N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Part 5 (Inheriting the Earth; the New Heavens and New Earth)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

The land becomes the entire earth

Over time, the OT Prophets interpreted God’s promise to Abraham to bless the nations as expanding the inheritance to include the entire planet. After all, if all the nations would be blessed through Abraham, and if this inheritance included land, that inheritance would have to be the entire earth.

Thus, by the time of Jesus, Jesus could say, “The meek shall inherit the earth,” and be entirely consistent with the Second Temple understanding of Torah and inheritance. His audience knew exactly what he was talking about.

When Paul speaks of the church’s “inheritance” or being an “heir,” he is speaking of real estate — the planet earth —

(Rom. 4:13 ESV)  13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 

Obviously, Paul doesn’t think the world is going to burn to a crisp. He thinks the world is something the saved will inherit as a blessing from God. Therefore, Paul speaks of our inheritance as though it’s the same as our reward in the afterlife —

(Tit. 3:5-7 ESV)  5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life

(Eph. 1:13-14 ESV)  13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

This is very confusing to most Christians because we think of the afterlife as taking place in heaven, a spiritual realm that has nothing to do with the planet earth. “It’s all going to burn,” is a common saying. So what does the earth, the world, and real estate inheritance have to do with heaven?

The New Heavens and New Earth

In Surprised by Hope (very readable — and mandatory reading), Wright teaches (and I’m persuaded) that the afterlife will be a renewed, transformed planet earth called the New Heavens and New Earth (NHNE) in Isaiah 65 – 66 and in Revelation 21-22. “New” is a Greek word (kainos) having the sense of renewed or refreshed.

(Rev. 21:1-5 ESV) Then I saw a new [kainos = renewed, restored] heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”  5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new [kainos].” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

This teaching surprises many Bible class students because it’s so contrary to what we were taught growing up — and so contrary to the pop culture view of Christianity. But after reading Wright on the topic, I’ve  discovered that countless major commentaries from many different traditions say the same thing, but it was just so foreign an idea that I’d overlooked the teaching.

The idea is most directly and simply addressed by Paul in Romans —

(Rom. 8:19-23 ESV)  19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 

Paul says that the Creation itself is to be freed from the corruption of the curse of Genesis 3 so that the Creation can “obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” That doesn’t sound like the Creation is going to burn and be thrown away. In fact, God declared the Creation “very good,” and so the plan is to redeem it from the corruption of sin, not to toss into the fire.

The passage usually cited for “It’s all going to burn” is 2 Peter 3:10-13, and I address the interpretation of this passage at The Revelation: What About 2 Peter 3:10-13? In fact, this is yet another NHNE passage, when we read it in light of the OT prophecies that Peter refers to.

(2 Pet. 3:13 ESV) 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Temple

The Temple was the centerpiece of Second Temple Judaism. Herod the Great rebuilt the very modest Temple built by Nehemiah, making it one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was a huge facility atop Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, and it attracted pilgrims from across the Empire.

To the Jewish mind, God himself dwelt in the Temple in the Holy of Holies, on the Mercy Seat immediately above the Ark of the Covenant. Because “heaven” to a Jew is where God lives, they saw heaven and earth merged in the Holy of Holies, as God dwelt there as well as in heaven — that is, the two realms intersected at the Temple, behind the curtain, above the Ark of the Covenant at the Mercy Seat.

Jews prayed toward the Temple, because that was where God was especially present, although they understood God to be omnipresent. Synagogues were built so that those praying in the synagogue would be facing toward the Temple.

 

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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11 Responses to N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Part 5 (Inheriting the Earth; the New Heavens and New Earth)

  1. Dwight says:

    Some thoughts:
    1. Is it possible that all creation will be an inheritance to the saved, and not the final destination of the saved? Meaning that could the promise of the earth be within the promise of heaven which oversees the earth? If this is true, then Satan will have to be subdued and kicked out from the earth when it is recreated anew. Could the earth not be the destination, but rather a reward for those in heaven?
    2. Man is called numerous times “the Temple of God” while man is living, which basically replaces the need for the earthly Temple, since we are the earthly Temple of God, even as we are a priest and to be a “living sacrifice” and through Jesus we have access to the Holy of Holy’s through his veil, which was His flesh. This would seem to make us the point at which heaven comes down and man goes up, especially true if we are in the Kingdom and church which is located in heaven, but represented by us on earth.

