‘The Eternal Weight of Glory’ by Harry Blamires

This little article about heaven is a sheer delight, a concentration of distilled wisdom seasoned with imagination.

Blamires corrects the prevailing view of heaven as an ethereal insubstantial abode: “Our education is such that many people tend to picture the afterlife as something less solid, less substantial than our earthly life, an existence in some ethereal and virtually disembodied state. In this respect, much current thinking is topsy-turvy. The one thing we can with certainty say about life in heaven is that it is more real than life on Earth.”

He concludes: “Whatever form your most moving earthly experiences of beauty have taken, they were foretastes of heaven. Wherever you have found lovingkindness in human hands and human eyes and human words, you were confronting Christ’s personality operative in God’s creatures. Since the source of all that beauty and all that tenderness is God, the full opening up of his presence before his creatures can be nothing less than the aggregation and concentration and intensification of every loveliness and every goodness we have ever tasted, or even dreamed of. All the love we have ever known in our relationships with others—all that collected and distilled into the personal warmth of him from whom it all derived, and he standing before us: that is the kind of picture that the Christian imagination reaches towards when there is talk of the ultimate reward of the redeemed. It is small wonder that mind and pen falter under the weight of glory brought to mind.”

Read the full article HERE; if you want a version you don’t have to page through, click HERE.

This article originally appeared in  ‘Christianity Today’ for May 22, 1991.  Harry Blamires (born 1916) is an Anglican theologian, literary critic, and novelist, now retired.  His friend, C. S. Lewis, was his tutor at Oxford University.  He has written a number of books, including ‘Knowing the Truth About Heaven and Hell’.

‘God’s Big Picture’ by Vaughan Roberts

Vaughan Roberts' 'God's Big Picture'‘God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story-Line of the Bible’, by Vaughan Roberts.  Published by Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, UK.  New edition.  First published in 2009.  ISBN 9781844743704 (paperback); 9781844747153 (Kindle version). 176 pages.

If I had to recommend just one brief overview of the Bible, this would be it.  In this book, Vaughan Roberts paints the big picture of the Bible, and he does so clearly and simply.  He takes us through the Bible using the theme of the Kingdom of God – defined as ‘God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing’.

Using this theme, Vaughan provides a simple and memorable framework for the Bible story:

(1) The pattern of the kingdom (Creation and the Garden of Eden)

(2) The perished kingdom (the fall)

(3) The promised kingdom (God’s covenant with Abraham)

(4) The partial kingdom (the period of the patriarchs to the Exile)

(5) The prophesied kingdom (the Old Testament prophets and the return from Exile)

(6) The present kingdom (Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension)

(7) The proclaimed kingdom (the Acts of the Apostles through the whole Church age)

(8) The perfected kingdom (the Book of Revelation and the new heaven and earth).

‘God’s Big Picture’ is very suitable for newer believers and also young people.   But more seasoned believers will doubtless find Vaughan’s deft and simple handling of the Bible story helpful, too.

Bible passages for reading and questions for discussion accompany each of the eight chapters.  This makes ‘God’s Big Picture’ ideal for small group discussion.  And the fact that it covers the entire Bible in just eight lessons makes it tailor-made for new believers’ discipleship groups.  It would be ideal as a follow-up to an Alpha Course or a Christianity Explored course.

View the publisher’s description page HERE.

Vaughan Roberts is Rector of St Ebb’s Church, Oxford, England.  He is also a founder member of 9:38, which encourages Christians to consider full-time gospel ministry, and is on the leadership team of The Proclamation Trust.

‘The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God’, by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow

‘The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God’, by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow.

‘The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God’, by Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow.  Published by Christian Focus, Fearn, Ross-shire, UK, and WEST Porterbrook, Sheffield, UK.  First published in 2013.  ISBNs 978-1-78191-144-0 (paperback); 978-1-78191-210-2 (ePub); 978-1-78191-212-6 (Mobi). 94 pages.

View the publisher’s description page HERE.

There are few books that specifically focus on Jesus’s ascension.  And, in fact, His ascension is something about which we may give little thought; it may simply seem like a postscript to His life here on Earth.  But it’s a vital, ongoing part of His saving work for us.  As the authors point out, Atonement was not complete until Jesus stood before God on our behalf.”  Jesus is our ascended Priest and King, our ‘Man in Heaven’ at our Father’s right hand.  A Member of our human race with a glorified physical human body is now in God’s presence, enthroned in absolute authority over Heaven and Earth!  And we, God’s people, are seated with Him there in heavenly places. We share His rule over Heaven and Earth.

