Question: "What are the courts of heaven?"
Answer: The word court has several uses in English. Among the meanings are “an area where a tennis or basketball game is played”; “a venue where legal cases are presented and a judge presides”; and “a monarch’s assembly of officers and advisors.”
In the New Testament, the word courts is normally used in the legal sense. “The courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another” (Acts 19:38). The term is never used in conjunction with heavenly courts.
In the Old Testament, the term courts is used almost exclusively to refer to the temple (or a part of the temple) where God was enthroned: “Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him” (1 Chronicles 28:6). In the Psalms we find “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). At the time this was written, “entering God’s courts” referred to walking into the physical temple. When most Christians read this verse today, they may picture entering the spiritual presence of God and imagine this happening in “the courts of heaven,” that is, the spiritual realm where God is enthroned.
Still, the term courts of heaven or the court of heaven is never used in Scripture.
Prosperity theology teacher Robert Henderson has lately sparked interest in “the courts of heaven,” using the term in the legal sense. Henderson says that he had known for a long time that he could pray to God as Father and as his Friend; however, he had missed the fact that he could also appeal to God as the Judge. Henderson reasons that, as human judges rule over earthly judicial systems, so God is the Judge in the Court of Heaven.
In an interview with Patricia King, Henderson tells the story of how he prayed for two years for his son Adam, who battled with depression, and nothing was working. He had tried “binding and loosing,” “opening and shutting,” “every formula I had ever heard,” and “everything I knew to do,” but with no breakthrough. Then Henderson supposedly heard the voice of God tell him, “Bring Adam to my courts.” So that is what he did.
Henderson started by saying, “Lord, I bring Adam to your courts.” Then he repented for anything that he thought Adam might have done wrong. Then he repented for some of his own sin in relation to Adam. The whole process took about 15 minutes. A week and a half later, his son called to tell him that he had experienced an amazing breakthrough from his depression a week and a half before. Henderson states, “I suddenly realized that I had done in 15 minutes in the courts of heaven what I had not been able to do in two years on the battlefield of prayer.” From this experience Henderson concluded that the battle has already been won by Christ and that we just need to get “legal access” to the victory. In the courts of heaven, we remove any legal issue that the enemy is using to prevent God from delivering what He has promised to His children.
Henderson has written the following books, further developing his “Courts of Heaven” brand of prosperity theology:
• Operating in the Courts of Heaven: Granting God the Legal Rights to Fulfill His Passion (2016)
• Unlocking Destinies from the Courts of Heaven: Dissolving Curses That Delay and Deny Our Future (2016)
• Accessing the Courts of Heaven: How to Position Yourself for Breakthrough in Prayer (2017)
• Prayers & Declarations That Open the Courts of Heaven (2018)
• Receiving Healing from the Courts of Heaven: Removing Hindrances that Delay or Deny Your Healing (2018)
• Redeeming Your Bloodline: Foundations for Breaking Generational Curses from the Courts of Heaven (2019)
• The Cloud of Witnesses in the Courts of Heaven: Partnering with the Council of Heaven for Personal and Kingdom Breakthrough (2019)
• Issuing Divine Restraining Orders from Courts of Heaven: Restricting and Revoking the Plans of the Enemy (2019, co-authored with Francis Miles)
• Father, Friend, and Judge: Three Dimensions of Prayer That Receive Answers from Heaven (2020)
• Praying for the Prophetic Destiny of the United States and the Presidency of Donald J. Trump from the Courts of Heaven (2020)
Robert Henderson has also held a conference called “Unlocking Wealth in the Courts of Heaven.” A corollary to this is his book The Trading Floors of Heaven: Where Lost Blessings Are Restored and Kingdom Destiny Is Fulfilled (2018, co-authored with Beverly Watkins). This book purports to tell readers how to “receive your New Covenant blessing and inheritance by accessing the trade of Calvary through the Courts of Heaven.”
Henderson’s theology and methodology have many problems.
First, Henderson assumes that, because God is called a judge, He must actually preside over a court system at least somewhat similar to a modern judicial system. Scripture does call God the Judge, but it says nothing of a legal system that operates in heaven, much less this being the key to getting what we want.
Second, Henderson relies upon extra-biblical revelation that he claims to have received. It is amazing that the New Testament never once mentions this critical information about accessing the courts of heaven. For 2,000 years Christians have been praying and struggling with suffering and persecution that, according to Henderson, could have been avoided if they had simply known to apply to God not as their Father or Friend, but as the Judge, and to present their cases in the heavenly judicial system. In an earthly judicial system, requests are regularly denied because the plaintiff did not file the right paperwork in the right way. Are we to believe that the “heavenly judicial system” works in much the same way?
Third, Henderson’s concept of the heavenly courts and how we can use them are firmly rooted in prosperity theology. According to Henderson, wealth and healing are all there for the taking if we only know how to properly apply for them. His theology rests on the idea that God gave Adam, the first man, legal authority over the earth. When Adam sinned, that legal authority was transferred to Satan. Now God is legally barred from taking action on earth unless people take back that authority from Satan and give it to God. Apparently, this is accomplished in the legal setting of a real heavenly courtroom. Thus the subtitle of the original “courts of heaven” book: Operating in the Courts of Heaven: Granting God the Legal Rights to Fulfill His Passion. In this theology, God wants to bless us, but He may be hindered on technical legal grounds.
Fourth, Henderson’s approach to prayer is mechanistic. In the “courts of heaven” paradigm, prayer is about using the right formula or, we might say, filing the right paperwork in the proper jurisdiction. There is no sense of “thy will be done” except that prosperity teachers “know” that God’s will is to bless them with health and wealth. If they are not receiving these in abundance, there must be some technicality that is preventing it. Perhaps a certain formula or technique will be the “trick” to get the blessings flowing. This is, at root, a pagan concept.
In the final analysis, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray by giving them a model prayer, we find nothing about “the courts of heaven” or anything about health and prosperity. We do find an emphasis on God’s Kingdom coming and God’s will being done. The focus of prayer is on aligning our will with God’s. Health and prosperity are summed up in a request for “daily bread,” which is just enough to supply the needs of the day.