June 01, 2010

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...
Why Do We Care About Injustice? Pt. 1: The Big Story Why do we care about injustice? Is it just a public relations campaign? Is it cultural imperialism? For the Christian, we have a way of responding. It is not by saying that everyone prefers justice because God wired him or her to do so, though that may be true. It is rooted in a story much wider than that simple statement. In this story we find a wellspring for mercy and justice far deeper than corporate guilt or public relations or cultural imperialism. This story tells us things about God and humanity and creation that we may have suspected but never fully realized. God created the heavens and the earth. He called it good. He made every living thing in both heaven and earth. And then He made Human. This much we know. But before you jump ahead to the bit about sin, ask yourself a question: Why did He make Human? Again, you’ll have to momentarily silence the familiar chorus that “God made mankind to be in relationship with Him.” True. But, Genesis doesn’t say that. What it does say is that God made mankind to, first, be in His image, and secondly, to reign. The goal of the first Humans was that, in fellowship and communion with God, they would be God’s image-bearers and bring His wise order and loving rule to the world. Now we can get to the part we know. Adam and Eve sinned. They rebelled and as a result of that rebellion, evil infected the cosmos. But Christ came. He shared in our sufferings and took the worst blow Evil could give, and by rising again, defeated it, draining the poison from Evil’s sting and atoning for Humanity’s sin all in one triumphant stroke. Jesus, the God-Man, perfectly fulfilled the call of the first...

Glenn Packiam

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

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