Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Heaven: not the end of the world V

Heavenly salvation: origin, not destination (1 Peter 1.3-5)
I mentioned at the end of the last post that Christian hope is indeed heavenly, because it is from heaven that we await salvation. This helps understand the language of 1 Peter 1.3-5:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade— kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
I suspect that many readers, upon hearing that their inheritance is "kept in heaven", imagine that the content of that inheritence is itself "heaven", a post-mortem paradise of some kind. However, this misses the main point of this passage. The living hope is precisely that: alive. Life is not simply the mode, but the content of the hope: the new birth is to be the start of new life. And this new birth is into resurrection life. The same kind of resurrection (indeed, strictly speak, the same resurrection) as Jesus. It is his resurrection that is both the ground and illustration of our lively, vivacious, vital, living breathing hope.

Thus, this hope is "kept in heaven" in a similar way to the new car your parents might give you for your birthday is kept in the garage for you. Not so that you can go into the garage to enjoy existence there, but so that the real hope - fully mobile vehicular life - is secure until the day that it is ready to be revealed. Or, to borrow an illustration, like the beer is kept in the fridge for you. The hope isn't to chill out long term, but to have the hope adequately stored and prepared. So too here, the purpose of its being in heaven, is that it is with God, indeed, our hope is God himself (that's why it's in heaven), and so there is no fear of its being flat or warm: it can never perish, spoil or fade. The paintjob won't get scratched by the neighbour and it won't get lifted by the local joyriders. Our future is secured by God's power; indeed, we ourselves are divinely shielded until the time is ripe. Not that bad things can't happen to us: on the contrary, they can and will. What is shielded is our future resurrection, it is securely held by the one whose power raised Jesus from the dead. No one can snatch us out of his hand.
Series: I; II; IIa; III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX; X; XI; XII; XIII; XIV; XV; XVI. Ten points for the city in this pic.

14 comments:

Ray Anderson said...

Byron: Along with the quotation from Peter, I have always been intrigued by Paul's reminder that If there is some part of Christ in us--"Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27), there is at the same time, some part of us already in heaven with Christ in God: "for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). Thus, we are living in the present out of our own future!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reminder - I love that dual protection: the inheritance and us. God's got us covered, what an assurance to spur on holy living (I think Peter's heading that way isn't he?)

byron said...

Ray - I'm getting to it! :-)
Though I don't think that it is the location that anticipates our future so much as our life, which for Paul is nearly always a reference to resurrection life. We are already raised with Christ (Eph 2) in one sense, and so already participate in the future. Yet this is currently 'hidden', as Christ is hidden. We don't await the rest of our live to be hidden (i.e. by death), but for our resurrection life to be revealed (i.e. by actual resurrection on earth)!

Spooh - that is indeed where he goes. Once again, good theology (particularly about the resurrection) drives ethics.

andrewE said...

Byron, it looks like your old nemesis misplaced apostrophe has got you again - "that's why its in heaven."

:)

Rob said...

I appreciated your saying "strictly speaking, the same resurrection." I think this is an often overlooked point. Paul contends that Jesus is the "first-fruits" of the resurrection, and the Jews only envisioned one resurrection at the end of time (who was raised is a different matter), not two different resurrections. If we continue with Paul's Jewish framework, then the general resurrection at the end of time is occuring now and the world is a fundamentally different place than it will ever be again because the resurrection has begun. God's future is pulling the present forward to the great consummation. Who can resist?

Jason Goroncy said...

Enjoying these reflections Byron. Thanks.

byron said...

God's future is pulling the present forward to the great consummation. Who can resist?
Nicely put Rob. :-)

matheson said...

Okay, I really want to know what the city in the pic is! And how much it costs to fly there...

byron said...

Matheson: $949 was the cheapest I could find. Doesn't anyone want to take a stab? You can only be wrong and embarrass yourself in front of hundreds of readers. But who knows, you might score the points...

Anonymous said...

On the langauge thing, also makes good sense of, and is similar to, the intro to 1 John, where it speaks of eternal life as something (someone?) 'with' the Father, reminiscent of the intro to Johns gospel...

Guess: Venice

Never travelled OS, so am truly guessing :)

byron said...

Drew: ten points! And yes, good point. I'll post soon(ish) on Phil 2, which I think makes a very similar point.

byron said...

Erro - indeed. Nemesis terminated.

Mike said...

This is the first time I've seen beer used as an analogy for salvation.

It always felt like every time I went to the fridge for another cold one I was being saved from something.

Thanks for confirmation.

byron smith said...

Mike - unfortunately, it's one of those lines I've stolen from someone, but now can't remember from whom.