The other day, at our Bible study/knitting group, the deaconess, Alsion, commented that heaven is going to be right here on earth; God has promised to created a new heaven and a new earth, and they will be the same place. Rob Bell reiterates this at some length on his chapter on heaven. I wondered why it matters to much to them. (It doesn't much to me; I'm not sure any actual 'place' is a category applicable to heaven, given that our bodies will be like Christ's resurrected and glorified one.) Turns out, the concern is that “If you believe that you’re going to leave and evacuate to somewhere else, then why do anything about this world? A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it…” (p. 46) ??????????? What about love? We minister to the world for love of it. What about communion with God? We minister to the world as part of our communion with God, who ministers to it. It surprises me that, for Rob Bell, apparently a real incentive has to have 'something in it for me'. That's what we call 'fleshly' thinking, and unfortunately it dogs this book throughout. Anyway, here's the argument he makes, upon which I'll have another comment at the end. BEGIN QUOTE The prophet Isaiah said that in that new day ”the nations will stream to” Jerusalem, and God will ”settle disputes for many peoples”; people will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (chap. 2). As we would say, Peace on earth. Isaiah said that everybody will walk “in the light of the Lord” and “they will neither harm or destroy” In that day. The earth, Isaiah said, will be “filled with the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea” (chap. 11) He described “a feast of rich food for all peoples” Because God will “destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, The sheet that covers all nations. He will swall up death forever.” God “will wipe away the tears from all faces”; And “remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth” (chap. 25). The prophet Ezekiel said that people will be given grain and fruit and crops and new hearts and new spirits (chap. 36). The prophet Amos promised that everything will be repaired and restored and rebuild and “new wine will drip from the mountains” (chap. 9). Life in the age to come If this sounds like heaven on earth, That’s because it is. Literally. * * * ....one of the most striking aspects of the pictures the prophets used to describe this reality is how earthly it is. Wine and crops and grain and people and feasts and buildings and homes. It’s here they were talking about, this world, the one we know—but rescued, transformed, and renewed. When Isaiah predicted that spears would become pruning hooks, that’s a reverence to cultivating. Pruning and trimming and growing and paying close attention to the plants and whether they’re getting enough water and if their roots are deep enough. Soil under the fingernails, grapes being tramples under bard feet, fingers sticky from handling fresh fruit. It’s that green stripe you get around the sole of your shoes when you mow the lawn Life in the age to come. Earthy. END QUOTE Notice how Pastor Bell confuses the ages. He has only got two in mind, one that exists from the beginning of creation through now, and the other which is to begin when Jesus returns and will last forever. He forgets, or doesn't acknowledge, that Jesus already ushered in a new age in His first coming. His message was, 'The Kingdom of God is at hand'. It's here; it's now, even though it is to be consummate only when He comes again. But even now, we have the new wine dripping from the mountains, and the new grain - think Holy Communion - and new hearts and new spirits filled with the knowledge of God Christ imparted to us by the sending of the Holy Spirit into us. Christ has already destroyed death by His own death. So some of these prophecies are about the age of the Church, the here and now, while others are earthy metaphors for the age still to come, and Bell needs to distinguish these. I also fail to see how separating heaven from earth in time doesn't pose the same problem Bell thinks he sees in separating them spatially.
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