Sunday, 30 December 2018

Heaven: A Book Review

"My home is heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."
Billy Graham

Have you ever wondered what Heaven will be like? I’m sure that we all have a time or two. Perhaps that is why, upon the recommendation of a friend, I purchased a copy of "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn.

In its 500 pages, Alcorn argues for a more literal eschatology, as opposed to the perhaps more common, figurative views held by many Christians. Having said that, and though he uses a plethora of scripture quotations to back up his take on Heaven, he admits that these are just his views and that he may be wrong in some of his interpretations. Fair enough.

One of the terms he often uses in the book, that apparently he himself coined, is “Christoplatonism.” This comes from his belief that the church has borrowed ideas from Plato, an early western philosopher who essentially saw the physical world as a liability. The body, he thought, was little more than a prison for the soul. Alcorn believes that this platonic thinking has crept into the church, even though many scriptures point to a physical heaven in physical bodies. He delves into this argument in greater detail in the first of the book’s two appendices. In the second appendix Alcorn discusses literal versus figurative interpretation.

In the book Alcorn talks about two heavens, so to speak. When the Christian dies, his/her soul goes immediately to be with the Lord. I suspect that not too many of us would argue with that. However, the Bible also speaks of a “New Earth” into which we will one day be physically resurrected. This, says Alcorn, is a physical earth, which will be made up of physical inhabitants. Just as Christ was physically resurrected, we too can expect to be physically resurrected, and as such, our eternal heavenly home will be physical like it now is, minus the sin and corruption. Here is where the eschatology of many seems to get a little more cloudy, thanks in large part, believes Alcorn, to the church’s platonic influences. Thus his term, Christoplatonism.

Many of the book’s 46-chapters, divided into 12-sections and into 3-parts, seem almost a Q&A format (Question and Answer). In them Alcorn tries to answer some of the many questions he apparently has received over the years on the subject. The topics he covers in these 12-sections are:

  • Realizing our Destiny
  • Understanding the Present Heaven
  • Grasping Redemption’s Far Reach
  • Anticipating Resurrection
  • Seeing the Earth Restored
  • Celebrating Our Relationship With God
  • Ruling on the New Earth
  • What Will the Resurrected Earth Be Like?
  • What Will Our Lives Be Like
  • What Will Our Relationships Be Like?
  • What About Animals?
  • What Will We Do In Heaven?

All in all, I enjoyed reading Heaven. Did I agree with everything in it? No, my own theology caused me so say “Hmm” a few times. Still, it’s a good and interesting read. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s a great reminder of the eternal hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. This life is short and fleeting, and will soon be over; we all know that. Then what? “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn tries to answer that question and many more.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so in Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
(Hebrews 9: 27-28; ESV)

Ἀμήν, ἔρχου κύριε Ἰησοῦ 
(Revelation 22:20)

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