What will heaven be like? Randy Alcorn presents a thoroughly biblical answer, based on years of careful study, presented in an engaging, reader-friendly style. His conclusions will surprise readers and stretch their thinking about this important subject. Heaven will inspire readers to long for heaven while they're living on earth.
It's not too much to say that this book has completely changed the way I view the life to come, and my attitude toward this life as well. Alcorn starts by confronting many of the myths that we've unconsciously swallowed about what Heaven will be like (note that I am capitalizing the word following his example, treating Heaven as a real place). We have a vague idea that Heaven will be so spiritual that we will just float around as disembodied souls in a kind of saline solution of hyper-holiness. It almost sounds like the Matrix — but I think if we really scrutinize our beliefs, we'll find this isn't an inaccurate description. We've been influenced by what Alcorn terms "Christoplatonism," the heretical idea that the material world is inherently sinful and that the spiritual world is the only thing that matters.
We have a guilty feeling about Heaven because this picture of it sounds so incredibly boring. We try to comfort ourselves by saying there is no way we can appreciate what Heaven will be like, with our puny minds and sinful flesh in the way. I remember being told as a young believer that though Heaven's nonstop singing and worship sounded boring, it wouldn't be, because all I could understand was the weariness of my currently sinful flesh. This answer satisfied me somewhat, but I still couldn't quite make myself look forward to a Heaven like that.
But worship is not just standing and singing in church. Romans 12:1 says that offering our bodies to God as a living sacrifice is our spiritual act of worship. And worship is not just singing, but a lifestyle. I worship God in my treatment of other people, in every detail of everyday life. This verse also underscores one of Alcorn's main points in this book: the physical world, and our physical bodies, are not evil. Our physical bodies can actually be used to worship God! All creation is currently suffering under the Curse, but it will not always be this way. God's big plan is not to harvest our souls from this world and then trash the planet. Oh no — He is going to redeem it. He is going to make all things new, yes, but not alien, not completely different. It's the New Heavens and the New Earth, not a new place altogether.
Alcorn gives a Scriptural breakdown of what happens to Christians who die before the Second Coming, the sequence of events at the time of judgment, and the believer's sure destination of the wedding-feast with the Lamb. He also speculates quite a bit on what life in Heaven will be like. Will we forget who we were on Earth? Alcorn says that's silly; why would we? In Revelation chapter 6, the saints pray for vengeance on those who killed them; how could they do that unless they remembered their martyrdom? Alcorn also points out that those saints were told to wait, which implies that there is time in Heaven. John even gives specific amounts of time in Revelation, like when he says there was silence in Heaven for about one half-hour (Revelation 8:1)! How have we missed that all these years?
Will we know everything instantly in Heaven? Is that what it means to be perfect? Alcorn argues that no, we will not instantly know everything, and perfection does not mean complete omniscience. There will be learning in Heaven. The saints in Revelation chapter 6 are asking a question ("how long, O Lord?") because they do not know the answer. Learning is not inherently sinful, nor does it imply that the learner is imperfect. We will continue to develop and explore new things throughout eternity.
Will Heaven contain human works of art? Alcorn argues yes. There is verse in Revelation that says the glory of the nations will be brought into the New Jerusalem. Human art created under the Curse can still bring honor and praise to the Creator, and Alcorn talks about the works that have moved him to profound worship of the Father. I can identify with that; certain books have taught me beautiful things and enriched my love for God. Sin-glorifying works will perish, certainly, but I don't see why God would destroy the beautiful. I am dreaming of Heaven's libraries with a sort of quiet ecstasy...
Will our pets and animals be in Heaven? Alcorn discusses this question from a perspective I haven't really considered before. Most Christians agree that animals do not have souls, but perhaps we ought to be more specific and say they don't have human souls. It is possible that they do have souls. And if the New Heavens and the New Earth are going to be faithful to the original unfallen Eden, animals will have to be there! God delights in giving gifts to His children and enjoying their enjoyment of those gifts. Everything will glorify Him, but that doesn't mean we will simply be singing "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" in His direction nonstop forever. Alcorn believes that our love for our pets glorifies the Creator, because they are His gift, and there's no reason why our pets would not be in Heaven. Because we will be perfect, there will be no fear of idolizing a created being in place of God. All loves and all joys will glorify the Godhead and find perfect fulfillment in Him.