  2. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I covered this in greater depth in a comment previously, I could not find it to post it again. I do remember that you did not address the concept that I had presented. I now notice that you are still being influenced by teaching that I believe is incorrect. Yes, God did curse the ground in Gen 3 but he completely reversed that in Gen 8 leaving only a curse on man.
    Gen 5:29 ESV and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”

    Gen 8:20-22 ESV Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (21) And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. (22) While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

    Your statement,”the plan is to redeem it from the corruption of sin”, God performed that action in Gen 8.

    In Romans that you quote, the creation, in this passage is mankind not the earth. Just pay attention to the text.

    (Rom. 8:19-23 ESV) 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
    All of mankind (creation) waits —- revealing of sons of God, (who would they be) well Christians. Creation (all of mankind) was subjected unwillingly to bondage. All Mankind will be set free by becoming Children of God. There is nothing in creation that was bound by pains in childbirth through the sin of man except mankind. And not only the creation,(mankind who are not Gods people) but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, (Gods people) groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
    God did place fear in animals of man, but that says nothing about plants or the earth. Yes, these could be included in the term creation but they do not fit into the text as pain being applied at childbirth because of man’s sin. Therefore, how would they be in the communication?
    Gen 9:2 ESV The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered.

    I’ll be patiently looking for a response this time.

  3. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I know that you are expressing N.T. Wright’s material, but you have also committed to a belief in his beliefs. This obligates me to ask for a clarification of exactly who would be receiving the most valuable reward. In this comment about the “meek” what is their position within the scope of the future?
    “Thus, by the time of Jesus, Jesus could say, “The meek shall inherit the earth,” and be entirely consistent with the Second Temple understanding of Torah and inheritance. His audience knew exactly what he was talking about.”
    “When Paul speaks of the church’s “inheritance” or being an “heir,” he is speaking of real estate — the planet earth —”
    Isn’t our goal to be in the Kingdom of Heaven? Can you prove that the “meek” will be in the Kingdom of Heaven from the reading of the Beatitudes? Is it the poor in spirit only who will be in the kingdom of heaven? If they are not, then how are we to suspect that the meek would be there also? Does Jesus limit each of these categories of individuals to the exact reward that he has described?

    Mat 5:3-5 ESV “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (4) “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (5) “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
    And
    Rom 4:13 ESV For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
    So let us speculate a little, the “meek” really do inherit the earth. The rendering of earth here you are identifying as real estate or the planet, how could that be correlated with the following?

    Mat 16:26 ESV For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
    Mar 8:36 ESV For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
    Luk 9:25 ESV For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
    The whole world here represents land, soil, and earth; exactly what Jesus says could cause a man to lose his soul (that is his place in the kingdom of heaven).
    Jesus discusses a major division between his home, the kingdom and the world.
    Joh 8:23 ESV He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
    Joh 17:15-16 ESV I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. (16) They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
    Joh 18:36 ESV Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
    1Co 6:2 ESV Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?
    1Jn 2:15-17 ESV Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. (17) And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
    He then explains that his followers will inherit the kingdom which has already been prepared as the world was being prepared.
    Mat 25:34 ESV Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

    Act 7:47-50 ESV But it was Solomon who built a house for him. (48) Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, (49) “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? (50) Did not my hand make all these things?’
    God says, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” Men are attempting to reorient God’s Throne out of the heavenly into what he calls His footstool. They would even have us believe that he prefers the Earth to Heaven. Jesus never once indicated that he preferred the earth to his home in heaven. He seemed very anxious to return to his place (home) in heaven. What man on earth values his footstool as being more important than his chair, which really does not rely upon a footstool for its existence?

