Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright
There’s a great deal of confusion about the nature of Christian Hope. Are we just “passing through” or are we here for the long haul? Surprised by Hope is nothing but a masterpiece in laying out the pieces of the puzzle and pointing to God’s grand redemptive design for both humanity and his glorious creation.
Our theology is highly determinative of the way we see the world. If we’re not careful we can subscribe to a theology that celebrates destruction as a sign of the immanent return of Christ. In setting out a theological foundation for cultivating a redemptive worldview, NT Wright empowers believers to recapture their original creative, transformative calling in Christ.
This book has been formative in helping me see the big picture of God’s redemptive plan. In turn it has changed my view on the role that we have in partnering with heaven to truly see “the kingdom come” in such a way that we can then say it has become “on earth as it is in heaven.”
This theological view dignifies and validates our endeavors on earth. The businesses we invest into, the ministries we build, the social enterprises we purse, and the family we sow into aren’t simply coming to naught in the face of apocalyptic destruction, but are the vehicle through which God’s redemption is being outworked on earth.
1. There has been a great deal of confusion over the nature of Christian hope, even from the standpoint of the early church.
2. The clearest theological picture we can draw from scripture is that through the work of Christ God is intending to redeem His creation by partnering with humanity and in the words of NT Wright, “setting things right”.
3. The process of salvation begins with the human heart on conversion, then transforms us as believers, then works to transform wider creation.
4. Our Hope is that creation, as it currently is, will undergo a profound transformative process in order to be brought back to its original purpose to be a dwelling place for God’s peace and presence.
5. Our personal hope is (after the resurrection) to experience continuation from our life on earth into a “new heavens and new earth; a transformatively renewed version of the current heaven and earth.
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“This book addresses two question: First, what is the ultimate Christian hope? Second, what hope is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present?”
“‘God’s kingdom’ in the preaching of Jesus refers, not to post-mortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but about God’s sovereign rule coming ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.”
“[This] whole book thus attempts to reflect the Lord’s Prayer itself when it says, ‘thy kingdom come, on earth as in heaven’. That remains one of the most powerful and revolutionary sentences we can ever say”
“[T]he early Christian future hope centred firmly on resurrection. The first Christians did not simply believe in ‘life after death’; they virtually never speak simply of ‘going to heaven when they died’”
“‘Paradise’ is, rather, the blissful garden where God’s people rest prior to the resurrection. When Jesus declares that there are many dwelling-places in his father’s house, the word for ‘dwelling-place’ is monē, which denotes a temporary lodging. When Paul says that his desire is ‘to depart and be with Christ, which is far better’, he is indeed thinking of a blissful life with his Lord immediately after death, but this is only the prelude to the resurrection itself.”
‘Resurrection’, we must never cease to remind ourselves, did not mean ‘going to heaven’ or ‘escaping death’ or ‘having a glorious and noble post-mortem existence’ but ‘coming to bodily life again after bodily death’
“Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift which is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.”
“The early Christians did not believe in ‘progress’. They did not think the world was getting better and better under its own steam – or even under the steady influence of God. They knew God had to do something fresh to put it to rights… They believed that God was going to do for the whole cosmos what he had done for Jesus at Easter.”
“God intends, in the end, to fill all creation with his own presence and love.”
“What is promised in this passage, then, is what Isaiah foresaw: a new heaven and a new earth, replacing the old heaven and the old earth, which were bound to decay. This doesn’t mean, as I have stressed throughout, that God will wipe the slate clean and start again. If that were so, there would be no celebration, no conquest of death, no long preparation now at last complete…So far from sitting on clouds playing harps, as people often imagine, the redeemed people of God in the new world will be the agents of his love going out in new ways, to accomplish new creative tasks, to celebrate and extend the glory of his love.”
“When God ‘saves’ people in this life, by working through his Spirit to bring them to faith, and by leading them to follow Jesus in discipleship, prayer, holiness, hope and love, such people are designed – it isn’t too strong a word – to be a sign and foretaste of what God wants to do for the entire cosmos. What’s more, such people are not just to be a sign and foretaste of that ultimate ‘salvation’; they are to be part of the means by which God makes this happen in both the present and the future. That is what Paul insists on when he says that the whole creation is waiting with eager longing – not just for its own redemption, its liberation from corruption and decay, but for God’s children to be revealed: in other words, for the unveiling of those redeemed humans through whose stewardship creation will at last be brought back into that wise order for which it was made.”
“‘God’s kingdom’ and ‘kingdom of heaven’ mean the same thing: the sovereign rule of God (i.e., the rule of ‘heaven’, that is, of the one who lives in heaven), which according to Jesus was and is breaking in to the present world, to ‘earth’.”
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