Monday, July 9, 2018

Journaling Heaven #2

Heaven. Randy Alcorn. 2004. Tyndale. 533 pages. [Source: Gift]

Journaling Heaven #1

Chapter 4: Can You Know You're Going to Heaven?

I don't have specific quotes from this chapter. Yet I don't want to ignore it altogether. This one essentially teaches that YES you can know you're going to heaven. It presents the gospel in a concise way. 

Chapter 5 What Is the Nature of the Present Heaven?

One of Alcorn's main points in Heaven seems to be that not enough distinction is made in Christian circles between the present Heaven and the future Heaven, aka THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH. He's probably right on that account. 

Time exists in Heaven and the current heaven, the temporary heaven, is not our final dwelling place: the NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH are. So people currently in Heaven are not home yet; the best is still yet to come; there is still something they are longing for. 
Most views of Heaven are anti-incarnational. They fail to grasp that Heaven will be God dwelling with us--resurrected people--on the resurrected Earth. The incarnation is about God inhabiting space and time as a human beings--the new heavens and New Earth are about God making space and time his eternal home. As Jesus is God incarnate, so the New Earth will be Heaven incarnate. (46)
I'm not sure I grasp everything involved in this--in what he's saying. But are we capable of understanding and grasping what it will be like for us to dwell with God and God to dwell with us? What little we do get I think leads us to worship. That is what heaven is--being where God in his glory is. 

Chapter 6 Is the Present Heaven a Physical Place?

Yes. Yes it is. 

Chapter 7: What is Life Like in the Present Heaven?

This chapter is largely drawn from three verses in Revelation. Revelation 6:9,10,11. Alcorn lists twenty-one observations he makes on those three little verses that describe what life is like in the present heaven. Some of these observations fit snugly into preconceived notions of what life is like in heaven, others not so much. These are the observations that got me thinking:
11. Heaven dwellers have a deep concern for justice and retribution (v. 10). When we go to Heaven, we won't adopt a passive disinterest in what happens on the earth. On the contrary, our concerns will be more passionate and our thirst for justice greater. Neither God nor we will be satisfied until his enemies are judged, our bodies raised, sin and Satan defeated, Earth restored, and Christ exalted over all. (66)
13. The martyrs in Heaven pray for judgment on their persecutors who are still at work hurting others. They are acting in solidarity with, and in effect interceding for, the suffering saints on Earth. This suggests that saints in Heaven are both seeing and praying for saints on Earth. (66)
20. The people of God in Heaven have a strong familial connection with those on Earth, who are called "their fellow servants and brothers" (v. 11) We share the same Father, "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Ephesians 3:15. There is not a wall of separation within the bride of Christ. We are one family with those who've gone to Heaven ahead of us. After we go to Heaven, we'll still be one family with those yet on Earth. These verses demonstrate a vital connection between the events and people in Heaven and the events and people on Earth. (67)
We will remember our lives on Earth. He writes, "Given our improved minds and clear thinking, our memory should be more--not less--acute concerning our life on Earth." He reminds us that we will have to give an account for our lives--our words, our thoughts, our acts.

Still terrifying no matter how you look at it.

He makes two points that may seem a bit off from our traditional thinking. One is that those in heaven are aware of what's happening on earth and are concerned by what is happening on earth. Second is that those in heaven are praying on behalf of those on earth.
If prayer is simply talking to God, presumably we will pray more in Heaven than we do now--not less. And given our righteous state in Heaven, our prayers will be more effective than ever. Revelation 5:8 speaks of the prayers of the saints in a context that may include saints in Heaven, not just on Earth. We are never told to pray to the saints, but only to God. Yet the saints may well be praying for us. If people in Heaven are allowed to see at least some of what transpires on Earth, then it would seem strange for them not to intercede in prayer. (71)
He ends the chapter by arguing that the verses about heaven that we quote most often and cling to the most--Revelation 21--are about the NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH and not about the present heaven.
If Jesus, who is in Heaven, feels sorrow for his followers, might not others in Heaven grieve as well? It's one thing to no longer cry because there's nothing left to cry about, which will be true on the New Earth. But it's something else to no longer cry when there's still suffering on Earth. Going into the presence of Christ surely does not make us less compassionate. (72)
The present Heaven and the eternal Heaven are not the same...Happiness in Heaven is not based on ignorance but on perspective. Those who live in the presence of Christ find great joy in worshiping God and living as righteous beings in great rich fellowship in a sinless environment. And because God is continuously at work on Earth, the saints watching from Heaven have a great deal to praise him for, including God's drawing people on Earth to himself. (Luke 15:7,10). But those in the present Heaven are also looking forward to Christ's return, their bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the fashioning of the New Earth from the ruins of the old. Only then and there, in our eternal home, will all evil and suffering and sorrow be washed away by the hand of God. Only then and there will we experience the fullness of joy intended by God and purchased for us by Christ at an unfathomable cost. (73)
Alcorn is definitely challenging our often vague and fuzzy notions of Heaven. There is a certain novelty to what he's saying.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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