Heaven; A Book Review

web3-heavens-gate-2jenn-via-shutterstock_631121210When you think of Heaven, I can probably tell you what you’re thinking of. You imagine sitting on a cloud with wings, visiting with dead relatives and friends. Maybe even St. Peter checking ID’s at the Pearly Gates and hanging out with Jesus. 

If you’re from a Christian background, then standing around the throne of God and singing all the time is a thought that passes through your mind. That’s both appealing and unappealing. It sounds boring. 

Biblically, what is Heaven like? Randy Alcorn wrote a book called, well…

Heaven

“What is Heaven really going to be like? What will we look like? What will we do? Won’t Heaven get boring after a while?

We all have questions about what Heaven will be like, and after 25 years of extensive research, Dr. Randy Alcorn has the answers.

In the most comprehensive and definitive book on Heaven to date, Randy invites you to picture Heaven the way Scripture describes it– a bright, vibrant, and physical New Earth, free from sin, suffering, and death, and brimming with Christ’s presence, wondrous natural beauty, and the richness of human culture as God intended it.

God has put eternity in our hearts. Now, Randy Alcorn brings eternity to light in a way that will surprise you, spark your imagination, and change how you live life today.

If you’ve always thought of Heaven as a realm of disembodied spirits, clouds, and eternal harp strumming, you’re in for a wonderful surprise.

This is a book about real people with real bodies enjoying close relationships with God and each other, eating, drinking, working, playing, traveling, worshiping, and discovering on a New Earth. Earth as God created it. Earth as He intended it to be.

And the next time you hear someone say, “We can’t begin to imagine what Heaven will be like,” you’ll be able to tell them, “I can.” 

 

Okay then, what’s Heaven like?

 

“So look out a window. Take a walk. Talk with your friend. Use your God-given skills to paint or draw or build a shed or write a book. But imagine it—all of it—in its original condition. The happy dog with the wagging tail, not the snarling beast, beaten and starved. The flowers unwilted, the grass undying, the blue sky without pollution. People smiling and joyful, not angry, depressed, and empty. If you’re not in a particularly beautiful place, close your eyes and envision the most beautiful place you’ve ever been—complete with palm trees, raging rivers, jagged mountains, waterfalls, or snow drifts. Think of friends or family members who loved Jesus and are with him now. Picture them with you, walking together in this place. All of you have powerful bodies, stronger than those of an Olympic decathlete. You are laughing, playing, talking, and reminiscing. You reach up to a tree to pick an apple or orange. You take a bite. It’s so sweet that it’s startling. You’ve never tasted anything so good. Now you see someone coming toward you. It’s Jesus, with a big smile on his face. You fall to your knees in worship. He pulls you up and embraces you. At last, you’re with the person you were made for, in the place you were made to be. Everywhere you go there will be new people and places to enjoy, new things to discover. What’s that you smell? A feast. A party’s ahead. And you’re invited. There’s exploration and work to be done—and you can’t wait to get started.”

This next quote gave me something to chew on. It’s a bit chilling. 

“Because God is the source of all good, and Hell is the absence of God, Hell must also be the absence of all good. Likewise, community, fellowship, and friendship are good, rooted in the triune God himself. But in the absence of God, Hell will have no community, no camaraderie, no friendship. I don’t believe Hell is a place where demons take delight in punishing people and where people commiserate over their fate. More likely, each person is in solitary confinement, just as the rich man is portrayed alone in Hell (Luke 16:22-23). Misery loves company, but there will be nothing to love in Hell. Earth is an in-between world touched by both Heaven and Hell. Earth leads directly into Heaven or directly into Hell, affording a choice between the two. The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.

When we die, we go to Heaven, right? Well, Randy writes yes, and no. 

“When a Christian dies, he or she enters into what is referred to in theology as the intermediate state, a transitional period between our past lives on Earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth. Usually when we refer to “Heaven,” we mean the place that Christians go when they die. This is what I am calling the present or intermediate Heaven. When we tell our children “Grandma’s now in Heaven,” we’re referring to the present Heaven. By definition, an intermediate state or location is temporary.”

