Sunday, April 21, 2013

Stephen J Nichols' Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards's Vision of Living in Between

MAYBE IT was the archaic language which had felt inaccessible to me years ago, but I remember reading portions of one of Jonathan Edwards's sermons in the church library and feeling sleepy minutes later. John Piper had written about and quoted him in many of his books. What was so special about Edwards was a question that bothered me.

At the outset I knew bits and pieces about him. He is referred to as one of the greatest American preachers and thinkers, best known for his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I knew about his heartwarming relationship with his wife Sarah, his ministry to the American Indians, and the fact that he really wrote long, deep, expository sermons. I knew him to be a godly man, one of the Christian icons of his time, but who remained humble even until his dying breath.

I'm glad I got to read the book, Heaven on Earth: Capturing Jonathan Edwards's Living Vision of Living in Between, by Dr. Stephen J. Nichols. This was lent to me by my friend Koji last night, after the youth fellowship in church.

Heaven on Earth by Dr. Stephen J. Nichols

The book is a great introduction to the life and works of this Puritan preacher. It's short—seven chapters plus an appendix of Edwards's abridged sermon, "Heaven is a World of Love"—which explains why I had finished more than half of it last night. Dr. Nichols writes about Edwards's ideas and sermons in the context of his (Edwards's) personal and ministry life. It's strangely engaging.

The main idea of the book is "living in this world from the perspective of the next." That is, for Christians to discover, live out, and live for the pleasures of heaven while living on earth.

Jonathan Edwards's vision of heaven is contagious. This he lived throughout his life, one that "buoyed him and his family in times of trial and sorry." It was a vision "that had everything to do with life on earth."

He writes about Christians in heaven this way:

They shall know that God and Christ shall forever be with them as their God and portion, and that his love shall be continued and fully manifested forever, and that all their beloved fellow-saints shall forever live with them in glory, and shall forever keep up the same love in their hearts which they now have. And they shall know that they themselves shall ever live to love God, and love the saints, and to enjoy their love in all its fullness and sweetness forever. They shall be in no fear of any end to this happiness, or of any abatement from this fullness and blessedness, or that they shall ever be weary of its expressions, or cloyed with its enjoyments, or that the beloved objects shall ever grow old or disagreeable, so that their love should at last die away.

Edwards's words were like powerful punches to my sleepy soul. I pray that I, too, have his Scriptural, Christ-centered vision of heaven.

Heaven on Earth is by no means exhaustive, but it is a worthwhile introduction nonetheless, one that whets the appetite to read more Jonathan Edwards. For to know Jonathan Edwards, one must read him, not only about him.

I may have to revisit the library and read some of his sermons.



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