Randy Alcorn: We’re here for a short period of time. Where are going to spend forever? (Jim: Hm.) If we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, it’s going to be with God in His very presence and with God’s people. What is that world going to be like? You’d think that we’d be careful students, that we’d be motivated to really get into it.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Hm. I wonder if you’ve ever contemplated what’s going to happen after you die. That perspective comes from Randy Alcorn, who we featured last time here on Focus on the Family and we’ll hear more of insights about heaven and hell as we continue on with today’s program. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Uh, John, for those of us in the Christian community, reflecting on the afterlife brings us a sense of joy, anticipation, and hopefully, peace. That’s especially comforting as we navigate the impact of the coronavirus, and the varying degrees of loss that so many families have experienced.
But if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and this life is all you have to look forward to, it’s gotta be terrifying. I can’t imagine dealing with this kind of fear and uncertainty about the future without faith.
And as we shared last time, there is a limit to this life. There will be that final day for all of us. And none of us are going to live forever. And there will come a day when you will face heaven or hell. It all depends on whether you submit your life to Jesus or turn your back on Him. It’s your choice.
John: And it’s certainly something that we’re all really needing to think through, especially given the circumstances of the current crisis going on around the world. There is urgency to this kind of decision, and you really shouldn’t procrastinate this. We need to think about our eternal future now, before it’s too late.
Jim: And that’s why we’re returning to the conversation we recorded a few years ago with Randy Alcorn. If you missed our program last time, contact us about getting a CD or the download because this is really good stuff. And I know you’ll find it encouraging.
John: Uh, sure will. And our website has the audio and Randy’s book, as well, Heaven, which we’ll hear about today. Stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast for those resources. And now, here’s part two of our conversation with Randy Alcorn on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.
Jim: Randy, one of the things that is so obvious is, both we as Christians, as well as from the pulpit–pastors–we tend to shy away from this subject of heaven and hell. Is it because it’s somewhat imagination? It’s somewhat beyond what we can rationalize, what we can see, feel and touch? And it’s easier to talk about sin and forgiveness because we understand that in our hearts. We can see it. We see a broken spirit when someone has done somebody wrong and they come to repentance. Uh … heaven and hell, there’s a lot of different definitions–clouds and harps and anger and pain. Why do we not talk about this subject more often?
Randy: I think there are obvious reasons why we don’t talk about hell. It’s a very unpleasant subject. We should talk about hell more, because Jesus, who loved us more than anyone, talked about hell, more than anyone else in the Bible. As for heaven, I think there’s a … a different reason. One is, that we have such an unbiblical understanding of heaven. We think of heaven as this ghostly existence. We think of ourselves forever as disembodied spirits. Well, what do disembodied spirits do?
You know, think of a … a child growing up in the church who, when they hear about heaven, which they don’t that often, but when they hear about it, they think of it as being like in the cartoons where there’s people in the clouds and the people have wings, but they’re really doing nothing. And this sounds more like hell than heaven to a child and I think to many adults, as well. Really? I mean, doing nothing, just sort of floating around?
Whereas the biblical understanding of heaven is far richer and it’s embodied and there’s the resurrected state. And I think Satan has worked overtime to deceive us about heaven. There’s a verse in Revelation 13 and it’s uh … verse 6 where it says, “The beast, the antichrist opened his mouth to blaspheme God and to slander God’s name and God’s dwelling place and those who live in heaven.” So, he slanders God; he slanders God’s people, but he also slanders God’s dwelling place.
He makes people think that it’s this boring place that nobody would really want to be. And hence, you’ll hear people talk about, “Oh, I’d rather be in … in hell shootin’ pool with my buddies,” you know, or whatever, “than to be in heaven with all those self-righteous people.” Well, there’s a lot of things wrong with that statement, one of which is, that self-righteous people will not be in heaven.
Randy: Let’s be clear on that. It’s only the righteousness of Christ that gets you into heaven. But No. 2, to think of hell as this place where there will be any comfort and … and anything that is good, uh … is also wrong.
