Customer Reviews: Heaven
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on November 2, 2004
In his new book on heaven, appropriately titled HEAVEN, Randy Alcorn tells the story of an English vicar. When asked by a colleague what he expected after death, he replied, "Well, if it comes to that, I suppose I shall enter into eternal bliss, but I really wish you wouldn't bring up such depressing subjects."

If we're honest, a lot of us might agree with that vicar. The thought of spending eternity floating about on a cloud, strumming the proverbial harp, sounds a bit, well, boring. Huckleberry Finn certainly thought so.

"She (Miss Watson) went on and told me all about the good place. She said all a body would have to do was go around all day long with a harp and sing forever and ever. So didn't think much of it.... I asked her if she thought Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about that because I wanted him and me to be together."

It's exactly this kind of bland vision of eternity that Alcorn's book seeks to dispel.

"The pious Miss Watson had nothing to say about Heaven that appealed to Huck. What would have attracted him was a place where he could do meaningful and pleasurable things with enjoyable people. In fact, that's a far more accurate description of what Heaven will actually be like. If Miss Watson had told Huck what the Bible says about living in a resurrected body and being with people we love on a resurrected Earth with gardens and rivers and mountains and untold adventures --- now that would have gotten his attention!"

Indeed, and it got my attention too. Despite my education at a Bible college, I've spent little time thinking about or studying the logistics of eternity. And I'm not alone. Whereas heaven used to be on the forefront of the collective Christian mind, it receives little attention these days. Alcorn suggests a number of reasons for the waning interest in heaven, but the bulk of his polemic effort is to stoke curiosity and he does a tremendous job.

For example, do you realize that the place you go when you die is not the place where you will spend eternity? I'll let Alcorn explain:

"The answer to the question 'Will we live in Heaven forever?' depends on what you mean by Heaven. Will we be with the Lord forever? Absolutely. Will we always be with him in exactly the same place that Heaven is now? No. In the intermediate Heaven, we'll be in Christ's presence, and we'll be joyful, but we'll be looking forward to our bodily resurrection and permanent relocation to the New Earth."

Alcorn goes on to quote theologian Wayne Grudem who says, "Christians often talk about living with God 'in heaven' forever. But in fact the biblical teaching is richer than that: it tells us that there will be a new heaven and a new earth --- an entirely renewed creation --- and we will live with God there.... There will also be a new kind of unification of heaven and earth.... There will be a joining of heaven and earth in this new creation."

"Oh yeah," I thought to myself. "The New Earth!" If you've studied Revelation you know that Christ will return to remake the world after the Tribulation and Armageddon and all those staples of the Christian imagination take place. This is clear regardless of when or if you think the rapture will actually happen. Somehow I had never integrated Revelation's teaching on the New Earth with my thoughts about eternity. Indeed, it seems to support Alcorn's idea that the place we go when we die is only intermediate, temporary lodging until we can move to Earth part 2.

Frankly, I find the idea of living on a perfect earth full in a resurrected body in God's presence to be incredibly compelling. Forget the clouds. Where did we get that idea anyway?

HEAVEN is divided into three sections: a theology of heaven, questions and answers about heaven, and living in light of heaven. So after he explains his views on heaven, he provides practical answers to questions everyone has wondered about at one time or another. In HEAVEN you can find answers to questions including: "Can people see what's happening on the Earth from heaven?" "Will we experience time in heaven?" "Will the New Earth be like Eden?" "Will we maintain our own identities in heaven?" and "Will our resurrected bodies have new abilities?" And that's just scratching the surface. HEAVEN is nothing if not comprehensive.

It's important to note that, despite his clear conviction about his understanding of heaven, Alcorn is quick to welcome any biblical evidence that he has come to the wrong conclusions about eternity. Being biblical is his utmost priority.

