Author Paul D. Wolfe, who also wrote My God Is True! Lessons Learned Along Cancer’s Dark Road, is the associate pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fairfax, Virginia. Well-known radio Bible teacher, Alistair Begg, wrote the following endorsement: “Wolfe is two for two. He is not a one-book wonder. He tackles the question of heaven in a down-to-earth fashion that steers clear of the sentimentalism and vague theology so often associated with the subject. This book helps me not only to fulfill my pastoral duty in preparing my people for death but, more importantly, to prepare myself. I am more interested in going to heaven now, having read this book!”
Over the last several years, I’ve read three or four books on heaven, but this one is different. In the others, the focus is on what heaven is like. Though based on the study of biblical passages, they often slide into speculation. This book, on the other hand, deals biblically and realistically with how to prepare ourselves as believers for heaven, that is, how to have a heavenly attitude in this life, how that makes an incredible difference in the way we live our everyday lives.
The Bible clearly commends this attitude and the difference it makes in our lives. For example, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Likewise, in Colossians 3:1-4 Paul pens these words, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Wolfe brings out many life applications of the mindset Paul is talking about. His major theme is that a heavenly mindset should affect our lives right now. Here are five important points he makes about this:
- Meditation – “This is the heart of the matter. First and foremost, being heavenly minded means thinking about heaven.”
- Orientation – By this this the author is referring to the believer continually delighting in God, His Word, and the heavenly Jerusalem.
- Anticipation – “Heavenly-mindedness equals mediation, plus orientation, plus anticipation. The believer sets his mind on the world above eager to be there, and confident that one day he will be.”
- Consecration – This kind of mindset bears fruit. “Hopefulness encourages holiness.” Having a heavenly mindset means consecration to the Lord and His purposes on earth.
- Supplication – “The one who thinks of heaven, who is drawn to it and destined for it, asks for it.” By this Wolfe doesn’t mean a believer should be asking to die, but he should be praying for the return of Christ. (At this point an explanation is necessary – the author makes it abundantly clear from Scripture that the FULL promises of our heavenly blessings – the bodily resurrection, etc. will not take place at our death, but at Christ’s return.)
For me personally, the two most helpful aspects of the book were (1) Wolfe’s practical teaching on how the truths of heaven make a great difference in our earthly life, and (2) why we struggle to be heavenly-minded and what to do about it. (See two excerpts below.)
In reading this book, it’s obvious that Wolfe disagrees with the old adage about being “so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” On the contrary, being heavenly minded makes a world of difference right now.
Perhaps the most important personal lesson I gleaned from the book is that not only should I prepare for my death by putting my trust in Christ for salvation, by taking care of practical issues like wills, insurance, and funeral plans, but also by preparing my wife, children, and grandchildren for my eventual demise. I am ready to go home whenever God calls me. I am confident by His grace, not by my own goodness, that I’m going to heaven when I die. Also, I am equally confident that by the help God will give my family after my death, life will go on for them. (I am praying for the right time and place to discuss these things with my family – not in a morbid way, but in a practical, matter-of-fact way.)
I’ll end my review with a mild caution: the first couple of chapters of SETTING OUR SIGHTS ON HEAVEN may seem dry to some readers. It’s because Wolfe is seeking to lay a sound theological foundation before entering the practical domain, even as the Apostle Paul did in many of his epistles. Don’t let the heaviness of the early chapters discourage you from reading the rest of the book. Your perseverance will be well rewarded. This work is chock full of biblical and practical truths for life and death.
Excerpts from Setting Our Sights on Heaven:
In the first section of the book Wolfe discusses some areas of our lives, for example, marriage, money, etc. in which being heavenly-minded should bear fruit in our lives. In the following paragraphs he is writing about buying a house and living in it. It was very convicting to me personally.
“The reality of heaven not only makes a difference when buying a house, it also shapes the way you live in that house in the years that follow. The conviction that heaven is your true home guards you from an idolatrous attachment to the earthly building in which you live now. Instead of seeing it as a fortress to be guarded from invaders (that is visitors and house guests), or as a museum to be preserved from disturbances (that is dirt and din), you will see your home as a temporary trust from the Lord to be used in the spirit of hospitality. And hospitality will mean all of the occasional visitors and overnight house guests, and dirt and din. After all, hasn’t the Lord shown us heavenly hospitality? Hasn’t He welcomed us into his household, even though we leave our ‘earthly tent’ behind (1 Cor. 5:1)? Of course, every family needs time to itself, and we ought to care about the appearance (and volume level!) of our home, but these can easily become excuses for house-olatry!
“What about you, Christian? Have you lapsed into a selfish ‘moat-and drawbridge’ mentality when it comes to your house? Would a ‘Beware of Homeowner’ be appropriate on the front door? Or perhaps ‘By Appointment Only?’ Have you become so attached to your house that the thought you might have to leave it one day and move into another elicits an ‘Over my dead body!’ in your heart? If so, then you have lost sight of just how temporary is your earthly dwelling, and just how glorious – and everlasting – will be the new creation to come.”
In the second section of the book the author deals with many real-life reasons why we find it hard to “set our minds on things that are above.” Here is one – the obsession that some Christians have with the past.
“… For the Christian that may be the memory of a high point in his spiritual past. … Some remember vividly their own past sins. Some remain wounded by great wrongs that others have committed against them. We all carry with us memories like these, whether bitter or sweet, but some people, unfortunately are obsessed with them. The past dominates their thinking. It consumes their energies. It determines their mood. It defines who they are. They are stuck trying to recreate the past, or to erase it, or to avenge it, or to deaden their hearts so that they no longer feel anything about it. They may even find themselves torn, feeling drawn to the past one day and then haunted by it the next.
“If this is true of you, it is not hard to imagine what this means for heavenly mindedness. In short it means you won’t be there. After all your fundamental orientation can either be forward looking or backward looking. It cannot be both. …”
As a correction to this obsession with the past the author exegetes Paul’s attitude toward the past and the future as found in Philippians 3. For example, vs. 12-14: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”