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Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church Paperback – February 27, 2018
In this groundbreaking book—available in paperback for the first time—renowned Bible scholar, Anglican bishop, and bestselling author N. T. Wright argues that Christians have not distorted the Bible’s message about heaven and what happens after we die.
For years, Christians have been asking, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?" It turns out that many believers have been giving the wrong answer. It is not heaven.
Wright outlines the present confusion about a Christian’s future hope and shows how it is deeply intertwined with how we live today. Wright asserts that Christianity’s most distinctive idea is bodily resurrection, and provides a magisterial defense for a literal resurrection of Jesus. Wright then explores our expectation of "new heavens and a new earth," revealing what happens to the dead until then and what will happen with the "second coming" of Jesus. For many, including many Christians, it will come as a great surprise to learn that heaven comes to earth instead of us going to heaven.
Wright convincingly argues that what we believe about life after death directly affects what we believe about life before death. For if God intends to renew the whole creation—and if this has already begun in Jesus’s resurrection—the church cannot stop at "saving souls" but must anticipate the eventual renewal by working for God’s kingdom in the wider world, bringing healing and hope in the present life.
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His conclusions are both simple and world-shaking -- Library Journal
This book will be widely read because it stirs together Scripture, tradition, art and world affairs with pleasing metaphors and public courage. -- The Dallas Morning News
“Wright’s unwavering faith in the resurrection is quite evident as he defends the Easter narratives on historical and theological grounds.” -- America Magazine
“N.T. Wright can write. . . when it comes to questions of Christ’s resurrection and what that means, no one is more persuasive. Wright’s new book, Surprised by Hope, builds on C.S. Lewis’ succinct defense of the faith and takes it to a new level.” -- World Magazine
“In calling Christians to an epistemology of love and a re-emphasis of the Easter season, Wright knocked it out of the park.” -- Beliefnet (A "Top Religious Book of the Year")
A crystal-clear, powerful course-correction for all of us--Christian or otherwise. If you want to know what Easter is about, get yourself a copy of Surprised by Hope and hunker down for the read of a lifetime....literally. -- Phyllis Tickle, Beliefnet.com
From the Back Cover
Christians Don't Go to Heaven
Heaven Comes Here
- Publisher : HarperOne; Reprint edition (February 27, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 352 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062089978
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062089977
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Dimensions : 1.1 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #221,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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So here's Paul's statement (Moffatt translation, but any would do):
1Th 4:13 We would like you, brothers, to understand about those who are asleep in death. You must not grieve for them, like the rest of men who have no hope.
1Th 4:14 Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, then it follows that by means of Jesus God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
1Th 4:15 For we tell you, as the Lord has told us, that we the living, who survive till the Lord comes, are by no means to take precedence over those who have fallen asleep.
1Th 4:16 The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a loud summons, when the archangel calls and the trumpet of God sounds; the dead in Christ will rise first;
1Th 4:17 then we the living, who survive, will be caught up along with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall be with the Lord for ever.
Now Mr. Wright takes simple straight statements and tries to tie them to what "he" sees as Pauls influences and reason for writing what he does. Paul only is answering what happens at the moment of Christ's return, but Mr. Wright assumes that the last part about meeting the Lord in the air means we are whisked away from the earth to the heaven where God lives. But that is NOT what Paul said, and the disciples would have known better. What did the disciples expect, and how would they have very naturally understood these scriptures?
After Jesus had been resurrected he was meeting with his disciples. They asked him a question.
Act 1:6 Now when they met, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time you are going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?"
Act 1:7 But he told them, "It is not for you to know the course and periods of time that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
Notice what they knew and expected: Jesus was born messiah-- to be a king and to rule from Jerusalem over the restored Kingdom of Israel. Jesus didn't correct them or contradict them in any way. He just said the Father had reserved that moment, and not let it be known. The point is that when Jesus returns, he will come back to Jerusalem, his feet touching on the Mount of Olives. This is clear from what happened 2 verses later:
Act 1:9 When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.
Act 1:10 While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing,
Act 1:11 who also said, “You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky, will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky.” (Other translations use "clouds".)
So Pauls statement in Thessalonians meshes perfectly. He leaves in the clouds and returns in the clouds. But he is not alone when he returns.
Jude 1:14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,
When He comes those who have served him (hopefully you and I) will be with him. So Paul is answering the question, what about the saints who have died? He tells them straight and plain that the dead saints will be resurrected first of all, to meet the Lord in the air. And then those believers who are alive will be changed: Paul writes: 1Co 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
“1Co 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.
1Co 15:53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. “
--and all the saints will rise to meet him. And where do they meet him? In the clouds! Not heaven, as in God's heaven, but the physical atmosphere above the earth. So Paul is explaining the moment in the process of Jesus return where the saints do go meet him in the air.
And N.T. Wright is correct here in part: they will accompany him back. Back to what? Back to rule. Where is that rule? In Jerusalem! Where do they go after meeting the Lord in the air? Back to Jerusalem and down to the Mount of Olives as the angels told the disciples after he ascended!
Then the reign of Christ and his Church will begin. And by the way, they are the Kingdom of Israel, believing gentiles grafted into the tree of Jacob and Jews who believed and were never broken off, or were re-grafted after unbelief. God’s plan for the earth will be completed with Israel led by her Messiah, King and God.