This remarkable little book will likely transform the way you think of Jesus’s ascension.  It’s packed with insights drawn from across the whole Bible, communicated clearly and compellingly. Newer believers through to seasoned Bible scholars will find profit here.   The reader will come away with a richer understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry on Earth and now in Heaven.  And they’ll see more clearly the momentous significance Jesus’s ascension has for their Christian life here and now – and for their destiny in the world to come.

Perhaps the authors’ greatest achievement is to set the Ascension squarely into its context in the whole of God’s redemptive plan from creation to the new creation.  For example, they link Jesus’s ascension to Moses’ ascension of Mount Sinai and the sacrifices in the Tabernacle; to Daniel’s vision of the four beasts and the coming of the Son of Man and the Kingdom of God; to Jesus’s life as recorded by Luke; to the local church’s congregational worship; and to the Church’s global mission.

And the Ascension inevitably raises questions.  Where exactly is Jesus now?  Jesus is in heaven, yet He’s present with His people.  We live here on Earth, yet we’re seated with Him in the heavenly realms.  How does this all work in our universe of space and time?  Where exactly is heaven and how does it relate to our own world? And what happens when Jesus returns to Earth at the end of the age?  The authors guide us through this mysterious terrain. They comment, “Even on the final day, when Jesus does come to earth, He does not leave heaven behind.  . . . .  Instead, He brings heaven with Him to create a new heaven and a new earth. He does not leave heaven to collect us and take us back to heaven. He brings heaven to earth.”

And what has Jesus’s ascension done for us? Our calling and destiny is to be God’s royal family, made in His image to rule over His creation.  The authors explain that the ascended Jesus has realised this destiny: “The ascension of Jesus is the foretaste of the ascension of a new humanity to our royal status.”  And through His ascension, He has secured that destiny for every one of God’s people: “Those in Christ will . . . be what we were meant to be and what we were born to be.”

Jonny Woodrow is the Associate Director of Porterbrook Seminary and part of the leadership team of The Crowded House church planting network.  Tim Chester is an author, pastor of The Crowded House, Sheffield and a leader of The Crowded House church planting network.



‘The Good, the Bad, the New, and the Perfect’ by Bernard Bell

‘The Good, the Bad, the New, and the Perfect’, by Bernard Bell.  A brief overview of the Bible.  Available free online HERE.

Bernard Bell writes: “Psychologists know that a sense of purpose is essential to emo­tional and psychological health. We look for a meta-narrative, an overarching story that makes sense of all of the little stories of our lives. Fragmented by the loose strands of our lives, we yearn for a sense of ending that ties everything together.” 

We can only really make sense of our individual lives in the context of God’s great Story, the Story we read in the Bible.  Bernard Bell brilliantly captures this overarching story in four short studies that combine faithfulness to the Bible’s narrative, spiritual insight and pastoral wisdom.  The studies are entitled ‘This is my Father’s world’,  ‘Adam, where are you?’, ‘Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham’, and ‘The end of the beginning’.

Bernard Bell is Pastor of Peninsula Bible Church Cupertino, California.  Other sermons by Bernard Bell are available HERE.

‘The Epic of Eden: a Christian Entry into the Old Testament’ by Sandra Richter

Cover for Richter S L  'The Epic of Eden'

The Epic of Eden’, by Sandra L. Richter.  Published by  IVP Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois.  First published in 2008.  ISBN 978-0-8308-2577-6. 263 pages.

This book is quite simply, brilliant.  Dr Richter guides the reader clearly, lucidly, and with insight through the Old Testament story.  This is the book that I recommend to anyone who needs someone to take them by the hand and lead them through the often unfamiliar culture, geography, history and characters of the Old Testament. There’s much here to enrich the understanding of beginner and seasoned Bible student alike.

The author unlocks ancient Biblical culture for us, and guides us through to the beating heart of the Old Testament – the ideas of redemption and covenant.   She unfolds the Bible story through Noah, Abraham, Moses and the Tabernacle, David and the monarchy and the promise of the new covenant and Jesus’s coming.  And we see the Old Testament story in the context of the whole Biblical drama – from the Garden of Eden to New Jerusalem.

View the publisher’s description page HERE.  And you can download the ten audio files of her series of lectures on the Epic of Eden, plus the series outlines, HERE.

Dr Sandra L. Richter is currently Professor of Old Testament at Wesley Biblical Seminary.  She regularly speaks and lectures in church, para-church, and university settings.