Read Heaven Online

Authors: Randy Alcorn

Heaven

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Heaven

Copyright © 2004 by Eternal Perspective Ministries. All rights reserved.

Author photo copyright © 2007 by Olan Mills. All rights reserved.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the
Holy Bible,
New International Version®. NIV®.

Copyright © 1973, 1978,1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the
New American Standard Bible,
© 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971, 1972, 1973,1975, 1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked "NKJV'are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980,1982 by Thomas Nelson,
Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the
Holy Bible,
New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188.
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Scripture quotations marked ESV are taken from the
Holy Bible,
English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All
rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the
Holy Bible,
King James Version.

Scripture quotations marked RSV are taken from the
Holy Bible,
Revised Standard Version, copyright © 1946, 1952,1971 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the United States of America, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Some Scripture quotations are taken from
THE MESSAGE.
Copyright © by Eugene H. Peterson 1993,1994,1995, 1996, 2000,2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Alcorn, Randy C.

Heaven / Randy Alcorn.

            p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN-13: 978-0-8423-7942-7

ISBN-10: 0-8423-7942-8

ISBN-13: 978-0-8423-7944-1 (pbk.)

ISBN-10: 0-8423-7944-4 (pbk.)

1. Heaven—Christianity. I. Title.

BT846.3.A43 2004

236'.24—dc22                                                                                                         2004011329

Printed in the United States of America

12 11 10 09 08 07

18 17 16 15 14 13

To Kevin Butler, Jessi Hickman, Gary Stump,

Cami Norquist, Jerry Hardin, Greg Coffey,

Lucille Alcorn, Leona Bryant, David Reeves,

Daniel Traugott, Lynley Herbert,

Stephenie Saint, Rachel Terveen,

Eli Hubbard, Jonathan Coburn,

Emily Kimball, AlBay lis, III,

John Swartzendruber, Bob Whitson,

Owen Raynor, Joyce Kelley,

Zach Evans, Ryan Dekker,

Cody Ogle, Philip Higgins, Dawn Lechler,

Sally Turpin,Laura Libby, Mike Cimmarrusti,

Kyle Speer, Matthew Pearson,

Jonathan Murphy, Brad and Steffanie Jones,

Eric Kuemmel, Cheyenne Fiveash, Elizabeth Wall, Kelley Lance Courtney, Alison Heth,

and countless others who departed prematurely" (yet in God's good time) to a world far greater than this one but far less
than the one to come,

which all of us who know King Jesus will behold together, slack-jawed,

on the New Earth's first morning.

CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

Preface: About This Book

Introduction: The Subject of Heaven

PART I A THEOLOGY OF HEAVEN

SECTION ONE

REALIZING OUR DESTINY

1 Are You Looking Forward to Heaven?

2 Is Heaven Beyond Our Imagination?

3 Is Heaven Our Default Destination . . . or Is Hell?

4 Can You Know You're Going to Heaven?

SECTION TWO

UNDERSTANDING THE PRESENT HEAVEN

5 What Is the Nature of the Present Heaven?

6 Is the Present Heaven a Physical Place?

7 What Is Life Like in the Present Heaven?

SECTION THREE

GRASPING REDEMPTION'S FAR REACH

8 This World Is Not Our Home . . . or Is It?

9 Why Is Earth's Redemption Essential to God's Plan?

10 What Will It Mean for the Curse to Be Lifted?

SECTION FOUR

ANTICIPATING RESURRECTION

11 Why Is Resurrection So Important?

12 Why Does All Creation Awai Our Resurrection?

13 How Far-Reaching Is the Resurrection?

SECTION FIVE

SEEING THE EARTH RESTORED

14 Where and When Will Our Deliverance Come?

15 Will the Old Earth Be Destroyed . . . or Renewed?

16 Will the New Earth Be Familiar . . . like Home?

SECTION SIX

CELEBRATING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

17 What Will It Mean to See God?

18 What Will It Mean for God to Dwell Among Us?

19 How Will We Worship God?

SECTION SEVEN

RULING ON THE NEW EARTH

20 What Does God's Eternal Kingdom Involve?

21 Will We Actually Rule with Christ?

22 How Will We Rule God's Kingdom?

PART II QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT HEAVEN

SECTION EIGHT

WHAT WILL THE RESURRECTED EARTH BE LIKE?

