The World to Come: Excerpt

I am in Little Rock, Arkansas, teaching a four-day series on my about-to-be-released book, The World to Come, by Lederer ( I’m having so much fun with the people in the church here in Little Rock I’m finding little time for anything else (such as my rabbinics class and blogging).

Anyway, Lederer will be releasing The World to Come on June 3 and I am very excited about this book. FEAST is a very exciting book in its own way, but The World to Come covers entirely different ground. I was excited to see that there is already a review of The World to Come on (see it HERE). She says:

In “The World To Come” Derek truly hits on the inner parts of our souls, which responds intuitively to the beauty of creation, and pulls us to the hope of the world to come. My obscure, somewhat distant view of our eternal future has been at once clarified, and made more real.

Anyway, here is an excerpt:

[From the end of Chapter 2: “The Vision of the Prophets”]

One of my favorite expressions about the World to Come is from Micah, a prophet who was a contemporary to Isaiah. He said:

They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.

God’s idea of the World to Come is every person with their own vine and fig tree. It was a common expression in biblical times for peace and prosperity.

The prophets envisioned an agricultural paradise in the World to Come. Who are we to gainsay the word of God? Maybe the agricultural part is literal. Even if it is not, I am in love with God’s plan that the World to Come has mountains, rivers, and trees.

This is not the view of witless shadows in a murky world or disembodied spirits on the Blessed Isles. This is not the view of white-robed saints playing harps on clouds (who made that up anyway?). In the prophetic vision, the good things of this world are better in the World to Come.

That is a meaningful statement. The good things of this world are better in the World to Come. C.S. Lewis captured the image beautifully in his book The Great Divorce. A busload of residents from hell get a field trip to heaven (just go with the fiction here and don’t worry about whether the story is literal). As the tourists get off the bus, they appear transparent. They cannot move the slenderest blade of grass. In fact, they are like ghosts and the grass appears through their feet as if they were made of mist. Then the protagonist realizes something; the people are not ghosts. They are the same as they have always been. It is heaven that is different:

The men were as they had always been; as all the men I had known had been perhaps. It was the light, the grass, the trees that were different; made of some different substance, so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison.

The World to Come is like our world only better. Perhaps, as Lewis imagined, even the light will be better.

We really should not be surprised by this physicality. It is what God expressed in the beginning. In Genesis 1 he said over and over, “It is good.” Before Adam and Eve fell they had “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” Only afterwards would agriculture be a backbreaking chore and childbirth a pain almost to death.

That means we were not so wrong when a landscape painting awoke in us a desire for heaven. The romantic feelings we felt about some faerie land or about Narnia or Middle Earth or a Disney scene were a longing to be where we are intended to be. We are not wrong when we admire the ocean or a tall hill and dream of adventure. We were made for paradise after all.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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