But Satan is slandering heaven and he wants us to be disinterested in heaven. And I think one of the main reasons why he doesn’t want us to think accurately about the new heavens and the new earth, about the resurrected state, about eating and drinking and serving and doing things to the glory of God, resurrected culture — the reason he doesn’t want us to think about those things is because those are attractive. Those are appealing. Those could actually get us excited about heaven, serving God for all eternity, seeing God and being with Him forever and doing what He’s called us to do and made us to do. That’s exciting and Satan doesn’t want us to be excited about heaven.
And one of the main reasons I think is, that you have a bunch of Christians going around who aren’t excited about heaven. They think that it’s maybe gonna be dull and boring and all of that. Well, how motivated are they to share the Gospel with their non-Christian neighbor? Okay, well, yeah, I’ll go over and uh … share Christ with my neighbor, Bob, so that if he comes to faith in Christ, he, too can spend eternity in some dull, drab uneventful place.
Jim: Uh … I mean, it’s true. I mean, I don’t even know how to follow up on that, other than to say, you’re speaking the truth. I mean, so many people have an impression of heaven being exactly that, but it’s not that. And when we talk about a resurrected place, a … a resurrected culture as you called it, talk about what you anticipate in heaven happening. What will we be doing?
Randy: We know that we will see God and this is the yearning of the human heart and yet, it’s a very scary thing, because we’re told in Scripture, no one can see God and live. That is in our present sinful condition, we could not see God. But God, being the source of all goodness, is the One that we long to see.
Now you see this … sometimes people talk about, well, there’s really no hint of the resurrection in the Old Testament. That’s just a New Testament thing. Well, you’ve got Job, the oldest written book in the Bible, in Job 19, saying that “After my skin has been destroyed, after my body has dissolved, my body’s dead,” he says, “I will see my Redeemer. I will see Him with my own eyes. I, and not another.” Wow! So, the body’s gone, but he’s going to see him with his own eyes? Well, how … how does that work? Well, that’s … that’s resurrection. And Job is longing to see God, because what he’s saying is, when I see God, one, in the context of Job, I’ll understand. I’ll understand all of the bad things that happened and … and why and what God’s purposes were.
And when I see God, I will see goodness itself. I will see love itself. I will see holiness itself. And purity, all the attributes of God. And those are primary things from which come all those secondary things, because now when I’m in this place and I see God, now I’ll turn my eyes to my brothers and sisters in the family of God. And I will see them as they are, without sin. They have no sin; I have no sin. No more envy. It’s not just no more death, no more suffering, no more pain. It’s no more sin! I won’t envy them. I won’t resent them. I won’t be angry at them.
And sometimes people say, “What about these pastors that talk about serving in the kingdom and some people will be over 10 cities and some’ll be over five cities and … does that mean that people will actually be in positions of authority over other people? And won’t that make … make us mad? And won’t that make us feel inferior? And you know, and I say, “Have you ever worked for someone even in this world where you just felt like it was a privilege to work for that person?” Have you ever met people where you’ve said, “Wow! I would love to serve under that person.”
I … I tell about in my Heaven book, I … a bellman at a hotel in Atlanta where there was a Christian conference. I developed a relationship with this man and he was always in the background, getting books and plays and helping us out and all of that. And I just came up introduced myself to him and walk talking with him. And this guy started crying, sharing what a privilege it was to serve the Lord–and he was an older black gentleman–in this hotel. And he was praying for us and our conference and all that. And I … I wrote about him because I said, I would be honored to serve under that man in the kingdom.
Randy: And I … I believe that we will be so different and we don’t have to worry about sins. Like some people say, “Well, you can’t possibly believe there will be sports in the resurrected body on the new earth.” And I said, “Well, why would there not be? Are you thinking that sports was Satan’s idea? Isn’t it human beings created in God’s image with bodies who want to do this?” “Oh, yeah but, competition is evil.” And I said, “Well, even in this life, I’m a high school tennis coach. I could … I know that sports can bring out the worst in people. It can also bring out the best in people.” That’s even now. But here’s the thing. In the kingdom, there’ll be no worst to be brought out.
