Gary Black Talks About New Book, Preparing for Heaven
Gary Black Jr., Ph.D, is an assistant professor in the School of Theology and author of three books, as well as co-author of The Divine Conspiracy Continued: Fulfilling God's Kingdom on Earth. Black recently released his newest book, Preparing for Heaven: What Dallas Willard Taught Me about Living, Dying, and Eternal Life.
You were at Dallas Willard’s side during the last weeks before he passed. How did that experience lead you to write Preparing for Heaven?
Dallas and I were working on The Divine Conspiracy Continued, when he shared about his terminal diagnosis. We cried together, and then we began talking about the afterlife. That turned into a three-day conversation about heaven, and at the end of that time, he said, “I think you need to write this book.” I laughed and asked, “Are you pulling one of those ‘deathbed-promises’ on me?” And he said, “No, no, I’m not doing that.” Then he paused, “Actually, that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
What notions about heaven are challenged in this book? What insights do you and Willard offer to replace those ideas?
We challenge the idea of “the cosmic carwash.” According to this belief, we die as sinners, but upon entering heaven, our sin is removed and we are made perfectly whole and complete as if we had never sinned. There is no evidence for this in Scripture. It is more likely that our sin is removed, but we are not immediately made whole. Instead, our souls are renewed with Christ. Then we are resurrected, and live out the rest of eternity in perfect harmony with the will of God. That is heaven, and that’s what my book is about.
When we shift our perspective to see that our present lives affect eternity, we gain the ability to engage in loving both God and our neighbors.
As our thinking about heaven matures, how do these insights alter the way we live now?
For some Christians, our beliefs about heaven lead us to live incredibly religious lives—but we forgo our joy. We come to believe that, once saved, we must hang on by our fingernails trying to manage our sin. Instead, God’s will for us is that we actively engage in developing ourselves into the kinds of people worthy of God’s mission on Earth.
Moses said it well, “I have set before you life and death . . . choose life.” When we shift our perspective to see that our present lives affect eternity, we gain the ability to engage in loving both God and our neighbors. I want this book to inspire us to be better today, in preparation for a better eternity with God.
Posted: November 10, 2015