By Mark Ellis
Many believers entertain vague, incomplete, or even faulty views about heaven, a condition that may rob them of fullness and joy during their relatively brief lives on this side of eternity.
Author Randy Alcorn, in his outstanding book, “Heaven” (Tyndale House), seeks to rectify this problem in an exhaustive treatment that answers almost every question the most imaginative minds could conjure about our lives to come.
The stark reality is that about 250,000 people worldwide die every day and go to either heaven or hell, as Alcorn notes.
As we pass through the doorway of death, like a ship disappearing over the horizon headed for a better land, Christians enter into an “intermediate” heavenly state, which is temporary, according to Alcorn’s understanding of Scripture.
This represents the transitional period between our lives on Earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth. But Christians often miss the crucial distinction between this temporary place and our true eternal home.
“When we tell our children ‘Grandma’s now in Heaven,’ we’re referring to the intermediate Heaven,” Alcorn notes. “The intermediate Heaven is not our final destination. Though it will be a wonderful place, the intermediate Heaven is not the place we are made for – the place God promises to refashion for us to live forever.”
In the intermediate Heaven, we’ll await the time of Christ’s return to the earth, our bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and the New Earth, Alcorn notes. “If we fail to grasp this truth, we will fail to grasp the biblical doctrine of Heaven.”
Alcorn devotes most of his book to exploring the beauty, greatness, and grandeur of our lives on the New Earth. “God’s children are destined for life as resurrected beings on a resurrected Earth,” he notes. “We must not lose sight of our true destination. If we do, we’ll be confused and disoriented in our thinking about where, and in what form, we will spend eternity.”
“Just as we die, the earth will be destroyed; and just as we will be raised, the earth will be renewed,” Alcorn notes.
A New Heaven and a New Earth will be merged together. “The future Heaven will be in the human realm, on Earth,” he writes. “The dwelling place of God will be the dwelling place of humanity, in a resurrected universe.”
As the Apostle John foresaw in the Book of Revelation, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.”
In the vastness of the universe, it is sometimes hard to grasp God’s exclusive plan for planet Earth. “Earth is unique,” Alcorn notes. “It’s the one planet – perhaps among billions – where God chose to act out the unfolding drama of redemption and reveal the wonders of his grace. It’s on the New Earth, the capital planet of the new universe, that he will establish an eternal kingdom.”
In the light of the many facts presented in Alcorn’s book about Heaven, he asks every Christian to ponder these all-important questions:
- Do I daily reflect on my own morality?
- Do I daily realize there are only two destinations – Heaven or Hell – and that I and every person I know will go to one or the other?
- Do I daily remind myself that this world is not my home and that everything in it will burn, leaving behind only what’s eternal?
- Do I daily recognize that my choices and actions have a direct influence on the world to come?
- Do I daily realize that my life is being examined by God, the Audience of One?
- Do I daily recognize that the only appraisal of my life that will ultimately matter is his?
- Do I daily reflect on the fact that my ultimate home will be the New Earth, where I will see God and serve him as a resurrected being in a resurrected human society, where I will overflow with joy and delight nearer to God by studying him and his creation, and where I will exercise, to God’s glory, dominion over his creation?
Alcorn relates the story that after Columbus discovered the New World, Spain struck coins with the Latin slogan “Plus Ultra.” It meant “More Beyond.” This was a horizon-expanding message, encouraging the people to believe there was more beyond their shores.
Likewise, every Christian should have their imaginations set aflame with anticipation of the wonders of the New Heaven and the New Earth. In God’s new universe there will always be more beyond…