    Does Peter not know what he is talking about, as he is writing these messages?
    2Pe 3:7 ESV But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
    2Pe 3:10-13 ESV But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. (11) Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, (12) waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (13) But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

    He does mention a new heaven and a new earth but there is no description as to what it will be like. I cannot find a place which speaks of a new earth as being in the form of a planet. There is never a communication in scriptures that would identify that these two will also be part of a Universe. In fact the very components of this present Universe are burned up and dissolved. We are told specifically that there will be no Sun or Moon. The Sun is the center of the Universe that these planets revolve around; Physics tells us if there was no Sun, we would not exist.
    If you were one of the “meek” would you consider it a great reward to inherit the earth and not have an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven?
    I also notice that there is a terminology that the NH&NE will be joined together, that would mean that they are not two entities but one. If both are one and the “meek” inherit the NE than they would also be inheriting the NH.

  4. Larry Cheek says:

    I found this in advertisement for N.T. Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope. There are many scriptures from statements of Christ that I believe contradict the motives Wright is promoting. Christ would never have represented his work as a revolution. A revolution is an attempt to overthrow a present government, belief or people. Christ was sent as a messenger of God about a new covenant for his people. This was not an revolution or rebellion. It was never in Christ’s message to force anyone to believe, this is an opportunity for a change of life which results in eternal life.
    In his paradigm-shifting book Surprised by Hope, Wright showed that the Bible’s message is not that heaven is where we go in the future; rather, the Bible sees the primary movement as heaven coming down to earth, redeeming the world, beginning now. In this companion book, Wright shows how Christianity’s central story tells how this revolution began on a Friday afternoon two thousand years ago and continues now through the church’s work today. Wright seeks to wake up the church to its own story, to invite us to join in Jesus’s work of redeeming the world—to join his revolution.

  5. JohnF says:

    And yet … Rev 21:1-4 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” NASU

    So this is the NHNE, but how we we to understand as NHNE “where there is no night there? Certainly not the earth as we now understand it. Is there no sun? Light w/o the sun? Rivers flowing with no source of heat to melt the snow? Where is the source of the river of life (yes, the throne, but is God expelling the water?

    Rev 21:22-27 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. NASU

    It is GOD who creates reality as it pleases Him. To see some “cube” of Holy City as a reality and you have something akin the the “Borg” (only bright and shiny).

    To press these things into physical reality is to fall into the same “type” of error as the pre-millenialists — pick and choose your own literal truth, symbolize the rest. Is it not best the appreciate the “whole picture” rather than the descriptive pieces? When we look as a masterpiece of a painting, do we pick out each brush stroke to find the meaning? Perhaps John was the first “impressionist” painter (with words)!

    I cannot fault Wright’s choice of a title — who would look hard a “Jesus – Another Look at the Day He Died, and Its Theological Impact.”

  6. Alabama John says:

    After a while we see that you can prove many things by picking and choosing the scriptures you use.

    Now that we can dive deep underwater we are discovering things of long ago unknown back when much of this was written.

    God is far more powerful than many believe and far more forgiving.

    Best to hang our hats on what Jesus said “Father forgive them as they know not what they do”.

    That covers much of us today as it did those back then.

  7. Alabama John says:

    We of this generation have moved so fast, much faster than any generation before us in many knowledges, especially space.
    The USA and Russia divided and brought the German Rocket scientists we captured during WW2 to our respective countries. When questioned by many of us, how that happened, Wernher von Braun, the head space rocket scientist who was here in Alabama, would look upward and just say we got the knowledge from them. No elaboration.
    How fast we have moved in knowledge of so many things in our short lifetimes. Why and how is anyones guess.

    Keep in mind how we believe is how we should sing and we do.
    “What a day that will be
    when our Jesus we shall see
    When we look upon His face
    The One that saved me by his grace”

    WE sing it, do we believe it!!!

  8. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    I’ve addressed 2 Pet 3 several times. To make it very easy for you, I provide a link to that material in the main post above. All you have to do is click the link.

