Rethinking Heaven

<%image(20050421-clouds.jpg|141|106|clouds)%> In light of Brian McLaren’s latest book The Last Word and the Word After That, I have been struck at the reaction of people to it. It seems that many Christians, perhaps including John Stott, consider the doctrine of hell one of those lines in the sand that define whether you’re in or out. It strikes me as ironic that those who have a relationship with Jesus can be kicked out of his church because of beliefs concerning those who do not know Jesus! And I know that the exclusivity of Christ is a big deal for some, but I wonder why the doctrine of hell has become one of those dividing line issues.

Well instead of pulling those strings, I thought that perhaps it would at least be more constructive to rethink some of our traditional conceptions of heaven. NT Wright, a Brit. theologian and Anglican Bishop, has some top shelf talks entitled The Future People of God. He proposes in talk 3 that our conception of heaven deviates from scripture, is way too boring, and involves some kind of life on earth. Whether you agree or not, at least no one’s trying to kick him out of the church over it!

I did a little reading in Isaiah and in Revelation, and lo and behold, it does seem that at least a big chunk of the life hereafter will be on earth in some recreated form. And what struck me about Revelation is that there are people outside of Jersusalem who visit it and some who attack it.

My little brain started to spin. While I believe that we need to read Revelation as apocalyptic literature that is heavy on symbols and descriptions of spiritual realities, could this be a glimpse of heaven and hell? If hell is separation from God, then maybe hell is living outside of God’s city with is people?

Fire and brimstone? Maybe not. But oh, forgive me, I started speculating about the divisive topic of hell!

So heaven yes. I think that Wright is on to something in his description of a physical life on earth, as opposed to a Platonic, spiritual existence up in the clouds. I mean, there is a Resurrection coming after all.

I need to listen to Wright’s talk again. He’s a bit too sharp for a simple guy like me. I’m looking forward to posting more about his talks and highly recommend them. He provides a great perspective on America and our form of Christianity.