Its greatest appeal will be for those who share Steve’s belief that the Bible was meant to be, and must be, understood literally.
Before he undertook his quest the author bought a new Bible with the intention of reading it from Genesis through Revelation and underlining every verse that dealt with heaven. The cover of his well-designed book shows a photo of this Bible with many tabs marking the most meaningful Scriptures.
Steve uses an effective device as he imagines his father being given a guided tour of heaven by an angel especially assigned to him. In the first chapter he discloses that his dad took God’s word literally and susequent chapters provide an appealing narrative.
God gave Noah the rainbow sign, no more water, the fire next time.
Those lines from a spiritual provide Steve’s theme as he argues that the physical world was a paradise before Adam and Eve introduced sin and death, and it will be again after Jesus’ second coming. He uses six different Bible translations to cite heavenly Scriptures, but most come from either the New Living Translation or The Message.
Since the Biblical prophecies about the coming Messiah all came true, Steve argues, and there are three times as many prophecies about the second coming, “God’s pattern is understandable, undeniable, traceable and predictable.”
In relating the 10 steps needed for a Christian to enter a covenant relationship with God, the writer emphasizes the importance of baptism.
A chapter on “Satan’s Strategy” describes how Satan interrupted the original relationship between God and Adam and strives to distort human views of heaven. Steve cites 1 Corinthians to contend that Christ will return to remove Satan and claim the earth for his own.
Steve uses Scripture to paint a picture of the post-second coming new earth, a heavenly place where God will live among the saved — the people who have used His power to defeat evil in their life — and Jesus will live with Him in the New Jerusalem.
In a final chapter, “God Promotes a Reward System,” Steve writes that he once thought that heaven was equal for everyone and socialistic in nature. But he now believes, and cites Scriptures to show, that God grants eternal rewards for doing good works, persevering under persecution, showing compassion to the needy and treating enemies kindly. This means that heaven’s rewards will not be distributed equally, he infers.
This book is as much a loving biography of Steve’s father as it is his personal conception of heaven. Jamie Hemphill was an important figure in the small Hill Country town of Mason, which he served as mayor, a math teacher, football announcer, part-time preacherand several other roles that made him a local icon. And he was evidently a great father.
When the angel finally escorts him to his heavenly dwelling place, it is a stunning “personal apartment” in the capital city of the new earth, with a transparent wall giving a view of thousands of miles of beautiful manicured lands. And this wasn’t even his ultimate mansion, the angel told him.
Steve’s search for heaven leads him finally to conclude that there will be work in eternity, and rest; that there will be eating, people will recognize each other and the saved will wear heavenly clothing, lavishly adorned.
He advises those “still having difficult with this whole idea of a real, tangible, physical, earthly eternity,” to consider a passage from Psalm 16:
“My body rests in safety. for you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.”