November 3, 2010

Book Review: Heaven

"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.'"


Ask me what the most exciting book I've read in months is.


Go ahead, ask me.




I'm so glad you asked!!


In Randy Alcorn's Heaven, he opens with an idea that some people might find strange, even offensive: that there are people, particularly Christians, who are afraid of Heaven. I know my husband's eyebrows shot up when I mentioned that to him, but I have to admit, I was one of those people.

I fear the unknown, in a big way. And let's face it, for a lot of Christians, Heaven is one big unknown, or else filled with a lot of misconceptions. Most churches don't talk much about Heaven beyond "Oh, you get to spend eternity with God and not in Hell. Doesn't that sound great?" Which, to most of the world, sounds about as exciting as being at home and not in jail. Yeah, it's preferable, but not exciting. As a result, there is a lot of confusion or just lack of accurate information about this real, physical place called Heaven.

Some people think Heaven is going to be an eternal church service, everybody standing around and singing hymns for millions and millions of years. Some people think Heaven is going to be like one big long lazy Sunday afternoon, where nothing bad happens, but there is nothing to do or enjoy, just laying around on a cloud plucking a harp. Some people think we will exist in androgynous bodies without any memories from our time on Earth with our families and friends. And some people think Heaven is an eternal pregnancy (for women, anyway). Who can get excited about any of that? I sure can't. And some of those ideas I do find downright frightening.

None of those things is true. Not according to the Bible. Praise God. And Alcorn shows us why.

He starts off the book with a command - test everything he says against the Bible. Which automatically gives him an A+ as far as I'm concerned. He invites you, the reader, to take his book and the Bible and compare them and where the two disagree, believe the Bible and write and tell him why. That's both ballsy and humble and earns him a huge amount of respect from me.

He admits that there are times when he's taking what the Bible says about Heaven and imagining it to it's most marvelous extreme. BUT - he is always clear when he is doing so. For example, when the Bible says that people from every "tribe, tongue and nation" are in Heaven, he says it's a logical conclusion to assume that tribes, tongues and nationalities as we understand them will exist in Heaven, or else the Bible would not have used that specific language. And using that jumping-off point, he then theorizes (and invites us to as well) as to what that might look like.

Now, you know me. I'm a stickler for Biblical accuracy when it comes to theology. And I can honestly say there was not one point in the whole book where the lines between "What the Bible says" and "What Randy Alcorn extrapolates from that" get blurred. So, I was never confused by what the Bible actually said and what was just fun (biblical) speculation.

For example: one of the more exciting parts of the book was the one on animals. I'm not an animal lover, per se. That is, I've never really given them much thought. I hate birds. With a passion. And bugs and snakes and all of those other gross things. And I've never been a pet person, either. But SoldierMan had a dog growing up that was very dear to him and is gone now. There's a whole section in the book on animals and what the Bible says about animals. It does clearly say that in the New Earth (what we commonly refer to as "Heaven," meaning the place believers will spend eternity) there will be all kinds of animals, probably ones you and I have never even heard of, since something like 95% of the species of animals ever existing have become extinct by now.

And the Bible also talks about, when God created the animals, He "breathed life" into them the same way it says He "breathed life" into Adam and Eve. This implies that animals have souls. Not human souls or souls on the same level as humans, of course. Only Mankind was made in God's image. But it does show, as do other examples in the Bible that Alcorn covers, that God has a special relationship with all the animals that have ever lived. It's not incorrect to imagine that the animals the Bible describes as existing in the New Earth might very well be the reborn or renewed pets we have already loved and taken care of on this Earth. After all, he points out, God loves giving His children gifts even more than our earthly parents do. And if our earthly parents found joy in giving us our pets, how much more will God want to give us that joy?

And when I told all of this to SoldierMan, you should have seen his face light up. Christy the husky could be in Heaven. And based on the evidence from the Bible, I see no reason to assume she won't be. Now, come on, even I can get excited about that!

This is one I highly, highly recommend you pick up. If only because it is "bright hope for tomorrow," as the song says. I am sure I will reread this at least once a year to remind myself to live in light of eternity (which is the last section in the book). If you want to get excited about Heaven, if you want to learn more about what the Bible says about Heaven because, like me, there is a huge knowledge gap there, then get this book (I lucked out and randomly got a second-edition, which addressed questions people submitted after the first edition was released). And if you do, come back and let me know what you thought of it. I'd be really interested to hear.

7 comments:

  1. i'll have to check it out!
    i for one, like animals, but don't give a hoot about them being in heaven- but i can follow that logic.
    one of my best friends will have a (good) heart attack when she reads this though:O)

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  2. Thank you for sharing this!!! I am going to email you my more personal thoughts...because they are the kind I don't want to broadcast to the world :-) but I am definitely going to have to read that book!!!

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  3. Sounds like a good book!
    If you haven't read
    90 Minutes in Heaven I think you will enjoy that one too. Its very moving!

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  4. Sounds great I will check it out. I heard bout it last month but was not sure... now I know to add it to my list Thanks so much!

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  5. Oh my gosh! I can't wait to read this now!!! =D Just your little synopsis gets me excited about Heaven! I fear the unknown too, so sometimes it really IS hard for me to get excited about Heaven. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  6. I realized while reading this that I take my knowledge of the afterlife for granted. I guess I've never given much thought to what other people think heaven is going to be like...but some of your examples were interesting! Thank goodness for knowledge of truth.

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  7. I was thinking later about what I wrote in my above comment and just wanted to clear up that when I said your examples were interesting, I meant examples of the belief that heaven is cloud-sitting and harp playing and that kind of thing. I didn't realize people thought heaven was like that. I was definitely not referring to your personal examples. I believe we will be with family and friends and remember our Earthly experiences, full of lots of work to do and joy to be had. I hope my previous comment didn't come off wrong! Thank you for your faith-filled posts.

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