Jim: No wrong calls by the referee. (Laughter)
Randy: There you go and no thinking it was a wrong call when it wasn’t. (Laughter)
Jim: And no thinking it (Laughter).
Randy: Yeah, exactly. And so, here you go.
Jim: Yes, it was–
Randy: Can’t you …
Jim: –a strike.
Randy: Could you imagine playing ball out on a field? In one of my children’s books, um … as it relates to … to baseball, I’ve got this boy who’s in a wheelchair and uh … then at the very end, you turn the last page and now he’s in heaven on the new earth, fast forward. And he’s at the plate, swingin’ the bat and he’s about to be runnin’ the bases. And there is his family. I’ve even got a dog in there, ’cause I talk about in the Heaven book that’s Scripture’s emphatic on … that animals will be part of this new earth. And if you get that picture, then it’s amazing who you can get excited about heaven instead of thinking, “No.” Here’s what we do. We think that this life’s the real life, so–
Randy: –I better have fun while I can. What in the world are we saying? Are you kidding me? There’s gonna be so much more fun in heaven and we’ll never pass our peaks.
Jim: Well, let’s frame that though, because a lot of people equate and especially the seeker, let’s talk about that person. He … he or she wants to have a relationship with the Lord, but oh, my goodness, doing these things that I do, whatever they might be–fill in the blank–it’s so much more fun. So, somehow we’ve equated sin to equal fun and righteousness or pleasing the Lord in this life equals boring. Now we bring some of that on ourselves as Christians because we become dour and we don’t have a sense of humor. But the Lord doesn’t see the equation that way, does He?
Randy: No, not at all. In fact, all good things come from God. Humor is a good thing. It comes from God. It does not come from Satan. It does not come from our sin natures. But part of being a sinner is losing perspective. And part of Satan’s plan with us is, that we … we look at something like uh … laughter and that we would somehow associate it with what’s bad.
Do we know for sure there will be laughter in the kingdom? Yes, read in Luke 6 where Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall laugh.” When shall they laugh? Well, if you read a few more verses, He’s talking about the ultimate kingdom of God, where all will be made right in the resurrected life. So, you have a direct biblical promise, not just you’ll laugh in this life, though that’s a wonderful thing — as long as we’re laughing at the right things — in this life. But the promise is, in the kingdom, you will laugh. And I don’t think anybody’s laugh will be louder and more heartfelt than the laugh of Jesus Christ Himself, the God-Man.
Jim: When as a Christian, we do not feel joy and we do not express joy, do we need to look in the mirror and say, “What’s wrong? Why am I missing a fundamental characteristic of God here?”
Randy: Uh … I think we do need to ask ourselves that question. It’s a very fair question. Go to the book of Philippians, which I highly recommend. It’s a book that overflows with joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say rejoice.” And it’s got all of this stuff about joy that Paul is experiencing in his life. And we think, “Oh, yeah, but you don’t understand. Yeah, sure, the … the Bible, it’s pie in the sky. It’s talking about rejoicing, but it’s not very realistic. I … I’m goin’ through some really tough times in my life.” The Apostle Paul wrote this letter from prison!
And yet he’s talking about rejoicing. And how does he rejoice? Well, in Philippians 3, in the context of the rejoicing, he’s talking about, “I want to know Christ and experience the fellowship of His sufferings,” so that even in the sufferings, he’s experiencing joy. So, having suffering in our lives is not a legitimate reason to not have joy in our hearts. Of course, it doesn’t mean that everything will be superficially happy and funny and all of that. But there is an abiding inward joy that comes from knowing God.
Jim: When we think of being in heaven and in God’s presence, I would imagine that, that joy in us will be the joy of that experience, that here we are in the presence of the holy God. And then that joy in us will be the simple joy of pleasing the Lord and serving the Lord. Does that fit with…
Jim: –what you understand?
Randy: In … in heaven on the … in the new heavens, the new earth, the resurrected life, joy will be the air we breathe. Everywhere there will be joy, because God will be everywhere and His presence will be unhindered by sin, death, the curse, all of that.
