I was preaching on the resurrection last Sunday (we’re going through the “I am” sayings of Jesus from John’s Gospel at the moment). It has been interesting how much confusion and misunderstanding of the resurrection that there is around. I was at my own cell group last night and hauled into another one yesterday morning and there were some really interesting discussions about what I had said and generally.
You can hear my sermon here (should be there for the next few months).
But one of the great writers and theologians who has discussed the resurrection is Tom Wright (ex Bishop of Durham and now a theologian at St Andrews University). He wrote a very good book on this called Surprised by Hope (and his longer more academic book The Resurrection of the Son of God).
There is an even more précised article that he wrote for Christianity Today which gives some of the outlines of his argument and well worth a read.
Some quotes from it:
While both Greco-Roman paganism and Second Temple Judaism held a wide variety of beliefs about life beyond death, the early Christians, beginning with Paul, were remarkably unanimous on the topic.
When Paul speaks in Philippians 3 of being “citizens of heaven,” he doesn’t mean that we shall retire there when we have finished our work here. He says in the next line that Jesus will come from heaven in order to transform the present humble body into a glorious body like his own. Jesus will do this by the power through which he makes all things subject to himself. This little statement contains in a nutshell more or less all Paul’s thought on the subject. The risen Jesus is both the model for the Christian’s future body and the means by which it comes.
Wright argues that Resurrection is life after life after death. In other words Heaven or Paradise is an intermediate state after which there is a final resurrection.
Resurrection itself then appears as what the word always meant in the ancient world. It wasn’t a way of talking about life after death. It was a way of talking about a new bodily life after whatever state of existence one might enter immediately upon death. It was, in other words, life after life after death.
Wright argues that there are huge implications to how we see life, our physicality and the world.
The mission of the church is nothing more or less than the outworking, in the power of the Spirit, of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. It is the anticipation of the time when God will fill the earth with his glory, transform the old heavens and earth into the new, and raise his children from the dead to populate and rule over the redeemed world he has made.
What Wright is pointing to here is that in the resurrection heaven comes to earth and it is redeemed as we are. Therefore all that we do here and now to honour God’s creation and each other is vital.
Well worth a read (and if you enjoy that then do read Surprised by Hope and if you enjoy that then think about borrowing or getting “The Resurrection of the Son of God” although it is 800 or so pages long!).
Today is, of course, Ascension day, and a timely reminder of the glory of resurrection life.