"Heaven is important but it is not the end of the world....!"To summarise this book in four posts is tantamount to being sacrilegious , unless that in itself is sacrilegious ! This is one fat book and if I understood 10% of it (including the bibliography, even that was challenging!). However, following the general theme and working on it has been helpful.
Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright
Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright
Put crudely NT Wright looks at two major thoughts on eschatology.
It would be easy to play these off against one another - but NT Wright warns against this. Instead he suggests that our sense of eschatology needs to be shaped by the narrative of New Creation which points to the fulfillment in which the 'creator finally brings at last the gift of life in all its fullness, a new bodily life in a new world where the rule of heaven is brought at last to earth. (pp. 373)
- "The creator will therefore make a new world, and new bodies, proper to the new age to the new age. From one point of view the new world, and the new bodies, are the redeemed, remade versions of the old ones;"
- "From another point of view the new world, and the new bodies, are 'stored up in heaven'." (pp 373)
Wright suggests that:
"For many centuries it has been assumed in western Christendom that the ultimate point of being a Christian was to 'go to heaven when you die'..."He suggests that not only has Plato and dualistic Gnosticism fed this false eschatology but this has been 'hugely reinforced in the medieval and renaissance periods by such masterpieces as the writings of Dante on the one hand and the paintings of Michelangelo on the other' (pp 417)
The book culminates by challenging any eschatology that suggests that salvation consists of 'simply of going off to the heavenly dimension and staying there while earth went on its way to destruction'. He argues that this makes no sense within the context of a creator God who saw His creation and saw that it was good. It is 'life after life after death' that is important in the final resurrection where our future hope is found in 'an integrated vision of new creation in which 'heaven' and 'earth', the twin halves of created reality are at last united'. (pp470)
Revelation 21 and 22 is where NT finishes up with the narrative of heaven coming down to earth and as he suggests 'the twin halves of created reality are at last united' (pp470).
In this case heaven is not a place where our souls are stored when we die, but it is God's dimension, God's sphere, God's reality. To accept a 'God's trophy cabinet of the righteous' is to accept a form of ancient Platoism and gnosticism. Our creation is incomplete, completed only when we become fully human at the final resurrection, in this sense, heaven is that dimension where the 'creator's future purposes are stored up, 'kept safe' until they can be unveiled in the promised new world' (pp465).
Does this help when processing anew New Testament lines of 'in my Fathers house there are many rooms; this day you will be with me in paradise; your salvation is in heaven?' To a certain extent it does if the phrase 'in heaven' communicates being 'safe in the mind, plan and intention of the creator God.'
The central argument of the book points to a future hope on resurrection where our bodies will be renewed and take their place in New Creation, the fulfillment of creation, 'the place where living God will dwell among his people for ever' (pp 470). That is what NT Wright argues is our eschatological hope, our inheritance.
This all started a year ago when I heard NT Wright lecturing and that he suggested that that we are missing the point when it comes to our theology of heaven - I'm still processing the implications of what he says, but find that whether you agree or disagree - what he says is significant.
NT Wright's The Resurrection 1/4
NT Wright's The Resurrection 2/4
NT Wright's The Resurrection 3/4
NT Wright speaks extensively on the concept of New Creation. A wide collection of MP3's are found here