23 Will the New Earth Be an Edenic Paradise?

24 What Is the New Jerusalem?

25 What Will the Great City Be Like?

26 Will There Be Space and Time?

27 Will the New Earth Have Sun, Moon, Oceans, and Weather?

SECTION NINE

WHAT WILL OUR LIVES BE LIKE?

28 Will We Be Ourselves?

29 What Will Our Bodies Be Like?

30 Will We Eat and Drink on the New Earth?

31 Will We Be Capable of Sinning?

32 What Will We Know and Learn?

33 What Will Our Daily Lives Be Like?

SECTION TEN

WHAT WILL OUR RELATIONSHIPS BE LIKE?

34 Will We Desire Relationships with Anyone Except God?

35 Will There Be Marriage, Families, and Friendships?

36 Whom Will We Meet, and What Will We Experience Together?

37 How Will We Relate to Each Other?

38 What Will New Earth Society Be Like?

SECTION ELEVEN

WHAT ABOUT ANIMALS?

39 Will Animals Inhabit the New Earth?

40 Will Animals, Including Our Pets, Live Again?

SECTION TWELVE

WHAT WILL WE D O IN HEAVEN?

41 Will Heaven Ever Be Boring?

42 Will There Be Arts, Entertainment, and Sports?

43 Will Our Dreams Be Fulfilled and Missed Opportunities Regained?

44 Will We Design Crafts, Technology, and New Modes of Travel?

PART III LIVING IN LIGHT OF HEAVEN

45 Reorienting Ourselves to Heaven as Our Home

46 Anticipating the Great Adventure

Appendix A Christoplatonism's False Assumptions .

Appendix B Literal and Figurative Interpretation

Notes

Selected Bibliography

About the Author.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

T
hanks to the hundreds of people who, after reading my books, have written me to ask questions about Heaven. Many have shared
their stories of loved ones dying, of facing their own deaths, and of God's grace preparing them for Heaven. Some have sought
answers to the deepest questions within and have pushed me further in my study of God's Word.

To scholars (and friends) Gerry Breshears, Justin Taylor, and Gregg Allison, who graciously gave me the theological critique
I sought: Thanks, men, for sharpening iron and being willing to see the manuscript at its worst so you could help me bring
it to its best. And thanks, Justin, for passing on to me all those great resources.

Thanks to my good friend Stu Weber for giving me such strong encourage­ment after reading the original manuscript. It helped
renew my strength to tackle the revisions with hope for the impact of the final product.

I usually mention my buddy Steve Keels in the acknowledgments, but this time he actually deserves it. Thanks, Steve, for being
a model of true friendship. I loved our long hours discussing the world to come, and I look forward to many more (both here
and there). And if—as you've told me—I'll be your gardener on the New Earth, I'll consider it a privilege.

Thanks for the contributions of Randy Butler, Larry Gadbaugh, Marshall Beretta, Keith Krell, Barry Arnold, Matt Guerino, Ruthanna
Metzgar, Skeets Norquist, Amy Campbell, Scott Teeny, Dave Sheets, Dave Martin, and Paul Martin. My friends Angie Hunt and
Dave Jackson from ChiLibris shared helpful insights regarding animals. Sarah Ballenger chased down stray endnotes. Diane Meyer
offered great encouragement—thanks, sis.

I deeply appreciated and benefited from conversations with my family: Nanci, the world's best wife, and our sons and daughters,
Dan and Angela Stump and Dan and Karina Franklin. Special thanks to Karina, who did con­siderable early editing of the rough
manuscript. Nanci, I'm deeply grateful God used your encouraging words on the first drafts to keep me at this huge task.

Thanks to the musicians of Sovereign Grace Ministries, who drawworshipful attention to the God of Heaven, and to my friend
John G. Elliott, whose song "The Praise Goes On and On" and other wonderful Christ-centered mu­sic kept me company during
much of this several-year project.

