Chapter 2 Synopsis:
We have been taught that heaven is always about somewhere else. But the scriptures do not talk about heaven in this way. Not ever. Heaven is not what we escape to. Bell rightly connects Jesus to the line of prophets before him. They talked about “this age” and “the age to come.” The age to come in the prophets is: 1) diverse; multi-ethic, tradition, sensory, mutli-everything. 2) earthy; wine, crops, eating, feasting. 3) not new; it always includes earth & all of creation. Some of creation doesn’t survive: war, rape, greed, injustice, violence, pride, division, exploitation, disgrace, etc. The time when this stuff is purged is called the “day of the Lord,” and it is when God says enough to all that threatens his peace/shalom.
He touches on all of the salient passages from Jesus and Paul that demonstrate there is great continuity between the life we know now, and “heaven.” He asks the question, “How many o f us could handle heaven today? How would we do life w/out our crutches – pride, bigotry, cynicism, slander, (or our need to be right).” Our conversation about who is “in” and who is “out” often misses the ways in which that question is a surprise in the scriptures. It’s typically the wrong people who are in. Remember that next time someone is railing about the heretics. By eternal life standards we are all heretics.
Heaven is not: intangible, esoteric, immaterial, floaty, dreamy, hazy, or somewhere else. “For Jesus, heaven is more real than what we experience now. This is true for the future, when the earth and heaven become one, but also for today.”
When Jesus uses the word “heaven”
– Sometimes he’s using it as a substitute for the name of God (as in kingdom of heaven)
– Sometimes he is using it to talk about the future coming together of heaven and earth – when the will be one.
– Sometimes he used it to talk about eternal, intense, real, experiences of joy, peace, and love in this life AND in the age to come. He uses it to merge the lines between heaven and earth, future and present, here and now.
“eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life lived now in connection to God. Eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now.”
This age is a struggle. It’s not like the age to come:
– This life is like playing piano w/oven mits on.
– Like embracing our lover w/a hazmat suit on.
– Having a conversation under water
– Tasting a spice w/a mouth full of gravel.
This is a good chapter. There is nothing novel here – this is orthodox Christian thought on heave, eternal life, this age, age to come and the concept of time (chronos v. chairos)