|NT Wright, possibly talking about "heaven"|
The tough part first…
Bell writes in The Love Wins Companion, that, "when Jesus talked about heaven, he mostly talked about a dimension, a way of living, the accessibility of the life of God, right here, right now, in this world."
To channel Bell (actually, his style, if you don’t know it, goes something like this): A dimension? Which one? The Fifth Dimension? They stopped recording music decades ago. Is that the eleventh dimension in physicist Brian Greene’s string theory? I thought that was inaccessible to us four-dimensional creatures. (Sorry that was fun... Sometimes his style is just a bit grating.)
But, more seriously, how about “mostly”? Is that really so? Did Jesus really talk “mostly” about “right here, right now” with “heaven”? Let’s just take one example from the Sermon on the Mount. What about the words of judgment in Matthew 7:21,
Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
And says in the next sentence, “On that day…” That day sure doesn’t sound like this day. It seems like something in the future.
OK, that’s eating broccoli before dessert, as it were…
But what about the good parts of Love Wins? And there are several. Yes, when Jesus teaches the disciples to pray “Thy will be done/on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking for what God wants here to become realized now. It is “the life of God, right here, right now, in this world.” We are doing what U2's Bono rightly says. "Our purpose is to bring heaven to earth in the micro as well as the macro"
Put another way, when Bell is right when he’s properly taking in Wright--by which I mean the insights of the New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, who wrote about the life of heaven in light of Easter:
Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.
So heaven is both the now and the later. We can’t forget either side of that dialectic.
What do you think?
(And, if you want to see what I conclude about heaven and hell, see this blog post.)