Next Thoughts on Love Wins: Here is the New There

This post will begin to move us into into the heart of Rob Bell’s book, “Love Wins.” (If you haven’t read my introductory thoughts I encourage you to read my post, First Thoughts on Love Wins).

Have you ever experienced this approach to evangelism and the sharing of the Gospel: “If you died today do you know with certainty that you would be in heaven with God? If God asked you why he should let you into His heaven, what would you say?” Providing the “right answers” to these two questions brings the assurance that hell will be avoided and heaven awaits.

A fundamental premise behind this is that belief that heaven and hell are experiences that await us after our last heartbeat here on planet Earth.  In chapter 3, “Here is the New There” Rob challenges this premise. He writes:

“When we talk about heaven, then, or eternal life, or the afterlife – any of that – it’s important that we begin with the categories and claim that people were familiar with in Jesus’ first-century Jewish world. They did not talk about a future life somewhere else, because they anticipated a coming day when the world would be restored, renewed and redeemed and there would be peace on earth” (40).

Rob argues that the first century Jewish  perspective of eternal life was founded upon the prophetic vision of the age to come and he cites Isaiah 2 and 25, Ezekiel 36 and Amos 9 as representative pictures of this vision of eternal life. Rob provides three general observations about the prophetic promises regarding life in the age to come:

  • it’s multiethnic, multisensory, multieverything (it’s about “all the nations”)
  • it’s earthy (it’s filled with earthy things like good wine, crops, grain, people, bountiful feasts, buildings and homes)
  • it’s familiar (their vision of life in the age to come was deeply connected to the Genesis creation story and God’s invitation to Adam and Eve. to partner and participate with God in the flourishing of the world) (34-35).

Rob uses an image that iPad users will easily identify with  – Jesus dragging the future into the present. I love that picture. Have you ever stopped to consider what might happen when you drag the future into the present?

“Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.”

Rob believes that our eschatology shapes our ethics:

“How we think about heaven, then, directly affects how we understand what we do with our days and energies now, in this age. Jesus teaches us how to live now in such a way that what we create, who we give our efforts to, and how we spend our time will endure in the new world.” (44-45)

And in classic Bell style and form, the chapter with these words:

“There’s heaven now, somewhere else.
There’s heaven here, sometime else.
And then there’s Jesus invitation to heaven
here
and
now
in this moment,
in this place” (62)

At the heart of Rob’s understanding of heaven is the sense that “eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die and more about a quality and vitality of life lived now in connection with God.” (59) This statement provides some clues to what Rob believes hell looks like and I will take up that topic in my next post.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts on heaven. What resonates with you? In what ways does Rob’s vision of heaven reflect your understanding of what the Scriptures teach and proclaim? What what might it look like for you to join with Jesus in dragging the future into the present?

Stay connected…

Comments

  1. i believe that heaven begins for us the second that we accept Jesus as our Savior.

  2. I believe that rob is totally underplaying the importance of the spiritual things in the scriptures where it pertains to eternity. He said much here that I will need to research (namely the “aeion” deal as the word for eternal life).

    For me, the kingdom of God and Heaven are not interchangable. Also, it was clear that “in the beginning” there was heaven and earth (not just earth) (genesis 1) and he ends it the same way… with a new heaven and a new earth (in Rev.21).
    Antwuan Malone recently posted..how to get there

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