It does the Christian good to consider heaven. It does the Christian good to consider what awaits us when we at last succumb to death. It has been the subject of countless books but, interestingly, few that have remained in circulation for very long. For that reason we are served well by new works on the subject. I was glad, then, to find a copy of Derek Thomas’s Heaven on Earth: What the Bible Teaches about the Life to Come in my mailbox.
Here is how he begins:
For all the skepticism that abounds in our time, people still want to know what happens after death. Books and movies suggesting “post-mortem” experiences of “heaven” are wildly popular. Christians who should know better often cite these sources with approval, despite the often bizarre aspects of what they relate.
And what exactly do we mean when we talk about “heaven?” Are we talking about a conscious existence ten seconds after we are declared dead? Are we talking about what theologians refer to as “the intermediate state?” Or, are we talking about the final state of things, post-resurrection and all the other events that may or may not occur before or after the Second Coming, what the bible refers to as “the new heaven and new earth?” These are two different places. I am persuaded that I shall be in heaven when I die; but I shall not spend eternity in this heaven. At the Resurrection, I shall live in the new heaven and new earth, with the emphasis on new earth.
He continues to explain what the Bible teaches about heaven through a series of expositions:
- We Die … Then What?
- Are You Ready?
- Fall Asleep
- The Trumpet Shall Sound
- The New Heaven and New Earth
- What Will Heaven Be Like?
- Like the Angels
As Thomas proceeds, he brings Scripture where so many rely on experience, he brings clarity where so many are confused, he offers hope where so many are downcast. Best of all, he preaches gospel where so many rely on works. “To be assured of heaven, you must first believe the gospel, and commit to it here and now before we pass from this world into the next. It is my prayer, therefore, that readers of this book–whoever you may be–will ensure that they get right with God, before it is too late. Only then can heaven be entertained as an assurance and certainty.”
Heaven on Earth had its genesis in a series of sermons. Now, sermons make some of the best and some of the worst Christian books—it turns out that it is not all that easy to convert a book from one medium (spoken sermons) to another (written chapters). I’m glad to say this book makes the transition well, and maintains the earnestness of a pastor preaching to the people he loves. It is an excellent little volume worthy of a place in any library.