In chapter 10 of Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright begins to draw the discussions of heaven and the resurrection to a close before he starts to talk about the mission of the church. (There is one more chapter on God's future plan.)
Wright answers the question, "What will the redemption of our bodies look like?" He writes:
"Resurrection itself then appears as what the word always meant, whether (like the ancient pagans) people disbelieved it or whether (like many ancient Jews) they affirmed it. It wasn't a way of talking about life after death. It was a way of talking about new bodily life after whatever state of existence one might enter immediately upon death. It was, in other words, life after life after death." (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church [New York: HarperOne, 2008], 151. http://www.amazon.com/Surprised-Hope-Rethinking-Resurrection-Mission/dp/0061551821/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1211477244&sr=8-1.)
In other words, when we die, we may go to some kind of intermediary state (or, we might just sleep; Wright doesn't commit). We could call this intermediary state "life after death." But some day, when Christ returns, we will be resurrected to new bodily life after life after death.
To this point, N.T. Wright has argued that resurrection does not mean "going to heaven when you die"; it means "life after life after death." This is what the ancients believed and this what happened to Jesus. God's plan in history is not about a slow improvement of the already good or a radical destruction of the hopelessly bad, but a drastic renewal of the corrupted. The world, in a sense, is waiting for heaven to break into earth. The process began with Jesus, who ascended to heaven (not like a space man) and will one day return. When he does, the world will be redeemed and those who have fallen asleep will be resurrected to life after life after death.
(I came up with the name for this blog after reading Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God. I like the idea that we are awaiting redemption.)
Thoughts on Wright's construction of the Christian hope? His main texts are 1 Cor 15, Romans 8, 2 Cor 5, and Col 1:15–20. (He uses a ton of others, but he often returns to these.)
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