Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Book Review: Everything the Bible Says About Heaven

Compiled by Linda Washington

Reviewed by Matthew Kratz

Everything the Bible says about Heaven, claims to have: "every scriptural reference to heaven ...carefully collected and organized. When necessary, brief but clear explanations are provided, using insights gathered from trustworthy commentaries". For the reader, the offer is to:  "find comfort and peace in the truth about heaven, straight from the Word of God".

With the compiler's name noticeably absent from the cover, it is clear that the objective was to try to present as much a Biblical picture of heaven as possible. The effort must be commended in trying to present an unbiased compilation, yet in noting various viewpoints as coming from "scholars" yet not cite who these are, when important interpretative viewpoints are presented, the salient points of understanding our relationship with heaven is often more confused than clarified. It is when we can see a chain of salvation, linking the doctrines together that we come to a coherent systematic theology.

With six short chapters, "What the Bible says about Heaven" is concise. I appreciate how the compiler started her task with the present picture of how far we have slid from the classical full orbed view of Heaven to a myopic, boring misrepresentation. From a classic view that influenced art of all sorts, the common understanding is but a caricature.

Chapter one starts with a summary of Old Testament visions of Heaven. The weakness of this presentation is immediate. Each scriptural quotation is from a different translation. Going from more literal (KJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NKJV, ESV, HCSB) to dynamic (NIV) to paraphrase (NLT, NCV, AMP, God's Word) our examination of the various passages on heaven do not lend themselves to like comparisons. The compiler immediately runs into trouble when she deals with passages on which she must acknowledge cover either the "millennial rule" (p. 26) or "Millennial Kingdom of Christ" (p. 27) or heaven itself. When this is presented without explanation, the reader can be confused as to exactly what this is talking about.

Moving on to Chapter two, with New Testament visions of Heaven, I appreciate that the compiler shows how her presentation is no mere factual listing but one on whom the Biblical author has gone to "prepare a place for those who trust him to lead them there" (p 32). The presentation is very Christocentric and focusing on Salvation history. It deals with issues of persecution, vows, sin, evil, authority, angels, false teachers, judgement, inhabitants of heaven etc. Interpretative options are presented in general summary form. When we get to important distinctions, like levels of heaven (p. 46) no real explanation is given.

Chapter three on "Heaven in the Book of Revelation" begins quite well. We now have important terms like "apocalyptic literature" (p. 51) defined. The aim of the book of Revelation, signs, symbols, and numeric references are highlighted. The compiler even deals with the various interpretative options and other biblical referents on passages like Rev. 12. (p. 60). This is some of the best work in the book. An explanation of the New Heavens and New Earth is strangely absent.

Chapter four is cryptically titled "Between heaven and Earth" chronicling the various visions and audible presentations from Heaven. The compiler deals with Old Covenant beliefs, raptures (Enoch, Elijah), visions, and important terms in summary fashion (Hades, Gehenna, "the grave", Paradise, "the depths"). Passages dealings with spiritual warfare, transfiguration, rapture, and Christ's descent (1 Pt. 3) are also addressed.

Chapter five, "Answers from Heaven" goes back and explores the pronouncements from Heaven in greater detail. The final chapter: "Who Will God to Heaven?" is an excellent place to conclude this study. This presentation deals with topics of judgement, the general call, the Kingdom of Heaven, stewardship, law fulfillment and belief. Unfortunately, the book format shows its limitations in this chapter. The referent to "the plan of Salvation" (Jn. 3:16) is woefully inadequate. After showing the danger of judgment, there is no real explanation of what belief or repentance is. The reader might be left with the understanding if he or she merely understands these scriptural texts and is a "good steward" they will go to Heaven.

 "Everything the Bible Says about Heaven" is a good general reference dealing with scriptural passages on Heaven and the related elements that intersect with it. With a little greater precision in retiling the chapters, keeping a consistent Bible translation and a little greater explanation of the concepts, a second edition could be a quite useful, pithy introduction to Heaven and the people from whom it will mean eternal life. I hope a scriptural and topic index will be included to enable this to be quite a helpful quick reference.

$9.99 US
5.5 x 8.5
Number of pages:
Carton Quantity:
Publication Date:
Aug. 11

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group".

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