Heaven has received a lot of attention in recent years as bestselling books and movies have told the stories of people who claim to have been there. But what does the Bible actually say about heaven? What difference does it make? What happens the moment after we die? What will our relationships be like in heaven?
Chip Ingram sets aside the hype and myths and digs into the Scriptures to discover what God actually wants us to know about the hereafter. Most importantly, Ingram shows why our understanding of heaven matters now, in this life. Because what we believe about heaven actually affects us today in ways we may not have imagined.
- Good, with a couple problematic sections
In The Real Heaven: What the Bible Actually Says, Chip Ingram sets out to both reframe the dominant “Hollywoodized” vision of heaven and restore the excitement of believers at the prospect of going there someday. He mostly succeeds in these endeavors.
This book gives a good overview of what the Bible says about heaven, addressing the most frequently asked questions, and, indeed, building a great case for believers to be excited about going to heaven. In one poignant anecdote, Ingram asks the reader, “If you asked for a show of hands in your church, ‘How many of you would like to go to heaven today or live ten more years and then go?’ how would people answer?” What a convicting question! How excited are we REALLY that we get to go to heaven?
However, this book is not without its problematic sections. First of all, Ingram turns to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus for clues about the afterlife, but many prominent theologians, Martin Luther included, see this as a parable about rich and poor in this life and the afterlife details are not to be taken literally. Indeed, turning literary details into literal doctrine is a dangerous practice. Also, Ingram is a premillennialist—which is fine, he’s entitled to that interpretation of scripture—but his two chapters on the end times mix afterlife doctrine and the apocalyptic language of Revelation to an unsettling degree. The fact is, many of the passages of the Bible that seem to speak of the life to come don’t lend themselves well to a brief “What the Bible Actually Says about…” book such as this one.
That said, I really appreciate Ingram’s focus on the new heaven and new earth being reflective of this earth, complete with experiences, vocation, relationships, landscapes, and more. The idea of heaven being “elsewhere” ignores a core teaching of scripture. What we look forward to as believers is not an evacuation from this world, but a restoration of all that this world was meant to be. And that is worth looking forward to.
The narration by Lloyd James in the audiobook version is well done, but he reads very slowly. I listened to this book at 1.5x speed in the Christianaudio app, and this the second book narrated by James that I have done that with.
Please Note: This audiobook was gifted as a part of the Christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work.
- Good Introduction Based Upon Scriptural Evidence
This book is based upon Biblical research about what is clearly written about the subject of heaven in the New Testament. Jesus' statements and the apostle Paul & John's revelationary writings are examined. Deductions are presented based upon that evidence and also scripture in Genesis depicting the garden of Eden before the fall of man and introduction of sin into the creation.
There is not much attention given to theology from the scriptures that deal with heaven. Reflective thought produces additional questions in this regard, as some of the prophesies are cloaked in some mystery. The point of the book seems to be to impress upon the listener that heaven will be greater than we imagine based upon the attributes & nature of God and evidence of His past actions. It also attempts to paint a picture of life there based upon the scriptural evidence and deductions. And it points out false pictures of heaven that have established themselves in our western culture, mainly through entertainment.
I liked how the presentation challenged me to think based upon scriptural evidence. However if you try to nail down a theology based upon these scriptures you will become frustrated. As in every part of the Christian life the key to understanding this introduction to heaven is to focus on our relationship with God over our knowledge of theology.
My only complaint is the vocal dynamics of the reader. He has a style that trails off at the end of his sentences which is hard to hear sometimes when driving in a vehicle.
- Encouraging, but I'd Like More
Heaven is a popular topic, and it has been for a while now. With books and movies depicting journeys beyond and back again as well as depictions of angels, it is no wonder that people are fascinated by the topic.
Of course, far more important is the fact that God created humans for eternity. We need to know what happens to us and our loved ones after death.
The Real Heaven is a new, accessible work that helps to put the importance of knowing about eternity in its proper place. The authors work to help answer important questions about what happens after we die, what heaven will be like, and how can we be sure we are going there.
On the positive side, this book is a helpful reminder of the fact that we exist for eternity. God has created us for far more than this earthly life. The authors also point out the significant truth that heaven is not some sort of cloudy, harp-playing existence that nobody really wants to experience. Instead, they accurately show that heaven, the final heaven, will be God with us on a recreated earth. I applaud the clarity of the authors in declaring that we only go to heaven when forgiven by God by grace through faith in Christ.
By means of a caution, the authors of this book clearly write from one point of view regarding end times events and their order. This book presents a very standard, dispensational, pre-tribulational view of how the end times will work out. For some readers who have a differing eschatological view regarding the tribulation or the millennium, the lack of any acknowledgement of an alternative view in this work could be off-putting.
My recommendation of this work is cautious. I certainly believe that this book has much to recommend it regarding our need to think eternally and to actually look forward to and long for heaven. At the same time, the lack of mention of alternative views to some frequently debated positions such as dispensationalism and predestination leave me unimpressed. Obviously, a person who holds positions in agreement with the authors will likely enjoy this work. Those who disagree with the authors will struggle.
In general, I recommend Heaven by Randy Alcorn as a more thorough look at the afterlife. However, in fairness, Alcorn’s book is twice as long as Ingram and Witt’s, and thus it may not be an apples to apples comparison.
I received a free audio copy of this book from ChristianAudio.com as part of their reviewers program. As always, the audio quality of the product is excellent.
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- Refreshing Introduction to Heaven
Chip Ingram’s new book, The Real Heaven, is a refreshing introduction to what the Bible teaches about Heaven in less than 200 pages. There have been numerous books recently written about stories of journeying to Heaven and back, but few that have dealt with what the Bible actually says. This book is not one person’s experience of what Heaven is like, but rather a book about what the creator of Heaven has to say about it. The Bible is and should be the primary source in which we collect information about what Heaven is like. Ingram does a great job of letting God’s Word speak for itself in this way. We do not need to hear about stories of people going to Heaven and then sharing about their experience to know that Heaven is for real. We know Heaven is real because God’s Word says that it is, and God does not lie. Ingram does not discredit or criticize experiential accounts of Heaven, but rather uses the Bible as the foremost authority on the subject. Readers who may not want an exhaustive treatment of the topic (such as Randy Alcorn’s Heaven) would do well to pick up this little volume to wet their appetite. In the audio edition, the narrator does a fine job of keeping the interest of the reader. I received this book as part of a Reviewing Program through christianaudio and was not obligated to write a positive review. For more information, visit www.christianaudio.com.
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