NASHVILLE – This is the second part of an interview with author Hank Hanegraaff, who along with the Christian Research Institute, hosts a daily talk show where he is better known as the "Bible Answer Man."
Hanegraaff discusses with The Christian Post his latest book, Afterlife: What You Really Want to Know About Heaven and the Hereafter, that is in bookstores now. He took time out during the National Religious Broadcasters convention to sit down with CP and talk about the realities and misconceptions associated with eternal life, and heaven and hell.
CP: There are a number of books written in recent years that discuss near-death experiences of people who claimed that they have visited heaven and then returned to their earthly bodies. Do you believe this can happen and do you address it in your book?
Hanegraaff: No, because heaven in the most denotative sense does not exist as a physical place. Again, to go back to what I previously said, souls do not have locational qualities, they have relational qualities. So to ask where a soul is or are they walking around on streets of gold doesn't make sense. When Jesus returns a second time, paradise lost becomes paradise restored, and then there are locational realities. So to presume that people walked through a big pearly gate and their were gold-domed halls and I saw Grandpa Jones with a great tuff of white hair, that I saw Jesus and he had a Palomino pony and that God had these huge wings with yellow hair; this is the product of a possible misconception of the mainstream media.
CP: What is heaven going to be like? Will my favorite dog be with me? Will I see my grandfather? You even go as far as to address if people will have sex in heaven.
Hanegraaff: First of all, I don't want to shout where the Bible is silent. Let's start with areas where the Bible does address heaven. There are certain things we can say about heaven and there are certain things we can only conjecture with respect to heaven. And then of course, in answering this question, I have to make a difference between the transitional heaven and the eternal heaven, which is this universe restored.
CP: So Earth will be no more?
Hanegraaff: No. It is this Earth, it is these mountains, and it is these hills that are restored. In a biblical worldview, God doesn't scrap things, he redeems them. It's not another body that you will receive; it is your body that has been restored. Now that doesn't mean Adam is resuscitated, it means there is continuity between what was and what will be.
So, you asked about animals. If you look at the paradise lost, it gives you some inkling what paradise restored will be like. In paradise lost there were animals, there were trees, it was a physical place. Paradise restored will be this universe minus death, disease, decay, and destruction.
CP: Minus sin?
Hanegraaff: Yes, minus sin. When Jesus Christ returns a second time, sin and Satan will be resolved. There will be no more sin or temptation. But that's what we long for. We long for a time when Jesus appears a second time. And that even takes some conceptualization. People point and say, Jesus went up there (pointing upward). Even if Jesus were traveling at the speed of light when he ascended, he wouldn't be out of our little galaxy now. But the ascension has to do with transcending time and space. So Jesus Christ is as close to me as is you are close to me now. But when the veil between heaven and earth is removed, then he will be that close physically. So we say Jesus isn't another dimension, he is real.
CP: So we can be with Jesus, we can be around him?
Hanegraaff: Yes, we will walk with him just as the disciples did. We will commune with him and we will interact with him. That's the end for all human beings and that's what we long for. In fact, that's what we were created for. We look forward to the restoration to the image of God and that is what will be restored.
CP: Are we married in heaven?
Hanegraaff: No, and as it has been said, Earth is the breeding colony and heaven is the homeland. Will we know one another in heaven? Absolutely, you and I will know each other in heaven. But our relationships will be different.
So, I'm married and I have 12 children, so relationships with my wife and children will be different from how they are now. But they will exceed anything we know here. My wife will not be my wife, but the relationship I will have with her will exceed anything I have in this world.
CP: Well, the last question I will ask you is how does a Christian, or rather, how does any person on earth get to heaven?
Hanegraaff: The simple answer to that question is that Adam and Eve fell into lies of perpetual sin and had lives terminated by death. As a result the universe was cast into a state of decay and destruction. The Bible is God's redemptive plan for this universe. And that is all a function of restoration of relationships that God has severed by sins.
We have to recognize that we are sinners and then we have to recognize that we need to repent of our sins, which is an old English word that describes a u-turn on the road of life and requires that we turn and follow Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life.
So we need to admit we are sinners, turn from that sin and recognize Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives. And when we do we will have a relationship with him not only in eternal life but also for eternity. It doesn't start when we die, it begins when we die to our old lives and accept a new one is Christ.
Conversely, those who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ will be separated from his love for all eternity. Most people don't want to talk about that but that is reality.
If it were not reality, there would be no difference in heaven and hell. The righteous would inherit a counterfeit heaven and the unrighteous would be incarcerated in heaven against their will, which would be a hell in its own right.
So the notion is – and C.S. Lewis puts this better than anyone else – he said there are two kinds of people in the world, those who say to God "thy will be done," and those to whom in the end God says, "thy will be done." God does not force himself on us and if we do not want a relationship with Him in time, then He recognizes that will for eternity.
So He sustains people in existence, albeit apart from His glory, His goodness and His grace.