What on Earth is Heaven?

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What happens to us when we die? Will heaven be a place of fluffy clouds, angels and cherubs playing harps? Is the Christian faith just about securing a place in heaven when we die?

In What on Earth is Heaven? James Paul explores the radical truth of what the Bible says about heaven and the afterlife, and its relevance for your life here and now on earth.

Unpacking the biblical story of the separation and reunion of heaven and earth, he shows that heaven isn’t a place somewhere ‘out there’ but a dimension of reality – the dimension where God’s will is done. The Good News isn’t that we get to escape to heaven, but that God invites us to be a part of his plan to bring the kingdom of heaven to our square inch of the earth.

Insightful and accessible, What on Earth is Heaven? is a book for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of the Bible’s teaching on heaven, or anyone who has wondered about the true meaning of finding heaven on earth. Life-affirming and uplifting, this book will fire your imagination as to how you can be a part of bringing heaven to the world around you.

About the Author


Dr James Paul is director of the English branch of L’Abri Fellowship and before that he practised as a doctor in London, specialising in hospice care for the terminally ill. Many of the questions raised in What on Earth Is Heaven? are ones that people have asked him in these settings. He has been a speaker at Word Alive and European Leadership Forum, and regularly addresses university Christian Unions and the Christian Medical Fellowship students’ conference, as well as speaking at L’Abri conferences globally.

This is exactly what I want in a book of theology: a humble teacher, a good writer who reads (bonus points for frequent references to Lewis and Tolkien!), and a winsome love of Scripture. When I was a kid and became a Christian, I believed that I was saved, but I didn’t know what I was saved for. Jim’s book, like a companion to N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, is a rousing reminder of how good the Good News is.

Andrew Peterson

Profound, wise, insightful, inspiring. Jim (or James) Paul gives us a fresh and readable take on the great story-line of the Bible. Read this book and discover how we can start to experience the reality of heaven in the here and now. A fresh restatement of the deeply influential and compelling vision of L’Abri.

Professor John Wyatt

A wrong view of heaven not only makes people ambivalent about getting there but also encourages the kind of dualistic thinking that has led Christians to disengage from the world around them; to withdraw from culture and the arts, from universities and academia, from the ‘dirty’ arenas of business, finance and politics. But the Christian story isn’t about us escaping into some ethereal out of the body parallel existence. It is rather about God bringing heaven to earth, so that the whole creation is renewed and restored. This delightful book is both a testimony of the author’s own personal journey and a skilful retelling of the whole Christian metanarrative from creation and fall to redemption and consummation. In the process it weaves together accessible, but profound, biblical exposition with insights from Neoplatonism to Tolkien and from C S Lewis to Sartre and Solzhenitsyn. It will stretch your mind, warm your heart, get you looking forward in joyful expectation and transform your priorities in the here and now.

Peter Saunders

On the face of it, Jim Paul might have been expected to share the view common to so many western contemporaries: the material world is the totality of existence, death is a brutal end, the afterlife is a deluded pipe-dream. As a trained medical doctor, he was fully immersed in modern scientific methods and ended up as an palliative care specialist in a hospice. But this would reveal both a lack of knowledge of Jim and, more significantly, a lack of deep engagement with the wonder of Christ. This book is a rich treasure, probing hope for our future that is grounded on the great truths of what God has already done. But most importantly of all, far from being an escape into fantasy, this exploration of the wonders of heaven is truly a journey into reality.

Mark Meynell

As an astronomer, teaching at a Christian college in the US, I often get asked about heaven by my students. When teaching them about stars and galaxies, black holes and other exotic objects in our vast universe, the question often pops up “but where then is heaven, where does God live?” Jim Paul, in this important and wonderful book, takes on this question head-on, by taking the reader on a whirlwind tour through the Bible. Along the way, he dismantles many common misconceptions about heaven, reframes the question, and throughout sketches a new vision of heaven that captures the imagination and stirs up many new ideas. Turns out, this vision of heaven has less to do with “eternal bliss”, and more with the big questions of life, things that my students struggle with every day: Who am I? Why am I here? Who should I become? — questions about identity, calling, vocation, and discipleship — and ultimately love. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in heaven (and who is not?) or who just wants to grow in following Jesus in every day life.

Arend Jan Poelarends

James Paul’s new book on the oft misunderstood, always mysterious relationship between heaven and earth, What on Earth is Heaven?, is both nourishing for the soul and refreshing for the intellect. Paul’s time as a hospice doctor and, more recently, a worker for Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri Fellowship, both inform this accessible theological discussion that is grounded in our embodied reality. Paul clearly illustrates that heaven is not an escape hatch from earth; it is another dimension of reality—the ultimate reality—and Christ invites us to allow ourselves to become vessels “through which the power of heaven can flow to re-create the damaged world around you.” Paul’s text gives a brief, highly focused reading of the overarching narrative of scripture, elucidating the work of heaven on earth. His book is a much-needed corrective to reductive, dualistic, pop theology. He reminds us that through Christ, heaven has come to earth so that we may have life, and that this life may be abundant “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Dr. Mary McCampbell

Jim Paul is a has provided us a great service in What On Earth is Heaven. The idea of heaven as a fluffy place in the sky or home for the morally good has been so engrained in popular culture it can be hard to picture exactly what heaven is like. Paul cuts through the myths and offers a clear, biblical view of heaven as a dimension of reality – where God’s will is done. Somewhere we can imagine for the future yet experience in the here and now. Paul is a steady hand and winsome guide. A must for all who long for the new creation and long to see it leak into our everyday lives.

Alastair Gordon

Additional information

Weight 295 g
Dimensions 213 × 137 × 18 mm

Paul, Dr James, (Author)

Publication Summary

IVP (2021), 200 pages

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