    You are quite right that the meek inherit both the New Heavens and the New Earth as they will be one. Jesus is declaring that this prophecy is being fulfilled:

    (Ps. 37:10-11 ESV) 10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there. 11 But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.

    He expands “land” to “earth” consistent with the OT prophets. And yet the “earth” must surely include at least “the land.” What “land” is the psalm referring to? Well, the only land spoken of as an inheritance is the Promised Land. (Countless references in the Torah). So Jesus is saying that the meek will inherit the earth — including the Promised Land (or else the prophecy would not be fulfilled).

    Now, I don’t know how Jesus can refer to the “earth” and mean “disembodied bliss in a spiritual realm far removed from the earth.” And I don’t know how he can refer to disembodied bliss far removed from the earth and yet believe that God will give the earth to the meek.

    “New heavens and new earth” originates as a phrase in Isa 65 – 66. And there is nothing there remotely suggestive of a disembodied spiritual realm far from the earth. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Read what Paul says about it Rom 8.

    (Rom. 8:19-23 ESV) 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

    Paul describes the world we live in after death as the original Creation set from from bondage. So we start with Eden, we understand the bondage of sin — the curse of Gen 3, and then we imagine the Creation no longer under a curse filled with people no longer under the same curse having redeemed bodies (bodies freed from slavery; “redeem” means freed from slavery), resulting in “freedom” (of course).

    Are we missing many details? Yes. Do we have all the answers? No. Do we know some things about the afterlife based on scripture? Absolutely. And one of those things is that we’ll live in the original Creation as redeemed and freed from futility and bondage to corruption in order to gain freedom.

    So there’s much I don’t know. But I know that it’s the original Creation freed and redeemed — or as God says in Rev 21,

    (Rev. 21:5a ESV) 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

    Remember: “New” translates kainos, meaning renewed or refreshed, esp. in an eschatological context. Just as we became “new creations” when saved (kainos), the earth will be a new creation, too. But just as we didn’t disintegrate in the baptistry although we were made new (2 Cor 5:17), just so the earth will be made new without disintegrating. The same language is used of both our salvation and the renewal of the earth.

    (2 Cor. 5:17 ESV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new [
    kainos] creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new [kainos] has come.

    And the laws of physics will be changed. After all, the present physical laws make eternity impossible (due to entropy). But God is fully capable of doing all that. And what a world governed by new laws will be like, I don’t know. God may provide a continuous source of work that reverses entropy. Or the laws of physics might change (although I really struggle to imagine an existence without entropy.) But I know that God declared the Creation “very good” before sin entered the world. He doesn’t need to destroy it and start over. He just needs to rid it of the curse and then renew it so that it can be a world that lasts forever and that can hold a Being such as God — which he does be joining heaven with earth (but how he does this, I do not know).

    So however you picture the afterlife, you have to be consistent with Rom 8. And Rom 8 utterly contradicts the notion that the afterlife is somewhere else and God disintegrates the present earth. He redeems it. He frees it from bondage (slavery) to sin — which I honestly do not understand. But I understand that “redeem” is not the same thing as “destroy.”

  9. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    It’s an interesting theory that “creation” means “mankind.” It’s also testable. The Greek is ktisis (and, no, I can’t pronounce it either).

    Every modern translation has “creation,” although the KJV and William Tyndale (predates KJV) translated “creatures.” The New KJV has “creation.” I can’t find a 20th Century or later translation that doesn’t say “creation.”

    The word creation refers to the entire created order (see NAB “the whole created world”; JB “the whole creation”; NEB “the created universe”), and so the TEV renders this word by all of creation. Moreover, the expression “the eager longing of the creation waits” means “the creation is waiting with eager longing.” To translate in this way is much more natural in English, since we rarely speak of an abstract idea as waiting. Eager longing (NEB “eager expectation”) appears elsewhere in the New Testament only in Philippians 1:20 (there rendered deep desire by the TEV). In translating all of creation, it is important to avoid merely designating “all people who have been created,” since the Greek text refers to the entire created universe. In some languages the closest equivalent is “everything that God has created” or “all that God has created.”

