"Heaven is important, but it's not the end of the world!"

I laughed out loud when I heard N.T. Wright say this in one of his audio lectures I was listening to a few months ago.

It's a perfect play on words. Not only is this a great figure of speech, but it is also the biblical teaching. Sure, heaven is nice. But it is not the telos, the culmination of our existence as Christians.

Modern evangelicalism has adopted a neo-gnostic paradigm about heaven and earth. Our gospel message has warped into this:
  • This world is an evil place. Your body is an evil thing.
  • What you need is to escape this depraved place and this body of sin.
  • Accept Jesus and when you die, you will be with God in heaven.
  • .... ummm ...
  • End of gospel presentation.
But our destiny is not heaven - some disembodied spiritual existence for all eternity. As Paul Marshall's excellent book states, "Heaven is Not My Home."

Many of us have redefined our destiny as "Heaven" (especially those of us with dispensationalist heritage), with little to be said of our destiny on earth in resurrected, physical bodies. But as Michael Wittmer's book states, a biblical eschatology proclaims that "Heaven Is a Place on Earth."

Now, N.T. Wright, one of the world's most renowned biblical scholars, has written a book that confirms all this with his incredible gift of blending deep scholarship with readable prose that will keep every reader turning the pages.

His new book, Surprised by Hope, helps us to do exactly what the subtitle says: "Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church."

The April 2008 issue of Christianity Today offers an excerpt from the book that I implore you to read. Here's a snippet:

"The traditional picture of people going to either heaven or hell as a one-stage, postmortem journey represents a serious distortion and diminution of the Christian hope. Bodily resurrection is not just one odd bit of that hope. It is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story of God's ultimate purposes. If we squeeze it to the margins, as many have done by implication, or indeed, if we leave it out altogether, as some have done quite explicitly, we don't just lose an extra feature, like buying a car that happens not to have electrically operated mirrors. We lose the central engine, which drives it and gives every other component its reason for working."

Read the article online here:
"Heaven Is Not Our Home: The bodily resurrection is the good news of the gospel—and thus our social and political mandate" by N.T. Wright

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Kathy said...

Hi Bob,
I agree that heaven is not the be-all and end-all of faith in Christ.

It was great meeting you last night. My husband and I are excited to talk to you more at future cohort mtgs.

Right now, I'm about to throw in the towel with church but not with Jesus so I'm so glad that I found this group. A place I can be real and ask honest questions and not get pat answers.

Take care, Kathy

preacherman said...

I want you to know when I read the first line of your blog Dr. Pepper came out of my nose and it burns really bad.

I love your blog so much that I have added it to my favs.
I pray that God will bless you and your ministry as you serve Him.
I am thankful that we get to enjoy the kingdom now! :-)

Thank you for informing those who did not know and hope more will read your blog and find out.

I hope and pray that you continue to make a difference for the advancement and the Kingdom of God!

joe said...

great article bob. I had to start a new with my blogging, but I am excited about the new venture. I have to finish that Michael Wittmer book. I keep putting it off.