“The present, intermediate Heaven is in the angelic realm, distinctly separate from Earth (though as we’ll see, likely having more physical qualities than we might assume). By contrast, the future Heaven will be in the human realm, on Earth. Then the dwelling place of God will also be the dwelling place of humanity, in a resurrected universe: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth. . . . I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God. . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:1-3). Heaven, God’s dwelling place, will one day be on the New Earth.”

crowns-in-heavenOne thing he wrote about stirred my heart. He admitted it was speculation, but what about kids that have died. Imagining watching Squiggles and Little One (our two miscarriages before Samuel) grow up warms my soul.

“Is it possible that children, after they’re resurrected on the New Earth, will be at the same level of development as when they died? If so, these children would presumably be allowed to grow up on the New Earth—a childhood that would be enviable, to say the least! Believing parents, then, would presumably be able to see their children grow up—and likely have a major role in their lives as they do so. This would fit something I’ll propose later, that on the New Earth many opportunities lost in this life will be wonderfully restored. Although it’s not directly stated and I am therefore speculating, it’s possible that parents whose hearts were broken through the death of their children will not only be reunited with them but will also experience the joy of seeing them grow up . . . in a perfect world.”

The following quotes make Heaven very appealing to me. This review will be long, but would you instead read bad news now or about a good future to look forward to?

“Do you have a close friend who’s had a profound influence on you? Do you think it is a coincidence that she was in your dorm wing or became your roommate? Was it accidental that your desk was near his or that his family lived next door or that your father was transferred when you were in third grade so that you ended up in his neighborhood? God orchestrates our lives. “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26). Since God determined the time and exact places you would live, it’s no accident which neighborhood you grew up in, who lived next door, who went to school with you, who was part of your church youth group, who was there to help you and pray for you. Our relationships were appointed by God, and there’s every reason to believe they’ll continue in Heaven.

“We’ll talk with angels who saw the earth created and who watched their comrades rebel. We’ll meet angels who guarded and served us while we were on Earth. Don’t you look forward to asking them questions?”

He also points out some things about God that you probably hadn’t considered. I hadn’t.

“We think of ourselves as fun-loving, and of God as a humorless killjoy. But we’ve got it backward. It’s not God who’s boring; it’s us. Did we invent wit, humor, and laughter? No. God did. We’ll never begin to exhaust God’s sense of humor and his love for adventure. The real question is this: How could God not be bored with us? Most of us can envision ourselves being happy for a few days or a week, if that. But a year of complete and sustained happiness? Impossible, we think, because we’ve never experienced it. We think of life under the Curse as normal because that’s all we’ve ever known. A hundred or a million years of happiness is inconceivable to us. Just as creatures who live in a flat land can’t conceive of three-dimensional space, we can’t conceive of unending happiness. Because that level of happiness is not possible here on the fallen Earth, we assume it won’t be possible on the New Earth. But we’re wrong. To properly envision Heaven, we must remove from our eyes the distorted lenses of death and the Curse.”

This next quote I have often wondered. I would like God to show me where he was at work in my life here on earth.

“Will God show us in Heaven what almost happened to us on Earth? Will he take us back to see what would have happened if we’d made other choices? Perhaps. Will the father whose son had cerebral palsy see what would have happened if he’d followed his temptation to desert his family? Would this not fill his heart with gratitude to God for his sovereign grace? Will I see how missing the exit on the freeway last night saved me from a crash? Will I learn how getting delayed in the grocery store last week saved my wife from a fatal accident? How many times have we whined and groaned about the very circumstances God used to save us? How many times have we prayed that God would make us Christlike, then begged him to take from us the very things he sent to make us Christlike? How many times has God heard our cries when we imagined he didn’t? How many times has he said no to our prayers when saying yes would have harmed us and robbed us of good? Perhaps we’ll see the ripple effects of our small acts of faithfulness and obedience. Like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, perhaps we’ll see how we affected others, and how living our lives differently might have influenced them. (May God give us the grace to see this now while we can still revise and edit our lives.) If we believe in God’s sovereignty, we must believe God would be glorified through our better understanding of human history.”

The first part is a theology of Heaven, and the second part of the book is questions and answers about Heaven. Questions on what will the resurrected earth be like, or our lives. What about animals? (Often wondered that too, I really want there to be animals.) What will we do in Heaven?

It won’t be playing the harp.

I gave it a 5 out of 5 and this review: “It’s a long book; however, every chapter stands on its own. It also answered quite a few questions I had about Heaven and made me look even more forward to it.”

If you’re interested in Heaven, then I highly recommend it. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s