Pie In The Sky Or Resurrection Of Earth?

 Time Magazine (April 12 2012) ran an article under the title Heaven Can’t Wait: Why rethinking the hereafter could make the world a better place.  It contrasts a traditional view of heaven, where believers go through pearly gates as an escape from this world, with a biblical view of a bodily resurrection as expounded by scholars such as N.T. Wright (a former Bishop of Durham, UK) in which God brings together the heavens and the earth in a new, wholly redeemed creation.

N.T. Wright wrote in The Washington Post: ‘Of course there are people who think of ‘heaven’ as a kind of pie-in-the-sky dream of an afterlife to make the thought of dying less awful… but in the Bible, heaven isn’t the place where people go when they die; in the Bible heaven is God’s space, while earth is our space. The Bible makes it clear that the two overlap and interlock’.

The inference many Christians who take the traditional view have drawn from this is that this world is short-lived and does not matter, so if we neglect to care for its peoples (justice) and itself (ecology) it is no big deal. Accepting a bodily resurrection can mean different priorities.

 The Bible looks forward to a new creation which transforms our bodies (Revelation 21:1; 1 Corinthians 15:53). Christ is the first fruits of this new creation (1 Corinthians 15:20). He passed through locked doors where frightened disciples were gathered, so they might at first have thought him to be a ghost. But then they found they could touch him and that Jesus could eat: they realised that Jesus had a transformed body. We do not at present understand the scientific process that makes this possible, though science does reveal insights into many forms of transformation which earlier generations would not have believed.
 
After healing a man lame from birth in the name of the Risen Jesus, Peter invited an amazed crowd to turn to God ‘so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah … who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through the prophets’ (Acts 3: 19-21). It seems that Celtic Christians held both the contemporary time of refreshing, and the future universal restoration at the time of the general resurrection,
vividly in front of their minds. They believed in finding their 'place of resurrection.' In today’s mobile world we find that hard to get our heads around. But if we think that what we love in this life will be what we take into the resurrected life it makes more sense. People, places, aspects of creativity we have loved will be elements in our resurrected life. Is it the time to catch from the Irish passion to find one’s place of resurrection a passion to live all out as first fruits of the transformed, incoming heaven and earth?
Posted at 01:05am on 13th April 2012
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