Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
- Revelation 21:1-4
“There’s no such thing as a nobody. And there are no mistakes.”
- Mitch Albom, the next person you meet in heaven
As some have recorded, prior to the events that are recorded in Mitch Albom’s book, have a little faith, Mitch Albom, a Jew married to a Christian, never thought of God, faith, or anything religious after leaving the church of his youth. He was too busy winning awards as a sportswriter and starting to write inspirational books that began with tuesdays with Morrie. Even while sitting by his old rabbi’s side, preparing the eulogy for this dying man, he was working on the book that precedes the quote above, the five people you meet in heaven, all with little or no thought to faith.
By the time he wrote the first phone call from heaven, he was acknowledging that God had a major role in the writing of these books. By this time, he had started several charities in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan, and one charity in the Philippines. He owns an orphanage in Haiti and visits the children there every month. He and his wife have no children of their own.
In thinking of his background, what would his concept of heaven be? Although his wife might have some influence, the author is not going to necessarily take the Christian view of heaven. In contrast, he adopts a view of everyone going to heaven. As the person arrives, they meet five people. Once they resolve that puzzle, they can live their eternity in their own heaven.
I will have to admit that I discover some authors late. I also get books that are on the bargain shelf, most of the time. In this case, I purchased and read the sequel to the bestseller, the five people you meet in heaven, without having read the first part, where Eddie is the main character. In this follow-up to the original, Eddie again makes an appearance. He utters the quote above about no one is a nobody and there is no such thing as a mistake.
For one, no one should ever feel that they are a nobody. That part I agree with, but all have sinned and fallen short of God’s Glory. We have all made mistakes. Now, the main character of the book, Annie, feels that she was just one big mistake, making a constant string of mistakes. As you read the flashbacks of her past ‘mistakes’, you think that she was not the perpetrator of the mistakes. Her reaction to the mistakes of others may have made things worse, but I found little fault in many of her actions, most of the time. She just lived a life of guilt. Some of us think the same way, that we are a mistake. From that perspective, I can agree wholeheartedly with Eddie’s statement.
When we accept Jesus as our Savior, He washes away our sins. There is no room for guilt. We should repent when we commit a sin or realize when there is unconfessed sin in our lives, but living a defeated life with a burden of guilt is not living Christ’s victory. That could have been a good Christian conclusion to the book.
But what of some of the concepts of heaven in the book. The author does not rewind the person’s entire life. They only see short segments. This may not be far from the truth. Annie was troubled and cried a lot, but the Scriptures say that Jesus will wipe away our tears (Isaiah 25:8) and that there will not be any crying (Revelation 21:4). There is a certain amount of salvation by works involved, even though Annie was ‘dead.’ She had to work out the puzzle on her own.
And each person had their own unique heaven. There was some interaction while they meet the first five people, but once your puzzle is complete, you enter your own personal heaven with the few people who are most important. That is what might have bothered me the most.
And that was the most striking thing I felt in the book. It was a marvelous story. It was very heartwarming, but as Annie met her five people, she seemed all alone in figuring out her problem. Since Mitch Albom is Jewish, it may not seem fair to force him into having Jesus greet the new arrivals or criticize him for not doing so, but God makes no appearance. In fact, the heaven that is described is much like earth, with God looking over us, unseen from above.
I would recommend the book as a heartwarming story. It is my fifth Albom book, and I hope to read more. I just will not place Mitch Albom on my list of writers with good theology.
I know that we do not all go to heaven. Jesus died for some, not all. He died for those who trust Him and have a relationship with Him. If Jesus is our Savior, He saved us from something, and that is the second death. There is a lot of talk about what happens between the moment that you die and Judgment Day. We could each have our fun with suppositions about that, but I don’t think we will work out the mystery of our life so that we may then enter into eternal rest. I think Jesus will reveal that to us on a personal level.
From death to Judgement? Whether we have a long nap, we wait in a waiting room, or we visit with our loved ones while we wait for Judgment Day. None of this matters. Heaven will be better than anything on earth. And as Squire Parsons wrote in Beulah Land, “And time doesn’t matter anymore.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.