July 5, 2002

In the comments on the

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In the comments on the last post, Chris asked for a list of the books I bought on my vacation. I’m not sure that list would make gripping reading for anyone besides me. It would also be one of the longer posts on this blog!

I did pick up some books I’d bought via Half.com and had shipped to my friend Chip, including Donald Howard’s The Idea of the Canterbury Tales, Jill Raitt’s The Colloquy of Montbeliard, about the debate between Jacobus Andreas (Lutheran) and Theodore Beza, and Gene Wolfe’s Bibliomen (hard to find) and The Book of the Short Sun (all three Short Sun novels in one volume!). And when I got home, I found that my copy of E. Brooks Holifield’s The Covenant Sealed had arrived. I paid an arm and a leg for it, but it looks very good.

Enough about books I bought. On to books I’ve read. While I was at my grandmother’s place, I read N. T. Wright’s New Heavens, New Earth. It’s a fairly short booklet, but it provides a very good discussion of the Christian’s future hope. “Christian hope,” Wright says, “is not simply for ‘going to heaven when we die,’ but for ‘new heavens and new earth, integrated together'” (p. 5). Along the way, Wright provides some helpful exegesis. 1 Peter 1:4 speaks of “an inheritance … kept in heaven for you,” but that passage doesn’t indicate that we must go to heaven to enter our inheritance.

The point is that salvation is being kept safe in heaven for you, in order then to be brought from heaven to where you are, so that you can enjoy it there. It is rather like a parent, in the run-up to Christmas, assuring a child that “there is indeed a present kept safe in the cupboard for you.” That does not mean that on Christmas Day and thereafter the child is going to have to go and live in the cupboard in order to enjoy the present there. Rather, it means that at the appropriate time the present will be brought forth out of its safe hiding-place, so that it can enrich the life of the child in the world of real life, not just in the cupboardly world (p. 7).

Nor does “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:19-21) mean that “heaven is our real home, the place to which we will eventually go” and that we are “just a-passin’ through” here.

The point of being a citizen of a mother city is not that when life gets really tough, or when you retire, you can go back home to the mother city. The people to whom Paul was writing in Philippi were Roman citizens, but they had no intention of going back to Rome. They were the means through which Roman civilization was being brought to the world of Northern Greece. If and when the going got tough there, the emperor would come from Rome to deliver them from their enemies in Philippi, and establish them as a true Roman presence right there. So, Paul says, “from heaven we await a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (p. 8).

Wright doesn’t deny the reality of heaven (“God’s dimension of reality”), nor does he deny that believers who die before the day of resurrection continue to live with Christ. But he rightly stresses that living with Christ in a disembodied state in heaven isn’t our final goal.

“Departing and being with Christ,” or “living to God,” … are for the New Testament writers ways of expressing a temporary stage, ahead of the time when God will restore all things, and will renew his people to bodily life, in the midst of his new creation (p. 21).

Here’s Wright’s summary of the Christian’s hope:

Christian hope, therefore, is for a full, recreated life in the presence and love of God, a totally renewed creation, an integrated new heavens and new earth, and a complete humanness — complete not in and for itself as an isolated entity, but complete in worship and love for God, complete in love for one another as humans, complete in stewardship over God’s world, and so, and only in that complete context, a full humanness in itself (p. 24).

Good stuff!

Posted by John Barach @ 12:02 am | Discuss (0)

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