"From the beginning, I want to make it clear that it's vitally important that this book be true to Scripture. I believe that most of my conclusions, even those that significantly depart from current evangelical thinking, will stand up to biblical scrutiny. Inevitably, however, some may not. In the context of prophetic statements, the apostle Paul says, 'Test everything. Hold on to the good' (1 Thessalonians 5:21). It's up to you to test by God's Word what I say, hold on to the good and reject the bad."

Such humility is refreshing, as is Alcorn's vision of the afterlife. It turns out that Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer might want to go to heaven after all.

--- Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel
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on May 30, 2005
Pastor, seminary professor, speaker, and writer Randy Alcorn has written a monumental opus on heaven, humbly titled "Heaven." I often have taught that our views of heaven are too heavenly and not earthy enough. Alcorn's entire book communicates the same message.

His theme is continuity--all that is beautiful about life on earth continues in the new heaven and the new earth. All that is horrible about life on earth is healed in the new heaven and the new earth.

Notice the phrase "new heaven and new earth." When you do, consider Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." What is heaven? Some ethereal, non-physical place where spirit beings sit on clouds playing harps eon after eon after eon after boring eon? Hardly!

In Alcorn's biblically accurate hands, heaven becomes what God designed the Garden of Eden to be--a physical place of beauty, a relational place of harmony, and a purposeful place of meaningful, creative work without weeds.

Read Alcorn's "Heaven." It could and should change how you live on earth now. It could and should change how you view how you will live for all eternity. This is clearly the best book on heaven that I have ever read.

Reviewer: Dr. Robert W. Kellemen is the author of Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction , Spiritual Friends: A Methodology of Soul Care And Spiritual Direction, and Soul Physicians.
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on November 30, 2004
Perspective is what is often needed in our lives as we face difficult or challenging circumstances. Even if our lives are going great perspective is so helpful. Randy's book on Heaven does just that--gives perspective. By seeing the whole picture--at least as much as God has shown us at this point--we are encouraged to move forward in life. If we are facing tough times it is so helpful to know that present difficulties pale in comparison to what God has provided for us. If life is great, Randy's book reminds us to not try to find heaven in what we do, who we are, or in our material success.