    Barclay Moon Newman and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, UBS Handbook Series, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1973), 158–159.

    This commentary is actually a translator’s handbook, focusing on how best to translate text into English and even other languages.

    What the apostle says here about the liberation of creation is brief and tantalizing, and there’s not much more about it to be found in his letters. There is a possible allusion in Ephesians 1:9–10: ‘He made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ’ (italics added). Elsewhere in the NT there are a couple of references to a new heaven and a new earth, and these may reflect belief in the renewal of creation: ‘But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells’ (2 Pet 3:13); ‘Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth”, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away’ (Rev 21:1).

    Colin G. Kruse, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, ed. D. A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Cambridge, U.K.; Nottingham, England; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos, 2012), 346.

    Notice how Paul leads up to the Rom 8 passage quoted above —

    (Rom. 8:17-18 NET) 17 And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ)– if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him. 18 For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.

    Because we’re children of God (by adoption), then we’re “heirs.” What does it mean to be an “heir”? Well you inherit something. What inheritance does the Bible talk about? Well, the land — the Promised Land — and what the meek will “inherit” — the earth. As pointed out in earlier posts, the prophets took God’s promise to bless all nations through Abraham as expanding the inheritance promised to God’s children from Palestine only to the entire earth. (John Mark Hicks has a great post on this, quite independent of what I’m saying in these posts.)

    What is our inheritance as children? Well, the entire Creation. Why else would we care what happens to it after Jesus returns? The subject has changed from our life with God in this age to our life with God in the next age. We are heirs of an inheritance, which is the entire Creation — which will be renewed just as we will be.

    And to make the point that this is not a new teaching, John Calvin agrees —

    But he means not that all creatures shall be partakers of the same glory with the sons of God; but that they, according to their nature, shall be participators of a better condition; for God will restore to a perfect state the world, now fallen, together with mankind. But what that perfection will be, as to beasts as well as plants and metals, it is not meet nor right in us to inquire more curiously; for the chief effect of corruption is decay.

    John Calvin and John Owen, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 305.

    For a time, the meaning “creation” was debated. See the discussions in Clarke’s Commentary and Barnes Notes. But Matthew Henry (1822) concluded that “creation” is the correct translation, and every 20th Century or later translation I can find so states. In fact, I can’t find a single modern commentary that even footnotes the question. They argue over the meaning of just about every word — except “creation”, but as you can see, even Calvin in the 16th Century agrees with the modern translation.

    I checked out David Lipscomb’s commentary on Romans (bracketed material is by the editor, JW Shepherd). This is from 1922, but Lipscomb likely wrote his notes much earlier —

    The “creation” here means the world, embracing all animated nature below man. The sin of man brought a curse upon the earth, and mortality and death came upon all creatures, and they are represented as earnestly waiting for the appearance of the sons of God from the grave, when the world will be delivered from the curse under which it labors on account of the sins of man, its ruler. [Paul personifies the world, just as the prophets do when they make the floods and trees clap their hands. (Psalm 98:8; Isa. 55:12.) It is one of the frequent figures of speech thus to make nature sympathize with man. When the Assyrians were overthrown, Jehovah said: “I caused Lebanon to mourn for him, and all the trees of the field fainted for him.” (Ezek. 31:15.) In the passage before us, human feelings are ascribed to inanimate things without reason. Under this figure is presented the truth revealed in the Old Testament that the whole world of nature placed under man’s dominion has a real concern in the past history and future destiny of man. When God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” (Gen. 3:17); when he punished man’s wickedness by bringing the flood, in which “every living thing was destroyed that was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and creeping things, and birds of the heavens; and they were destroyed from the earth” (Gen. 7:23); and when “the earth also is polluted under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are found guilty: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left. The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merryhearted do sigh” (Isa. 24:5-7). In all such passages the same truth is expressed that “the creation was subjected to vanity.”]

    Lipscomb and Shepherd. Gospel Advocate Commentaries – New Testament Commentary – A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles: Romans.

