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Úvod  > Making Sense  > What’s next? Is there a next?

What’s next? Is there a next?

So far
In our discussions this year we have been working on developing a biblical mind. We have looked at Creation (the Good) – by God’s word, from nothing, its order and wonder, and at the role of human beings in it, made in God’s image to reflect his nature and care for his creation in partnership with him.
What’s wrong? We examined the Fall (the Evil) - Adam and Eve not trusting God’s goodness and disobeying his instructions as they wanted to be like God. Evil we saw at different levels: personal/moral, societal/systemic; natural: evil in the natural world; metaphysical.
What’s new? In the last two sessions we have looked at redemption (the new)– God’s rescue plan with the disobedience of Adam being reversed by Jesus, the Word through whom creation came into being and God’s perfect image taking human form, his obedience to God and service to humankind, acted out in his washing of the disciples’ feet. And we noted the many-sided metaphors of redemption in which he has taken the initiative to bear our sins and give us freedom as we trust ourselves to him.
What’s next? Is there a next?
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then in heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
(Shakespears: Macbeth, act 5, scene 5)
...”Deep down” nobody in his right mind can visualize his own existence without assuming that he has always lived and will live hereafter; and the religious world-views of old only endowed this psychological given with images and ideas which would be shared, transmitted, and ritualized.
(Erik Erikson, Gandhi’s Truth (1970) Norton New York, p36)
[Extracts from Bishop N T Wright’s New Heavens, New Earth]
I am very much aware that everybody’s life sooner or later is touched by the awesome question of what, precisely, happens next….A woman engaged in doctoral study of theology told me of her husband’s recent death. She said, ‘What I want to know is, where is he?’ These human issues are real questions, not just ideas to play with.
…the rise of the early church in the 40s and 50s is completely inexplicable, historically speaking, unless you have a strongly historical, bodily view of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth…But it is clear that the resurrection of Jesus does not fit the worldviews of the time. The Greeks were not expecting ‘resurrection’ at all, and indeed would have been frustrated to think of re-embodiment. The Jews did not expect one person would rise again from the dead, in the midst of ordinary history, but that God would raise all the true Israel to life at the end of the age.
…Christians regularly speak of ‘going to heaven when they die.’… I suggest that what we find in the New Testament …is the Christian hope for a new, or renewed, heaven and a new, or renewed earth, with these two integrated together.
Jesus and the writers of the New Testament have very little to say about ‘going to heaven when you die….Very often, people have come to the New Testament with the presumption that ‘going to heaven when you die’ is the implicit point of it all, of Christianity and indeed of all religions…We shall look at various texts.
‘Kingdom of Heaven’.
Matthew’s Gospel has Jesus speaking again and again about ‘inheriting the kingdom of heaven’ …the phrase ‘kingdom of heaven’ in Matthew does not mean ‘a place called “heaven,” to which you go after death.’ It is, rather, a reverent, typically Jewish, way of saying ‘kingdom of God’, as in Mark, Luke, John, Paul and elsewhere…It means, rather, ‘The fact that God rules.’ We would do better to translate it as ‘kingship, or kingly rule of God’…. Kingdom-expectation is revolutionary: God will be king, and all the jumped-up pseudo-kings will be put in their place.
‘Eternal Life’
‘Eternal life’… occurs quite frequently in Paul and John. But it does not mean ‘continuing existence’. It refers neither to a state of timelessness, nor simply to ‘linear time going on and on’. In its original Jewish context the phrase almost certainly refers to ‘the life of the age to come’…One of the great beliefs of the early Christians was that God had already kick-started the ‘age to come’…a new dispensation which God will create in the renewal of all things.
‘Salvation Kept in Heaven For You’
The third piece of evidence is 1 Peter 1.4, which speaks of an ‘inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.’ My sense is that many people read that passage as referring to a place called ‘heaven’, where salvation is to be found, and to which we have to go in order to get it. I want to suggest, conversely, that that idea of something being ‘kept in heaven for you’ does not mean that you have to go and live in heaven in order to enjoy it. ‘Heaven’ in the Bible is not usually a reference to a future state, but to God’s dimension of present reality, that dimension which is normally hidden from our gaze but where God’s purposes are stored up. The point is that salvation is being kept safe in heaven for you, in order that it can be brought from heaven to where you are, so that you can enjoy it there. It is rather like a parent, in the run-up to Christmas, assuring a child that ‘there is indeed a present kept safe in the cupboard for you.’ That does not mean that on Christmas Day and thereafter the child is going to have to go and live in the cupboard in order to enjoy the present there. Rather, it means that at the appropriate time the present will be brought forth out of its safe hiding-place, so that it can enrich the life of the child in the world of real life, not just in the cupboardly world.