And what … in the parable when the master welcomes the servant and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant, what does he say then?” “Enter into your master’s joy.” Some translations, “Enter into your master’s happiness.” There is within God a happiness that preceded the … the creation of the universe itself. It is an eternal happiness within the Godhead–Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And He invites us now in this life with a foretaste, but in the life to come, forever to enter into his happiness, not work up some kind of happiness on your own but enter into My happiness.
John: A good word of encouragement from Randy Alcorn, our guest on today’s Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and let me recommend you follow-up on the topic by reading Randy’s really terrific comprehensive book, Heaven. We have that at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And now, the conclusion of our time with Randy Alcorn on Focus on the Family.
Jim: Uh … you mentioned somethin’ a few minutes ago, Randy [that] I was intrigued by. And … and this has come up in my own family, questions about uh … the relationships that we’ll enjoy in heaven. You said that the little boy in the wheelchair is gonna be on the baseball field and his family’s going to be around him. Are we gonna be spending time with our families in the afterlife?
Randy: Absolutely. And I think there’s clear biblical grounds for it. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 4 … Paul talks about the fact that we are to comfort one another with these words. What are these words? He’s saying that one day we will all be together with the Lord, emphasis on the word “together.” So, when he’s talking about the death of your loved ones, which is exactly what he’s talking about in 1 Thessalonians 4, then he’s saying, realize that you have not lost them.
And I think this is something we really need to emphasize. I … I had a … a Christian man who was telling me he was bereft about the death of his daughter. And of course, rightly so; I would’ve been, too, had it been my daughter. But then he made an interesting statement. He says, “Randy, I’m never going to be able to hug my little girl again.” I said, “Actually you will. You will be resurrected. Your little girl will be resurrected. You will have bodies. When you see each other, what will you do?”
Randy: Do hugs come from Satan? No. Do they come from the sin nature? No. They’re a gift of God. “Of course, you will hug your daughter again.” “Do you really think so? Do you really believe I’ll hug my daughter again?” And you know what strikes me in this? It’s how far short we have fallen in teaching the biblical doctrine of the resurrection and eternal life, that a Christian man could think that his Christian daughter, he would literally never hug her again.
I said, “You’ll not only hug her, you’ll sit down at meals with her.” We know we’ll sit down at meals together. If we’re gonna do it with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the other people at the table, do we think that God won’t have our family at the table with us? Of course, He will.
Jim: Hm. You know, being a father of boys, I’ll often try to find a way to talk about this with my kids so that they can begin their young lives contemplating what heaven and even hell might be like. And some of those conversations are funny, Randy. I mean, it might be, “Hey, guys, what do you think heaven’ll be like?” “Oh, it’ll have Milky Ways all over (Chuckling), that you can pick ’em from trees.” How do we encourage that kind of imagination in our children without violating the truth of Scripture, but the wonder of a child’s heart, to let them open up their minds to what heaven could be like?
Randy: You know, I’ve thought a lot about that, Jim, because when my daughters were small, I didn’t have nearly as well developed a theology of heaven uh … as I have gotten since then through studying the Scripture and reading a lot, theologians and what they’ve said about the new earth. And … but as soon as I had grandkids, then I started thinking, wow, I want to address this. So, I … I’ve written three children’s books on heaven. And so, I thought carefully, how can I convey these things to kids?
And I remember when I was writing my book, Heaven for Kids, and a couple of the … the picture books related to heaven and the new earth, I thought, now what does a child really enjoy and look forward to? Well, you know, they’ll just get scared about the idea of being a ghost. And I’m so glad that Scripture doesn’t teach that, that’s our destiny. And Jesus said, “I’m not a ghost. I have flesh and bones,” physical resurrected body.
What kids get excited about is the idea of meeting Jesus and walking with Jesus in a meadow and maybe even … and to some people this will sound like blasphemy, but it’s not at all–to play catch with Jesus, to play with a dog that Jesus is playing with. Do you think Jesus doesn’t love dogs? He’s called “the Creator.” He made dogs. He takes delight in his animal creation. And kids love animals. Think of … they love playing games, playing games with Jesus, being in this world, playing games together and then say, “You know your friend that’s in the wheelchair?” Or maybe it’s you that’s in the wheelchair and you’ve got this disease. You’ve got leukemia and you can’t run around the ball diamond anymore. But you know what? In the resurrection, you will be able to.
