Author Randy Alcorn wrote in the Preface to this 2004 book, “We [Christians] have failed to explore and explain the Bible’s magnificent teachings about Heaven. No wonder a flood of unbiblical thinking has rushed in to fill the vacuum…. The truth is, in our seminaries,...
Author Randy Alcorn wrote in the Preface to this 2004 book, “We [Christians] have failed to explore and explain the Bible’s magnificent teachings about Heaven. No wonder a flood of unbiblical thinking has rushed in to fill the vacuum…. The truth is, in our seminaries, churches, and families, we have given amazingly little attention to the place where we will live forever with Christ and his people---the New Earth, in the new universe. This eternal Heaven is the central subject of this book… Many things in this book will be new even to readers who are veteran students of Scripture… They may appear to be adding to or misinterpreting Scripture, when in fact they are simply portraying what Scripture has said all along but we’ve failed to grasp.” (Pg. xiii-xiv) [NOTE: page numbers refer to the 533-page hardcover edition.]
He further explains, “Nearly every notion of Heaven I present in this book was stimulated and reinforced by biblical texts. Though some of my interpretations and speculations are no doubt mistaken, they are not baseless. Rightly or wrongly, I have drawn most of them from my understanding of the explicit and implicit teachings of Scripture. Discussions of Heaven tend to be either hyperimaginative or utterly unimaginative… both approaches are inadequate and dangerous. What we need is a biblically inspired imagination.” (Pg. 16-17)
Before getting to Heaven, however, he first cautions, “Heaven is NOT our default destination. No one goes there automatically. Unless our sin problem is resolved, the only place we will go is our true default destination….Hell.” (Pg. 23) He adds, “Hell will be agonizingly dull, small, insignificant, without company, purpose, or accomplishment… As the new universe moves gloriously onward, Hell and its occupants will exist in utter inactivity and insignificance, an eternal non-life of regret and---perhaps---diminishing personhood.” (Pg. 27-28)
He asserts, “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.” (Pg. 42) He argues, “there is no such thing as ‘soul sleep,’ or a long period of unconsciousness between life on Earth and life in Heaven… The spirit’s departure from the body ends our existence on Earth. The physical part of us ‘sleeps’ until the resurrection, while the spiritual part of us relocates to a conscious existence in Heaven… Every reference in Revelation to human beings talking and worshiping in Heaven prior to the resurrection of the dead demonstrates that our spirit beings are conscious, not sleeping, after death… it’s not clear how disembodied beings COULD sleep, because sleeping involves a physical body.” (Pg. 46-47)
He explains that he think that Heaven “might be a physical place”: “The physical New Earth will be our ultimate dwelling place, but until then we shouldn’t find it surprising if God chooses to provide a waiting place that’s also physical… as human beings, we occupy space. It seems reasonable to infer that the space we occupy would be physical… Why are we so resistant to the idea that Heaven could be physical? The answer… is centered in an unbiblical belief that the spirit realm is good and the material world is bad, a view I am calling ‘Christoplatonism.’ (Pg. 51-52) Later, he clarifies, “This philosophy has blended elements of Platonism with Christianity, and in so doing has poisoned Christianity and blunted its distinct differences from Eastern religions.” (Pg. 475)
He suggests that “Conversion does not mean eliminating the old but transforming it… we remain who we are. We have the same history, appearance, memory, interests, and skills. This is the principle of ‘redemptive continuity’… The New Earth will still be Earth, but a changed Earth… so too the world will be reborn in continuity with the old world…” (Pg. 114-115)
