Heaven can wait: Three Views of Heaven.
If you’re good, then when you die, you’ll go to heaven. This seems to be the traditional Christian view. In fact, Jesus never said any such thing.
The ideas of a glorious hereafter for some souls and torment for others, to come at the point of death, cannot be found either in the Old Testament or in the teachings of the historical Jesus. To put it succinctly: the founder of Christianity did not believe that the soul of a person who died would go to heaven or hell. (Ehrman, p 16)
Ehrman is correct, but he is making some implicit distinctions that are not obvious. Jesus believed in the resurrection of the body, not the soul. Jesus also believed that the Kingdom of Heaven would be established on earth, not somewhere in the sky. So, one could just as well say that Jesus believed in a glorious life after death for some, and death for others. Hell plays a relatively small role in Jesus’ teaching.
Three views of the afterlife
Three views of the afterlife are present in the Bible. The third is implicit, and probably the most important. The three are:
Continue reading Heaven can wait: Three Views of Heaven
Most of my posts express an opinion. This post is a little different, sticking more closely to the text of N. T. Wright’s Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. About much I disagree with Wright, but his is such a fine example of a scholarly work accessible to educated laymen and women that it deserves a special place. I’ll save most of my criticism for the conclusion.
“I have done my best,” says Wright, “to explore the meaning of the phrase Jesus used as the great slogan for his project, the kingdom of God.” (loc 108) His answer is that the kingdom of God is now, not just in the future. God’s kingdom is not where we go after we die; it’s where we live now.
When Jesus healed people, when he ate and drank with ordinary people, offering forgiveness freely to those who stood outside society, it wasn’t just an example of a future reality. This was reality itself. This is what it looked like when God was in charge. This is what it means when Christ teaches us to pray “on earth as it is in heaven.” (p 106)
Continue reading Review of N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus
Do you have soul?
I imagine that most Christians believe they have a soul. I imagine most believers of all faiths believe in the soul, though what they mean by the term “soul” varies considerably. Surprising then is how unclear the concept of the soul is within Christianity itself. The Bible has two different accounts of the fate of the soul, and attempts to reconcile them are clumsy.
Some passages of the Bible suggest that when you die, your soul goes immediately to heaven. Jesus promised this to the thief hanging on the cross beside him when he says “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) At other times, Jesus referred to resurrection as ῇ ἀναστάσει, which most likely refers to the raising up of the dead at the end of the present age (Matthew. 22:29-33).
Other books of the Bible emphasize the resurrection of the body.
It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. (1 Corinthians 15:42-43)
The resurrection of the body at the end of days is so central to Christianity that it is included in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed.
Continue reading Do you have soul?