What If Jesus Was Serious about Heaven?

A Visual Guide to Experiencing God's Kingdom among Us

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Pub Date Oct 17 2023 | Archive Date Nov 20 2023

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Many Christians think about heaven as a distant place we go after we die. But what if it's a very real kingdom available to us right now, here on earth?

In What If Jesus Was Serious about Heaven?, Skye Jethani unpacks what Jesus really said about heaven and how it can transform our faith today. The fourth in Jethani's popular What If Jesus Was Serious? series, this guide includes the author's hand-drawn illustrations in each chapter.

Jethani explores the importance of the kingdom of heaven in Jesus's ministry, message, and parables. In doing so, he redefines the popular understanding of heaven as a celestial home for the dearly departed and reimagines our role in God's kingdom here on earth. This book shows what Jesus and his first followers knew about heaven that we get wrong and helps us recapture what it means for God's kingdom to be present on earth right now.

Many Christians think about heaven as a distant place we go after we die. But what if it's a very real kingdom available to us right now, here on earth?

In What If Jesus Was Serious about Heaven?...

Advance Praise

“In this accessible little book, Jethani masterfully translates critical theological insights about heaven into punchy, impactful, moving prose. These chapters are short enough to be used meditatively and devotionally, but sufficiently weighty and scholarly to help thoughtful Christians go deeper in biblical study and understanding. Best of all, Jethani makes Jesus, the kingdom of God, and the reign of heaven look beautiful, joyful, compelling, and liberating. If your experience of Christianity has been impoverished or even, at times, miserable, this book will offer aid and a luminous, sturdy hope.”—Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest; author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night

“Skye has written a Christ-exalting, clear, and compelling vision of the new heavens and new earth. How you view the future informs how you live in the present. Read this important book and gather with friends in a small group to explore the beauty of what our future holds.”—Derwin L. Gray, cofounder, Transformation Church; author of God, Do You Hear Me?

“Many good Christians assume they know what Jesus said about heaven. But Skye Jethani calls us to think again, reexamining which parts of our vision of heaven have come from cultural assumptions instead of the Bible. With his characteristic clarity and signature illustrations, Skye helps us rediscover what heaven meant to Jesus. More than that, he invites us to recognize that heaven is not our future destination but rather God’s present location—the place where he dwells and rules—and thus represents the shape of our mission on earth. This book offers a life-altering paradigm shift, because how we think about heaven affects how we live on earth.”—Glenn Packiam, lead pastor, Rockharbor Church; author of The Resilient Pastor and The Intentional Year

“There are few topics more misunderstood in the American church than heaven. What If Jesus Was Serious about Heaven? addresses our confusion with thoughtful provocations, insightful corrections, and solid biblical teaching. This is a resource that doesn’t just fix bad theology; it also orients believers in Christ toward the beautiful picture of cosmic redemption actually found in Scripture.”—Kaitlyn Schiess, author of The Ballot and the Bible

“In this accessible little book, Jethani masterfully translates critical theological insights about heaven into punchy, impactful, moving prose. These chapters are short enough to be used...

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Featured Reviews

I found Skye Jethani's insights into the true nature of heaven to be both thought provoking, and accessible. This is the first of his "What if Jesus was Serious" books that I have had opportunity to read, but it made me want to read more and I have already ordered the rest of the series, and even preordered this one. The advanced electronic copy that I had opportunity to review did not have his illustrations, so I would be very interested to see a copy with those included as I hear they only add to the book.

Skye shows us that if we interpret Jesus sayings about the Kingdom of Heaven in their cultural context, we should be looking not to a place in the sky where we will be singing in a choir for eternity, as it often indicated by church culture today, but to a renewal of our current earth where God will live among us. As someone who is not a theologian, I appreciated that this book was written with lay people in mind. It was easy to understand, but also made me think and evaluate what I have believed on this subject, and where I might need to rethink some things.

An enjoyable and very well written book.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley, all opinions are my own.