As a seminary educated person, I was surprised at how little I knew about this subject. As the saying goes, I know what I know, but I don't know what I don't know. Randy's book showed me a lot that I don't know.
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on January 10, 2008
The first thing most people do when they pick up a book is to check the endorsements. Heaven by Randy Alcorn comes with an array of them. Interestingly enough, Jerry Jenkins--co-author of the Left Behind series--and Hank Hanegraaff--author of The Apocalypse Code--both give Alcorn's book the thumbs up. While Jenkins and Hanegraaff have written about cosmic eschatology and the book of Revelation, it is interesting to see two people with divergent views on eschatological issues endorsing a book dealing with eschatology. The obvious question is, "What has Alcorn done in this book!?"
Alcorn is a former pastor, and the founder of Eternal Perspective Ministries. He has authored numerous books, including a few on Heaven, ethics, and some fiction volumes. He has taught at Western Seminary and Multnomah Bible College. In some ways, his book Heaven is a sort of magnum opus for someone who has studied, written and taught about Heaven and the related theological issues.
Heaven contains two appendices, which Alcorn commends to the reader at different points throughout the book. However, it is possible that they should be read first, as it will help to understand where he is coming from and where he is going. The first is called "Christoplatonism's False Assumptions," and it deals with the dualism pervading most of Christianity--a sort of matter is bad, spirit is good. He asserts that Christians have, in a sense, baptized this Platonic philosophy, and therefore constantly interpret matters, such as heaven, in a purely spiritual manner. The second is called "Literal and Figurative Interpretation." Here, he asserts that medieval theologians began to allegorize much of Scripture, particularly about
Heaven, and that those allegorizations have been maintained until the present. This mentality is carried over from Christoplatonism. The difficulty is that Alcorn does not give a clear explanation of how to differentiate between texts which require a literal interpretation and texts which require a metaphorical interpretation.
The main text of the book is divided into three parts--a theology of Heaven, answers to questions about Heaven, and the lifestyle of one living in the light of Heaven. These parts are divided in subsections, and further into chapters, most of which are titled as questions. It would be nearly impossible to go through each of the chapters--46 in total--but the sections are cohesive enough to deal with them as units.
Section One is titled "Realizing Our Destiny." The main premise of this section is that most Christians are not looking forward to Heaven. This lack of excitement is due to misunderstandings about Heaven. These misunderstandings are partly due to Christoplatonism, and misinterpretations of Scripture. Alcorn dispels the idea that we cannot know anything about the eternal home by showing the correct understanding of verses commonly used to promulgate that idea. The reality of Heaven is that it can be understood, at least in part, and mainly because of the images used in Scripture being analogous to the earth we currently inhabit. He ends with the reality that some people will not inherit Heaven, but spend eternity in Hell, and then gives a presentation of the gospel.
Section Two is titled "Understanding the Immediate Heaven." As the title sounds, this section is about the intermediate state--where do believers go between death and the resurrection. Alcorn contends, based on Scripture and the bodily resurrection of Christ, that the intermediate stage will be a physical place. Another assertion that some will certainly have concerns about is that believers will be given temporary physical bodies during the intermediate stage. This is based off the fact that the intermediate is physical, and that Elijah and Moses had bodies at the Transfiguration. It must be said, however, that Alcorn is careful to say it is speculation and that he may well be wrong.
The third section is "Grasping Redemption's Far Reach." The key to understanding this section is a several page long chart showing what different aspects of life were like before the fall, are like during this fallen era, and will be like in Heaven. He notes the parallels between the opening of Genesis and the closing of Revelation, and asserts that the goal of redemption is not the annihilation of earth, but a redeeming of everything, ultimately placing believers on a New Earth that will be not entirely different from the one currently inhabited, though the Curse will be lifted from the earth in entirety.
Section Four is entitled "Anticipating Resurrection," he talks about the importance of physical resurrection, and the example of resurrection as shown by Christ. The reason Alcorn believes creation awaits the resurrection is that physical death was not part of the original design--after the resurrection, creation will be returned to that state. This seems to be a difficulty on many levels--and Alcorn realizes this--but his defenses of this idea seem less than adequate. Again, he is careful to assert that this is his belief, and there is a degree of uncertainty in it. As to the extent of the resurrection, it is hard to follow Alcorn where he goes. While he asserts that the scope of the resurrection is greater in his view, it is extremely difficult to agree with him that a baseball bat (his example) will be resurrected.
Section Five is called "Seeing the Earth Restored." He first goes through the Bible, showing the promises of a restored earth. He then reiterates what he has been saying all along--namely that the earth will not be destroyed, but refined and purified. There is another chart, this time comparing common beliefs about Heaven with the biblical teaching, and Alcorn furthers the prevalent theme of the New Earth being like this earth, and Christians misunderstanding this fact.
Section Six is called "Celebrating Our Relationship With God," and Alcorn says that this is the most important aspect of the book--he just needed to establish certain groundwork before getting here. He contends that Christians will physically see God, and that this should be the greatest source of joy. He continues on to say that God will dwell with believers, explaining what that will be like with the Father and the Son, but only a sentence long addendum about the Spirit. The last part of this section probably deserves more attention--as its being misunderstood is part of the problem Alcorn addressed early on--that of worship in Heaven. The main contention: that the knowledge of God will grow, so worship will by dynamic, and includes a thoroughly enamored view of God--not simply the eternal church service so often assumed of Heaven.
