(Say the Jesus Creed morning and evening during Lent.)
Chp 12 in Tom Wright’s Surprised by Hope is a major change: we move from “what it said” to “what it says,” from text to mission. Is this only about tidying up our understanding of what happens after we die? Or does it matter? Wright says it matters. Deeply.
Easter focuses on the resurrection of Jesus being hope for us after death; Easter should, Wright is saying, transform mission in the present world (without denying a proper perception of life after death). A better perception of our hope transforms how we live in this world.
1 Cor 15:58, Paul’s statement of the consequences of resurrection, says this: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” The consequence of resurrection is the realization that our labor lasts.
What we do now, Wright argues, lasts into the future — from embodiment now to embodiment then.
Salvation is discussed at length: again, he makes his points with language that evokes: “We are not saved as souls but as wholes” (199). Salvation is whole salvation, bodies included. Why? Because God’s ultimate design is new earthly. Life before death is threatened if we don’t have a better view of life after death. We are charged to participate with God in this salvation work on earth.
Kingdom of God is understood along similar lines — earthly and bodily.
I’ve got some questions beginning to percolate as I get into the end of this book:
1. What is the difference between Wright’s new heaven and new earth and a millennial hope?
2. What are the differences between life now on earth and life then on the new earth? Is that difference just about the same as the old distinction between life now on earth and life then in heaven?
3. Has Wright overdrawn the Platonic view of salvation? As salvation so we can go to heaven?
4. Do those who believe in that older view really discount earthly existence now that much? Sure, some of the stereotyped Dispensationalists do, but how many theologians think like this? Isn’t the real pocket of this older view the uninformed lay person?
5. How does Tom understand 2 Peter 3:7? “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”