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"What If Jesus Was Serious about Heaven?" by Skye Jethani

I first heard of this book when listening to The Holy Post podcast. The author, Skye Jethani, is a co-host on the podcast. He ended up talking about his new book, and I thought I would give it a read. 

I haven't read the "What If Jesus" series before, so I didn't expect so many small essays on the topic. It read a bit like a devotional or 40-day Bible study. Skye is an excellent speaker and writer, but I found the brief chapters too succinct for my taste. I would much rather read a full-fledged book where his points are more fully fleshed out. 

I think this is a fine book to help us re-think about the kingdom of heaven, particularly if you have the idea that eternity is spent as disembodied spirits singing praise songs forever. I appreciated that Skye set a firm foundation for a physical resurrection. I liked his section on new/renewed earth as our eventual home and our responsibility to be caretakers of earth. I learned that Jesus and the apostles never use the words kingdom and church interchangeably, which I think is an important distinction that I did not fully appreciate. 

Some quotes I liked from this book:

When we come to embrace Jesus's map of heaven, we will discover that it works so much better than the one we've inherited from popular Christian culture.

The Gospel writers, who were not shaped by an individualistic culture, saw the cross as the hinge upon which all of history and creation turned. It wasn't simply "how Jesus saved me," but how his kingdom came to triumph over the whole world.

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As always with Skye Jethani, there is no culture war nonsense, just good theology in an easy-to-read package for lay people.

The book wrests the idea of heaven from it's pop culture / American evangelical caricature as a cloudy place of rest, reward and escape, and reorients it back into the context in which Jesus and the early apostles spoke of it.

This redefinition carries with it heavy implications for how we should treat others in our communities and tend to the natural world. Jethani deftly navigates through many of these implications while keeping the exploration grounded in its original cultural and scriptural context.

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So many common misconceptions dispelled in just the first few pages. A must read for anyone who is rethinking what they learned in the past. So many things just "clicked' after reading this. Definitely need to go back and re-read to pick up more nuances and details.

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Like all of Skye's other books, I thoroughly enjoyed this one! Skye's writing is always accessible and easy-to-read, but also profound. It provides a provoking, but in my mind, biblically accurate picture of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus' teaching. If I had any critique, I wish that Skye had treated some questions I feel the book neglects - for example, what does happen to Christians when they die? And what happens to non-believers? I don't think that we can neglect one on behalf of the other, and while I understand what Skye is trying to do, I think both are needed for a fully biblical approach!

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Such a great book! My eschatology was forever changed by reading NT Wright's Suprised by Hope. This book provides similar teaching in a very easy-to-read/use format. Each chapter takes one topic, explores it, and gives the Scriptural references to explore more. It would be great for family devotionals or a Bible study. I would like to read more by this author. I already love listening to him on the Holy Post Podcast.

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What If Jesus Was Serious about Heaven?
A Visual Guide to Experiencing God's Kingdom among Us
by Skye Jethani

This book is written in an easy-to-read style. I enjoyed the short, punchy chapters with clear headings and Bible verses to ‘read more’. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of the Kingdom of Heaven and heaven on earth. Skye Jethani adeptly unpicks some of the common misconceptions in Biblical understanding.

My only reservation is that there were times when it felt that there might be more than one side to the point being made and the simple short-chapter format didn’t leave a lot of room for a deeper discussion.

I understand that there are illustrations that go with the book, although these weren’t available with the review copy on Amazon Kindle.

Overall, I enjoyed the points made in this book. The book is thoughtful, offering fresh insights into a tricky topic.