Section Seven is called "Ruling on the New Earth," and looks at Heaven as the Kingdom. In keeping with the theme of continuity between current and New earths, Alcorn asserts that the plan of history is to transform earthly kingdoms into the Heavenly kingdom. He treads in dangerous waters when he says that the 1st century Jews were right in expecting an earthly king to rule them, but his point is understood within the overall context of the book. He contends that believers will rule with Christ and each other in Heaven--the reason being that this is what God created mankind to do in Genesis. This idea of ruling is closely related to serving, and will be quite important in the remaking of things as they were originally intended.
Section Eight begins the second part of the book, answering questions about Heaven, and seeks to answer specifically, "What Will the Resurrected Earth be Like?" The New Earth will be a lot like this one, and only vaguely akin to Eden. The New Jerusalem will be an actual city with walls and gates, and will match the dimensions given in the Bible--Alcorn gives a description of just how big the city will be. The River and the Tree of Life will be literal. In the New Heaven, the planet Venus will be the morning star. Time will go on forever--a timeless Heaven is Buddhist, not Christian. The verses about there being no more darkness are figurative, as there will be some type of night. The verse about there being no more sea should not be understood as there not being any more sea--this is important, since Alcorn said earlier that there will be ships in the New Heaven. Lastly, there will still be seasons. And, Alcorn assures the reader that anything they may miss from the old earth will be there in the New Earth. This is a difficult section, and it is hard to follow his hermeneutic. The last statement could easily put him on the edge of universalism, too.
Section Nine asks the question, "What Will Our Lives be Like?" Alcorn answers that people will retain uniqueness and identity, will not become angels, and will retain good feelings and good desires. Resurrected bodies will have a natural beauty, and people will lose self-consciousness, keeping them from needing perfect bodies. However, resurrected bodies will not fail like bodies currently do. The shining of the body is figurative--it is about radiating glory. Handicapped people will receive good bodies. Gender will be maintained, and clothing will only be white robes with the possibility of gold sashes. Children who die will be raised by their parents in Heaven, but the negative effects of aging are bygones. There may be eating and drinking, but meat will be off-limits, since there was no physical death in Eden--Adam and Eve were herbivores until the Fall. The idea of there being no more thirsting or hungering should be taken figuratively, however. And, there will be coffee in Heaven. There will be no temptation, no ability to sin, yet there is free will in Heaven. The lack of sin will keep idiosyncrasies from getting on everyone's nerves. There will be learning--only God is omniscient. There will be great libraries, but it will be mostly old books. There will be work, rest and sleep. The statement of Jesus that he is going to a place (singular) to prepare many rooms (plural) is to be taken figuratively--people will have individual houses, and there will be a lot of hospitality.
Section Ten seeks to deal with the question, "What Will Our Relationships be Like?" Christ will be the center, but other relationships are important, too. There will be remembrance of the old earth, and everyone will know everyone. Somehow, marriage ends, but the relationship does not. No marriage also means no sex. Alcorn is concerned with the idea of an "age of accountability," since it lacks Scriptural support, but still contends that there will be aborted and miscarried infants, as well as children who died young in Heaven. Relationships will be more fruitful, overall. However, disagreements and even misunderstandings about God are still inevitable. There is not equality in Heaven. There is ownership. There will be racial, ethnic and linguistic identity in Heaven, and ancient culture will be resurrected.
Section Eleven is clear: "What About Animals?" Animals have some type of a soul, and will be present in Heaven. Animals will be ruled by humans, they will praise God, and God's attributes will be seen in them. Extinct animals and pets will reside in the New Heaven. And, animals will likely talk.
Section Twelve asks, "What Will We Do in Heaven?" For starters, there will be no boredom. Work will be enjoyable. Tasks that were commenced on earth may be completed in Heaven. Culture will progress, creativity will flourish. There will be music, singing, dancing and laughter. There will be sports and play as well. One need not fear missing out on earth, as dreams and opportunities will continue in Heaven. There will be not only normal travel, but space travel (though no extraterrestrials) and even time travel in Heaven.
Alcorn now moves on to the third and final part--"Living in Light of Heaven." Basically, Alcorn contends that the view of Heaven should reorient the lives of believers, that Heaven should cause believers to be optimistic, and that the resurrection should be a source of longing and hope. Ultimately, this life should be preparation--in many sorts--for the continuation of life in Heaven.
To evaluate this book is a difficult task. It is quite obvious that Alcorn has done his homework--there are references of other works as well as Scripture on every page. The bibliography and list of notes is incredibly long. For those reasons, this volume cannot be overlooked--this would provide a great resource, if nothing else. However, Alcorn's insistence in the literal interpretation of nearly everything is complicated. At times, it appears he haphazardly interprets one issue figuratively, for no other reason than the fact that his literal interpretation of a previous issue demands it. Other theological issues come into play and direct his exegesis--the complete lack of existence of death in Eden, for instance. There is a great deal of speculation--though it is usually prefaced as speculation. The biggest problem with the book is its incessant repetition. Most issues are repeated at least once, many are repeated multiple times. The issues of Christoplatonism and biblical ignorance (and his insistence that a figurative hermeneutic is wrong) are quite enlightening, but receive an abundance of attention. The book could have been shortened by at least a third if Alcorn had only stated his argument once. He seems to think that he is filling a theological gap--and he likely is. This may account for some of the repetition. Another problem is the quoting from sources such as The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Ring. While these are used for illumination at times (and they are helpful), at times it seems he uses them to back his point as one would Scripture. This book could be recommended, but only to be read with great discernment. Young believers may even need to seek a mentor to help them through the text. However, there is a great deal of helpful material to be found in the book. It is certainly though provoking, and it shows that Heaven is not something to be feared, but something to look for expectantly.
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2005
I have previously had the pleasure of reading a couple of novels that Randy Alcorn wrote that touch on the subject of heaven. This book goes far beyond those and is a potentially life changing book for Christians.