And what are the things that bother kids? Well, that maybe they’ve lost a parent to death or their cousin died, their grandparent has died or is dying and … and can’t get around anymore and is shuffling around in a walker. To be able to say, “You know, one day you will be on a new earth. If you love Jesus and they know Jesus, you’ll be able to be with them and run and play and swim.” “Swim with Grandma, who can’t even get out of bed?” “Absolutely.” And sometimes we live under the illusion, in this life we look back and we say, “I’ve passed my peak. I’ll never be able to do physically what I could once do.” “My mind has passed its peak. I’ll never be able to do equations in my mind or reason the way I once did. I’ve passed my peak.”
And then we say, “No, the Bible is emphatic. You have not passed your peak. You may have passed your peak in this life, but this life isn’t all there is. For the life to come, we will never pass our peaks. We will not reach out peaks until the resurrection and we will never pass.
Jim: Randy, as we wrap up this incredible discussion about your book, Heaven, um … let me ask this question. How can we cultivate the type of relationship in this life with the Lord and with those around us, that anticipates our future journey of being in heaven? What can we do today to live this?
Randy: Hm. You know, there’s a direct connection – we see this in 2 Peter 3 – in the way we talk about the resurrected life, new earth, all of that, and how we live today. It says, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way,” and it talks about the earth burning up and all that, “what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to be holy and godly, as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.”
And we say, “Yeah, but that’s saying it’s the end of the earth. What’s all this stuff about the new earth?” Well then, that’s where he says, it’s the end of the old earth, but he says, “But in keeping with his promise,” verse 13, “we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” No more sin and therefore, no more death and no more suffering. So, then dear friends, since you are looking forward to this (new heaven and new earth), make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.” That is right now, be motivated to live in light of eternity, to live in light of this new earth, to live in light of a place where you will see God, where joy will be the air you breathe, where you will be with the people of God forever in wondrous relationship, where you will serve Him and work in great activities together and do art and science, all to the glory of God.
Live that way now and when you do music now and when you do literature now and when you do art now and when you play games now, live in light of the eternity you’re promised, because those are not passing things that we will not be able to enjoy in the life to come. They are a foretaste of the wonders we will experience when we are with God.
Jim: Well, Randy Alcorn, author of the book, Heaven, you, today and last time, have brought so much richness for us to think about and for us to go home tonight and talk about it with our kids, with our spouses and say, “Do we really understand what is in front of us?” Thank you for being with us.
Randy: It’s been a great pleasure. Thank you.
John: That’s how we concluded our 2-day conversation with Randy Alcorn. And I trust you found it as encouraging and hope-filled as we did. And certainly, we do recommend you follow up on the topic by getting a copy of Randy’s excellent book. We have that hear at Focus on the Family. We’ll tell you more when you call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: And John, I’m sure there are people listening who may be unsure of where they will go after they die. Maybe our conversation today has frightened you or made you uneasy about the afterlife. If that’s the case, I urge you to contact us. We’d love to share more about how Jesus came into this world to save us from our sin and give us eternal life with Him in heaven. And that’s the hope we have as followers of Christ, and you can experience that same hope in your life today. So, don’t delay — contact us right now.
We mentioned last time that we have a free booklet for you, called “Coming Home: How to Know God.” And this will help you make the most important decision in your life — to give your heart to Jesus Christ and begin living with Him forever.
John: Contact us today to get your free copy of “Coming Home.” We’d be happy to send that out to you.
And if you’re able to send a generous gift of any amount to Focus on the Family either online or over the phone, we’ll say “thank you” for joining the support team by sending a copy of Randy’s great book, Heaven.And we so appreciate friends like you who support the outreach of Focus on the Family through your prayers and financial giving. Again, our number: 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. Or online you can donate and get that book and other resources at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today. For Focus on the Family, I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ.