May 19, 2010

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Why No One is Going to Heaven: Toward a Biblical Framework for a Theology of Hope I was asked to give a talk to our pastoral team and ministry staff here at New Life Church on constructing a Biblical framework for a theology of hope. This was one of a list of topics I had offered to teach on, though I had secretly hoped they would have selected one of the less audacious subjects on my list! Fortunately, this topic has been one I have been reading, studying, meditating on over the last couple of years, as well as one I have discussed with wise friends and colleagues. All this has been fueled and aided by the writings of the great N. T. Wright. I cannot overstate his influence on my thinking of this particular subject. His insight and study of first-century Judaism and how to read St. Paul in that light have made familiar yet previously obscure New Testament passages come alive. It has also made me return to Isaiah's vision of the age Messiah would usher in and re-read Jesus' own words about "the age to come" through that lens. All of this has made me realize that no one is going to heaven. That is not the future first-century Jews or Christians saw. They looked for a new heaven and new earth, finally come together at last. We will live there with resurrected bodies as the first man and woman were meant to live: as God's image-bearers who bring His wise and joyful order to the new creation. Such a vision of the future impacts how we live here, both in terms of the development of our character and how we work for justice. But it also has significant implications on the hope and comfort we have now. The standard answer to a person in grief that hey, don't worry, God's going to...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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