Although I have been a Christian for several years, I have never had any excitement about pondering Heaven prior to reading 'Deadline' and 'Dominion' by Mr. Alcorn. Those started changing my thinking and this book contributed greatly in that regard.

Many Christian pastors and teachers have done a great disservice by portraying Heaven as a boring place. Although not intentional, the effect these teachings have had is highly demotivating to many.

A typical view of many is similar to the fictional Huckleberry Finn. When Miss Watson told Huck about 'the good place', she depicted it as a place where one would listen to harp music forever. Huck asked her if Tom Sawyer would be there and she indicated he would not. Huck said that he was glad about that as he wanted to be with Tom.

In contrast to that, Alcorn uses numerous Scriptural references to make his case that Heaven is in fact an adventure that just keeps getting better.

In my experience, it is rare to hear sermons or teaching on Heaven or else the message is usually similar to the Huck Finn experience. What a shame. Not only does that diminish the longing for Heaven in Christians, it also reduces their effectiveness on Earth. As Dr. Alcorn says: "It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."

One insight that he shared in the book that I found particularly apt is this: "For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven." That truism should really help stimulate Christians to share with those who are currently unbelievers.

Alcorn points out the following: "Every person reading this book is dying. Perhaps you have reason to believe that death will come very soon. You may be troubled, feeling uncertain, or unready to leave. Make sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Be certain that you're trusting him alone to save you - not anyone or anything else, and certainly not any good works you've done. And then allow yourself to get excited about what's on the other side of death's door."

Although I highly recommend this book, it may seem too lengthy for many potential readers. If that is the case, I would really encourage you to read the two novels I mentioned above by this same author. They may give you enough of a taste for the subject that you will be ready to read this too. You won't regret it.
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on November 1, 2004
I have read over 100 books on the subject of Heaven and I have never read one that touches the soul as Randy Alcorn does in his book called Heaven. It is so informative, easy to read and understand and he backs up everything with scripture. There is not a more important subject than where one will spend eternity. Randy Alcorn has spent 25 years writing this book and it shows. When you are reading this book, you know the Holy Spirit has to be revealing this to him because it is so profound and clear and when you look up the scriptures yourself, it is crystal clear to you. I have the book and the book on Audio. Both are magnificent and would make excellent Christmas gifts because it is a destination that we all are going to be going to.
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VINE VOICEon December 24, 2005
Have you ever wondered what Heaven would be like? Have you wondered if we will have bodies? What will we do in Heaven? Will our pets be in Heaven? What is Heaven going to look like? What in the world are we going to do for an eternity? Maybe you have asked these same questions, I know I have always wondered what is eternity going to be like?

