One of my favorite N.T. Wright books is on a major Kindle sale ($1.99 when I published this). It’s called Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.
If you’re interested in learning more about “heaven” and how God’s promised future ought to impact your life in the present, I would recommend this book! It does an excellent job dismantling some of our typical misunderstandings of the age to come and helps you reimagine the significance of the resurrection for not only the Christian’s promised future in the new heavens and the new earth but also the Christian’s present mission in this world.
As Bishop Tom is know for saying, “heaven is important, but it’s not the end of the world.” Check the book out to see what he means.
Here are two excerpts:
What Pastor Gospelman never notices is that the resurrection stories in the gospels aren’t about going to heaven when you die. In fact, there is almost nothing about “going to heaven when you die” in the whole New Testament. Being “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20) doesn’t mean you’re supposed to end up there. Many of the Philippians were Roman citizens, but Rome didn’t want them back when they retired. Their job was to bring Roman culture to Philippi. That’s the point that all the gospels actually make, in their own ways. Jesus is risen, therefore God’s new world has begun. Jesus is risen, therefore Israel and the world have been redeemed. Jesus is risen, therefore his followers have a new job to do. And what is that new job? To bring the life of heaven to birth in actual, physical, earthly reality. This is what Pastor Gospelman never imagines (though his preaching does, accidentally, often have this result). The bodily resurrection of Jesus is more than a proof that God performs miracles or that the Bible is true. It is more than the Christians’ knowing of Jesus in our own experience (that is the truth of Pentecost, not of Easter). It is much, much more than the assurance of heaven after death (Paul speaks of “going away and being with Christ,” but his main emphasis is on coming back again in a risen body, to live in God’s newborn creation). Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.
…with Easter, God’s new creation is launched upon a surprised world, pointing ahead to the renewal, the redemption, the rebirth of the entire creation. Hands up, those who have heard the message that every act of love, every deed done in Christ and by the Spirit, every work of true creativity—doing justice, making peace, healing families, resisting temptation, seeking and winning true freedom—is an earthly event in a long history of things that implement Jesus’s own resurrection to the disciples. And his insistence on “modern science” (not that he’s read any physics recently) is pure Enlightenment rhetoric. We didn’t need Galileo and Einstein to tell us that dead people don’t come back to life. When Paul wrote his great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, he didn’t end by saying, “So let’s celebrate the great future life that awaits us.” He ended by saying, “So get on with your work because you know that in the Lord it won’t go to waste.” When the final resurrection occurs, as the centerpiece of God’s new creation, we will discover that everything done in the present world in the power of Jesus’s own resurrection will be celebrated and included, appropriately transformed.”