NT Wright: “there is life after life after death”

Another fantastic article, as usual, from NT Wright (or Jedi Master NT Wright, as Matt Ritchie has been known to call him).

This interview was conducted with pastors/teachers as the primary audience, but I think that there is a lot in it that is useful regardless of your vocation. Here are a few choice quotes to whet your appetite:

For me, therefore, there’s no disjunction between preaching about the salvation which is ours in God’s new age—the new heavens and new earth—and preaching about what that means for the present. The two go very closely together. If you have an eschatology that is nonmaterial, why bother with this present world? But if God intends to renew the world, then what we do in the present matters. That’s 1 Corinthians 15:58! This understanding has made my preaching more challenging to me, and hopefully to my hearers, to actually get off our backsides and do something in the local community—things that are signs of new creation.

Some people are always going to be offended when you actually teach them what’s in the Bible as opposed to what they assume is in the Bible. The preacher can try to say it a number of ways, and sometimes people just won’t get it. They will continue to hear what they want to hear. But if you soft-pedal matters, they will think, Oh, he’s taking us down the old familiar paths. There is a time for walking in and just saying what needs to be said.

A person goes to heaven first and then to the new heavens and new earth. People stare at you like you’ve just invented some odd heresy, but sorry—this is what the New Testament teaches. The New Testament doesn’t have much to say about what happens to people immediately after they die. It’s much more interested in the anticipation of the ultimate new world within this one. If you concentrate on preaching life after death, you devalue the present world. Life after life after death, however, reaffirms the value of this present world.

And since all followers of Jesus are called to announce/demonstrate/preach the Gospel at all times, I think this last quote is especially applicable to us all:

…To preach the Resurrection is to announce the fact that the world is a different place, and that we have to live in that “different-ness.” The Resurrection is not just God doing a wacky miracle at one time. We have to preach it in a way that says this was the turning point in world history.

See, now you’re not laughing anymore about that “Jedi Master” nickname… ha ha.

Read the whole thing here.

(HT: Out of Ur)


4 thoughts on “NT Wright: “there is life after life after death”

  1. i think i am very much on the same page w/ wright here, that we will inherit a new earth, not necessarily float on clouds in heaven for all eternity.

    i have a question though… when he talks about God renewing the world, i agree, and i think we are part of that, especially before Jesus returns again. but i also have this understanding from revelation, such as verse 21:1 that ultimately, this world is going downhill, eventually to destruction.

    “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

    so ultimately it seems to me that God doesn’t so much renew this earth, as much as create a totally new one. at least that is my understanding. what do you think?

  2. Scott-

    Sorry for the late response here…

    I’ve been hunting for something to back this up, and I need to keep searching some more, but I’ve heard that the Greek words used in the “new heaven and new earth” passage seem to allude to re-newal of something, as opposed to the destruction and complete recreation of something.

    Again, I’m hunting a bit still for something to back that up, but I’ve heard that multiple times from multiple different sources before.

    I’ll follow up again.

  3. also i have this idea of this current earth being completely consumed with fire. it talks about this here and there, such as 2 peter 3:7-13. i don’t really know what consumed by fire means… wether it is literal or not, but it definitely is describing a type of destruction of the current earth, and preparation for the new one. so wether the “new earth” is truly new or a renewed version of our current earth, it seems that God is going to do a significant “wiping the slate clean”…

    in NT Wright’s view, if Jesus comes back tomorrow, will we spend the next 1000 years cleaning up the toxic waste, and plastic in landfills, and dismantling nuclear reactors and hydrogen bombs? i sorta imagined those things being consumed by fire. sorta like a “do over” for all of planet earth. maybe i’m wrong, but thats what i picture as i read these scriptures..

  4. Sorry I have come in a bit late on this one.
    I quote below from a well knon Christian organisations Bible Notes:

    [Christians who expect the eventual destruction of creation usually cite 2 Peter 3:10 and Rev 21:1.
    And the writers had to choose between two Greek words – neos which suggests that the world will be discarded and replaced by something new, or kainos which indicates that far from being replaced the world will be made new.
    And in the original the word kainos was used”.]

    Which in their opinion means it will be a recycling process going through the fire and removing the dross.

    If they are correct why was it not translated as such?

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