Monday, February 11, 2008

Are Christians Wrong About Heaven?

In his new book (which I have not read), N.T. Wright apparently makes the accusation that the vision of heaven offered by many professing Christians is not the picture painted by Holy Scripture. TIME Magazine's David Van Biema interviewed Wright about his new book and the seemingly scandalous claims (The interview can be read here).

Because I have not read the book, I can only comment on the article, but I do believe that the article is worthwhile reading for any Christian who wants to consider seriously the truths of the Bible about heaven and the afterlife. For the most part, Wright seems to be hitting a strong point. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 and Philippians 1:23 that to be separated from the body is to be present with the Lord. Further, even Wright himself quotes Christ in his promise to the thief on the cross, "today, you will be with me in paradise." Jesus surely did not lie, but the thief surely did not experience immediate bodily resurrection. I believe this is probably the intermediate state to which Wright is referring.

Colloquially, we refer to this as heaven, but it is absolutely not the final destination for Christians. The Book of Revelation shows that the bride (the church) will be united with Christ as the New Jerusalem comes down and there will be a new heaven and a new earth where Christ will reign supreme. Further, the Bible explicitly points to a bodily resurrection (refer to Jesus discussion with the Sadducees regarding marriage), and it is obvious that the bodily resurrection has not yet taken place. So, what does that say of the time right now? Those who are dead (asleep to use Bible language) are indeed present with the Lord, but in some sort of Spiritual sense, you might say that their soul is with the Lord, but there will come a time when all will be united at the resurrection.

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