I’ve begun advocating for and teaching what I believe is a more robust resurrection theology. Modern Evangelicalism, though well-intentioned, has become obsessed with Heaven. We want to get people into it, talk about it, think about it, write songs about it, and buy lots of books written by little boys who claim to have been there.
Of course, the problem is that the Christian hope for eternity is not an eternity spent in Heaven. Our future hope is all about the resurrection into the then fully established Kingdom of God ruled by Christ when he returns. This is our future hope, but we have settled for disembodied souls existing in the spiritual place we call Heaven. To be honest, this simplified vision of eternity is not very appealing to me. But the idea that Heaven and Earth will be joined together (Revelation 21), and that our destiny is to have a physical and eternal existence on a restored Earth, well, that has real power for me. This vision provides for us both our hope for the future, and a vision for how our lives are to be right now. We are to live in light of this future hope and reality, but if that hope is false, we are the greatest of all fools.
1 Corinthians 15:12–28 (ESV)
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
The resurrection is the hope and seal of Christian promise. The good news we preach is that Christ is coming again to establish his Kingdom and restore this broken world. Through repentance we enter into this promise, and one day, we will enter into the fullness of restoration and resurrection.
I want to encourage you as you consider your Christian hope, and as you share that hope with others, that you get away from thinking of Heaven as our everlasting destiny. As good as it is, Heaven is merely the waiting room for our entrance into the fully realized Kingdom of God.
In this video clip produced by Duke University, New Testament scholar N.T. Wright discusses the significance of the bodily resurrection of Jesus to Christian belief and theology.