On a sunny morning in November, 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year old son, Alex, left their rural Ohio home headed for some errands in town. Pulling on to the main highway near their home, Kevin didn’t see the car speeding toward them. It slammed into the passenger side of Malarkey’s car and young Alex was nearly decapitated by the impact. The consensus was that Alex could not survive his massive injuries, and although the EMT’s were called, so was the coroner.
Arriving at the trauma center Alex, comatose, was placed on life support. Miraculously he would awaken two months later, and would begin to tell an amazing story. Over the next several months he rehearsed a fascinating account of what he witnessed after he “died” in the collision. He saw himself in heaven, which he described in scintillating detail. He saw the gates of the city which he said were big and white and shiny. He met Jesus, talked with angels, even saw God the Father, though not His face. He also saw the devil in the distance.
Kevin, Alex’s dad, began to write down what his son was describing, and as would become evident, began to fill in some details of his own. Subsequently they would receive a contract from a Christian book publisher, Tyndale House, and Kevin went on the road, telling the story: “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.” The book sold a million copies. A made-for-TV video would follow. Kevin, whose residence had recently been in foreclosure, was able to pay it off.
A cult-like following developed as many who read the story were convinced it provided compelling evidence of both life after death and that heaven is a real place. Who, after all, could deny an eye-witness account? Alex’s compelling first-hand account surely must be validation of the promises of Scripture. Two more books by other authors but of a similar genre would follow: “Heaven Is for Real,” and “90 Minutes in Heaven.”
But alas, there was trouble post-paradise. Beth Malarkey, mother of Alex, came forward and admitted that her husband was not the scribe, but rather the author of the book. It was an awkward admission – for Kevin, for the publisher, and for a host of followers who had bought the lie. In 2015 Alex wrote a blog post in which he said, “…I did not die. I did not go to heaven. I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention… The book is one of the most deceptive books ever.” Then he added, “[People] should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth.”
Alex, now a young adult quadriplegic, has said what needs to be said. I remember reading his story when it was first published in 2010 and thinking, “A lot of folks are going to be misled by this tale.” Fortunately you and I are blessed to know the One who wrote the Book and because we trust Him as our Friend we know we can trust His Word.
By Don Jacobsen