even stifled by geographic boundaries: Now, I need to tell you that the things I was seeing in my spirit were not always happening in the church where I was ministering at the time. I would see things in my spirit that could be occurring miles away.16 For a discerning Church, these assertions would have been condemned as clairvoyance or demonic visions and no Christian publisher would have fostered such occultic delusions. Truly, the Church has lost its will to discern.
Baxters ramblings even compare to the hallucinations of fellow Whitaker House author Rebecca Brown. She informs her gullible readers:
Around and outside of my home was a great assemblage of angels. Some were sitting, talking among themselves. Another group had a very authoritative look and seemed to be watching. The angels in the third group around the house were standing wingtip to wingtip with their backs toward my home. This last group was composed of the largest angels who all looked like warriors! Each had a large sword at his side. If even a dark shadow tried to creep toward my home, they would pull out their swords and defend my family.17
Christian Research Institutes Hank Hanegraaff clues us in on the many things that mark the counterfeit revival of our time. One prominent characteristic is the claim of the end-time restoration of prophetic and healing gifts seen in people who are even greater than the Bibles prophets and apostles. They make the grandiose claim of being super apostles in one way or another.18 Like it or not, Baxter fills the bill.
A GOOD START GOES BAD
Baxter starts out with standard fare reminding us that heaven is a prepared place, a perfect place and a permanent place.19 However, it certainly is questionable that nationality will continue as a distinction in heaven.20 This seems to be the assertion of Baxter.
There is no Scripture to prove that diamonds as big as blocks of concrete are used for soul winners mansions.21 This is pure speculation and imagination. But it gets worse with extrabiblical ideas.
Heaven is not the land of dreams come true as stated by Baxter.22 People have dreams about all sorts of things, true and untrue, good and bad. Some dream about hitting it big in the lottery or they dream about their team winning the series. Heaven is what Scripture says it is no more and no less. It is not based on human dreams or imagination.
ALL BOTTLED UP
Some of the above might be classified as junk food doctrine. Many would admit it is not really spiritually nourishing but say maybe it is not all that harmful. Some may feel that way in regard to Baxters teaching about the bottle room. However, the more one wanders away from Scripture, the more possibility of serious error and heresy and Baxter proves that very point. Error does beget error. We will get to some of the serious errors, but first the bottle room teaching.
Baxter reports seeing a room with bottles filled with human tears.23 The tears, she says, are brought in by angels by the bowlful and poured into individual bottles marked with peoples names. Baxter refers to Psalm 56:8 (You number my wanderings; Put my tears into your bottle; Are they not in your book?) to justify the numerous bottles.
Baxter misses it here and shows how loosely and inaccurately she handles Scripture. With Baxters tortured eisegesis we could just as well conclude that somehow there are leather bound containers called books that hold tears or some form of tear book for every person. Her hermeneutics get downright silly.
Heaven is a place of no tears and an absence of former things (Revelation 21:4, Isaiah 65:16).
Psalm 56:8 is teaching us through the use of Hebrew imagery and figures of speech that God gives personal attention to our needs, struggles, concerns and sorrows. The context also assures that God will take care of the opposition (vv. 7, 9). It says our tears go into His bottle and into His book. Gods personal attention to our sorrows and His vindication in terms of the enemy is a wonderful and comforting concept, while Baxters view leaves us cold. Psalm 56:8 does not add up to what she teaches. Keil and Delitzsch capture the essence of Psalm 56:8 and share how memorial terms are used there.24
The New Geneva Study Bible informs us on Psalm 56:8 that: The Psalmist is calling on God to hear and remember his prayer.25 A crass literal wresting of this verse distorts its meaning and robs Gods people of its comforts.
Adam Clarke instructs us about verse 8: Thou hast taken an exact account of all the tears I have shed in relation to this business; and thou wilt call my enemies to account for every tear.26
Baxter gives away her Charismatic inclination by claiming that there is in heaven a hall of platinum with rooms full of unclaimed blessings. Miracles and healings are unclaimed blessings.27 We can only conclude that if we do not get healings and blessings, it is all our fault for leaving them unclaimed. All we have to do is believe.28 This runs into the massive wall of Thy will be done and Not my will but thine but Baxter never mentions that issue. Ignoring pertinent parts of Scripture will not make them go away.
Again, there might be those who say, So whats the big deal? If it helps people, maybe even makes people think about heaven, so what that theres a few aberrations or a few liberties taken at the expense of Scripture?
Lest we forget: All of this is implied as coming right from God! There are not supposed to be errors, mistakes, contradictions, aberrations or liberties taken. God is perfect and cannot lie. Romans 3:4 insists: Let God be true and every man a liar. If the people that we allegedly help now, later find the errors and false teaching, the backlash will be that they may go into total skepticism and rejection, saying the whole message of Christ and the Gospel is false.
TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE
Baxter moves into even more serious errors as the book progresses. She seems to make angels omniscient (all knowing), in that the angels are able to understand and discern the thoughts and intents of peoples hearts and minds.29 There is no Scripture for these assertions. Created beings know only what God wants them to know. Omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God alone. This means that God does not share this ability with others. To have Gods attribute is to be God. Angels are not gods. To assign divine attributes to a creature is the essence of idolatry.
When it comes to salvation, Baxter sends a very confused and garbled message. In some parts of her book, salvation through Christ is clearly mentioned, as well as the place of preaching the message. But in Chapter 3, the reader is introduced to a strange and bizarre speculation. Rather than having the Word of God and His Spirit as the seen and unseen agents of conversion, Baxter links the inner work of salvation to an angel (who) was pouring what looked like fire on the head of the preacher.30 She also has angels touch the heart of the unsaved and set him free.31
John 6:63 tells us that The Spirit gives life. The Holy Spirit is the agent of the new birth. He, as well, seals us (Ephesians 1:13) and baptizes us into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). It is Jesus Christ who delivers us through the power of the Holy Spirit, not angels (Colossians 1:14, 1 Peter 1:18-23, Revelation 1:5). In Baxters account, angels are given prerogatives that only belong to the Godhead. This is where we move from junk food doctrine to serious and dangerous error. Colossians 1:18-19 warns against attributing too much to angels and insists that we keep Christ in His proper place of preeminence. Hebrews 1 punctuates the vast difference between Christ and angels and His superiority over them.
To further build on this angelic cleansing idea, Baxter employs angels expunging our sins (not Christ), by using blood-stained cloths on the history books.32 Where is she going with this and why? Scripture is crystal clear that God is the one who forgives sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Isaiah 43:25 assures us that it is God who blots out our transgressions and does not remember them against us. Angels are given far too much power and authority and intrude on the prerogatives of God in Baxters fantasy world. Though she contradicts herself and says, God truly forgives our sins. ... Hallelujah, God wipes the slate clean for each of us!33 she has the angels washing the pages.
This is not only a confusing book, it is a bad one.
This angelic conversion or angelic deliverance idea is totally unbiblical and misleading. It is a not-so-subtle shift away from Christ and ought to be jettisoned without hesitation. It strikes at the very heart of the Gospel and sets up a gnostic orientation. Even though she may later talk of the man receiving Christ and the Gospel being preached to him,34 the earlier angel message muddies and muddles the true salvation experience. After all, Baxter claims that the angel said: I am going to reveal to you what happens when a persons born again,35 just before the angel cleansing story. So if this is what really happens, why was it not ever revealed to the writers of Scripture?
Along the way, Baxter sees white horses bowing to God in worship,36 as a fulfillment of Philippians 2:10 (every knee should bow). She does not try to deal with verse 11, that every tongue should confess which shows clearly the context to be human worshipers. While this is a minor flub on her part, it is not the first time she ignores context.
JUST LIKE THE PICTURES
In the book, Baxter also describes a bearded Jesus in a robe.37 Maybe the artists of the middle ages were right.
In her section titled, Order in Heaven, Baxter has angels flying in all the time with reports38 and we have to wonder again what ever happened to the omniscience of God? There is implicit in Baxters view (and perhaps she is unaware) a move toward process theology. This heretical view teaches, in short, that God is advancing, God is learning, God is limited, God is growing.39
That God is perfect and knows all things from beginning to end is a central focus of the Bible. He is in every place keeping watch upon the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3). His omnipresence assures His omniscience (see Jeremiah 23:23-25, Psalm 139, Isaiah 46:10).40 God assures us in Malachi 3:6: For I am the Lord, I do not change. God does not need angelic reports. This is the God of Jehovahs Witnesses and other heretical cults.41
Baxter claims to have seen the top of Gods head which looked like wool.42 This is more nonsense and a failure to understand symbolic language where it is used in Scripture. John 4:24 tells us that God is a Spirit. We can be absolutely certain God does not look like a sheep. John 1 assures us that as far as the pure essence of God, No one has seen God at any time (v. 18). The closest that the Apostles got was Jesus. Baxters God is more at home in Mormonism than biblical Christianity.
Troublesome also is Baxters conditional salvation. There is a definite works/righteousness stated in her book. She writes concerning infants who have died that: If parents of these children will live righteously in Christ Jesus, when they come to heaven, they will be reunited and will know their precious loved ones.43 No ones righteousness will get them to heaven. Heaven is a free gift given to all who have the imputed righteousness of Jesus (Romans 4:5-6).
HEAVENS FITTING ROOM
Baxter claims 10 visits to heaven44 and while there she discovered people had to be fitted for their crowns.45 I guess this is another unforeseen detail God has to work out on the spot. Also we find that heaven has Victorian furniture,46 which will please antique buffs. Perhaps her claim of some other style of furniture with elaborate designs on the pieces47 will just have to suffice.
