In preparation for an upcoming series for the youth, and sermon for main church, and also just as a study project, I’ve been reading Randy Alcorn’s Heaven. While at times it feels a bit repetitive, and at others times perhaps a bit speculative, I think its overall a very helpful book. His pastoral concern for believers to really look forward to heaven is quite evident, and I especially appreciate his emphasis on the physicality of heaven and its continuity with creation. Here’s a sample quote, in the midst of a discussion of the distinction between the intermediate heaven and the New Earth:
“As Jesus is God incarnate, so the New Earth will be Heaven incarnate. Think of what Revelation 21:3 tells us – God will relocate his people and come down from Heaven to the New Earth to live with them: ‘God himself will be with them.’ Rather than our going up to live in God’s home forever, God will come down to live in our home forever. Simply put, though the present heaven is ‘up there,’ the future, eternal Heaven will be ‘down here’…. Utopian idealists who dream of mankind creating ‘Heaven on Earth’ are destined for disappointment. But though they are wrong in believing that humans can achieve a utopian existence apart from God, the reality of Heaven on Earth – God dwelling with mankind in the world he made for us – will in fact be realized. It is God’s dream. It is God’s plan. He – not we – will accomplish it” (Tyndale 2004, 46, emphasis his).
Glad to hear you’re teaching on this topic, Gav. I just finished discussing Heaven in my Systematics class. It was very refreshing. The students really appreciated Piper’s handling of the New Heavens and New Earth in his book Future Grace. He really hammers the physicality of heaven and the continuity with creation as well.
I was surprised to discover that many of my students default to the annihilation position. As I reflect on my own understanding of heaven as a child and young adult, I think I just assumed that the earth would be destroyed and a new one would be created. Do you think that this understanding is almost a given among young people today? If so, why do you suppose that is?
Does Alcorn handle the Annihilation v. Restoration debate? Would you recommend I use this book next year?
That’s cool you’re going over this with students Jer. I’ll have to consult Piper, I’ve forgotten he addresses it in that book. I definitely agree most people in our setting tend to assume an annihilationist view. I’m not sure why that is – maybe the influence of dispensationalism – but I wonder if its connected to the fact that we often tend to have a low view of the body (the “soul” being all that matters) and a low environmental ethic.
Alcorn is definitely in the restorationist camp. I’d recommend the book – maybe a bit long and dense for high schoolers, but most could track with it, especially if you just assigned parts of the book. I will say that the Q + A section (basically the second half of the book) would probably be really interesting to them, and could be a good reference, rather than just reading it all through.
Hey Gav, This is Mom. I am reading Randy’s book now, too, and finding it really helpful. I am beginning to read Scripture more carefully. References that I used to gloss over have new meaning for me. Wish we could sit down and discuss it together–maybe someday. love you.
how cool mom! Glad you’re liking it. Lets definitely discuss next time we’re together. Love you,