In one chap in Tom Wright’s new book Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters, he sketches his views of the resurrection, of the ascension and of the second coming! But he does so through the lens of God becoming king in Jesus, and so it is all related to the grander cosmic scheme at work in Tom’s new book.
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First, Easter is about new creation. Second, ascension is about the enthronement of Jesus as the king of new creation — it is not about Jesus, in some spiritual non-bodily state disappearing into heaven where spirit existence is established. Third, the second coming is not a “return” to earth so much as the reappearance of the Son of God where new creation will be finally established.Tom’s books on resurrection (The Resurrection of the Son of God, Surprised by Hope) have already been digested by many of us, so I’ll avoid saying much except to say this: resurrection is not about some ethereal existence but about a physical, bodily existence.
The ascension, and I don’t believe I’ve read much about the ascension in Tom’s stuff, reminds us that heaven and earth are not far apart; heaven is the place from which the earth is run; the “vertical” movement in Acts 1 is metaphor for ascension and assumption of the throne; and the ascension mocks the rule of Caesar and announces that Jesus is the true king.
The second coming … well, Tom begins by saying most of North Americans are all messed up because they’re addicted to rapture stuff and they are not right. It is about the re-appearance (parousia) of Jesus Christ as King, it is about our (metaphorical but real) “meeting” him in order to escort him back to the new heavens and new earth to be with him (and he is now with us).
And what about Jesus today? Good question, he says. Jesus is present today as the One who sends the Holy Spirit to be outposts of that new Temple (there’s lots of temple stuff in Acts)… kingdom, king and Spirit making us who we are to be as new creation people.