Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: 50 Days of Heaven

50 Days of Heaven: Reflections That Bring Eternity to Light. Randy Alcorn. 2006. Tyndale. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

There is a world of difference between C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce and Randy Alcorn's 50 Days of Heaven. And it is a difference I appreciated. (Though oddly enough, 50 Days of Heaven has plenty of C.S. Lewis quotes. I get the feeling Alcorn is a fan of Lewis!) While The Great Divorce is an allegory of heaven and hell grounded in imagination and perhaps a bit of philosophy, 50 Days of Heaven is a more practical book grounded in Scripture itself. That's not to say that Alcorn doesn't offer his own impressions of what heaven--or the New Earth--may be like. He does. But his imagination doesn't let his theology get out of control.

There are 50 Reflections. One could easily take it slow and read one per day and make a devotional or study of it. But one wouldn't have to approach it as just a devotional book. For any Christian interested in the subject--which should be all of us, by the way--it offers food for thought. I definitely liked reading this one.

Each chapter begins with a Scripture verse and a quote. As I mentioned earlier, Alcorn is a fan of C.S. Lewis, but, other theologians are included as well. (Jonathan Edwards, John Donne, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, D.L. Moody, Augustine, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, A.A. Hodge, and Isaac Watts to name just a few.)

Every day, the command to think about Heaven is under attack in a hundred different ways. Everything militates against thinking about Heaven. Our minds are set so resolutely on Earth that we are unaccustomed to heavenly thinking. So we must work at it.
We tend to assume that we are automatically going to Heaven, but we overlook the fact that our sin is sufficient to keep us out: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Sin separates us from a relationship with God (Isaiah 59:2). "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong" (Habakkuk 1:13). Because we are sinners, we are not entitled to enter God's presence. Because we cannot enter Heaven as we are, Heaven is not our default destination. Before we can see God in Heaven, something must radically change-because, unless our sin problem is resolved, the only place we will go is to our true default destination: Hell.
In the Bible, Jesus says more about Hell than anyone else does (Matthew 10:28; 13:40-42; Mark 9:43). He refers to it as a literal place and describes it in graphic terms-including raging fires and the worm that doesn't die. He says the unsaved "will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 8:12). In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus taught that in Hell the wicked suffer terribly, are fully conscious, retain their desires and memories and reasoning, long for relief, cannot be comforted, cannot leave their torment, and are bereft of hope (Luke 16:19-31). He could not have painted a more bleak or graphic picture. Revelation 21:27 says, "Nothing impure will ever enter [the New Jerusalem], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life."
If prayer is simply talking to God, presumably we will pray more in Heaven than we do now-not less. Given our righteous state in Heaven, our prayers would be more effective than ever (James 5:16). Revelation 5:8 speaks of the "prayers of the saints" in a context that may include saints in Heaven. Of course, there is only "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). We are never told to pray for the saints (in Heaven), or to the saints, or through the saints, but only to God, through his Son. But though we should not pray to the saints, the saints may well be praying for us.
We'll never forget that our sins nailed Jesus to the cross; for Christ's resurrection body still has nail-scarred hands and feet (John 20:24-29). Even though God will wipe away the tears and sorrow attached to this world, he will not erase human history and Christ's intervention from our minds. As I've said before, Heaven's happiness won't be dependent on our ignorance of what happened on Earth. Rather, it will be enhanced by perspective, our informed appreciation of God's glorious grace and justice as we grasp what really happened here.
God doesn't abandon his purposes; he extends and fulfills them. God-ordained friendships begun on Earth will continue in Heaven, becoming richer than ever.
Every thought of Heaven should move our hearts toward God, just as every thought of God will move our hearts toward Heaven.
When I meditate on Jesus and my future in Heaven, sin is unappealing. It's when my mind drifts from that person and that place that sin seems attractive. Thinking of Heaven leads inevitably to pursuing holiness. Our high tolerance for sin testifies to our failure to prepare for Heaven.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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