This post is part of the series blogging through Simply Jesus.
In the last chapter the question was: Why did the Messiah have to die? In this chapter, Wright wrestles with the meaning of the Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming.
Wright sees all of these events as essential to God’s great restoration project in which He is ‘putting the world right‘.
The power that has tyrannized the old creation has been broke, defeated, overthrown. God’s kingdom is now launched, and launched in power and glory, on earth as in heaven.
In this chapter, Wright is challenging those Christians who look forward to going to heaven as a new place without focusing on living fully for Christ now.
To have this kind of view, Wright contends, is to miss out on what God is doing.
The point of Jesus dying and being raised from the dead was not to punch our ticket to heaven but to restore creation and bring heaven to earth. Heaven, Wright will repeat, is not some place that is a “long way away” from earth. It is “God’s dimension of present reality”. It is currently invisible but will one day become visible. Through Jesus heaven and earth will be brought together so that they ‘overlap and interlock’.
In a nutshell here is how Wright describes these events in Simply Jesus:
- The Cross: The death of Jesus was the means by which victory was achieved over Satan, sin, and death. God defeated the powers of evil so that He could establish the new creation.
- The Resurrection: The risen Jesus is the ‘prototype of the new creation’. It is in the risen Jesus that the kingdom has its beginning. In viewing Jesus as the new Temple, He is the person in Whom heaven and earth now intersect.
- The Ascension: Wright sees this event as the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus is installed as the King and is currently ruling over the new creation. The new creation “breaks out” through His ambassadors proclaiming to the world that Jesus is King as they live life in loving community.
- The Second Coming: Jesus will return as King to restore creation and put all things right. It is at this time that the world is healed and transformed and heaven and earth will come together and be joined.
I am not sure how Wright would label the eschatology he presents. It’s characteristics align with Amillennialism, though Wright does not use that term. In Wright’s presentation there is no mention of a millennial kingdom in which Christ reigns after his return (the defining characteristic of premillennialism) and there is a denial of a rapture event where Jesus followers are taken away from earth. Wright’s focus is on Christ return to “right all things”, which includes the creation and His followers.
Regardless of your eschatology, we all have to deal with the idea that if Jesus has defeated evil through the cross and resurrection and is now ruling over the new creation then ‘why is the world still such a mess?’ After all it does not look like the powers of evil have been defeated nor does the earth look anything like God is currently ruling over the nations.
The answer that most (if not all) eschatological views give to this question is that Christ’s victory must be understood in an “already/not yet” framework. Wright, like many others, reminds us that the resurrection and ascension are only the beginning of something that is not yet complete.
Jesus already achieved the decisive victory over evil on the Cross but evil continues to exist and will do so until the Second Coming. The ultimate victory is not yet accomplished.
We are living in the movement between the initial victory (achieved by the Cross, Resurrection, and Ascension) and the future battle and ultimate victory (at the Second Coming). In this movement, we are still in a state of conflict. But Jesus will come again to fully vanquish the forces of evil that He has already defeated.
Whether one agrees with Wright’s Amillennialism or not, I think we can agree that as Christians living in between the initial and ultimate victories we must be actively engaged in this world – preaching the gospel, loving one another, and helping the needy – while keeping our hope fixed on Jesus and His kingdom.
We do not fight the good fight alone. Wright reminds us:
Jesus is the one who sends the Holy Spirit, his own Spirit, into the lives of his followers, so that he himself is powerfully present with them and in them, guiding them, directing them, and above all enabling them to bear witness to him as the world’s true Lord and work to make that sovereign rule a reality.
He unpacks that in the last chapter so we will look at that in the next post.