Saturday, February 9, 2008

No Heaven...It's Better Than That

I rejoice at anything that demolishes sentimental Christianity, and replaces it with the real thing.

When I read in TIME magazine ("Christians Wrong About Heaven, says Bishop," by David Van Biema, Feb. 7, 2008) that N. T. Wright is shocking people by teaching that there is no heaven, I was expecting the worst because he is, after all, an Anglican bishop. But it was quickly evident that he is only disabusing people of that "floating around on clouds in everlasting boredom" notion. While he does not deny that when a Christian dies he will "depart and be with Christ" (Philippians 1:23), Wright directs people ultimately to the Biblical teaching of the new creation of which every born-again Christian is evidence, anticipating the new heavens and the new earth.

Never at any point do the Gospels or Paul say Jesus has been raised, therefore we are we are all going to heaven. They all say, Jesus is raised, therefore the new creation has begun, and we have a job to do....It's more exciting than hanging around listening to nice music. In Revelation and Paul's letters we are told that God's people will actually be running the new world on God's behalf. The idea of our participation in the new creation goes back to Genesis, when humans are supposed to be running the Garden and looking after the animals. If you transpose that all the way through, it's a picture like the one that you get at the end of Revelation.
...What the New Testament really says is God wants you to be a renewed human being helping him to renew his creation, and his resurrection was the opening bell. And when he returns to fulfil the plan, you won't be going up there to him, he'll be coming down here....But the end of Revelation describes a marvelous human participation in God's plan. And in almost all cases, when I've explained this to people, there's a sense of excitement and a sense of, "Why haven't we been told this before?"

This is vitally important to one's understanding of the gospel and of the Christian life. If you are a Christian, this will transform how you see what God has done for you and how you live every day of your life.

When the Talking Heads sang, "Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens," they thought they were mocking Christianity. But the joke was on them. If you are not a Christian, and if a cartoonish depiction of heaven is one of the reasons for your rejection of Christ, then you need to re-examine the Christian hope and reassess your view of the Christian gospel.

You must read Creation Regained by Albert Wolters, and either Greg Beale's The Temple and the Church's Mission, Stephen Dempster's Dominion and Dynasty, or anything from Graeme Goldsworthy.

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