A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Steve West
This book is part of the Theology in Community series. It assembles a body of scholars to examine the subject of heaven from the vantage point of a variety of disciplines. Biblical, theological, and historical points are made, with lots of doxology and application. For those who hope for heaven and want to understand it better, this book is an excellent resource.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Learning about Heaven: Robert A. Peterson
Chapter 2 Heaven in the Old Testament: Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
Chapter 3 Heaven in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts: Jonathan T. Pennington
Chapter 4 Heaven in Paul’s Letters: Stephen J. Wellum
Chapter 5 Heaven in the General Epistles: Jon Laansma
Chapter 6 Heaven in John’s Gospel and Revelation: Andreas J. Köstenberger
Chapter 7 Pictures of Heaven: Robert A. Peterson
Chapter 8 The History of Heaven: Gerald Bray
Chapter 9 Angels and Heaven: Stephen F. Noll
Chapter 10 Heaven for Persecuted Saints: Ajith Fernando
Chapter 11 The Hope of Heaven: David B. Calhoun
Chapter 1: Learning about Heaven
Robert A. Peterson
Human beings are incapable of imagining all that heaven will be, but God has revealed what we need to know in his Word. People have claimed that they visited heaven in dreams or have gone there at death (or in near-death experiences). Cult leaders often assert that they are prepared to bring their adherents there. Many times these claims present information and theologies that are flatly contradictory to Scripture, but it is only in God’s Word that we find the truth about heaven. Paul makes it very clear that the noetic effects of sin make our minds unreliable guides when it comes to spiritual truths. Universalists insist that everyone will go to heaven, but the Bible teaches otherwise (texts that universalists appeal to in support of their position are taken out of context and misinterpreted, and many other passages are ignored). When believers die they immediately go into the presence of the Lord—there is no purgatory. Although we will be able to recognize people in heaven that we’ve known on earth, relationships will be changed. There is no marriage in heaven and no sexual relationships. Rather than being a loss, however, this represents the fact that we will have such a union and intimacy with everyone in heaven that earthly relationships pale in comparison. Those in heaven live in perfect bliss: as much as we cannot comprehend it now, we will not even have sorrow over those in hell—God will provide perfect comfort and our joy will be complete. In heaven we will have resurrection bodies that have both continuity and discontinuity with our current ones. Our bodies will be raised, but they will be transformed to be like Christ’s glorious resurrection body. There is a debate about whether the new heavens and new earth will be a brand new ex nihilo creation or whether they will be the present creation that has experienced deep cleansing and renewal; the latter view is more biblical. In the future state this created order will be purified and will be the place where righteousness dwells.
Chapter 2: Heaven in the Old Testament
Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
Genesis 1:8 mentions heaven, referring to the canopy of sky above the earth. As the canon develops, heaven is revealed to be a place far higher and greater than merely the sky. The OT contains many episodic references to heaven, showing God’s transcendent and sovereign rule over all things. It also contains more developed narratives about heaven, the first of which is Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28. The main point of this revelation is that heaven is a place of God’s grace and that God helps the weak, bringing them into fellowship with himself. In Exodus 24 God allows the elders to see his glory in heaven and he welcomes them. 1 Kings 22 reveals a glimpse into God’s heavenly court, where a lying spirit proposes a plan to bring down King Ahab. Although God does not lie, he can use the lies of evil beings who speak to the hearts of those who also love evil and want to believe a lie. Although it defies our comprehension and analysis, Job 1-2 reveals a truth that we all need to understand: all of our pain and suffering is rooted in unseen decisions in heaven. God is sovereign over everything that transpires and he can be blameless even while others act with evil and malicious intent. In the end, God triumphs over. . .[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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