I appreciate the diligence, insights, and friendship of my Tyndale House edi­tors, Dave Lindstedt and Lynn Vanderzalm. It
was a long haul for all of us, Dave and Lynn—thanks for being faithful. Thanks, Carol Traver, for all your labors. Thanks
also to the copy editors: Michal Needham, MaryLynn Layman, Heather House, and Jeff Erickson. Special thanks to my friend Ron
Beers, publisher at Tyndale House, who first asked, "Would you write a big book on Heaven?" Without Ron's prompting, I might
not have undertaken this project.

Thanks to my friends and EPM staffers Bonnie Hiestand, Kathy Norquist, Janet Albers, Linda Jeffries, and Sharon Misenhimer
for all you did to free me to work on this book. Thanks to the following people, who kindly typed up many of the citations
from over 150 sources: Amy Campbell, Kelsey Carl, Polly Carl, Judy Drais, Lori Durbin, Ferny Guilleux, Andrew Hale, Shawnda
Holzer, Tina Ide, LeannaRuth Jensen, Debby Lehr, Christy Miesner, Pauline Merit, Christie Strait, Donna Thomson, Parm Tunnell,
and Sherie Way.

I'm grateful to some of my Western Seminary "Theology of Heaven" class members, whose papers stimulated various insights:
Danny Jenkins, Andrew McClellan, Mark Baker, Kathryn Barram, Holley Clough, Jan Dwyer, Geoff Hart, Richard Herold, and James
Warrick.

Special thanks to Randy and Sue Monnes for generously opening to me their cozy riverside cabin in Sandy, Oregon, for a number
of weeks. And to my friends Melissa and Mike King, who made me feel at home as their neighbors.

My deepest gratitude to the hundreds of people on our prayer team, who read my e-mails and took the time to pray for me and
for this book. If lives are touched for eternity by it, you will have played a major role. God will reward your faithfulness.

Thanks above all to King Jesus, who stayed with me in long, lonely hours of composition and rewrites, seemingly endless revisions,
and labor to search the Scriptures and get all the details right. I knew this would be a massive and tax­ing project, but
I didn't anticipate the extent to which it would drive me to my knees. What great comfort Jesus Christ brought me in the middle
of many nights, as I asked and received his empowerment.

Thank you, my grace-giving Lord. Every joy Heaven offers is a derivative of you, who are joy itself. Heaven will be a thrilling
adventure because you are a thrilling person. Thanks for being the source of all great adventures, including those awaiting
us in the new universe.

I can hardly wait.

PREFACE

ABOUT THIS BOOK

B
ookstores overflow with accounts of near-death and after-death experiences, complete with angels giving guided tours of Heaven.
A few of these books may have authentic components, but many are unbiblical and misleading.

We Christians who believe God's Word are partly to blame for this. Why? We have failed to explore and explain the Bible's
magnificent teachings about Heaven. No wonder a flood of unbiblical thinking has rushed in to fill the vac­uum. Because the
human heart cries out for answers about the
afterlife,
our si­lence on Heaven is particularly striking.

The truth is, in our seminaries, churches, and families, we have given amaz­ingly little attention to the place where we will
live forever with Christ and his people—the New Earth, in the new universe. This eternal Heaven is the central subject of
this book. It's a subject I've found to be fascinating, thrilling, and life-changing.

TEST THIS BOOK BY SCRIPTURE

From the beginning, I want to make it clear that it's vitally important that this book be true to Scripture. I believe that
most of my conclusions, even those that significantly depart from current evangelical thinking, will stand up to biblical
scrutiny. Inevitably, however, some may not. In the context of prophetic state­ments, the apostle Paul says, "Test everything.
Hold on to the good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). It's up to you to test by God's Word what I say, hold on to the good, and reject
the bad.

Through biblical study and extensive reading, dialogue, and critique, I've tried to detect any conclusions that don't pass
Scripture's test, to eliminate them before this book was published. But despite my best efforts, some errors un­doubtedly
have slipped through. I call on readers to be like the Bereans, who "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul
said was true" (Acts 17:11). Don't throw out the baby of truth with the bathwater of what you regard as my mistakes—but, by
all means,
do
throw out the bathwater!

I invite you to contact me if you believe you have biblical grounds for dis­agreeing with anything in this book. I am open
to correction—in fact, I
seek
it, and I will make any warranted changes in future editions. This revised version of the book contains a number of changes
I made based on input from readers of the first edition. I am grateful for their questions and criticisms. (Keep in mind,
though, when you write to me, that "I've never heard this before . . . " and "I've always thought that. . ." and "Our denomination
teaches . . ." are not biblical grounds for disagreement.)

Many things in this book will be new even to readers who are veteran stu­dents of Scripture. New ideas are rightly suspect
because they are often hereti­cal. However, when biblical truths have been long neglected or ignored, attempts to present
them may sound far-fetched. They may appear to be adding to or misinterpreting Scripture, when in fact they are simply portraying
what Scripture has said all along but we've failed to grasp. In these pages I will intro­duce some biblical truths that I
believe have been long ignored or spiritualized and thereby stripped of their richness and significance.

STRUCTURE AND CONTENT

Examining the table of contents will give you a good feel for this book. In part 1, "A Theology of Heaven," I will explain
the difference between the pres­ent Heaven (where Christians go when they die) and the ultimate, eternal Heaven (where God
will dwell with his people on the New Earth). Don't be afraid of the word
theology
—it simply means a study of God's relation to the world—and don't underestimate your ability to understand what God has re­vealed
to you in his Word. We'll discuss whether the current Heaven is a physi­cal place; whether people there remember life on Earth;
whether they pray for loved ones on Earth and can actually see what's going on here; and we'll answer the question, If people
in Heaven are aware of events on Earth, including suf­fering, how could it be Heaven?

The backbone of part 1 is a discussion of the book's central subject, the New Earth. I'll present foundational biblical truths
concerning God's larger plan in redemption, especially in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and what that means
for the New Earth. I will answer questions such as, What will it mean to see God? What will our relationships with people
be like? What will it mean to rule the earth with Christ?

Part 2, "Questions and Answers about Heaven," addresses specific questions about life on the New Earth that arise out of the
foundational teachings in part 1—questions such as, Will the New Earth be like Eden? Will there be ani­mals on the New Earth?
What kind of city is the New Jerusalem? What will our bodies be like? Will we eat and drink? Will we work? use machinery?
play? study and learn? create art and music and culture?

You may find that the material in the first part of the book is paradigm hshifting. If you don't understand the foundational
principles, however, you will come to the second half with a different set of assumptions, and what I'm say­ing may not make
sense. The soundness of my conclusions in the question and answer section depends on the biblical basis I present in part
1.

I sometimes skip around when reading a book, going straight to the chapters that deal with what interests me most. If you
do this, I hope you'll then go back to the foundational chapters to see what the book's logic is built upon. If you are patient
enough to read this book consecutively, I think you'll be rewarded. Part 3, "Living in Light of Heaven," encourages us to
let the doctrine of Heaven transform us and fill us with joyful anticipation.

If I were dealing with the subject of Heaven in order of
importance,
I would begin with a discussion of God's presence in Heaven and our relationship with him, because being with God and seeing
his face is the central joy of Heaven and the source of all other joys. But there's a major obstacle: Because of our wrong
assumptions about the eternal state, we bring misguided perspectives to what it will mean to see God or be with him. We succumb
to the vague, ethe­real notions of eastern religions rather than build our understanding on the concrete, physical depictions
of biblical and historical Christianity. We fail to envision God as forever incarnate in the risen Christ, and we fail to
recognize the New Earth as a physical environment, civilization, and culture in which God will dwell with us. Consequently,
I must lay the biblical groundwork be­fore I discuss what it will mean to live with God forever and answer other key questions
about Heaven.

"I'VE NEVER THOUGHT THIS WAY BEFORE"

A friend asked me the central premise of this book. When I explained it briefly, he looked at me wide-eyed, incredulous. I
rephrased it, using different Scrip­tures and illustrations. Suddenly, the light went on for him. He said, "The more you restate
it in different ways, the more Scripture you use, the more it makes sense. But I've
never
thought this way before. I don't think many people have. You'll need to make your case carefully, or people just won't believe
it."

I will try to make the case carefully and biblically. There is plenty in this book for everyone to disagree with. But I hope
you'll find that most of it rings true to Scripture and opens up exciting doors to imagining and anticipating everything that
awaits God's children in the magnificent world to come.

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