Sunday, February 2, 2014

Thoughts on Heaven, week 4


I am leading a small group Sunday School class through Randy Alcorn's book on Heaven. We are reading about two chapters each week and then coming together to share what we are learning about the eternal destiny of those that know Jesus. I thought I would take the opportunity each week to blog about what I am learning in this study.

This week we read chapter 7, "What is life like in the Intermediate Heaven" and chapter 8, "This world is not our home...or is it?" One of the first things that Alcorn does in chapter 7 is to push against the mindset of most Christians that when we get to heaven, we won't be concerned with what is happening on the earth. He exhausts Revelation 6:9-11, showing how those that have been slain for Christ are actively petitioning Him to finish what He has started. It is obvious that they see and know what is going on at that time. In addition, he interprets the "Cloud of Witnesses" in Hebrews 12 as those watching and cheering on the people of God. He says,
"The unfolding drama of redemption, awaiting Christ's return, is currently happening on Earth. Earth is center court, center stage, awaiting the consummation of Christ's return and the establishment of his Kingdom. This seems a compelling reason to believe that the current inhabitants of Heaven would be able to observe what's happening on Earth" (70).
I can buy this argument, and not just out of sediment. While it is probably a bit of an insinuation from the text, it is not outside a possible interpretation. But sedimentally, it rocks my world. To think that those of the faith have gone on before me are cheering me on in my walk of faith is motivating, to say the least. 

I loved chapter eight. He makes the argument that earth is what we were designed for. Not the earth we know now, but "a perfect and beautiful Earth with free and untainted relationships with God, each other, animals, and our environment" (77). It is in this chapter that he moves from talking about the Intermediate Heaven to the Christians final home. 

When we think of heaven, most people can easily think about what it will be like to have a resurrected body. But we are very slow at thinking what a New Earth will be like. He says,
"We should open our eyes, because the present Earth is as much a valid reference point for envisioning the New Earth as our present bodies are a valid reference point for envisioning our new bodies" (81). 
That's helpful. And it is exciting. One last thought by Alcorn.
"In Genesis, God plants the Garden of Earth; in Revelation, he brings down the New Jerusalem, with a garden at its center, to the New Earth. In Eden, there's no sin, death, or Curse; on the New Earth, there's no more sin, death, or Curse. In Genesis, the Redeemer is promised; in Revelation, the Redeemer returns. Genesis tells the story of Paradise lost; Revelation tells the story of Paradise regained. In Genesis, humanity's stewardship is squandered; in Revelation, humanity's stewardship is triumphant, empowered by the human and divine King Jesus . . . The earth matters, our bodies matter, animals and trees matter, matter matters, because God created them and intends them to manifest his glory" (85).

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