1. A Travel Guide to Heaven is quite a provocative title. What, exactly, do you mean by it?
Well, it’s not really meant to be provocative so much as it’s meant to be fun. You know, there’s been so many books written about heaven over the years. Some have been long, scholarly works, some have been very deep and complicated texts, some have been very poetic. But there really hasn’t been—to my knowledge— anything that’s managed to capture the utter joy and fun of the place. If heaven is anything at all, it’s fun.
It’s a place of unlimited pleasure and unlimited happiness. That’s what Christianity has always taught. What I wanted to do with this book is give readers a vision of this happiness—a real, concrete, practical guide to what this place is really like.
I mean, think about it, if you’re going to visit a foreign country like Italy or France or Germany, it’s so helpful to study those little guidebooks they put out. These books give you an idea of the kind of people you’re going to encounter, the language they speak, all the sites to visit—they’re really quite valuable, and even more importantly, they’re fun to read.
Well, heaven is the greatest of all places to travel to. As I say in my book, it’s Disney World, Hawaii, Rome and New York all rolled up into one—and it’s forever. Heaven truly is the vacation that never ends. So doesn’t it make sense that we should have a travel guide to this spectacular place? A book that answers all the practical questions we have about heaven, and what it looks like, and who will be there?
There are so many questions that we all have. And you know what, they’ve all been answered. They’ve been answered in the Bible, they been answered by hundreds of brilliant theologians over the centuries.
What we need now is a guidebook that explains these answers in terms that anyone can understand, and in a way that captures the essence of what heaven is—which is: unparalleled, ecstatic happiness! That’s what Travel Guide to Heaven is all about.
2. What made you write this book, Anthony?
Like a lot of people, I’ve been to too many funerals in my life – I’ve seen a lot of suffering, a lot of dying.
And I’ve heard a lot of sermons preached about death and the afterlife. And the priests and pastors who gave the sermons were all good and sincere people – and what they had to say was true and comforting.
But you know what? The Christian teaching on heaven is so incredible – it actually defies sermons. It’s hard for anyone to convey how exciting, how joyous, how happy of a place heaven really is.
Think about it. Heaven is a place where no one ever dies, no one ever suffers, no one ever cries; it’s a place where people live forever, it’s a place of unparalleled beauty. A place where people have super-hero like powers – a place where people get to see friends, family, and even pets who have died.
It’s so fabulous that it is difficult to describe in realistic terms. I’ve felt for a long time that we’ve needed a book that takes this wonderful age- old teaching and presents it in an upbeat, dynamic, and exciting way.
Now, most people I know enjoy traveling. They love the thrill of visiting a new place for the first time – the adventure, the sight, sound and sensations.
Well, heaven, in a sense, is a super resort. Its’ the ultimate playground – created purely for enjoyment.
And since we’re all, hopefully, traveling to this place – since it is our final destination on the roadmap called life, I thought it would be very appropriate and meaningful to present heaven in travel terms.
Heaven is truly an eternal vacation – it’s something no one has to be afraid of. In fact, it’s something we can all look forward to with excitement.
3. Is this another one of those judgmental and “preachy” books about who gets into heaven and who doesn’t?
Absolutely not! This book is not judgmental or “preachy” in any way. The book is about celebration. It’s about unity. It’s about what all Christians believe and what all people hope for.
You see, this isn’t a guide book on how you get to heaven. If it was, we’d have to talk about all kinds of controversial questions. We’d have to talk about the ten Commandments, about what it means to live a good, virtuous life. But it’s not. This is a Travel Guide to what heaven is like now! – What it looks like and what it feels like! It’s about what all Christians everywhere have believed for 2000 years.
It doesn’t go near politics – or any politically sensitive issues. It’s not about republican vs. democrat, liberal vs. conservative, or even religious vs. secular.
It’s a book about joy – about paradise – as I said – it’s about a final destination that most of us can agree on and all of us can aspire to and hope for.
4. One of the main premises of this book is that heaven is not only spiritual but physical as well. Is heaven really going to be as physical as you make it out to be?
Absolutely. You know, this is really the key to the whole book. What people don’t always realize is that for 2000 years, Christianity has taught that heaven is going to be both physical and spiritual. That’s exactly what the Bible teaches and that’s what Christian theologians have taught from the very beginning.
Now we all know about the spiritual aspect of heaven. That’s what’s been emphasized most by poets and writers and even Church leaders. But what hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention it deserves is the fact that heaven will be physical too. Now what do I mean?
