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Scot McKnight: The Heaven Promise

Scot McKnight, The Heaven Promise: Engaging the Bible’s Truth About Life to Come (WaterBrook, 2015), 224 pages.

Scot McKnight shows in this book that the vision of Heaven the Bible gives is precisely what we need for a vision of what life should be on earth through Jesus by the gospel through the church.

If you want a book recounting traditional teaching from scripture on Heaven, you need to look elsewhere. But if you want a book that moves toward breaking new ground and is potentially a paradigm changer in one’s faith, you’ve found a great book here.

McKnight begins by considering how the subject has been approached, and how it ought to be approached. McKnight’s writings seek to be true to what the Bible says. In McKnight’s understanding, the reason Heaven matters is because God promised it to us. Thus, it’s as good as the God who promised it. And the promise of Heaven relies on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Heaven is a resurrection world.

The most important part of the book is the groundwork McKnight lays from scripture, listening and challenging tradition. Orthodoxy is often much wider than many seem to acknowledge. The important thing is to remain faithful to the spirit and truth of the gospel.

Heaven is essentially the promise from God in and through Jesus and Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. What will be true of Heaven? God will be God, Jesus will be Jesus, Heaven will be the utopia of pleasures, Heaven will be eternal life, Heaven will be an eternal global fellowship, and Heaven will be an eternal beloved community.

What will the first hour of Heaven will be like? McKnight’s view is a stark contrast from the traditional Roman Catholic view of Purgatory. His emphasis is not on human cooperation but on God’s grace. Entrance into Heaven will be a transformation that will leave no stones unturned, including the need for reconciliation in what was left of very broken relationships on earth.

The issues addressed near the end of the book are near-death experiences, rewards in Heaven, who will be there, the fairness of God, whether our children and even spouses still have a special relationship to us, children who die, cremation, purgatory, pets in Heaven, and why one should believe in Heaven in the first place. Be ready for some surprises, and to be challenged as to what scripture actually teaches on some things. McKnight places an appropriate emphasis on the hope and the wideness of God’s mercy without resorting to universalism.

Who will be in Heaven? All who are in Jesus.

Who will be in Heaven? All who are in Jesus. It is not about us or what we do or fail to do, but only about Jesus. Because of that, we begin to change. In Heaven all will become new, and every wrong will be made right. This in itself is a great hope and a blessed assurance for all who are in Jesus.

The two great views of Heaven in the church, that it is an ecstatic worship experience largely between gathered individuals and their God, or that it is a time of great communion in love and work and service in the kingdom end up being joined together in God’s vision of Heaven from scripture. Heaven is a dynamic, not static existence.

I would commend this book as a good model to help us think biblically. This book helps us see that the vision of Heaven is related to the entire Story found in scripture. Our view of Heaven directly impacts our view of earth and life in the present, since Heaven is destined to come down to be joined to and become one with earth in Jesus. God’s will is to be perfectly done on earth as it is in heaven.

Reviewed by Ted Gossard


Engage Further:

Scot McKnight Answers Questions on the Topic of Heaven – The Heaven Promise” [Vimeo]

Scot McKnight, “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Heaven: Who will be there? Are near-death experiences reliable? And more on eternal life” On Faith (October 6, 2015).

Scot McKnight, “The Heaven Promise Podcast” Jesus Creed (November 5, 2015).


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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 2016

About the Author: Ted M. Gossard, MDiv (Grand Rapids Theological Seminary), BTh (Prairie Bible Institute), enjoys teaching, preaching, leading home group, reading and enjoying God's creation. Ted and his family are members of Redeemer Covenant Church (Evangelical Covenant) of Caledonia, Michigan.

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