A new year brings a new way to talk about an old subject, heaven. Men, women, and children have shared their stories and imaginations about what heaven is like. Many have claimed that they have been to heaven and back. The Bible gives us much information about heaven. Yet, we still wonder what heaven will be like. Some wonder if heaven really exists.
Scot McKnight has taken a fresh approach to heaven and uses the Bible as his authority. He writes that Heaven is God’s promise. I had never thought of Heaven as a promise, but, rather, a fact.
Herein lies the difference, McKnight writes that the first heaven (lowercase) “is the undisclosed, hidden reality of the presence of God” and the final Heaven (uppercase) “is the disclosed, visible reality of the presence of God on earth.” (p. 45) In other words, when a Christian dies, McKnight writes that the Christian goes to the first heaven, which can be compared to moving into a dormitory, and when the Christian moves to the final Heaven (the new Heaven), it’s like moving home.
I’m thinking about that. If God created the heavens and the earth, if God is perfect, if God is holy, then His dwelling place is perfect and holy … magnificent beyond our imaginations. Indeed, God will create a new heaven and new earth, and it will be splendid and different. Jesus promised His disciples that He was going to prepare a dwelling place for them and He would return to get them.
I’m struggling with the idea that God presently dwells in a lesser heaven than He will in the future. Presently, I think that it is just as splendid, just different.
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” Revelation 21:1
The new Heaven is McKnight’s Heaven Promise, and the resurrection of Jesus is the “heart of the Heaven Promise.” (p. 15) Jesus is the focus for Christians, isn’t He? His work, His sacrifice, His death, His resurrection, His coming again.
“There is a way to die that I call ‘standing in the empty tomb’ upon the promise of the resurrection and looking forward into the great beyond with hope.” (p. 52)
This sentence was precious to me. In 2014, I watched my Mama stand in the empty tomb, focused and peacefully waiting to step from the tomb into the Light. In that empty tomb, she waited in great expectation, sometimes smiling.
McKnight explores six promises about heaven:
- God will be God
- Jesus will be Jesus
- Heaven will be the Utopia of Pleasures
- Heaven will be Eternal Life
- Heaven will be an Eternal Global Fellowship
- Heaven will be an Eternal Beloved Community
Although we have little information about the Holy Spirit in heaven, I would have liked to have read about an additional promise about heaven: “The Holy Spirit will be the Holy Spirit.”
“Clearly, since the Holy Spirit is a member of the triune God, he will be present for all eternity, no doubt taking an active role in the creation and among God’s people. However, the Bible doesn’t specifically answer the question of exactly what His role will be.” (Randy Alcorn)
McKnight answers questions that are commonly asked about heaven, questions like the validity of near-death experiences, pets in heaven, and children who die.
Traditional expectations are challenged in The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible’s Truth About Life to Come, and McKnight identifies Christians as Heaven people. He asks how Heaven people should live in today’s world.
This book caused me to rethink some of my ideas about heaven.Thank you, Mr. McKnight.
I received The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible’s Truth About Life to Come from Blogging for Books for this review.
Thank You, Father, for Scot McKnight and his scholarly approach. Bless him with Your perfect wisdom. Pour out Your grace and peace upon Your followers as we embark upon a new year. As Heaven people, guide us in Your ways and in Your will. Empower us to walk towards Your Heaven promise in boldness and in Your authority. Thank You for Your promises steeped in love.
Is Heaven God’s promise to you?