Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Randy Alcorn wrote a book a number of years ago entitled Heaven. It was helpful for many believers. Alcorn unfolded the biblical teaching of “life after life-after-death,” and it was an existence of glorified bodies, not mere ethereal spirts. Many were greatly encouraged and hopeful in light of this teaching. It not only corrected much incorrect teaching and understanding, it replaced it with good biblical teaching that brought hope. For the believer, that is what good biblical teaching does.
One of the more recent phenomenon is that many have been taken with the notion of a “bucket list.” This list consists of things people want to do before they die, before they “kick the bucket.” It was popularized by the 2007 movie of that name. In essence, the significance of this list is that it serves as a reminder our lives on this earth are limited, so if something is important for us to do, we better do it now because we may not have the opportunity to do it in the future.
Alcorn responds to the limited scope and vision of most who affirm the notion of a bucket list, thinking that one either does what is on that list now, or it will never be done. That is, he notes, the view of an unbeliever, one who denies there is eternal life. For the believer, living out the list, God’s list, goes on and on in the new heaven and the new earth. Alcorn, Why the Reality of the Resurrection Means You Don’t Need a “Bucket List”, writes,
This makes sense from a naturalistic worldview, one which doesn’t recognize any afterlife. It also makes sense from various religious worldviews that maintain there may be existence after death, but without resurrection and physical properties, and with no continuity between this life and the next. The one worldview in which the bucket list makes no sense is biblical Christianity.
Don’t misunderstand. My wife Nanci and I enjoy life—going new places and doing new things. I don’t believe this is wrong, nor is it wrong to list things you’d like to do if God gives you the resources and strength. But the “bucket list” mentality, that this life is our only chance to ever enjoy adventure and fun, is profoundly unbiblical. It disregards the teaching of the resurrection.
Rather, Alcorn continues, for the Christian the end is a not only a continuation, but also the beginning of a new kind of life and living.
For the Christian, death is not the end of adventure, but our exit from a world where dreams and adventures shrink, and entrance into a world where dreams and adventures forever expand.
That’s why Nanci and I like to talk about our post-bucket lists, consisting of all the things we look forward to doing after we die, and in particular, after the resurrection. We’re told there will be not only a New Earth, but a New Heavens (Revelation 21:1), the celestial heavens made new, presumably with new galaxies and stars and planets scattered across the New Universe.
For the Christian, our lists are too limited in time and scope. The application of this truth for Karen, my dear wife, was shared with our adult children and me. After reading this post from Alcorn she wrote,
I've always felt this way . . . and it took Randy Alcorn to put it into words. I don't feel like I have to do everything I want here - I can let it go because if it is a godly thing, I will have all eternity to do it. And this is why I always say my house in heaven will have a big porch. And I'll ride horse a lot in heaven. And have my dog Doug . . .
It brought tears to my eyes as I read it the first time, and it does when I read it again. I am thankful to God for for the sure and certain promise of this life in the new heaven and the new earth. And I am grateful for the profound God-centered approach to life my wife has, both in this life, "I can let it go because if it is a godly thing," and the next, "I will have all eternity to do it," and that she continues to share and model that in our family.