Sunday, June 16, 2013

Book Review: The Glory of Heaven (2013)

The Glory of Heaven: The Truth About Heaven, Angels, and Eternal Life. John MacArthur. 1996/2013. Crossway. 224 pages.

I really enjoyed reading John MacArthur's revised edition of The Glory of Heaven. In this new edition, MacArthur addresses new books and trends that have come about since the original publication. Specifically, MacArthur discusses three major book publications: Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo, To Heaven and Back by Mary C. Neal, and The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin Malarkey. That is not to say that MacArthur's only point in writing this book is to criticize those three books specifically. No, his point is to instruct:
What God has revealed in Scripture is the ONLY legitimate place to get a clear understanding of the heavenly kingdom. This is a point we will come back to repeatedly: the Bible is our only reliable source of information about heaven. I want to show you why it is misleading and dangerous to probe and dissect people's near-death experiences, as if they could give us some important truth about the afterlife that we are lacking from Scripture. I also want to show you what Scripture teaches about heaven, angels and the afterlife. And together we will see that what the Bible says about these things is indeed sufficient--because we know Scripture furnishes us with everything we need to know to be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17). There's nothing any eyewitness testimony could reliably add to that. (18-19)
In his critique of other books, he quotes directly from those books. He doesn't just generalize and condemn. He shows you why those books don't hold up to Scripture; he illustrates why these books are dangerous--dangerous if accepted as authoritative or true--by showing their weaknesses, their failure to match up with the Bible, with sound biblical teaching and doctrines. He looks at half-a-dozen books at least, all published within the last fifty years. Some are more 'out there' than others. But the accounts blended with some Christian truths are the more dangerous.

Contents: "Heavenly Hash," "Heaven is Real; Hallucinations Are Not," "Delusions of Grandeur," "This World is Not My Home," "What Heaven Will Be Like," "New Jerusalem," "What We Will Be Like In Heaven," "The Heavenly Host," "Appendix 1: Seduced by the Light," "Appendix 2: The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven," "Appendix 3: To Heaven and Back."

Accepting the reality of supernatural things is not the same as believing the truth. When an unbelieving mind rejects the authority of Scripture but embraces the reality of the supernatural realm, the result is always catastrophic. (27)
The current best-selling heavenly travelogues all have one disturbing tendency in common: they manage to make the heavenly tourist seem heroic while making heaven itself sound somewhat mundane. (51)
It is quite true that heaven is a place of perfect bliss--devoid of all sorrow and sin, full of exultation and enjoyment--a place where grace and peace reign totally unchallenged. Heaven is where every true treasure and every eternal reward is laid up for the redeemed. Anyone whose destiny is heaven will certainly experience more joy and honor there than the fallen mind is capable of comprehending--infinitely more than any fallen creature deserves. But if you actually saw heaven and lived to tell about it, those things are not what would capture your heart and imagination. You would be preoccupied instead with the majesty and grace of the One whose glory fills the place. Is no one truly awestruck by the glory of heaven anymore? (51-2)
For anyone who truly believes the biblical record, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that these modern testimonies--with their relentless self-focus and the relatively scant attention they pay to the glory of God--are simply untrue. (52)
If you live your life without cultivating a love for heavenly things, you will never be fit for heaven. (67)
We must seek to understand the biblical concept of heaven. We are commanded to contemplate heaven, to pursue it the way Abraham sought the city of God, to fix our affections there. This means earnestly purging worldliness from our hearts. It means learning to wean ourselves from the preoccupations of this life. It means looking ahead to eternity and living in the expectation of a sure and certain hope. It means looking away from the mundane and temporal, and fixing our eyes steadfastly on him who is the glory and the centerpiece of heaven. Those who live with this heavenly perspective discover abundant life as God intended it here on earth. (80)
A skeptic once told me, "I'd rather be in hell with my friends than in heaven with all the church people." Such a flippant attitude betrays a tragic lack of regard for the horrors of hell. More than that, it grossly underestimates the blessedness of heaven. (84)
What will the perfected soul be like? The most obvious truth is that it will finally be perfectly free from evil forever. We will never again have a selfish desire or utter useless words. We will never perform another unkind deed or think a sinful thought. We will be perfectly liberated from our captivity to sin and finally able to think and act in a way that is perfectly righteous, holy, and honorable in God's sight. (137)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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