The idea of bodily resurrection is not one that is highlighted in evangelical circles. Resurrection is mentioned, but not as a central doctrine of the church. In fact, a kind of unspoken Gnosticism has seeped into evangelical church culture. It leaves one with the feeling that going to heaven is the ultimate end game for Christians, where we will have a kind of ethereal presence: airy, floaty, and spiritually perfect. Forever.
I don’t usually write about doctrine or theology but this is exciting.
My kids used to ask, but what will we do in heaven? It’s a valid question that hasn’t received any conclusive or convincing answers. But recently I read N.T. Wright’s book “Surprised By Hope”, in which he expounds on the doctrine of bodily resurrection and God’s redemption of all creation, not just humans.
Wright reminds us that God will be redeeming the Earth, and he posits that we humans will continue to live here on Earth in the coming creation/resurrection. Heaven is not our final destination, but it is a place where we go to wait for Christ’s return to Earth. Christ is returning to us, we do not go to him. He comes to rule physically, in his resurrection body, and we will all be transformed in an instant when this new earth comes.
These ideas bring me more hope than the idea of my disembodied soul floating up to heaven when I die.
I don’t know about you, but for me there is a pervasive sense of longing when I see the imperfections of the world and my own imperfections. The futility of so many things, including human efforts to make the world a better place, is frustrating and disheartening at times.
Instead of feeling like all those efforts are wasted, Wright’s hope is that nothing we do for the Lord is in vain. It all counts toward the redemption and resurrection. We really do have something to do here on Earth – it is not just a decaying and dying waiting room where we sit with our decaying and dying bodies waiting for Jesus to take us away.
Instead, everything I do to care for my body, everything I do to care for others and to set things right in the world, every act of courage, beauty, and love, all these go toward the day when all will be made right.
This is a hopeful doctrine that I can’t wait to share with my kids.