Randy Alcorn: How to Preach About Heaven
Is Earth little more than an ill-advised experiment that ends in failure?
For years, as I’ve read more than 150 books on Heaven (most long out of print), I have thought Satan has really pulled a fast one on us. He cons us into believing he thwarted God’s purpose for righteous mankind to rule the earth to God’s glory. So we read Genesis 1-2 about ruling over animals and earth and having dominion (and the implications about developing God-honoring culture, technology, art, music, sports and everything else) and we think “that may have been God’s original intention, but now it’s never going to happen.”
So we think all we’ll ever see of human society is the bad stuff with glimmers of what might have been, if only Satan and man and woman hadn’t messed up God’s plan. And now, we imagine, the best God will manage to do is snatch our spirits out of this world to live in a disembodied realm made for angels, while the earth he made for us is flushed down the cosmic toilet. So Earth is little more than an ill-advised experiment that ends in failure.
But in fact, God never gave up His plan for us OR for earth. Romans 8 alone, even if we didn’t have countless other passages in the prophets and gospels and epistles, is emphatic on the fact Christ’s redemptive work and the resurrection is not limited to us, but extends to the rest of his creation, which groans for the coming deliverance. As resurrected beings we will reign over a resurrected earth (with animals, culture, water, trees, fruit, buildings, etc.) with our resurrected Christ and each other for all eternity. As his stewards, and kings and queens under the King of Kings, we’ll never exhaust the wonders of a universe created by an infinitely fascinating God. And certainly we’ll never run out of things to do!
Yet the average Christian’s view of Heaven is pathetically dull, drab, disembodied and utterly unearthly. As I say in the book, we can no more develop an appetite for such a Heaven than we can develop an appetite for gravel. And among other things, consider what that does not only to thwart our joy but undermine our motive for evangelism. Why would we want to go out of our way to share Christ with people so they too can spend eternity in a drab, boring and tiresome place? (How Satan despises God’s plan for man to rule the earth he has tried to usurp.)
And when we fail to see God made the earth to be our home, and still intends for a renewed earth to be our home forever, the things of earth seem unspiritual to us. When we look at the beauty of creation and say, “I see you in that waterfall Lord, and it makes me love you more,” we feel a letdown. Because then we think, “My time in this world will soon be over; no more waterfalls, flowers, fruit trees and dogs; I feel like I was made to live here, but they tell me I’m really going to live in some nonphysical realm of angels. … I wish that excited me, but it just doesn’t.”
Yet all along God promises we will live on a new earth in a new universe, reigning to his glory. Things to do, places to go, people to see, to God’s glory and our good. (This is so much better than the misguided guesswork behind Mitch Albom’s best-selling book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which is a sort of self-therapy heaven without God and that everyone goes to as their default destination. Even Christians are reading and recommending this book. If we fail to satisfy people’s curiosity about Heaven with the teaching of Scripture, they’ll continue to go to sources that aren’t trustworthy.)
So, brother, may you use the platform God has given you to help the body of Christ see that the purpose-driven life lasts forever, and the central purpose doesn’t change. God’s purpose for us and the Earth itself will not end but will be always going deeper and always spreading broader to the glory of God. We will behold wonders of God’s new creation beyond our wildest dreams. As his image-bearers we will shape Christ-centered civilization with astounding and delightful features. Forever delivered from the sin and death that once plagued us and our relationships, we will worship and work and rest and serve and laugh and feast and celebrate to God’s glory and our good.