The cover of my copy has a quote by Stu Weber, saying "Other than the Bible itself, this may well be the single most life-changing book you'll ever read." He isn't too far-off in that claim. This book has opened my eyes to the Scriptural truth about eternity, and I have learned to long for Heaven. When I see something beautiful, I realize that I am experiencing just a shadow of Heaven's beauty. When life's bitternesses and regrets pain me, when I look at people I love suffering chronic pain, when I live in imperfect and misunderstood relationships — I rejoice in my hope of Heaven. And the hope of the future helps sustain me in the now.
I cannot recommend Heaven highly enough, and I'm very thankful for the Scriptural perspective it is restoring to believers around the world. If I could give it ten stars, I would! I urge you to read it... I can't promise that it will radically change your perspective, but it certainly did mine. Great book, great truths, and a fantastic addition to the literature on Heaven.
Alcorn says that Heaven is a real, physical place where we will have real, physical bodies. He speaks against Christoplatonism, which was largely inspired by Neoplatonism, and totes a belief that the physical world is weak and impure, and the the spiritual world is the ideal, quintessential (quite literally), state. While Christoplatonists says matter is evil, Alcorn says: God created matter before the Fall (the fruit incident, not the season) therefore it can’t be evil.
It’s this thinking that drives the rest of the book, answering all manner of questions about what Heaven will be like, usually supporting this theory with another Bible verse.
While I thought that Alcorn did an excellent job studying what the Bible had to say regarding Heaven, and putting aside people’s fears that it would be intolerably boring (even including quotes by Twain and Asimov indicating as much), I felt that at times, his own rhetoric was laced with nonbiblical suppositions that he warns the reader not to fall prey too. Without delving into extensive theology in a book review, I’ll just leave it at this: I had issues with some of the theories he presented, especially in the absence of supporting text from the Bible. The casual manner at which he tosses out one belief or another which may not be founded on scripture, but is instead a commonly held belief among Christians perpetuated by teachings of the Church, sometimes set me on edge, especially due to his disfavor of such circumstances propagating a boring Heaven, something he refers to as “heresy.”
Ultimately, I thought it presented an interesting perspective of Heaven, one closer to the images one sees when they read of Aslan’s Country from Narnia, or Valinor from the Lord of the Rings, but not inherently medieval. This perspective may be useful for those with a little more curiosity in their ultimate destination, especially those who fear going to Heaven more so than going to Hell, or dying. However, like Alistair Begg is known to say in his Scottish accent: “The plain things are the main things, and the main things are the plain things.” So, if something is not made absolutely clear through a reading of the Bible, it’s (a) subject to interpretation, and (b) not all that important for being a good Christian. So, don’t fret too much if you don’t agree with him either. Everybody who gets to Heaven is more of an expert on it than Alcorn could ever be while here on Earth.
Two of the most interesting concepts presented in the book were the Intermediate Heaven – not our permanent destination, and the New Earth – our final destination. Just thought provoking! And, of course, Satan hates the New Heaven and the New Earth, and will do everything he can to keep us from redemption and rob us of the joy we will know in heaven.
There is so much information about the world to come, and this book deals with it in detail. It is hard to wrap your mind around many parts, but it’s enough to fire up your imagination and give you a driven desire to spend eternity in heaven.
It is very clear that there are two possible destinations after death: heaven and hell, and each is just as real and just as eternal as the other. Heaven is not our default destination. We cannot enter heaven as we are. Unless our sin problem is resolved, we will go to our true default destination --- hell. Matthew 7: 13-14 - “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
“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.”
I have highlighted many parts of this book and I will be keeping it close by to read sections again and again. It is one of the most interesting and profound books I’ve ever read! My rating is 5+ stars.