One of the central teachings of Christianity—and I mean all denominations of Christianity—is that some day, everyone who has died is going to rise again. We're going to experience what's called the "resurrection." That’s going to take place at the end of the world, at what is commonly known as the Final Judgment. When that happens, we’re not just going to be spirits, floating around in the clouds. We’re going to get our bodies back. These bodies. They're going to be given back to us by God young, and healthy, and brand new.
The same thing is going to happen to the earth. There’s going to be a new earth. And that new earth is going to be part of heaven. Now we may be a little bit different than we are now, and the earth may be a little bit different than it is now, but there are going to be striking similarities as well. And it’s these similarities that people don’t talk about. That’s what I focus on in my book.
The reason is, if heaven is going to be physical and not just spiritual, then there are so many simple deductions we can make about what our life is going to be like there. For example, if heaven is going to be physical, is there any doubt that it’s going to be lit up in bright, beautiful colors--- that it’s not going to be white and drab and cloudy like it’s pictured in the movies? Is there any doubt that there are going to be beautiful, sunny days in heaven just like this one?
In heaven there are going to be beaches and palm trees and real live people—people that will have real human bodies, that you can touch and kiss and embrace.
You know, so many people are afraid of death, so many people want to know more about the fate of their loved ones who have died. If they just began to think about the fact that heaven is going to be a lot more familiar to them than they ever imagined—only much much better—then I think they’d be able to face death with a lot more strength and courage.
5. You mentioned people a moment ago. What are our relationships with other people going to be like in heaven? How are we going to interact with each other?
One of the best things about heaven is going to be the people we're going to see there.
The thing to remember again is that when we experience the resurrection, we're going to have our bodies back. I can't say this enough times. We're not just going to be spirits, floating around. We'll be made of real flesh and blood. We'll have arms and legs and hands and fingerprints, and we'll be able to smile and run and talk and do all the things that we, as human beings, can do. The big difference is going to be that our bodies will be a lot better and more powerful than they are now-- which is something I discuss at length in the book.
The point is, that after the resurrection, when we're in heaven, the relationships we're going to have with our family and friends and with all the other people who have died are going to be real, flesh and blood, human relationships.
One of the things I describe in the book is our first day in heaven-- when we see our family members for the first time…I mean it's going to be an incredible day. We're going to have real bodies so we're going to be able to really see each other. We'll be able to actually run up to them and hug them and kiss them. We'll be able to hear their voices again. Voices we haven't heard in so long. There's going to be an awful lot of happy crying and kissing and shouting and running through the streets that first morning in heaven-- it's going to be very very loud.
And after that, we're going to continue to have relationships with all those people-- forever. Your mother is always going to be your mother, your brother is always going to be your brother, your friends are always going to be your friends. That's true now, and that will be true one million years from now, in heaven. Of course these kinds of relationships are going to change to some extent in heaven, but they'll always be special. We'll always share that special bond with people that we had on earth. That's what Christianity teaches.
6. There is a chapter in the book entitled, "Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?" Well, do they? Are there going to be animals in heaven. I think this is something a lot of people are interested in.
Well, if we're saying heaven is the ultimate vacation spot, then it's only fair to ask, are there pets allowed at this resort?
And the answer is YES, of course there are.
You know, there have actually been theologians over the course of the centuries who have said that there are no animals in heaven. And the reason they've given is that if animals are allowed to go to heaven, that would somehow diminish the value of human beings-- because we're made in the image and likeness of God.
But as I say in the book, those theologians are like brilliant mathematicians who may be right when it comes to the calculus of religion, but are all wrong when it comes to simple addition.
Are animals going to be in heaven? The question we should be asking is: Why not? After all, God can do anything he wants. And if he knows that having animals in heaven is going to make us happier, then of course he's going to allow them there.
You know, there are over 120 different species of animals mentioned in the Bible--- and they figure prominently in salvation history. Just think about the story of Noah. When God destroyed the earth, who were the only creatures aside from Noah and his family that he permitted on the ark-- it was the animals. Animals are all over the Bible. Do you think God is suddenly going to forget his love for these creatures just because we're in heaven? Of course not!
Every single pet you ever had is going to be in heaven-- every dog, every cat, every parakeet, every bunny, every goldfish, every gerbil-- they're all going to be there.
And there will be wondrous new species of animals there as well. Animals we've never seen or imagined. God's got a great imagination. We tend to forget that sometimes.
