Is the gospel’s goal only to bring us to heaven?
I just finished a book by N.T. Wright entitled “The Day The Revolution Began.” It was quite a thought-provoking book. Loooong but thought-provoking indeed.
He pounded on the idea that the gospel is not just the gospel of the afterlife but the gospel of the kingdom.
To a fresh understanding of what I have called the “goal” of the gospel through a fresh understanding of the early Christian use of the phrase “forgiveness of sins” (which obviously relates directly to the early gospel formula “The Messiah died for our sins”). The goal is not for people “to go to heaven when they die.” That is never mentioned in Acts. The whole book of Acts assumes, first, that God’s kingdom has already been well and truly launched through the death and resurrection of Jesus (1: 6; 8: 12; 19: 8; 20: 25; 28: 23, 31); second, that this kingdom will be fully and finally established when Jesus returns (1: 11; 3: 21); and, third, that in this final new world all God’s people will be raised to new bodily life (4: 2; 24: 15, 21; 26: 23). (Kindle, page 154)
Once again, I do not think any early Christians would have denied that this was true, but it is interesting that they didn’t put it like that. (Kindle location 155)
I’ve often preached this part of the gospel – that we are forgiven, saved, rescued and receive eternal life. But this gives me a different perspective. I am saved not just from something (sin) but for something (the kingdom).
The “royal priesthood” is the company of rescued humans who, being part of “earth,” worship the God of heaven and are thereby equipped, with the breath of heaven in their renewed lungs, to work for his kingdom on earth. The revolution of the cross sets us free to be in-between people, caught up in the rhythm of worship and mission. (Kindle, page 363)
Our lungs have been renewed for worship and mission. We are in-between people. This is not our final destination. We are citizens of heaven. And while that hasn’t happened, we are called to advance God’s kingdom together.