As so often happens on a long country walk, we began to talk theology. What, my son mused, would heaven be like? A number of options were presented. Perhaps it would mean sitting on a fluffy cloud, playing a harp? My dad thought that sounded unrelentingly dull. Or maybe heaven would come to earth when justice and peace are restored to all. Not likely to happen this side of the parousia, said my punning sister!
Tom Wright’s book on heaven, Surprised by Hope, makes fascinating reading. Those who long for their very own cloud will be disappointed. Working for global justice and world peace will not bring about salvation, but is ‘anticipating in the present’ what we hope for in the future. At the end of time, all our work today will be transformed, with all time, space and matter. And +Tom is sure that our salvation will be bodily – we will rise with Jesus in a physical sense. Wow. It’s hard not be be facetious, and hope that God will redeem my eyesight and big bum.
This then is our impetuous to continue to look, work, pray and act to bring the kingdom on earth. We do it knowing that God has begun to bring in the new heaven and new earth (because Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruit of the new creation), and in anticipation of time when that kingdom will be fully revealed. It’s all very encouraging to a workaholic like me, who really does hope that my labour is not in vain.
Best of all, my favourite passage in the book suggests that, not just our skills and talents but our likes, loves and interests will be enhanced, ennobled, in fact rescued in an ultimate act of salvation, to be used to God’s glory. YES! I will be able to sing, drive fast and read scary books in the new creation – Adrian will be able to fly, garden and wear cruddy shoes (well, maybe not that) – and my dad won’t have to learn to play the harp. Hallelujah! A heaven like that is worth waiting for, and maybe even believing in.