Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, ed. Heaven (Theology in Community). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. 288 pp. $18.99.
How often do you think about heaven? What comes to mind when you do think about the subject? Popular Christian conceptions of heaven range from misguided to bizarre. Many see heaven exclusively or mainly as the place Christians go when they die, and/or as a “boring” place of perpetual harp-playing on clouds and church services. Books on heaven that line the shelves of Christian bookstores are mainly stories of those who claim to have visited heaven (whether in a vision or in a story of dying and being brought back to life), but these depictions are often starkly different from the biblical picture. There is a great need for the average Christian to have a robust theology of heaven informed by the Bible as opposed to these popular but unbiblical books, and Heaven, the latest in Crossway’s Theology in Community Series, is the perfect resource for this need.
Like the other volumes in the series, Heaven brings together an all-star team of evangelical biblical scholars and theologians who love the church and are involved in various forms of ministry. This series offers one of the best examples of scholarship for the church, bridging the academy and the church. Top-rate scholarship is presented in an accessible package, providing robust content without much technical jargon. In the place of academic tangents that would seem irrelevant to the average person in the pew is practical content for the typical lay Christian.
After an introductory chapter, the next five chapters of Heaven surveys what the Bible says about the subject. “We need not wait until Revelation 21–22 to start seeing the heights of heaven. The whole Bible is the story of heaven above coming down to earth, deity coming down to humanity, grace coming down to the undeserving, to lift them up” (43). Several of these chapters touch on inaugurated eschatology and correct the common misconception of a disembodied existence in heaven being the end goal of redemption.
After the biblical survey, Chapter 7, “Pictures of Heaven, traces five of Scripture’s most important pictures of heaven (heaven and earth, Sabbath rest, the kingdom of God, the presence of God, and the glory of God) through the four stages of the biblical storyline of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Next Chapter 8 presents an overview of how God’s people have historically understood the doctrine of heaven and chapter 9 addresses angels. Chapter 10 addresses an issue that tends to be far from our minds and hearts here in the west – persecution. This chapter draws out important connections between persecution and heaven, for “the primary purpose of biblical eschatology is neither to pander to our inquisitiveness about what will happen in the last days nor to inflame our greed for treasures in heaven but to encourage the faithful to persevere along the costly path of obedience” (227). The concluding chapter addresses the hope of heaven.
Heaven in the Theology in Community series is a book for all lay-Christians serious about their faith. It’s a book pastors, bible study leaders, and all involved in ministry and leadership should read and recommend to those they teach and lead. This book is an excellent introduction to the subject of heaven that is at once biblically/theologically profound and yet practical and accessible.
I received a free digital copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.