    See this post by Bobby Valentine showing that Lipscomb and Harding agreed with Wright: http://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2016/11/07/the-apocalyptic-theology-of-david-lipscomb-and-james-a-harding-a-contrast-to-american-christianity/ You see, my views are actually mainstream Restoration Movement, except for the mid- to late-20th Centuries, when we bought into a Platonic worldview thanks to the influence of American evangelicalism.

    In fact, Third Century theologian Origen reaches this same conclusion (Against Celsus):

    And the whole of creation, receiving this hope, and looking for the fulfilment of this promise now, in the meantime, as having an affection for those whom it serves, groans along with them, and patiently suffers with them, hoping for the fulfilment of the promises. See also whether the following words of Paul can apply to those who, although not willingly, yet in accordance with the will of Him who subjected them, and in hope of the promises, were made subject to vanity, when he says, “For I could wish to be dissolved,” or “to return and be with Christ, which is far better.” For I think that the sun might say in like manner, “I would desire to be dissolved,” or “to return and be with Christ, which is far better.” Paul indeed adds, “Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you;” while the sun may say, “To abide in this bright and heavenly body is more necessary, on account of the manifestation of the sons of God.” The same views are to be believed and expressed regarding the moon and stars.

    So I think Wright got it right. But he is merely stating regarding Romans 8 what virtually every modern commentary and most older commentaries conclude. It’s not a novel teaching.

  10. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    PS — Larry, Bobby Valentine has also written on 2 Pet 3, explaining how it fits within NHNE understanding: http://stonedcampbelldisciple.com/2016/09/22/peter-the-hebrew-bible-the-hope-of-the-world-2-peter-3-1-13/

  11. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Dwight,

    I entirely agree with point 2. I think the Spirit creates a connection between heaven and earth out of each Christian. We see this suggested in Eph 2:6-7, where the saved are said to be siting on heaven’s throne with Jesus today. Not an easy passage, but Paul clearly pictures the saved as having a present existence in heaven. Well, if we’re the temple, then maybe heaven is opened to us rather than our being moved to heaven. The veil between heaven and earth is parted enough to allow the Spirit to live within us and for us to live within Jesus.

    Point 1 is interesting. Obviously, inheritance and destination can be different things, but in the biblical thought, the Exodus is often in mind. Wright’s new book makes that point re the reading of Rom 6-8 in detail (I’ve not covered in the posts but it’s a big deal in Wright’s mind). And in the Exodus, destination and inheritance are the same thing. And the prophets almost always join the two. So in biblical thought, it’s unnatural to separate the two. I mean, the Israelites’ inheritance is where they were going to live.

    For example, to “redeem” is to free from slavery, and to a Second Temple period Jew, “slavery” recalls Egypt and Moses. “Bondage” literally means “the bonds of slavery.” And “heir” recalls the promise of God to give the Promised Land as an inheritance. And so Paul uses a vocabulary that comes straight from the Torah — esp. Exodus. All those references in Rom 8 to the the Spirit “dwelling” within the Christian recall God’s dwelling among the Israelite in the tabernacle. Being “led” by the Spirit recalls Israel being led by the pillar of smoke and fire. And all this gives us a sense of what Paul has in mind when he decides these are appropriate words to use for his discussion of the Creation. To us, “redemption” sounds theological. To Paul, it meant manumission.

    The notion that we “go to heaven when we die” may be true in the sense that we live in heaven until the Second Coming — although I don’t buy the argument. Many great theologians take exactly that position. It’s a respectable view that the Bible says very little about.

    Now, when I first read Surprised by Hope, I didn’t believe it. So I went about trying to disprove it. And so I read every reference to “heaven” in the Bible. And not a one says that heaven is where we go when we die. There are plenty of passages that say we’ll be in the presence of God or his glory. Paul is fond of that sort of language. But it begs the question as to where God will be present after Jesus returns. And Rev 21-22 sure seem to picture God as dwelling with man — on a renewed, transformed, recreated earth/heaven.

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