I’ve never been particularly interested in eschatology (It’s a ridiculous word and I promise never to use it again. It’s the study of the end times.). I just kind of figure that however things end up, they’ll be much better than the present, I’ll have either no body or a better body (either is good), and the details just don’t matter. I mean, it’s like Christmas times infinity-and I like to be surprised!But I’ve been reading Wright’s enjoyable little book, Simply Christian, in which he goes into some detail as to how he figures things will be. And his views have some interesting implications in terms of how I understand God’s existence–outside the universe and so outside time. At least, that’s my theory.
So I figure it’s worth the effort to see how Wright’s theories test out against the scriptures.
The gist of Wright’s view is that the world doesn’t end at the End. Rather, heaven and earth merge, resulting in a new kind of earth in which God lives and we dwell with new kinds of bodies.
He’s not so sure about where we live pending the End. He says we likely dwell in heaven, but it’s a temporary dwelling pending the ultimate End.
He sees this as the culmination of the entire Biblical story, which is all about God’s desire to bring heaven and earth together.
Eden was a bit of heaven on earth in which God dwelt in perfect harmony with man. After the Fall, God brought heaven once again closer to earth in the tabernacle (where he had a special dwelling) and Solomon’s temple (where God also dwelt until the Babylonians destroyed it).
In Jesus, God once again brought heaven and earth close. The church, as the temple of God, again brings heaven–where God lives–closer to earth. In fact, the Kingdom is all about bringing about a world in which God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven–that is, one central purpose of the church is to bring heaven closer to earth.
At the end, God will finish the work he began in Jesus and his followers.
Now, to this point, the argument is manifestly true. The imagery is a little unconventional, but seems very Biblical. After all, the New Testament is quite clear that the work of Jesus, the Spirit, and the church is to undo the Fall of Man (and creation) in Genesis 3. The result of fully doing this would surely be a return to Eden, in some sense.
Moreover, we are plainly taught the Christians are individually temples of the Spirit, as are congregations. “Temple” is a powerful metaphor for a place where God himself is not only worshipped but lives.
Just so, we are called the “body of Christ,” which tells us that Jesus still lives on the earth incarnated in the church. Just as God once walked with man in the Garden, Jesus now walks with the people of earth through his agents (his avatars, if you will) Christians.
And Wright also makes the point that the two sacraments–baptism and the Lord’s Supper–serve to help join heaven and earth. After all, as we are immersed, we die and are resurrected with Jesus. We are transformed from our fleshly selves into spiritual beings, taking on some of the characteristics of heavenly beings. God lives in us! And this helps bring heaven to earth.
In communion, we take into ourselves the blood and flesh of Jesus. In so doing, we renew our heavenly, spiritual selves. We take spiritual food to feed our spiritual selves.
And so, it’s a powerful, helpful, meaningful way of looking at the Bible’s story. It’s a theme that helps us fit much of the Bible’s teachings into a unitary whole.
But what does it mean for the end times? That’s the next post.