Book Review – “All Things New” by John Eldredge

all things new

For a few years now, I have been very interested in understanding what will happen in the end according to Christian theology.  I am not talking primarily of various eschatological views, but of our eternal future in the end.  Several authors, such as N. T. Wright, Randy Alcorn, and even Dallas Willard have contributed to my understanding that what we normally think of as “Heaven” falls far short of what Scripture seems to say.  In reality, we are not going to live somewhere “out there,” but right here, on Earth.  A new Earth with no weaknesses or sin, to be sure, but Earth all the same.

When I saw an offer to preview and promote John Eldredge’s new book All Things New, I jumped at the chance to read and review it.

Eldredge’s main point is that we must have an accurate understanding of what eternity will be like if we hope to have it influence our lives here and now.  He tackles what Earth will be like, the fact that evil will be overthrown, and what we will do forever once everything is restored.  And he does so in a very readable way.

Let me address those who have read much on this before.  For those who have studied the issue, you will probably not find anything strikingly new here.  You will also not find as much Scripture referenced as you would in a book by Alcorn, for example.

What you will find is what, in my opinion, Eldredge is known for: painting a picture in a very elegant way.  Where other books offer perhaps a deeper, more theological and Scripture-saturated understanding of the future, Eldredge also uses movie and story references and takes a cue from them to help us imagine what things will be like.  That is not to say that he never uses Scripture; he does.  But it appears that Eldredge wants us to take more time to dream and imagine about what everything will be like, to get us to desire it from what we imagine it will be like.

It is here that Eldredge succeeds.  Let me provide just one example from the book:

“If you woke each morning and your heart leapt with hope, knowing that the renewal of all things was just around the corner–might even come today–you would be one happy person. If you knew in every fiber of your being that nothing is lost, that everything will be restored to you and then some, you would be armored against discouragement and despair.  If your heart’s imagination were filled with rich expectations of all the goodness coming to you, your confidence would be contagious; you would be unstoppable, revolutionary.

“Friends–don’t let anyone or anything cheat you of this hope; it is your spiritual lifeline. You have barely begun to take hold of it. Do not let anything diminish the beauty, power, and significance of this hope above all hopes. Jesus lived the way he did in this world, for this world, because his hope was set beyond this world; that is the secret of his life…” (p. 200; emphasis in original).

Amen!  One can’t help but be stirred by the above.  And that is Eldredge’s claim to fame, in my opinion: the ability to stir us up in our imaginations and get us excited again.  Whether he is writing about prayer, the heart, holiness, or, now, the renewal of all things, Eldredge has a way of making us desire again.

I believe the best way to develop our understanding of the future is to take the more theological works and combine them with the imaginative ones, blending them together to create a Scripture-founded hope that resides deep within us.  Eldredge’s new book is a great addition to this goal.

*Note: I was provided a complimentary advanced copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Advertisements

What Are You Longing For?

clouds

Today we started a study on the book of Revelation in our Sunday School class.  We are focusing on the big themes of Christ’s return, the victory of good (through Christ) over evil, the rewards of those who serve God (even in the midst of suffering and persecution), etc.  It truly got me thinking about what it is I long for.

Some people long for more money.  Some for fame.  Some for that special someone to spend the rest of their lives with.  Some longings are good, while some are bad.  But what should we, as Christians, ultimately be longing for?  According to Scripture, it should be Christ, His appearing, and being with Him for eternity.

Now, I would admit that I want that . . . at least in theory.  But sometimes I honestly don’t live as if I do.  I live as if I want to remain here.  I know there have been times in my life where something good was coming, and I found myself almost dreading Christ’s return.  I didn’t want to miss out!  Perhaps I am the only one who has struggled with that backward thinking . . . the thought that being taken into eternity with Jesus would mean missing out on something here (getting married, watching my kids grow up, etc.).  In reality, staying here is missing out!  I just need that solidified in my mind and heart.

As Christians, we should be longing for Christ to come back.  We should be praying for it.  We should be expectantly waiting for it, like a bride waiting for her groom to come get her.  Let me bring out some Scriptures to back this up.

When Paul was writing to Timothy, he pointed to the fact that he would be rewarded with a crown of righteousness.  But he explained that it would be awarded not only to himself, but “to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8, ESV).  The NIV says these people have “longed for” His appearing.  Can we say we are truly longing for his appearing?  Are we, with the rest of creation, “groan[ing] inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”? (Romans 8:23, ESV)  Are we crying out “Our Lord, Come!” like Paul? (1 Corinthians 16:22, ESV)

I admit, I want sin to be done away with (both sin in general and the specific sins and temptations that I struggle against).  I want health and wholeness for eternity.  I want to live with no sorrow or sadness.  In other words, I can at least admit I want the benefits of Christ’s return or departing from this body.

But do I long to be with Christ?  Someone (I don’t recall who, but it is not an original idea of mine) once asked, “If you could have all the benefits of Heaven but God and Christ would not be there, would you want to go?”  It is an interesting question to ponder.  Our treasure should be Christ primarily, and only secondarily what He gives.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not bad for us to want the blessings that come with being with Christ.  Those treasures are good things, and we are told to store up treasures in Heaven (see Matthew 6:20).  But if we value the gifts more than the Giver, our affections are off.  If I return from a trip, and my children are happier to see what gifts I have brought them than they are to see me, something is wrong.  The same is true for our longings.  We can be excited for the gifts of God, but we should be more excited to be with Christ.

This has really been hammered home to me lately as I have been reading through Philippians.  Paul is facing the possibility of death, and he considers death to be “gain” (1:21), and says “[his] desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (1:23, ESV)  To die and be with Christ was not just good, but was “far better” than remaining alive!

I want to have that view.  I want to long for Christ’s return (or my departure in death) that much.

I have decided to seek for this perspective in prayer and reading of God’s word.  Won’t you join me?  Let’s seek to long for Christ more than anything else.  He is worthy.