October 2007 – Editor’s Note: This article is based on Randall Murphree’s reviews of Randy Alcorn’s books on heaven, his attendance at a seminar at which Alcorn taught on the subject, and his subsequent interview with the author.
Will I still be me in heaven? Will I remember things I did on earth? Will I be aware of what’s still happening on earth? What about my crowns? How do I store up treasure in heaven? Will Mom and Dad recognize me when I get there? Why does ... ? How will ... ? Well, of course the list of questions could go on and on.
Author Randy Alcorn is quick to point out that the Bible tells us much more about heaven than we might realize. In Light of Eternity (1999) was his first nonfiction book about heaven and in it, he addresses all the questions above and a lot more – and it’s all just a re-telling of what Scripture says.
He believes that most people have bought into the fallacy that heaven is a mystical place, a spirit realm in the clouds where they’ll get bored playing a harp day and night for eternity. Alcorn finds it an enigma – and no small frustration – that theologians, pastors and mature Christians so often willingly follow the errant line of thought that we can’t know what heaven is like.
Furthermore, he says many people quote half-truths or proof texts to bolster their error. For example, a frequently cited text on heaven is 1 Corinthians 2:9 – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. …”
Alcorn wonders why people stop in the middle of the thought. Verse 10 continues: “… but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” (NIV).
It is his desire to lay error and misconception to rest and call attention to what heaven is like. For example, he establishes that heaven is an actual place that Jesus traveled to and from (John 6:33, Acts 1:2), and he affirms that heaven is a city (Hebrews 11:16, 12:22).
Alcorn, founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, began studying heaven and trying to learn more about it upon his mother’s death in 1981. Now, 26 years later, Alcorn has collected more than 150 books on heaven, studied most of them, combed through Scripture and written of his own sometimes startling discoveries regarding what we can know about heaven.
There are no fluffy clouds, no harps, no chubby cherubim, no angels in long flowing robes in Alcorn’s pictures of heaven. In his novels – Safely Home, Edge of Eternity, Deadline, Dominion, and Deception, e.g. – Alcorn incorporates fictional depictions of heaven. But even there, he is careful to base his descriptions on truths from Scripture.
Because of his study of the subject and his very readable articulation of Scriptural principles, Alcorn has earned a reputation as arguably this generation’s most insightful scholar on the subject. That’s why Tyndale House approached him a few years ago about doing a “big book” on heaven.
In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, big books are not much in vogue, but Tyndale house asked Alcorn to do a definitive work on heaven. The result was Heaven, a big book indeed, which is thorough and meticulous in illuminating the Scriptures that tell us what heaven is like. Readers will wonder, “Why didn’t I see this before?” or “Why doesn’t the pastor teach or preach on this?”
The author’s latest title is Tell Me About Heaven. It is his second children’s book on the subject and is illustrated by critically acclaimed artist Ron DiCianni.
Of course, anyone who wants to learn more about heaven can go straight to Scripture, and that’s what Randy Alcorn recommends. But his analysis and explanations are a valuable and practical aide in the study.
Randy Alcorn’s books about heaven are available at local book stores or at Eternal Perspective Ministries. EPM (www.epm.org) is a Gresham, Oregon, ministry founded by Alcorn. EPM provides a wealth of information on pro-life issues and worldwide relief efforts.
In Light of Eternity – A concise look at heaven, our rewards there and how to live today in light of eternity.
Heaven – This comprehensive study brings clarity to concepts that may be fuzzy, e.g. the Biblical New Earth, God’s restoration of earth.
50 Days of Heaven – This small volume highlights key concepts from Heaven, using three- or four-page meditations with Scripture and prayer.
Heaven for Kids –Based on Heaven, this question-and-answer format offers explanations kids will understand.
Tell Me About Heaven – In this longer children’s story, 10-year-old Jake struggles to understand his grandma’s death.
Wait Until Then – This is a children’s picture book about heaven.