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Excellent work! Overall, very enjoyable and important. I found it so thought-provoking that my seminary professor husband Waldemar Kowalski read it, too. He offers this theological review:


I have two issues I want to highlight:

I very much enjoyed the section on Scarcity vs Abundance (Ch 21), the inclusion of the “lesser” (the daughter of Jairus and the hemorrhaging woman Chs 23 & 24), and the feedings of the 5,000 and 4,000 as showing that Israel’s story is to be fulfilled, but also that the Gentiles are invited in (Chs 25 & 26). What I find an odd omission is that both Mark and Matthew tell these stories together, but Jethani mentions only Mark. I consider that an odd choice, particularly in view that while Mark is generally understood as addressed to a Gentile audience, Matthew is written with Jewish hearers/readers in mind. That both audiences are told this is significant and would I believe strengthen this portion of Jethani’s work.

The second issue is more consequential. It is certainly true that many have misunderstood heaven as only being a spiritual place. However, Jethani says “In fact, the Bible has shockingly little to say about what happens to us immediately after we die, and what it does say doesn’t reference heaven.” (Ch 27) I have to disagree. Any believer who has lost a loved one has wondered about their state, and all of us who have responded to such questions have had to look at passages such as 2 Cor 5:1-8 (and 12:1-5); 1 Thess 4:13-18 and arguably Heb 12:1. (If Luke 16:19-31 is intended as more than a teaching against the excesses of the rich then it also gives us clues about the intermediate state.)

Jethani is absolutely right to stress that the intermediate state is not the final goal and final state. He is also right to stress that the Kingdom of God is accessed here and now in our relationship with Christ. I think he has failed his readers in dismissing the intermediate state as if were not there. Yes, the lack of detail given in the biblical account makes it clear that this is NOT the endgame, the final state. That is not to say that the Bible gives us no information. It is indeed called Paradise by Paul and Jesus (2 Cor 12:4; Luke 23:43) and it is a place where the believer is “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor 5:8). In Paul’s vision in 2 Cor 12 he calls this place both “heaven” (ouranos) and "Paradise" (paradeisos). This is where Jesus has gone to be with the Father (Acts 1:11) and where he is doing the work of interceding for us (Rom 8:34; 1 Tim 2:5).

I don’t dare lose sight of the reality and glory of that intermediate state. A lot of people I love are waiting there - not for an eternity in that place, but for that final and embodied state written of in Rev 21 & 22 (and 1 Cor 15).

Check out Waldemar's theology blog at ...

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‘What if Jesus was Serious about Heaven?’ written by Skye Jethani is a thought-provoking book. Skye has written the ‘What if Jesus was Serious’ series, of which this is the first one I have read. I understand that the actual written books include illustrations making it a very easy-to-read and easy-to-use format.

It truly caused me to pause and think about “Experiencing God’s Kingdom among Us.” Jethani raises questions related to the vision of heaven, what we may assume Jesus said about heaven and allows us to rethink and reexamine the vision of heaven from scripture and not with cultural assumptions.

I would like to study this book more and check-out Jethani’s other “What if Jesus was Serious’ series. I would enjoy speaking about this book in a bible study.

Thank you #NetGalley and #BakerAcademics&BrazosPress (#BakerAcademics #BrazosPress) for the opportunity to read this early version in exchange for a review. All opinions and thoughts are those of my own. #Whatifjesuswasserious #NetGalley

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A thought provoking book about the Kingdom of Heaven, as taught by Christ. The author argues that we have misconstrued Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. We have limited his concept to the next life and have become " so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good." Instead, he contends that the Kingdom of Heaven is something that is very earthly and practical.
The book is divided into 5 sections: The Kingdom of Heaven has come near; The Kingdom of Heaven is like...; Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth; I am going to prepare a place for you; and The Kingdom of the World has become the Kingdom of our Lord. Each section has subparts that begin: "If Jesus was serious...." The subparts are 2-4 pages long, which makes the book very readable as a devotional.
The recurring thesis of this book is that the Kingdom of Heaven exists here on earth. It exists now, in this life, and will be accomplished here on earth in the future. Our emphasis should not be getting away from this world and going to heaven, but reigning with Jesus here and now, and preparing for the new creation that will be a restored earth, not a celestial city.

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