Monday, September 11, 2006

Heaven: don't worry it's not the end of the world

A heavenly new series
...Clouds, harps, angels, souls in bliss, white light, rugby...

What is heaven? Who lives there? What does it have to do with Christian hope? As I've hinted at briefly in previous posts, I don't think that "going to heaven when you die" is an accurate summary of what the Bible teaches us to hope for. This series will aim to untangle some threads commonly confused in modern Christianity in order to recover one often neglected aspect of the gospel, the radically subversive hope for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
Series: I; II; IIa; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X; XI; XII; XIII; XIV; XV; XVI.
Ten points for naming the country in this pic.

34 comments:

Justin said...

Another in the Hymnology series:

'Give to our God immortal praise'...Last verse:

"Through this vain world He guides our feet,
And leads us to His heav’nly seat
His mercies ever shall endure,
When this vain world shall be no more."

I wish I was reflecting on the New Heavens and the New Earth this morning while singing this hymn. Alas, I was thinking about your Blog. :)

Looking forward to your thoughtful word, Byron.

byron said...

"Through this pained world He guides our feet,
And leads us to his judgement seat
His mercies ever shall endure,
When this cracked world is whole once more."
?

Alas, I was thinking about your Blog.
Alas indeed!

Cyberpastor said...

Is there a way forward here through re-introducing the concept of the heavenly session? At one level we could answer you "Where is heaven?" question as Jenson does, "Too hard to make sense of" Yet Messiah Jesus is there and we are awaiting the revelation of that fact. Even if we try and dodge it be changing the question to "When is heaven?" we can force the focus beneath the sun for a little while but then we start asking "Where is Jesus?"

I must confess I am not so happy with the "this vain world" poetry. We had a slab of this at church on Sunday morning. The world is subject to frustration to be sure but is ot not still "very good" from the point of view that it conforms to the creators plans for its perfection?

byron said...

Yes - 'where is heaven?' is best answered by 'where Jesus is', (or 'where God's will is done'). I don't think we should avoid all talk of heaven, just its use as the location of where we hope to end up - but I get ahead of myself...

michael jensen said...

Ahh... I have two passages I'd like to hear you muse on. (I want noted my broad sympathies with you in this of course!)

Firstly:
2 Peter 3:10-13 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 2 Peter 3:13 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Secondly: I would love to hear you on 1 Cor 15:35ff, where though there is continuity between old and new, there is an accent on the disjunction between old and new... and use of the word 'heaven' (Jesus being the 'man from heaven')

michael jensen said...

oh, and

'heaven and earth shall pass away..'

Dave Barrie said...

Thanks for tackling this topic mate, almost everyone I speak to is confused about it - especially me!

And your timing is perfect as well as I will be spending an hour looking at the Christian hope with my confirmation class on the 24th Sept....not to give you a deadline.

While we're putting in our requests, I would love to hear your thoughts on Phil 3:18-21.

"For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

Particularly the "our citizenship is in heaven" bit.

byron said...

Thanks Dave and MPJ - all those verses are indeed on my list. This series is partially an excuse to do a little more exegesis.

Rob said...

Am I betraying my convictions when I sing songs about going to heaven and leaving the world, as if that were God's wish for us, in choir?

Kyrie eleison!

Ben Myers said...

You've come up with some marvellous titles for your posts, Byron -- but this one's my favourite so far!

andrewE said...

To perhaps anticipate Byron because I'm excited by this series: isn't it interesting that, despite all Peter's apocalypticising about the "passing away" of earth and heaven, his model for this is the flood (3:5-7). Peter uses the flood as an example of how the world previously "perished!" Now if that's not discontinuity and continuity I don't know what is.

drew said...

Looking forward to the posts Byron - you're blog has been so helpful in sharpening up the lazy thinking that I habitually employ...

Niphal said...

Is it intellectually "classy" enough for me to say I'm just glad it's physical?

The popular view of heaven - mainly stemming from secular portrayals (sp?), bores me to death. What a lame place to be.

byron said...

