For far too long, we’ve talked about heaven as if it were a dream or someplace that only exists in fairytales. We want to believe it’s real, but with such an expanse of contradictory information, it’s difficult to know what to believe.
To add even more confusion, we are left to sift through the tales of individuals who have crossed over and returned. With so many competing narratives and accounts based on what many think are beyond-death experiences, wouldn’t it be nice to have a straight forward examination of what the Bible has to say about heaven?
Best-selling author and New Testament scholar Scot McKnight thought so too, which is why he wrote The Heaven Promise.
McKnight, who has penned more than 50 books, including The Jesus Creed, has had a fascination with heaven since he was a child. As a professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary, McKnight is no stranger to academic engagement and scholarly discourse. However; as an ordained deacon, McKnight is well accustomed with the concerns of the everyday thinker. The Heaven Promise represents the perfect blend of thoughtful research coupled with an easily digestible presentation.
“My hope,” McKnight shares, “is that people will be hopeful about heaven.”
The Heaven Promise offers an infusion of hope alongside a healthy anticipation of eternity.
After all, heaven isn’t just a dream; it’s a promise.
Heaven. Eternity. The Afterlife. You mention any of these concepts, and people of all ages and from all walks of life are certain to have opinions. Maybe that’s why there are so many books and movies that feature heaven-and-back experiences. But how can we know if those accounts are accurate?
How can we know for sure what heaven will be like?
Well, according to New Testament scholar and popular author Scot McKnight, all we need to do is to turn to Scripture to answer our questions.
Separating fact from fiction, McKnight helps the reader examine the witness of God’s Word in order to discover what awaits us on the other side of the grave.
Using the Bible, McKnight answers the most-frequently-asked questions regarding heaven, including:
1. What about Near-Death Experiences?
2. What about Rewards in Heaven?
3. Who Will Be Allowed in Heaven?
4. Is God Fair?
5. Will There Be Families in Heaven?
6. What about Children Who Die?
7. What about Cremation?
8. What about Purgatory?
9. Will There be Pets in Heaven?
10. Why Believe in Heaven?
Heaven isn’t the construction of a fairytale or some mythical narrative. It’s very real; it’s very good; and it’s very much the fulfillment of God’s promise to us.
- Needs supporting documentation
I got one big idea out of this book I will take to my grave that I really appreciated: heaven "little h" and Heaven "big H." This is almost worth the price of admission except almost everything in this book has either no Biblical evidence or at least very little. At one point, the author tries to point out what life in Heaven will be like and he gives this grandiose explanation then uses the last chapter of CS Lewis' Narnia Chronicles as his proof text! Narnia! Can you believe it? I'd laugh but the joke gets old after about the tenth chapter that explains in specific detail what Heaven is like only to be backed up by quotes from Lewis, Tolkien, and a few other authors - no Bible!!! I am somewhat interested in what Lewis and Tolkien have to say but here I was naively thinking a book on Heaven would actually use the Bible as its source material--silly me. I know God was intentionally vague on Heaven but there are passages in the Bible - John 14:3 (I go to prepare a place) for example and passages that need explanation like 2 Thess 4 (is this the rapture, the 2nd coming, please explain) yet these are glossed over at best. Are the streets of gold real or just allegory? I'd love to know the author's opinion but sadly, I got nothing. Worse yet, Revelation would be the obvious place to go right? Instead he says all of the prophetic writings in Revelation are simply allegory for Rome. Good grief - there should be a warning sticker that says, "caution, amillennial views only."
- Waste of time
I found this book to extremely disappointing and severely unedifying. When I read the description of said book I expected a biblically based, edifying, and God glorifying book, this book was none of those. First off, McKnight could hardly stop quoting other Christian book writers, scripture clearly played second (if not third) place to C.S. Lewis and other writers in this book. The issue of lack of thoughral Biblical study in this book is not at all helped by the difficultly caused when the reader (John Green) quotes another source as I could not tell when he was quoting someone until he said something like, "by C.S. Lewis" at the end, I guess that is more of a problem with the fact that this was an audio book, not a an actual book.
John Green (the reader of this audio book) did an alright job, not amazing or terrible, just alright (it probably did not help that I disliked what he was reading a good deal of the time). :P
The following is McKnight quoting the Old Testament (and giving a bit of his own thoughts on it) when God is telling Abram that it will be Abram's own flesh who will be his heir: "But a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir. "'Abram must have been heard muttering, "Tell me something new."'"-McKnight
I found that to be severely presumptuous and rude on McKnight's part as no where in God's word do you read of Abram (a.k.a. Abraham) muttering at what God Almighty commanded him to do. In fact we find in Hebrews chapter 11 we read much of Abraham's faith in God (see Heb. 11:8-19) and in Romans chapter 4 the apostle Paul tells us, "For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'"-Romans 4:3
Does McKnight make some good points, yes he does. But he not only makes so few of them, he also fails to back most of his few good thoughts with scripture.
McKnight tried to sound like he was being cautious when speaking of heaven, but he failed to be so. He asks bunches of questions in this book and hardly answers any of them solidly. I found a majority of the book filled with speculation and guesses.