SO WHAT DO WE HAVE?
So what do we have in the end? What we have is a hodgepodge, a conglomeration. We have mongrelization and admixture. A Divine Revelation of Heaven is not a divine revelation at all. It is a melange of untested claims, fiction, imagination, out-of-context Bible verses, error and even heresy. The undiscerning will think it is great, never realizing that it tears away at the Gospel and the person of God. It is a modern metaphysical gnostic text. There are just enough God words and enough smattering of Bible references to convince the unassuming that it is a religious book. However, the bottom line is that its not even good fiction.
In the end when people see through the hype, it may lead to a loss of all hope or perhaps by the grace of God, they will be driven to seek the only true hope, Jesus and the Word of God.
The well-spoken words of apologist Craig Branch, in regard to New Age counterfeits, also apply to Mary Baxter and her book:
How does one test the validity of a claim of divine communication, and, if necessary, expose its deception? The Christian has the clear advantage because the Bible is the point of reference and discernment. The process of testing involves: (1) understanding the actual message or content of the claims; (2) comparing the source and the message with biblical truth; (3) demonstrating the internal contradictions or irrationality of the message; (4) if necessary, examining the history or reputation of the messenger or medium.48
Branch goes on:
And finally, the Christian must not neglect to consider what are the implications for individual Christians, and for the Body of Christ. Christians should ask what is going wrong in the culture when there is rampant interest in, and gullibility toward, occult and metaphysical teaching and phenomena.49
1. See William Alnor, Heaven Cant Wait
- A Survey of Alleged Trips to the Other Side. Grand Rapids,
Mich.: Baker Book House, 1996.
2. Ibid., pp. 20-21; 45-46.
3. Mary K. Baxter with Dr. T.L. Lowery, A Divine Revelation of Heaven. New Kensington, Pa.: Whitaker House, 1998, pg. 13.
4. The New Geneva Study Bible, pg. 2032.
5. For a critical review of Baxters earlier volume, A Divine Revelation of Hell, see this authors article in The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, pg. 1.
6. Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell. New York: The Citadel Press, 1965, pp. 5-8.
7. Wilbur Smith, The Biblical Doctrine of Heaven. Chicago: Moody Press, 1968.
8. John MacArthur, The Glory of Heaven The Truth About Heaven, Angels and Eternal. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossways Books, 1996.
9. The Quarterly Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, op. cit.
10. See the best-seller list in CBA Marketplace, October 1998.
11. See further, Bakers Dictionary of Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1973, pg. 263.
12. See further, William Evans, The Great Doctrines of the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, pp. 270-272; and The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing, 1975, Vol. 3, pp. 60-65.
13. A Divine Revelation of Heaven, op. cit., pp. 161-162.
14. Ibid., pg. 49.
15. Ibid., pg. 168.
16. Ibid., pp. 171-172.
17. Ibid., pp. 176-177.
18. Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1997, pp. 155-162.
19. A Divine Revelation of Heaven, op. cit., pp. 21, 24.
20. Ibid., pg. 25.
21. Ibid., pp. 26-27.
22. Ibid., pg. 30.
23. Ibid., pp. 33-36.
24. C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on The Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984, Vol. 5, Psalms, pg. 170.
25. The New Geneva Study Bible, pg. 814.
26. Adam Clarke, Adam Clarkes Commentary on the Old Testament. New York: Abingdon Press, no date, Vol. 3, pg. 398.
27. A Divine Revelation of Heaven, op. cit., pp. 54-57.
28. Ibid., pg. 56.
29. Ibid., pg. 62.
30. Ibid., pg. 63.
31. Ibid., pp. 64-65.
32. Ibid., pp. 148-149.
33. Ibid., pg. 149.
34. Ibid., pg. 70.
35. Ibid., pp. 60-61.
36. Ibid., pp. 83-84.
37. Ibid., pg. 84.
38. Ibid., pg. 94. 39. See further, Robert E. Morey, The Battle of the Gods (Southbridge, Mass.: Crown Publications, 1989) for an in depth historical view and complete refutation of process theology.
40. See further, Henry Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, pp. 124-125.
41. For an examination of the limited God of Jehovahs Witnesses who relies upon angelic reports, see Duane Magnani, The Heavenly Weather Man, published by Witness, Inc., P.O. Box 597, Clayton, CA 94517.
42. A Divine Revelation of Heaven, op. cit., pg. 113.
43. Ibid., pg. 118.
44. Ibid., pg. 143.
45. Ibid., pg. 145.
47. Ibid., pp. 145-146.
48. Craig Branch, Conversions with the Counterfeit. The Watchman Expositor, Vol. 15, No. 3, 1998, pp. 15-16.
49. Ibid., pg. 16.
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