Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Heaven Revealed by Paul Enns

Paul's wife, his best friend, died when she was only sixty-five. That prompted him to investigate heaven.

Heaven is the dwelling place of God and is from where He governs. It is Paradise. It is lavish and endless rapture and satisfaction. The joy there will be intense and unending.
He poses that believers do not receive their resurrection bodies until Jesus returns, so there in an “intermediate state.” Believers will have bodies in this state but will not receive their resurrection bodies until the rapture. (22) “...[I]n the intermediate heaven believers think, know, and remember the former life, and wear clothing.” (23)
“Upon Jesus' return, however, we receive a body like Christ's resurrection body.” (75) The resurrection body “will be heightened spiritually.” (81) We will not have the physical and spiritual limitations we do now. Our health and senses will be perfect. “In eternity, we will have bodies that are eternally youthful and beautiful.” (132) We will have our distinctive personalities (without the negative aspects). We will remember past events. We will eat in abundance (even meat, although the issue of killing animals in heaven is addressed, then skirted).
“We can expect to continue to serve God in heaven with our same personality, with our same giftedness that we did on this earth.” (142) We will worship while we do everything. “There will be a continuity with the knowledge, abilities, and progress from the old earth – whatever honors the Lord.” (152) “We will catch fish...if we want to.” (156) There will be no sea, but there will be a river. (156) (Will we have to throw them back?)
“The new heaven and the new earth are the final destiny for believers.” (23) Heaven is our true home and is what we long for. “We will excitedly greet one another at that glorious reunion with our believing loved ones. … Scripture is also clear that there will be recognizable reunion with family members immediately at death.” (43) “...[W]e too, in heaven, will remember both the people in our lives and the details of our life on earth.” (162) (Isa. 65:17 not withstanding.) “And we will know each other better than we know each other on earth.” (162) The love husbands and wives have will be better (but he does not really address the marriage concept).
Unlike what many think, Enns says, “Scripture indicates that heaven is not distant but rather heaven is near. Heaven is in another realm.” (49) “Scripture is replete with examples of God opening heaven for people to momentarily peer into heaven's glories.” (58)
 Enns investigates the relationship of the millennium to the final state. “...[T]here is a continuity between the millennial kingdom and the new heaven and new earth...” (157) “...[T]he glorious millennial kingdom [will] give rise to the eternal state of the new heaven and the new earth.” (169) “After that thousand years we will live forever on the new earth.” (107) The earth restoration will be to its pre-fall condition – a perfect environment. People will be building homes and planting vineyards. There will be a fulfilling of God's original purpose for man.

What do I think of Enns' book? He says people will continue their professions - carpenters will continue to build. Some of our building now is based on the decay of the old. But this will not happen in heaven. How many new houses can be built before no more are needed? What about repair people, as nothing will break? He notes that there will be no police cruisers (150) so what will believers in law enforcement here do there?
Enns takes Jesus' story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:27-28) as an actual description of a future state (any Bible scholars warn about doing so, saying it is a parable only). Enns also makes much of the phrase “gathered to his people” (Gen. 35:29, Gen. 49:33) to mean that the dead join family members in heaven (when many scholars say it just the fellow died – joined his relatives in death, so to speak).
Because Enns believes the millennial state moves right into the “heaven” state, he has taken descriptions of the millennium to apply to heaven as well. I am not so sure that is the proper way to interpret those Scriptures.
I would be cautious about much of Enns' book. He has interpreted some of Scripture in the light of wanting to be reunited with his wife.

This book was provided for this review as an Advanced Reading Copy in egalley form by the publisher, Moody Press.   The book releases March 1, 2011.
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