He provides a great deal of ideas about what Heaven will be like: the original Garden of Eden may be in the New Jerusalem (pg. 56-57); animals [including predators] will neither harm nor destroy (pg. 130); “nature, animals, paintings, books, or a baseball bat might be resurrected” (pg. 135); “there will be no church services in Heaven” (pg. 196); “we’ll be different in positions of service… God will give us permanent management positions on the New Earth” (pg. 220); the New Jerusalem will allow to “enjoy the arts, music, and sports without pickpockets, porn shops, drugs, or prostitution” (pg. 253); “the New Earth will have large bodies of water” (pg. 275); “some people will wear jeans, shorts, T-shirts, polo shirts, or flip-flops” (pg. 296); “we’ll eat at feasts with Christ in an earthly kingdom” (pg. 302); he adds, Cold God make it so our ne bodies wouldn’t go through the same digestive and elimination processes they do now? Certainly. Will he? We don’t know. But no aspect of our God-created physiology can be bad.” (Pg. 305)
He speculates, “Those who for reasons of allergies, weight problems, or addictions can’t regularly consume peanuts, chocolate, coffee, and wine---and countless other foods and drinks---may look forward to enjoying them on the New Earth… we’ll enjoy more pleasures, not fewer.” (Pg. 309) “Will we study doctrine in Heaven? … We will have eternity to explore it… On the New Earth… biology zoology chemistry, astronomy, physics---all will the study of God.” (Pg. 321) “Some old books may be republished in the New Jerusalem” (pg. 326); “I believe we will likely need [sleep] AND enjoy it” (pg. 330); “The continuity of our resurrection minds and bodies argues that we’ll have no trouble recognizing each other” (pg. 346); “We’ll have greater marital intimacy with Jesus than we ever had in the best earthly marriages” (pg. 353); “Perhaps in Heaven many people will meet their children who were aborted or their children who dies in miscarriages” (pg. 356).
He asks soberly, “So how could we enjoy Heaven knowing that a loved one is in Hell?... In Heaven, we will see with a new and far better perspective. We’ll fully concur with God’s judgment on the wicked… 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. (We will no longer have any illusion that fallen people are good without Christ.)… in a sense, none of our loved ones will be in Hell---only some whom we ONCE loved.” (Pg. 367-368)
He states that we will have ethnic and national identities (pg. 376); “God will likely again restore a common language” (pg. 378); there will be animals, under our care (pg. 392); of dinosaurs, ‘behemoth,’ and ‘leviathan,’ he asks, ‘Why shouldn’t all people have the opportunity to enjoy these great wonders of God on the New Earth?” (pg. 399); some people “may continue with work similar to what they do now, whether as gardeners, engineers, builders, artists, animal trainers, musicians, scientists, craftspeople… A significant difference will be that they’ll work without the hindrances of toil, pain, corruption, and sin.” (Pg. 413) He says, “Some researchers suggest that we now use only 10 percent of our brainpower. Adam and Eve could likely use 10 percent of theirs---and their brainpower was probably far greater than ours.” (Pg. 417)
He continues, “Scripture songs will endure, but other music from Earth may also be preserved… Although some lyrics will require theological corrections, others will be suitable as is, ready to be sung in God’s presence… Will secular songs survive? Not if they dishonor Christ… Which of your favorite songs will survive?... As a musical novice, I might compose something worthy of Bach. And what kind of music do you suppose Bach will compose?” (Pg. 420) “Just as we can look forward to cultural endeavors such as art, drama, and music on the New Earth, we can assume that we’ll also enjoy sports there” (pg. 426); “What should we expect to find on the New Earth? Tables, chairs, cabinets, wagons, machinery, transportation, sports equipment, and much more” (pg. 445).
He acknowledges, “Does this sound speculative? I imagine it only because of Scripture’s own words. I base my observation on the texts I’ve cited here and elsewhere in this book. I didn’t begin with a vivid imagination of Heaven---exactly the opposite. I studied the Scriptures about Heaven. Only over the years, over the decades, did they infuse my imagination.” (Pg. 383) He states, for example, that we will laugh in Heaven on the basis of Luke 6:23: ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.’” (Pg. 424)
Certainly, Alcorn’s visions and speculations sound wonderful; his exegetical basis for some of these ideas, however, is sometimes perhaps a bit skimpy. But for anyone wanting a book overflowing with ideas about what Heaven might be like, this book will be very warmly welcomed.