So the first question the disciples asked will happen at last, because at that time Jesus will restore the Kingdom to Israel and all of the prophecies about Messiahs reign in all the Prophets will at last be fulfilled. Mr Wright is "right" when he says we are to deal with the earth. Paul says the saints will judge or manage angels! Remember the parable of the talents where those who bear fruit are given rule over cities? You as a Christian have a huge future in the fully restored Kingdom of God on earth.
Our lives are in preparation for that; what wonderful news, and, as Mr. Wright says eventually, the Holy City will descend with a new heavens and new earth.
So Mr. Wright gets some right, some wrong and a lot of speculative stuff in the middle. Overall, I believe first century Christians would have found his calls to political action to be strange. Rome had huge injustice everywhere, but neither Jesus nor his disciples were involved on a political level with resisting it. Christians in China now are trying to live peaceably with a government that is clearly evil, just like in Rome. If they go and try to get active politically, they will lose their freedom to meet (what little they have), and be unable to live peaceably and serve God.
Satan would like nothing better than to have Christianity in China seen as a political subversive group there. It has grown tremendously and they are threatened in the government. The government needs to know that Christians are commanded to be good citizens. They are too busy fighting their own natures and Satan be subversive. They fight on their knees. Paul said to submit to authorities, good and bad. Christianity is not of this world; Jesus Kingdom is not of this world. But the fullness of it is coming TO this world. That is our hope as we live Godly lives in the light of day.
The subject of this book focuses on the misunderstanding that centers around many western churches when discussing the eternal destination of the Christian. According to Wright, the common misconception is that we will dwell in heaven forever. Instead, Wright argues, Heaven is only a temporary resting spot, and one day in the future, all Christians past and present will again live on the earth under Jesus’ reign.
The main drawback for this book is that Wright seems to want to overly convince his readers of this fact. He states scripture after scripture, hymn after hymn, story after story, to prove his point. It’s a bit much. I think the reason that such confusion exists is because, for most people, the debate of “where” we will be is not that significant. Instead, most people when discussing eschatology are more concerned with “how”. As long as we’re in a place “like” heaven, we don’t seem to mind exactly where we’ll unpack our suitcase for eternity.
As Wright makes his arguments, he seems more driven towards left-brain thinking than right-brained thinking. He doesn’t spend too much time talking about what this new world will be like and what everyone will experience. He assures us that even though we will all be working and have some sort of job in God’s kingdom, all souls will, in fact, relish the experience. When it comes to such matters that are somewhat mysterious, the author doesn’t claim to offer heavy handed explanations based on what he might feel. If he doesn’t know, he doesn’t know, and has no trouble at all stating this in the book.
The big challenge that he gives Christians is that if we are to one day live in this world with Jesus as our king, we must take care of the world as it is now. We must “get it ready” for the glory of God. I think this is where his real struggle is with a lot of Western thinking. Too often, many Christians today have “End Times” syndrome. They’re so convinced that Jesus will rapture the saints at any moment, that they don’t seem to care about things such as acid rain or global warming. After all, this is only our temporary home, right? This is what the author is trying so hard to dispel. Being a Christian, he says, involves a lot of ‘doing’ in addition to ‘witnessing’.
It’s quite interesting (although many would find it insulting) when the author finds faults in many practices that Western (particularly U.S.) churches engage in every Sunday. He’s not a fan of “check off the box” salvation, and he clearly doesn’t believe in such widely held beliefs as the rapture of the church. I’m not one with a degree in theology, so I can’t challenge him on such sentiments, but he seems think that as a body, Christians definitely need to be doing more both within their church and community, and within the world itself.
He doesn’t spend very much time talking about “who gets to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven”. He states that he’s clearly not a Universalist (although he confesses that such a concept might not be completely foreign to God), and the main reason behind this thinking is the wickedness that some people possess. I confess I would have liked to have him expound on this a bit more. He makes references to such obvious atrocities such as Nazism and sexual slavery, but where exactly does he draw the line? Aren’t all evil without the blood of Jesus? Then, some of his “evils” that he describes didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. He quickly mentions “Hiroshima” for example. Hiroshima? What exactly is “evil” about this? I’m assuming he’s referring to the atom bomb, and yes, this was truly a very evil event, but who was ultimately responsible? Some would argue Harry Truman, but others would say it was the mayhems of Japan and their treatment of American POWs that actually caused the unfortunate event. So his failure to go into more depth left me a bit disappointed.
I still felt this was an excellent book. If anything, it causes one to rethink and reevaluate such predispositions that many Christians have had, say, forever. Such debate is healthy, I believe. Although he doesn’t argue that one must “work” towards salvation (at least that wasn’t the impression that I got), he does plainly say that once one is saved, the converted heart should want to work for God’s glory – both in this life and the next.
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Refreshingly, Prof. Wright does not preach. He is not even slightly patronising. He puts his point, and defends it with rigorous logic. And, like the true don he is, he makes heavy weather of nothing, and is not sparing with his excellent wit.
One thing I could not quite see the reason for, other than that it is fact, is Prof.Wright's concern to emphasise the Jewishness of Christ. Is he putting paid to theses that have proposed that Christ was not Jewish but Assyrian, etc? Still, this is aspect of his work interesting in itself, and in no way a fault of it. Jaded Christians, or curious non-Christians, will find this work a very good read indeed.