Arthur A. Just, Jr. is a professor of New Testament exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In addition to his seminary teaching, he also directs the deaconess program, co-directs the Good Shepherd Institute of Pastoral Theology and Sacred Music and worked on the lectionary for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's new Lutheran Service Book Hymnal.
Although his training is primarily in New Testament exegetical theology (and considers himself primarily a New Testament scholar), the circumstances of his career have caused him to write, speak, and teach a good deal about the historic liturgy. This book is a summary of his writing on the liturgy to date (7). As such, it reads somewhat like an anthology and somewhat like a traditional book with a unified thesis. That is to say, the chapters are self-contained yet build upon one another toward, each carrying theme throughout.
Just's primary way of presenting the liturgy is that in the Divine Service, something actually happens: 1) God serves us by giving us forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, and a strengthened faith; 2) angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven are united with us in worship, especially in communion; 3) the Body of Christ (the Church) is knit together more tightly; and 4) a nexus between Heaven and Earth exists (that is, worship is an eschatological event).
Just then presents the history and sociology of the Divine Service, viewing them through the windows of these above miracles. He shows the Jewish roots of the Divine Service, the historic use of Psalms in worship, the history and practice of Holy Communion and Baptism, and the relationship between the Divine Service and mission. With a more sociological slant, Just demonstrates that the Christian concept of time is more cyclical than linear; the concept of fellowship, and typology. Just also breaks down the various rites in the Divine Service (e.g. Kyrie, Sanctus), presents their historical development, and their importance in worship.
The singular best chapter is Chapter 11: The Historic Liturgy among Lutherans. Here, Just traces the major shifts in worship. Covered are the Pre-Constantinian Era (where Christianity was illegal and worship was conducted in private residences), the Post-Constantinian Era (where Christians began worshiping in church buildings and the liturgy became more elaborate), the era between the barbarian invasion of the Roman Empire and the Reformation (where Just demonstrates that great damage was done to belief when elaborate rites were introduced to draw in the locals...many parallels with our modern times), the Reformation era (where the Divine Service was purged of its errors), and more current debates. Just uses logic, theology, and historic evidence in this chapter to counter the argument that the Church must adapt its liturgy (or throw it out) to the surrounding culture for the sake of mission.
While the historical development and theology of the Divine Service has been well covered in many books within the past few decades, "Heaven on Earth" makes an excellent contribution to these writings through an emphasis on God's service to us, eschatology, and the problematic positions of many who act in defense of or opposition to the Divine Service. Recommended.