7. Everyone knows that heaven is supposed to last forever. If that's true, what are we going to do for all that time? Won't we get bored? How does your book address this problem?
Well, one of the biggest misconceptions people have about heaven is that it's going to be similar to sleep, that it's going to be very restful, and quiet-- like a cemetery. Now believe it or not, this is actually the opposite of what Christianity teaches.
Heaven is going to be a place of intense activity. Intense. It's going to be exciting-- not boring. It's literally going to be a wonderland of activities. In fact, we're not going to know what to do first when we get there.
Remember, we're going to have our bodies in heaven-- and heaven is going to be a real place-- a place like this -- a place where we can use those bodies. We'll be able to run and swim, and listen to music and read books and do all of the wonderful things we do now-- only we'll be able to do a lot more because our bodies will be transformed.
Just think about the possibilities. How would you like to travel to the other side of the universe just like that? (snap). In heaven we're going to have the power to do that. How would you like to take a day-trip to Venus or Mars? How would you like to have a catch with Joe DiMaggio, or go fishing with Ernest Hemingway? How would you like to take painting lessons from Michelangelo? You know, as long as those people make it to heaven, we're going to be able to get to know them and become friends with them.
We're going to have millions of years to learn new things, take up new hobbies, study new subjects. We'll be able to do work in heaven, too-- not the kind of drudgery that we have to go through in this life-- I mean intensely pleasurable activity that we absolutely love to do and which contributes to the life of heaven.
I can go on and on. The point is this: In heaven, they'll be no end to the number of things to do, places to go, and people to see. Heaven is going to be filled with energy and life. It's going to be quite a trip, and I really hope that my book has been able to convey some of the excitement of that trip.
8. You’ve never been to heaven; how do you know so much about it?
Well, no one has ever been to heaven and back, yet there have been thousands of books written on the subject. How can that be?
The answer is that God lives in heaven, and he has revealed an awful lot about it to us. He’s revealed it first and foremost in the Bible – but also in the writings of thousands of brilliant theologians over the centuries.
God’s given us a lot of important information about heaven – because He wants us to have something to strive for – something to comfort us as we make our way through the slings and arrows of this life.
I’ve personally worked closely with countless Christian leaders from all denominations for close to twenty years. I’ve had the great good fortune of listening to their preaching and to study their writings, first hand. But even more significantly, I am a believing layperson. I have a different perspective than that of a cleric—and one that I think has helped in the writing of this book.
Since I’m not a “preacher” by trade, this book is not “preachy,” and since I’m not a professional scholar, this book is not a heavy academic text.
What I’ve tried to do in A Travel Guide to Heaven is take all the traditional teachings about heaven that have been handed down since Biblical times, and have been preached about and expounded upon for thousands of years – and put them into terms that any layperson, like myself, understand.
9. Who do you think is the audience for this book?
It may sound a little pompous to say this, but the audience for A Travel Guide to Heaven is everyone! And the simple reason for this is that everyone wants to go to heaven. Even people who aren’t particularly religious – people who don’t go to church on Sundays; people who don’t know anything about Christianity – they all want to know that there is a life after death.
You see, we are all afraid of death. I don’t care how courageous a person you are, we are all scared of the unknown, we’re scared of what’s on the other side of the grave.
And every single one of us has lost friends and relatives to death. We’ve all grieved for someone who’s close to us who has died. We want to know where those people are now. We want to know when and how we are going to see them again.
And it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, black or white, young or old, Protestant or Catholic, religious or secular – everyone wants to know about the life to come.
Because of the universal appeal of heaven, I’ve been very careful to make this book as inclusive as possible. While my background is Catholic, I have taken great pains to make this book communicate to all Christians. You can be sure that you won’t find anything in A Travel Guide to Heaven at odds with any of the major beliefs and teachings commonly accepted by all denominations of Christianity.
And I think the endorsements the book has already gotten reflect the kind of widespread acceptance and, hopefully, popularity, that the book will have. I mean, people as diverse as Regis Philbin, Lee Iacocca, Bill Bennett, and Pat Boone have praised this book. We’ve gotten leaders in business, in government, in the Church, and in the Entertainment Community who have all said wonderful things about Travel Guide. With all humility, I really believe that this book won’t just appeal to a “religious” audience. I think it has the power to cross over all generational, demographic, political and racial lines. The audience for this book is anyone who is alive and who wants to go on living forever.