Our Citizenship is in Heaven’
This way of reading 1 Peter 1 is reinforced by another passage in the New Testament: Philippians 3.19-21. ‘Our citizenship is in heaven,’ or, as Moffatt translates it, ‘we are a colony of heaven.’ What does it mean?
Many have thought that if our citizenshi8p is in heaven that means that heaven is our real home, the place to which we will eventually go. But that is not how the language of citizenship functions. The point of being a citizen of a mother city is not that when life gets really tough, or when you retire, you can go back home to the mother city. The people to whom Paul was writing in Philippi were Roman citizens, but they had no intention of going back to Rome. They were the means through which Roman civilization was being brought to the world of Northern Greece. If and when the going got tough there, the emperor would come from Rome to deliver them from their enemies in Philippi, and establish them as a true Roman presence right there. So, Paul says, ‘from heaven we await a saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.’
Revelation 21: The Heavenly City
…One thing that is true of the heavenly reality is that, like the gift in the cupboard, there is there a secure future for God’s people. But that future, according to Revelation 21, is not that people will escape up to heaven, but that the new Jerusalem will come down from heaven, so that the dwelling of God will be with his human creatures, and that, eventually, heaven and earth will not be separated, but, in being renewed, will be integrated with each other. The great claim of Revelation 21 and 22 is that heaven and earth will finally be united.
Damaged World Restored: Romans 8.18-30
The basis of Paul’s thought here must be a combination of two things: the biblical promise of new heavens and new earth (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22), and the creation story in which human beings, made in God’s image, are appointed as God’s steward over creation. Putting the picture together, in the light of the observable way in which the created order is out of joint, and the clear biblical and experiential belief that the human race as a whole is in rebellion against God, Paul, in company with many other Jews, saw the two are intimately related. After the fall, the earth produced thorns and thistles. Humans continued to abuse the environment, so that one of the reasons why God sent Israel into exile, according to the Scriptures, was so that the land could at last enjoy its Sabbaths (Leviticus 26:34-43; [cf. 25:2-5]; 2 Chronicles 36:21). But the answer to the problem was not (as in some New Age theories) that human beings should keep their hands off creation, should perhaps be removed from the planet altogether so as not to spoil it any further. The answer, if the creator is to be true to the original purpose, is for humans to be redeemed, to take their place at last as God’s imagebearers, the wise stewards they were always meant to be. Paul sees this purpose has been already accomplished in principle in the resurrection of Jesus, and that it will be accomplished fully when all those in Christ are raised and together set in saving authority over the world (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). That is why, Paul says, creation is now waiting with eager longing.
 Wright, N.T. (Tom) Romans in vol 10, New Interpreter’s Bible, Nashville, 2002, pp 596-7.
April 24th, 2008
text © www.aomega.sk - TM
Fine Art Photos © Miro Kocúr

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Miroslav Kocúr, ThDr., PhD., vyštudoval teológiu na Univerzite Komenského Bratislava. Postgraduálne štúdium biblickej exegézy absolvoval na Biblickom inštitúte v Ríme, Hebrejskej univerzite v Jeruzaleme a na Gregoriánskej univerzite v Ríme. Prednášal na Katolíckej univerzite v Ružomberku a TI v Spišskom Podhradí. Bol riaditeľom Katolíckeho biblického diela na Slovensku. Bol spoluzakladateľom a prvým riaditeľom Bilingválneho gymnázia C. S. Lewisa v Bratislave. Prednášal na BISLA v Bratislave.  V novembri 2011 bol menovaný za riaditeľa VIA IURIS.  

V januári 2014  začal spolupracovať s neziskovou organizáciou LEAF pri podporných a vzdelávacích programoch pre študentov a žiakov základných a stredných škôl. 
Je autorom prekladov, odborných publikácií, článkov, reflexií pre domáce i zahraničné inštitúcie.


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