Dave Swavely’s book, Next Life, is a fictional account of a man dying, going to heaven, and then coming back to life. This is not your average heaven tourism book! Where those (supposedly) non-fiction books fall short (from Scripture), Next Life attempts a reformed, and more biblically faithful speculation on what the afterlife will be like. I would even go so far as to say this book was partly a critique on those “non-fiction” afterlife books.
Okay so I’ve been meaning to read those theology books on heaven . . . but they’re still chillin’ on my TBR list. I’ll get there, ya’ll. So I definitely learned a lot from this book. Be warned! It reads differently than your average work of fiction. The tone and style more closely resemble a letter or a journal. Swavely even left out all the quotation marks for the small smattering of dialogue!!! (Gasp!)
But that approach allowed him to be more open about his thoughts on the Bible as well as other books on heaven. He often mentioned other authors books on the topic—both positively and negatively. This was . . . okay. But I had to get past the unpleasant feeling that he was speaking as a real authority on the subject (he wasn’t because the book is obviously fictional) when he said such and such author was wrong.
My favorite thing about NL was its ability to put sin into better perspective. For example, the main character, Pastor Tim Carler, spoke about how much more he could see his old sinfulness when he got to the intermittent state (the IS being the place in which one goes before the finally coming of Christ). Yet, his “tour guides” were both serial killers while on Earth. This made for a heavy image of how gracious God is and how diverse the community will look in heaven. When Tim asks Jesus why he picked the serial killers to be guides, Jesus responded by saying, “because they love me so much.” No doubt.
This book put a rather new spin on both a theology of heaven and heaven tourism. My only real qualm was the main character’s assertion that everything in his account will be biblical. I think he meant that he isn’t going to be making stuff up like the faux non-fiction tourism books do. And that is definitely true. Yet, the story is speculative (as a fictional work of this nature would undoubtedly be). The good part about this is that all Swavely’s speculating is based on scripture and his interpretation. I think I would have borne any theological disagreements a bit more happily had I not been told up front that nothing within the story would function outside the Bible. How he could get away with not saying that though, I have no clue. . . . I’m not here to fix problems, but only to create them.
Overall, Next Life, was enjoyable, fascinating (especially the part where Charles Spurgeon and Charles Dickens hang out!), and informative! Give it a read and make sure to leave an amazon review!