Tuesday, November 13, 2007
I have *finally* finished the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I was really pumped about reading it in the beginning, but about halfway through I felt like I was reading just to check it off the list. It is extremely comprehensive (500 pages comprehensive...) and touches on things like:
"What will our bodies be like?"
"Will we eat and drink on the New Earth?"
"What will our daily lives be like?"
"How will we relate to each other?"
"Will Heaven ever be boring?"
and on and on and on...
I must admit it was definitely on the long-winded side.
Nonetheless, I appreciate his desire to educate on the subject of Heaven. Almost no other books are out there on the subject and he did much research and study of the scriptures to come to his conclusions.
The first thing he MUST address is "Can you know if you're going to Heaven?" Of course this is essential. If we believe the things that Jesus did, confess and repent of our sins, the Bible says "he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). It's not about anything that we DO, it cannot be attained, it's all about Christ's sacrifice (Ephesians 2:8-9).
He also talks about the difference between heaven now and the New Earth. For instance, the person who dies today goes to what Alcorn refers to as the "intermediate heaven" and after Christ returns He will restore the New Earth, which is the place where all of His people will reside eternally. I knew that Revelation talked about the new heavens and the new earth and us residing on it, but I had never really put two and two together that those with Christ now are at "temporary" heaven, awaiting the day when Jesus will return to Earth and restore it with His own people.
It helped me to read what he had to say about restoration in general and in the context of the New Earth. God made Adam, Eve and this entire world and said that it was "very good." What makes us think the the New Earth (Heaven) will be a place of floating around on clouds and playing harps? That is the silliest imagery and yet it is what many people continue to picture in their heads when they think of Heaven. If He talks about creating a NEW earth (see above scripture), why would it be all that different than what He created from the get go when there was no sin in this world? A quote from Albert Wolters sums it up well:
"Redemption means restoration - that is, the return to goodness of an originally unscathed creation and not merely the addition of something supracreational...The restoration affects the whole of creational life and not merely some limited area within it."
After laying the foundation, he goes on to the second part of the book, which to me was the most interesting... "Questions and Answers about Heaven."
This is the section that went in into fairly detailed accounts of what heaven (the New Earth) may be like. Since there aren't too many scriptures about heaven, he used other scriptures to basically draw conclusions from. I understand why he had to do that, but I am also having to take what he said (especially in this section) with a grain of salt since they are just conclusions made by a human being (and he makes this statement too). Some things I found interesting:
- Will we all appear the same age? Since the prime age is our 20's we should all be 20 somethings in heaven, right? Will there be no children? He uses Isaiah 11:6-9 (which is likely referring to the New Earth) to say children may well grow up on the New Earth into their prime age. He also suggests that in heaven we'll be ageless. So, we'll see people as we remember them. I'll see my parents as older and they will see me as younger, etc.
- Will we drink coffee in heaven? Alcorn writes, "God made coffee. Coffee grows on Earth, which God made for mankind, put under our management and filled with resources for our use...realizing that caffeine addiction or anything else unhealthy simply won't exist on the New Earth - why wouldn't it be part of the resurrected Earth?" He also uses 1 Tim. 6:17 and 1 Tim. 4:4-5 to base his assumption on. This is great news, although I'm not so sure we will actually need it or remember it there.
- Will we know everything? "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Cor. 13:12). That's not to say we will know everything and be omniscient as only God is, but that we will understand without error or misconception and know in a deeper way than we did before.
The third section just summed up (a bit repetitively I must say) the book and how we should live in light of what we know.
I feel like I now have a better grasp on what to expect in Heaven and certainly more to look forward to! I am excited to see all the things we will experience and know that our limited imagination can't possibly contain all the Lord has for us for eternity! How exciting!
Lord, help me to live in light of eternity. Constantly focus my heart and mind on eternal things and help me to spur others to do the same.
Here's my recommendation: don't read the whole thing. Look over the 46 chapter titles and pick and choose the topics that you need help understanding and/or think are interesting. You will certainly overcommit yourself if you decide to read the whole thing.
Here are some questions readers asked after reading the book and his answers.