Christian Book Reviews, Author Interviews, Excerpts

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Heaven - Mystical Spirit Realm or New Earth?

  • Randall Murphree AgapePress
  • Published Nov 22, 2004
Heaven - Mystical Spirit Realm or New Earth?

Title:  "Heaven"
Author:  Randy Alcorn
Publisher:  Tyndale House

As a child, C.S. Lewis was enthralled by a miniature garden his brother had created in a large box decorated with moss and flowers. "That was the first beauty I ever knew," Lewis later recalled. "It was quite different from ordinary life." It was Lewis's first introduction to the idea that there is a realm beyond this life, and he longed for the world of that beautiful little garden.

He later would say, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world."

Lewis called it another world. Scripture calls it a New Earth. Most of us just call it Heaven. Author Randy Alcorn says in his new book, "Heaven" (Tyndale House, October 2004), that we are made for a person and a place. Jesus is that person and Heaven is that place.

The author tells the story of a pastor who said thinking about Heaven made him depressed. "I'd rather just cease to exist when I die," the pastor said. Alcorn believes most people have bought into the fallacy of Heaven as a mystical, spirit realm of fluffy clouds and incessant strains of harp strings. They're afraid they'll get bored after a while.
Alcorn is saddened by the prominence of that false concept, and wants believers to be excited by the Heaven described in Scripture. In reality, he says, Heaven will be an exciting place to live, a place where real bodies enjoy close relationships with God and with each other – people eating, working, traveling, worshiping and discovering on a New Earth.

One of the things Alcorn does effectively is bring clarity to some biblical concepts that may have been left fuzzy in our minds – the Biblical New Earth, God's restoration of earth to its original and intended state, and the intermediate state where the deceased reside until that restoration.

"The predominant belief that the ultimate Heaven God prepares for us will be unearthly could not be more unbiblical," he writes.

The author has studied more than 140 books about Heaven and found most of them incomplete or sadly lacking in scriptural foundation. In his new Tyndale House book titled "Heaven," Alcorn looks at Heaven from the perspective of scripture. It is a comprehensive and scholarly volume (516 pages) meticulously referenced, with more than 700 specific scripture references, a lengthy bibliography and other appendices.

Heaven is not a new subject for Alcorn. His earlier "In Light of Eternity" is an abbreviated study of Heaven, and his novels almost always include intriguing descriptions of Heaven carefully based on biblical principles.

Paragraph by paragraph, point by point, Alcorn relies on scripture to paint a picture of Heaven. He finds it an enigma – and not a little frustrating – that theologians, pastors and mature Christians so often willingly follow the errant line that we can't know much about what Heaven will be like.

Furthermore, he says many people quote half-truths or proof texts to bolster their error. For example, one of the most frequently cited verses to present Heaven as an unknowable spirit realm is 1 Corinthians 2:9 – "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him ... "(NIV).

Why, Alcorn wonders, do they stop in the middle of the thought? In fact, in the NIV, it's punctuated as mid-sentence. Verse 10 continues the sentence: "but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit."

Alcorn's systematic and thorough study will make the reader wonder, "Why didn't I see that before?" or "Why hasn't somebody pointed that out to me?" Page by page, it becomes clear that the Bible does, indeed, reveal a wealth of information regarding the nature of Heaven.

For this author, his passion for learning about Heaven began when he read the descriptions in Revelation over and over to his dying mother. Now, he's recognized as an authority on the subject and this new title bears witness to his solid insights.

© 2004 AgapePress.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Randal Murphree, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is editor of AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association.

Randy Alcorn, a pastor for 14 years, founded Eternal Perspective Ministries in 1990.