Rob - not sure: something I've wondered about myself. Do I have any right to sing different words from everyone else? Is this a kind of theological individualism? I'd love for someone to do some serious theological reflection upon singing within liturgical thought more generally (e.g. what does it mean if you change elements of the liturgy?).

byron said...

Ben: I swear I came up with this title for a talk I gave over a year ago. Then, when a certain bishop of Durham gave some talks in Sydney recently, he used the line "Heaven - very important, but not the end of the world". I felt simultaneously vindicated and ripped off.

byron said...

AndrewE: Thanks for the suggestions and docs you sent me. I hope to deal with many of these key passages and more (no one has yet mentioned 1 Th 4, which is the clincher for most popular conceptions, as far as I can tell). Yes indeed, the flood as the model of the earth being destroyed - good point.

byron said...

Drew - glad to be able to help.

Niphal (if that is your real name, Andrew...): boring indeed, though as you'll see, I think there is a more accurate term for the physical heaven in which Christians hope to spend the age to come: earth.

Well, seems like there is sufficient interest in this series for me to continue with it - hope it doesn't disappoint...

Niphal said...

Shock! I've been unmasked ;)

Rob said...

I find it humorous that so many people see 1 Thess 4 as a clincher in the their heavenly hopes. Paul's main point of comfort is not "don't grieve like the world, those without hope, because your loved ones are enjoying heavenly bliss just now!", but rather, "Don't grieve like the world because when Jesus comes they'll be raised from the dead!"

Resurrection is our hope and our comfort, not some disembodied blissful existence in heaven. I'm eagerly awaiting the continuation of this series. I wish I could come up with interesting stuff like this for my blog. ;)

byron said...

Thanks Rob.

Though it sounds like I'm preaching to the choir - at least in terms of commenters. Where are the conscientious objectors I usually seem to raise? I'll press on nonetheless... :-)

Michael Canaris said...

New Zealand?

Anthony said...

While I'm guessing so effectively...

If I was being legalistic about this, I'd try United Kingdom, just to increase my chances.

But I suspect that won't get by the umpire, so I'll guess at Scotland - which, surely, must actually be the end of the world!

byron said...

Sorry - neither NZ nor anywhere in the UK.

Peter said...

It wouldn't be Italy by any chance would it?

byron said...

Sorry, not Italy, though the water is indeed the Med.

Peter said...

Can I just keep guessing? Looks a bit Greek - ripply coast line and little islands - but did you go there?

byron said...

Peter: (a) You can keep guessing, but if you get sillly about it (e.g. just listing every country) or take too many guesses, I may award fewer points than advertised. One guess per post - i.e. wait until I've responded before guessing again. This gives others a bit more of a chance, esp since I've given an extra hint for this one.

(b) It's not Greece.

(c) Is this Pete J, or some other Peter that I know?

Peter said...

Yep. It's Peter J.

I will follow you rules for multiple guesses and justify each one.

My next guess would be France - be a process of elimination of Mediterranean countries that I remember from your travels.

Michael Canaris said...

Turkey?

byron said...

Sorry, not Turkey.

Anthony said...

I'll jump in with Spain...

byron said...

*Sigh*
I'm starting to think more seriously about Pete's suggestion of a monthly competition: if he's feeling demoralised by your lead, no wonder others aren't guessing...

Ten points.

Anthony said...

It wasn't entirely a guess - there are a couple of other shots of Spain, one of which shows a pretty similar coastline. But Mediterranean certainly helped!

What we need is inflation - the points offered need to go up more...what about a bonus point for every day that passes after the question is posed?

I confess the motivation for me isn't the points, I just want to know the answers!

byron said...

True - though those other shots of the same coastline (all taken within minutes of each other) were only correctly guessed as Spain due to insider information being leaked to a guesser by someone who was there with me when I was taking the photos (not Jessica).

I'm not sure the inflation idea would work (and the calculations would become more fiddly), since it would always be better to guess now than to risk someone else claiming the points. It would only serve to motivate people to solve long-time outstanding puzzles, which are what help to keep the game open (until recently, there had always been more points available than the leaders had accumulated, meaning that in theory anyone could take the lead at any time. I must confess you've made that a little difficult now...).