Friday, March 27, 2009

offended by life after life after death

"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-peddle 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. Sometimes you just need to find a good line. The line I often use—which makes people laugh—is: "Heaven is important, but it's not the end of the world." In other words, resurrection means the new earth continues after people have gone to heaven.

I put it this way for my audiences: "There is life after life after death." People are very puzzled by that, so I begin to explain it to them. There's life after death. That was Jesus between Good Friday and Easter. He was dead, but he was in whatever life after death is—in paradise without his resurrected body. But that wasn't his final destination. Here I introduce the idea of a two-stage postmortem reality. Most Western Christians have only heard about a two-stage postmortem reality in the Catholic idea of purgatory. That's wrong! 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.

..This Easter, surprise them!

..When we put the Gospels together like that, then we are really in business! But that's tough. We're not often trained to think like that."
-NT Wright

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Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!