My Review of the Book “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. Tyndale House Publishers. 560 pages. 2011 edition.
When losing a loved one my thoughts turn to Heaven. This happened when I lost my Mom twenty years ago and again recently when I lost my father-in-law. I’ve long wanted to read this book, but was probably intimidated by its massive size; I decided now was the time. As an added bonus, my mother-in law read the book at the same time I did, and we would occasionally talk about what we were reading.
Alcorn has done his research on this topic, having read 150 books on Heaven. He quotes liberally from many of those books. He writes that in our seminaries, churches, and families, we have given “little attention to the place where we will live forever with Christ and his people—the New Earth, in the new universe”. The eternal Heaven is the central subject of this book.
Alcorn believes the book will stand up to biblical scrutiny. But right up front, he invites the reader to contact him if they have biblical grounds for disagreeing with anything in this book. He is open to correction and mentions that the revised edition of the book contains a number of changes he made based on input from readers of the first edition.
The book is organized as follows:
Part 1: In “A Theology of Heaven,” he explains the difference between the present Heaven (where Christians go when they die) and the ultimate, eternal Heaven (where God will dwell with his people on the New Earth).
Part 2: In “Questions and Answers about Heaven,” he addresses specific questions about life on the New Earth that arise out of the foundational teachings in Part 1. Part 3: In “Living in Light of Heaven,” he encourages the reader to let the doctrine of Heaven transform us and fill us with joyful anticipation.
He also includes the following:
- Appendix A: Christoplatonism’s False Assumptions
- Appendix B: Literal and Figurative Interpretation
- Selected Bibliography
Alcorn writes that most people do not find their joy in Christ and Heaven. Instead, he states, many people find no joy at all when they think about Heaven. They assume that they will be bored, playing a harp on the clouds all day long. He writes that many Christians who’ve gone to church all their adult lives (especially those under fifty) can’t recall having heard a single sermon on Heaven.
Alcorn states that nearly every notion of Heaven he presents in this book was stimulated and reinforced by biblical texts. As you talk to others about Heaven as you read this book, they will probably ask “Where did he get that?” Alcorn helpfully lists scripture references throughout the book as he teaches about Heaven. He also states that we should ask God’s help to remove the blinders of our preconceived ideas about Heaven so we can understand what Scripture actually teaches about it.
Alcorn writes that when a believer dies, he or she enters into what is referred to in theology as the intermediate state. This is a transitional period between our past lives on Earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth. The intermediate or present Heaven is not our final destination. Rather, we will live with Christ and each other forever, not in the intermediate, or present, Heaven, but on the New Earth, where God will be at home with his people. In the book, when referring to the place believers go after death, Alcorn uses terms such as the present Heaven or the intermediate Heaven. He refers to the eternal state as the eternal Heaven or the New Earth.
Alcorn states that the problem is not that the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Heaven. It’s that we don’t pay attention to what it does tell us. He states that we were all made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person. Heaven is the place.
I found this to be a fascinating book, covering many aspects of Heaven that I had not previously thought of.
25 Quotes from Heaven by Randy Alcorn
I recently read Randy Alcorn’s outstanding book Heaven. There was much of value in the 560 page book, and I commend it to you. Here are 25 helpful quotes from the book:
- Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn’t exist. He need only convince us that Heaven is a place of boring, unearthly existence. If we believe that lie, we’ll be robbed of our joy and anticipation, we’ll set our minds on this life and not the next, and we won’t be motivated to share our faith.
- 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, believers in Christ will not go to the Heaven where we’ll live forever. Instead, we’ll go to an intermediate Heaven. In that Heaven—where those who died covered by Christ’s blood are now—we’ll await the time of Christ’s return to the earth, our bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and New Earth. If we fail to grasp this truth, we will fail to understand the biblical doctrine of Heaven.
- The present Heaven is a temporary lodging, a waiting place until the return of Christ and our bodily resurrection. The eternal Heaven, the New Earth, is our true home, the place where we will live forever with our Lord and each other.
- Simply put, though the present Heaven is “up there,” the future, eternal Heaven will be “down here.” If we fail to see that distinction, we fail to understand God’s plan and are unable to envision what our eternal lives will look like.
- We should stop thinking of Heaven and Earth as opposites and instead view them as overlapping circles that share certain commonalities.
- Our incorrect thinking about bodily resurrection stems from our failure to understand the environment in which resurrected people will live—the New Earth.
- Despite the radical changes that occur through salvation, death, and resurrection, we remain who we are. We have the same history, appearance, memory, interests, and skills. This is the principle of redemptive continuity. If we don’t grasp redemptive continuity, we cannot understand the nature of our resurrection.
- We will experience continuity between our current lives and our resurrected lives, with the same memories and relational histories.
- The doctrine of the new creation, extending not only to mankind, but to the world, the natural realm, and even nations and cultures, is a major biblical theme, though you would never know it judging by how little attention it receives among Christians.
- Our primary joy in Heaven will be knowing and seeing God. Every other joy will be derivative, flowing from the fountain of our relationship with God.
- Heaven’s greatest miracle will be our access to God. In the New Jerusalem, we will be able to come physically, through wide open gates, to God’s throne.
- Nothing demonstrates how far we’ve distanced ourselves from our biblical calling like our lack of knowledge about our destiny to rule the earth.
- It’s a common but serious mistake to spiritualize the eternal Kingdom of God.
- Our resurrection bodies will be free of the curse of sin, redeemed, and restored to their original beauty and purpose that goes back to Eden.
- If, as I believe, animal death was the result of the Fall and the Curse, once the Curse has been lifted on the New Earth, animals will no longer die. Just as they fell under mankind, so they will rise under mankind (Romans 8:21). This suggests people may become vegetarians on the New Earth, as they apparently were in Eden and during the time before the Flood.
- Many people wonder whether we’ll know each other in Heaven. What lies behind that question is Christoplatonism and the false assumption that in Heaven we’ll be disembodied spirits who lose our identities and memories.
- Jesus said the institution of human marriage would end, having fulfilled its purpose. But he never hinted that deep relationships between married people would end.
- The notion that relationships with family and friends will be lost in Heaven, though common, is unbiblical. It denies the clear doctrine of continuity between this life and the next and suggests our earthly lives and relationships have no eternal consequence.
- We’ll never question God’s justice, wondering how he could send good people to Hell. Rather, we’ll be overwhelmed with his grace, marveling at what he did to send bad people to Heaven.
- I believe we have more than just biblical permission to imagine resurrected races, tribes, and nations living together on the New Earth; we have a biblical mandate to do so.
- Work in Heaven won’t be frustrating or fruitless; instead, it will involve lasting accomplishment, unhindered by decay and fatigue, enhanced by unlimited resources. We’ll approach our work with the enthusiasm we bring to our favorite sport or hobby. Because there will be continuity from the old Earth to the new, it’s possible we’ll continue some of the work we started on the old Earth.
- I don’t look back nostalgically at wonderful moments in my life, wistfully thinking the best days are behind me. I look at them as foretastes of an eternity of better things.
- When we think of Heaven as unearthly, our present lives seem unspiritual, like they don’t matter. When we grasp the reality of the New Earth, our present, earthly lives suddenly matter.
- The fact that Heaven will be wonderful shouldn’t tempt us to take shortcuts to get there. If you’re depressed, you may imagine your life has no purpose—but you couldn’t be more wrong. Don’t make a terrible ending to your life’s story—finish your God-given course on Earth. When he’s done—not before—he’ll take you home in his own time and way. Meanwhile, God has a purpose for you here on Earth. Don’t desert your post.