I must say though, that I found chapter 7 to be interesting as McKnight told of Christians who were able to face death because they knew what was on the other side. Another good point was made in chapter 8 by McKnight, "Heaven is for those who long to gaze upon the beautiful face of God."
I found that when speaking of what heaven would be like (chapter 10) McKnight made a huge mistake. When speaking of the pleasures of heaven McKnight fails to point out that our present ideas of "joy" and "pleasure" and "happiness" are not perfect as we don't even know what perfection truly is as we all of us are in still in these fleshly bodies. Also, in the same chapter, McKnight tells us, "Heaven is not designed for those who fear joy and pleasure and happiness nor for those who deny such pleasures. Heaven is designed for those who relish such pleasures and long for more." Remember McKnight has failed to point at the fact that our ideas of "joy" and "pleasure" and "happiness" are NOT perfect. It is also important to point out that right before the above quote, McKnight was comparing all of heavens coming joys to what todays world also pictures as "heavenly pleasures". He spoke of heaven stirring in us the same kind of thrills people get with perfectly pitched music, good food, when your sports team wins (yes, he really did use sports to describe the joys of heaven), pleasant smells, satisfying intimacy (McKnight used another word for it),etc. Do I like good food? Yes I do. Do I like perfectly pitched music? Yes I do. Do I like pleasant smells? Yes I do. But heaven is SO much more then whatever we could possibly even imagine thinking of!
"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."-2 Corinthians 4:16-18
We as Christians should never have our joys, pleasures, or happiness dependent on what this world thinks is true happiness, joy, and pleasure: "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."-Philippians 3:17-21
I fear McKnight spent to much time comparing heaven to what our lives here on earth are like. Now I understand how someone would attempt to justify this kind of method for describing heaven by using the argument that we have to use so much of this life to piece together a picture of heaven as this life is all we know. Now is it true that this life is all we know? Of course it is! But that is exactly why we should be weary of forcing so much of our limited knowledge on what we think heaven will be like as our knowledge is not only limited, but also infected by sin (in other words, we are not perfect). The same reasoning also applies to our study of God (it is too easy for worldly ideas to creep into our study of Theology as we still dwell in these fleshly bodies).
McKnight also contradicts himself a good number of times in his own book. We just read about how earth centered McKnight's ideas of heaven come across, well, later in the same chapter (yes, still in chapter 10 here) McKnight says, "What is utopia? Full and lasting pleasure for all, with God at the center, we will be intoxicated with the deep, ecstatic joy of being known by God and knowing God. Plus, with God at the center, all happiness will be aimed at God, and all our pleasures will be attuned to God's pleasures. Heaven is utopia, and utopia can be described as our greatest deep joys on full display. We are leaning into that utopia of pleasure even now." Not only does not McKnight's choice of wording come across little thought through (when I think of the word, "intoxicated" I picture drunken senselessness) but it brings one back to what McKnight was describing heavens joys as earlier (good food, good smells, good music, etc.) nearly completely pulling God out of the center of our focus and putting guesses (at best) first. Later in chapter 13 (10:40 into the chapter) McKnight puts down thinking on heaven as just dwelling with God when he says that that kind of thinking is, "small". If one stops and thinks about WHO God Almighty is, how can they say that dwelling with Him is a "small idea"?
So, McKnight has already said that, "Heaven is for those who long to gaze upon the beautiful face of God." Which is true, but then McKnight says, "Heaven is designed for those who relish such pleasures and long for more." And the pleasures McKnight was talking about there were earthly, and I don't know that anyone on earth does not like to have their pleasures reachable, so does that mean everyone on earth is going to heaven? Maybe to McKnight, but not to God's Word. McKnight says later in the same chapter: "God designed heaven for those who long for the completion for God's grand story, which does not begin with you are me." But McKnight just said that people who love being happy will go to heaven? I think it was at this point that I just gave up trying to figure out what McKnight thinks about who will get into heaven (as I don't remember him taking any firm stance on who he thinks will go to heaven when he covered the topic in chapter 18(?)).
I found it hypocritical how McKnight kept putting down racism in his book and yet he always makes sure that the listener (in this case) knows that the person he is talking about has black or brown skin. What does it matter what color someone skin is? We are all human whether or not our skin is white or black, whether or not we are short or tall, whether or not we speak the same language!
Just come across another "who will get to heaven" quote in my notebook. This time McKnight says, "God designed Heaven for those who long for God's beloved community." Don't worry, this one was not in chapter 10, it was in chapter 13. :P
I could say a lot more of the issues of the chapters that came after, but due to the fact that I am not out to write a book myself, I will give my thoughts on the end chapters.
At the end of chapter 19 McKnight says, "We don't know how God makes these opportunities possible for each person in history, past, present, and future. But we can trust the God of promise to accomplish what He wants to do…" Here McKnight was speaking of who will get into heaven, and how we don't know how God gives everyone a chance to except His word but that He does. Does God give everyone a chance? Yes, and we are told in Romans chapter one just how God gives everyone a chance, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."-Romans 1:18-20
Overall this audio book was a major disappointment and pain.