Randy Alcorn does an excellent job of dispelling myths that we have conjured up ourselves. Maybe, you, like me pictures myself in flowing white robes, flying around, playing the harp. The way Heaven is described in this book is of a dynamic place, much like Earth, but much better, bustling with a large city, animals, people, and so much to do.

Alcorn breaks the subject of Heaven down into many different aspects. Will we have bodies? Will we enjoy food? Will we know everyone? Will we live in a house? He answers so many questions. He will answer questions that you never yet asked. The major point of this book is that Heaven is a wonderful place, and we aren't going to be bored.

I like that Randy Alcorn will discuss a subject, add and discuss passages in the Bible that pertain to the subject matter. Heaven was discussed in the Bible in many places, but often we fail to connect the dots to paint the full picture. I like that his style isn't too heavy in commentary, but well balanced with Biblical scriptures.

This book is so completely uplifting. For me reading this book made me filled with joy. He describes Heaven in concrete ways, answering questions that we all might have. I would highly recommend this book to most people. Perhaps if someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, or even suffering a long term illness this book will give them hope for what is yet to come.
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on August 19, 2006
This is no "Far Side" or "Alien Encounters" view of Heaven and the afterlife. If you've grown up with the view most Americans have of Heaven, this book, drawing from hundreds of Biblical scriptures, will radically change how you view Heaven! You'll find yourself getting hopeful and excited... for the first time, realizing that this time on Earth is just the introduction to a long and exciting adventure that awaits believers in Heaven.

I used this book to lead a women's Bible study, and women young and old found themselves first saying, "wow- this seems way out in left field... I've never thought of Heaven like this!" Then they began realizing that Alcorn's book is scriptural--not just a couple of verses out of context--but truly a cover-to-cover in-depth look at what God Himself wrote in His Word about the place of Heaven. As we continued reading through the book, the excitement and delight built.

This book radically changed my perspective on Heaven and ranks as one of the top 5 books I've ever read. I HIGHLY recommend this book. It will motivate you to live your life in such a way that God will be pleased with you at the end of it. And it will motivate you to look Heavenward with delight. GET THIS BOOK!
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on November 23, 2004
I have read several books on heaven and I believe this book is the most comprehensive book I have read on this topic. He provides answers to many abstract questions that we all have that are both reasonable and biblically sound. Even though the subject matter is deep it is written so you can easily understand and follow. This is a book to both read for enjoyment and to assist you in studying God's Word the Bible. I highly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon February 7, 2007
I waited way too long to read this book, but when if finally soaked in its pages, I have come away a different person. Randy Alcorn delivers on a topic often mentioned, but seldom studied: the nature of our eternal home.

Very few people can write in such a conversational way and yet deliver sound, Scriptural basis for their thoughts. Randy Alcorn's Heaven strengthens our theology of God and anchors us to the reality of Heaven as a real place, as God's final redemption of this fallen world.

Beyond questions about "Will we know each other, will we drink coffee, etc," Alcorn explores every conceivable question about Heaven and he does with surprising humility, grace, and awe. HE spends the first several chapters outlining his basis and pleading with the believer for understanding as he plumbs the depths of subject rarely discussed and so hardly understood.

I have come away from this book excited about going to Heaven. I know now it will be a place much different than the meaningly combination of clouds, floating angels, harps and aimlessness I used to picture. I think of Heaven as a wonderfully real place. I think of it as this earth as it should be. And I've come away with a theology of God that looks beyond what we humans have considered "spiritual," and now see God's handiwork in all things.

Alcorn has delivered a masterpiece, a Christian classic for all time. Read this book and it will most certainly change your life.
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