Resurrection Made Greater

Peter Leithart in 2008, around the time Surprised by Hope came out:

N. T. Wright has recently been telling people they’ve got personal eschatology wrong. Heaven is not the final destination for the saints, but they will be raised in transfigured bodies to inhabit a newly united heaven-and-earth.

That this causes jaw-dropping astonishment is itself jaw-droppingly astonishing. Hasn’t anyone ever read the Apostles’ Creed? ‘Life everlasting’ comes after ‘resurrection of the body’.

The emphasis on the beatific vision that we often get, Dante notwithstanding, is an aberration. It even seems incompatible with the general bodily resurrection of the dead (John Morreall, ‘Perfect Happiness and the Resurrection of the Body’, Religious Studies xvi.1 (1980), 29–35). So what choices are there? Tone down the talk about the beatific vision by denying what others have affirmed about it, or elevate the resurrection by affirming what others have ignored about it. The concept of soul sleep seems attractive here, whereby none of the blessed dead are conscious until raised at the Last Day.

Or else what? How do we deal with what holy Scripture says about our eschatological destiny?

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2 responses to “Resurrection Made Greater

  1. This is exactly what the Seventh-Day Adventist Church teaches. We also believe that it’s obvious from biblical descriptions that the final abode of the saints is on earth in the New Jerusalem, not in an otherworldly heaven. Another big doctrinal point we emphasize is the “soul sleep” idea in which the dead are simply asleep until the judgement. I wonder if this is becoming more popular in theological circles.

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    • I get annoyed when people talk about going to heaven as if that’s the end, because bodily resurrection and inheritance of the physical (yes, physical!) earth is just plain old orthodoxy, with no theological innovation at all.

      I’m still on the fence about soul sleep, as I’ve been since freshman year of college. Given what tradition I move around in, however, I tend not to want to rock that boat unless I’m convinced I should. At the moment, I do believe there’s some consciousness after death before the Last Judgement.

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