On that pleasant note, I received a free copy of this book from christianaudio.com as part of their Review Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
- Heaven is in the news but not everything we read about heaven is true or encouraging. Scot McKnight offers a healthy dose of truth about what is to come because God promises.
The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible’s Truth about Life to Come
When I first heard of The Heaven Promise (Waterbrook Press) I thought about geography (location) and topography (the landscape) but what Scot McKnight emphasizes in his book is not where heaven is or what it looks like but rather the atmosphere of heaven. What will heaven be like?
What will we hear, see, and feel when or if we arrive?
In this regard I think the author does a good job. He talks about reconciliation, a place where all is made new and we are restored to the original plan. We will all breathe the air of justice, worship and fellowship.
McKnight bases his book on the idea of promise. Heaven is a promise, not just a nice idea, not a reward for compliance but a real promise. He develops that theme around is promises related to heaven. God will be God. Jesus will be Jesus. Heaven will be a utopia of pleasures. Heaven will be eternal life. Heaven will be a global fellowship. Heaven will be the eternal beloved community
I appreciated his contrast between those who think heaven and holiness demand a somber affect and way of living and those who have pictured heaven as a place of unbridled pleasure.
It does seem that the author emphasizes the earthly component of a future Heaven over an otherworldly dimension of Heaven. God and the angels are somewhere right now and it seems the Bible teaches there will continue to be an outpost of heaven someplace other than on this planet. It sounds like Scot McKnight is saying that God is going to relocate in the future and move everything to this planet. I don’t see that in the Bible.
That being said over all there was much to like in the book. The christianaudio.com version was well read by Jay Greener (although I think I heard that very annoying pronunciation “ek cetera” for et cetera)
That brings me to the Q&A at the end of the book. The author answers the most frequently asked questions regarding heaven, including: 1. What About Near-Death Experiences? 2. What About Rewards in Heaven? 3. Who Will Be in Heaven? 4. Is God Fair? 5. Will There Be Families in Heaven? 6. What About Children Who Die? 7. What About Cremation? 8. What About Purgatory? 9. Will There Be Pets in Heaven? 10. Why Believe in Heaven?
I think he got most of these answers right. That means he agrees with me. Relative to the questions about families being in heaven though I have two concerns. One concern is his statement that he would not want to go to a heaven with no families. There are probably single people and don’t want to go to a place where they are constantly reminded they never got married. So not a good reason for envisioning a Heaven where husbands and wives are still husbands and wives.
In the book and also in a video Q&A about the book Dr. McKnight says there is only one verse that suggests that there is no marriage in heaven. Not really. There is one verse repeated three times. To me that is significant. So are there families in heaven? My wife at times hopes she gets break from me in eternity. Who I am to deny her that?
I received an audio copy of this book from christianaudio.com with the understanding I would write a review.
- Show ALL Reviews
- A Decent Place to Start
There have been no shortage of books on heaven in recent years. Some of them have been fairly solid biblical examinations of the doctrine of heaven and others have been fanciful, if not unfortunate stories that stimulate much discussion about the topic while adding very little in the way of biblical wisdom. In his latest book, The Heaven Promise, Scot McKnight explores the most frequently asked questions about the topic including:
1. What about near-death experiences?
2. What about rewards in Heaven?
3. Who will be there?
4. Is God fair?
5. Will there be families in Heaven?
6. What about children who die?
7. What about cremation?
8. What about Purgatory?
9. Will there be pets in heaven?
10. Why should we believe in Heaven at all?
McKnight examines each of these questions with a mixture of storytelling and biblical exegesis. He relies heavily on a combination of quotations from scholars and theologians who have previously written on the topic and anecdotal stories from people he has met or heard about.
On a few occasions, he points out a few thought provoking observations that are often neglected in discussions on the topic such as the unity of believers or the nature of the Kingdom mandate and how those influence our thinking about Heaven. More generally, however, he is providing answers, observations, and interpretations that are fairly standard within Christian discussions on the topic.
There are various theological questions bearing upon the way McKnight answers his questions that some believers may wish to examine carefully. His understanding, for example, of the nature of the Kingdom and the responsibilities that implies for our current mandate as Christians to pursue the realization of the Kingdom now is certainly a debated point even among conservative believers. His view on this as well as his views on Christ’s descent, cremation, family relationships, and several other matters are commonly held but are not consensus views. Nevertheless, McKnight is free to present his case and he does provide reasons for his views that are developed enough for a popular work such as this.
Some readers will no doubt be charmed by McKnight’s liberal use of adjectives and his slightly schmaltzy descriptions, other might find it mildly annoying. In either case, it is obvious that he is doing his best to capture the imagination of his readers. The narration was mostly well done but at times I am not sure that Jay Greener captured the rhythm and pacing that McKnight intended.
Overall, the book is a vast improvement over the many pop culture treatments of Heaven to which we have been subjected. Unfortunately, however, the book does not add much of any importance to the discussion that one cannot find in other books on the subject written by conservative Christians. The book is likely to be most helpful to those who have not previously studied the biblical teaching on the subject.
* I received a free copy of this book from christianaudio.com as part of their Review Program. Reviews are not required to be positive and the opinions I have expressed are my own.
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