Sam Storms: Crossway has recently launched a series of short books under the heading, Crossway Short Classics. The most recent one is the essay by Jonathan Edwards, Heaven is a World of Love. They asked me to write the Foreword to it, which you will find below. I can’t think of anyone who was more productive during the course of his earthly life than Jonathan Edwards. One need only glance at the Yale University Press edition of his collected works to verify this as fact. And that does not take into account the vast number of as yet unpublished sermons that we hope will one day be made available. I cite this about Edwards merely to refute the oft-heard cliché that some people are so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good. Edwards’s earthly achievements may be directly linked to his focus on, dare I say his obsession with, the glory of heaven that he had not as yet experienced. Edwards was
Owen Strachan: You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you’re no earthly good.” I get the meaning here. We all know absentminded folks. If you’re the type of person who thinks deeply about life but goes out the door in mismatched socks, you might need to become a bit more practical. We’ve all met people who fit this mold. Maybe you and I are those people! But I have observed that most Christians struggle the opposite way. Let me put it plainly: I don’t think we’re nearly heavenly minded enough. We focus a ton on what’s right in front of us—politics, movies, our social-media feeds—but give little thought to what lies ahead in eternity. Small wonder so many believers today are discouraged. There is a marvelous and easy-to-comprehend solution to this common problem. If we will take the time to think about heaven, we will find our gaze lifted. If we will give less attention to tracking the latest Twitter
Randy Alcorn: All people are equal in worth, but they differ in gifting and performance. God is the creator of diversity, and diversity means “inequality” of gifting (1 Corinthians 12:14-20). Because God promises to reward people differently according to their differing levels of faithfulness in this life, we should not expect equality of possessions and positions in Heaven. If everyone were equal in Heaven in all respects, it would mean we’d have no role models, no heroes, no one to look up to, no thrill of hearing wise words from someone we deeply admire. I’m not equal to Hudson Taylor, Susanna Wesley, George Mueller, or C. S. Lewis. I want to follow their examples, but I don’t need to be their equals. There’s no reason to believe we’ll all be equally tall or strong or that we’ll have the same gifts, talents, or intellectual capacities. If we all had the same gifts, they wouldn’t be special. If you can do some
Randy Alcorn: The 1998 movie What Dreams May Come portrays heaven as a beautiful but lonely place for Chris Nielsen (played by Robin Williams) because, although his children were there, his wife wasn’t. Remarkably, someone else is entirely absent from the movie’s depiction of heaven: God. That movie’s viewpoint mirrors numerous contemporary approaches to heaven which either leave God out or put him in a secondary role. The Five People You Meet in Heaven, a best-selling novel by Mitch Albom, portrays a man who feels lonely and unimportant. He dies, goes to heaven, and meets five people who tell him his life really mattered. He discovers forgiveness and acceptance — all without God and without Christ as the object of saving faith. This is a portrayal of a heaven that isn’t about God and our relationship with him, but only about human beings and our relationships with each other. A heaven where humanity is the cosmic center, and God plays a supporting role.
Five Things We Forget About Heaven, by Gavin Ortlund: In 1952, Florence Chadwick tried to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California. For fifteen hours, she endured choppy waters, possible shark attacks, and extreme fatigue. Then a thick fog set in. She gave up. Two months later, she tried again. This time, though it was foggy again, she made it. When asked what made the difference, she said, “The first time all I could see was the fog. The second time I kept a mental image of that shoreline in my mind while I swam.” For me, Chadwick’s comment gives a great image of how heaven should function in our lives as we follow Jesus. In order to persevere through the fog and fatigue of life, we need a mental image of the eternal shoreline toward which we swim. But if you’re like me, you tend to think about heaven far less than you should. Many days it’s completely
Sam Storms: There is a loud chorus of voices these days denouncing, in a somewhat condescending way, the long-standing belief among evangelicals that when Christians die they go to heaven. In one sense, this outcry is good and constructive. It is an understandable and much-needed response to the unbiblical gnosticism of some “fundamentalist” Christians who denigrate material creation, diminish the reality of a future bodily resurrection, and fail to reckon with the centrality in God’s redemptive purpose of the New Heavens and especially the New Earth. So, is my answer to the question posed in the title, No? Not quite. My answer is: Immediately, Yes. Eternally, No. Or again, to simplify, when a Christian dies he/she immediately passes into the conscious presence of Christ in heaven. But when the day of resurrection arrives, he/she will be given a new and glorified body in which all of God’s people will live and flourish on the New Earth (of Revelation 21-22). What
What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived— the things God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Cor. 2:9) Dave Radford: Have you ever worried that you might grow bored in heaven, that things may lose their luster or taste, that the whole novelty and intrigue of heaven might fade as do most things on earth? When you sing, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years . . . we’ve no less days to sing his praise than when we’d first begun,” do you wonder whether or not to be encouraged by such a statement? Sure, eternal life sounds wonderful at first. But unless you have a firm grasp on what the Bible has to say about eternal life, you may begin to wonder. Eternity really is a long time, you might think.Is this something I really desire? After ten million years, will I really have the same desire I once had to go on living here? At the