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Those last things

28 October 2016

THE destination: death and then the end of everything, or heaven and the realisation of the human aspiration to live for ever?

David Winter is an experienced pastor, and his book Heaven’s Morning: Rethinking the destina­tion (BRF, £7.99 (£7.20); 978-0-85746-476-7) has the principal merit of being essentially pastoral in its delicate and insightful commentary on the moment of death and unfurling of destiny.

His own experience stands him in good stead: he knows that all too often people’s concerns about the afterlife are framed in simplistic questions: “Will my cat/dog be there?”, “What about playing golf?” or, as he has come to hear more recently, “Will there be shopping?”

His claim that “We believe in eternal life, not everlasting existence”, immediately locates the discussion in a new place. A post-space-age theology can no longer comfortably see heaven in physical terms as being “up there”: the old metaphors no longer work, but rather than be driven to despair, Winter returns to the scriptures for a new reading of what the Bible actually has to say on our ultimate fate. He is determined “to re-build a credible doctrine of life after death”, and, to do that, he has “to do a demolition job on ideas which try to lock eternity into the language of earth”.

This means examining where the notions of the resurrection of the dead and “Kingdom of God” were first laid down and how they were later used by Jesus. It means “moving from the physical world
of atoms and molecules into the spiritual world of God” and ac­­knowledging that “heaven is where God is.”

Winter is fearless: he examines the resurrection of Jesus, notions of hell, eternal life, judgement, and heaven, leaving nothing out and always confidently explaining what it means to be “gloriously, power­fully, spiritual”.

This is a short book, an unassum­ing book, but it deserves to do in­­credibly well and to be read both by people who mourn and by those who minister to them.

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