Thursday 7 March 2013
Resurrection: Rob Bell.
Not long ago I heard a (rather rubbish) preacher claim that the gospel hope is "going to heaven when you die". This is a fairly common viewpoint - you get it in several Victorian hymns - but it does have two big problems: firstly it is not in the Bible; and secondly it makes this world seem like a pointless waiting room, like hanging around at Heathrow for a flight to Madrid whilst Spanish Air Traffic Control is on strike.
In the Bible the gospel hope is, on one level at least, clear enough: it is resurrection (see, for example, 1 Cor 15 and Acts 23:6). The trickier bit is understanding what resurrection, in this context, is all about.
The Acts quote above looks to be about a general resurrection of the dead 'at the end of the age' - ie after Jesus returns, when God's Kingdom is fully realised in a 'new heaven and a new earth'. Whilst that's more concrete than just 'going to heaven', it's still not obvious what its relevance is to here and now.
The chapter to the Corinthians is different though. That starts from a statement of the gospel that Jesus died and was raised, in the past, and then argues from this that there will be a general resurrection in the future. So the basic gospel message that the Corinthians had already accepted was about Jesus' resurrection, and Paul was teasing out for them the implications of this for their present and future.
An expansion on resurrection as the 'gospel hope' then would start with Jesus' death and resurrection setting us free from anything that is wrong in our past.
Then the resurrection message for here and now is that however bad things may be, God will have the last word. When Jesus died on the cross it looked as though it was all over, but God raised him from the dead and defeat was changed to victory. When we are at our most hopeless, when darkness is all around, then God will act and everything will change in an instant. The resurrection message is that God transforms despair to joy and defeat into victory; we just need to hang in there as best we can.
Finally, resurrection is hope for the future: a double hope in that we hope to be reunited with those who we have loved, but also in that we hope to live in a renewed world where life, justice and love are all around (and within).
Rob Bell, of course, puts all this much better, so I have included a video of his about Resurrection at the top of this post. Enjoy!