The following is an excerpt from our recent ebook A Whistlestop Tour of Ephesians.
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Fullness of Time
Chapter 1 verse 10 is a verse that the church in the Western world has studiously ignored. ‘Please do not do this!’ Rather, note carefully what Paul says in verse 10, ‘God’s plan for the fullness of time was to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth’.
We have lived in a culture that has long separated heaven and earth, which thinks of heaven as ‘somewhere up there a long way away’. In this view, heaven is a place that maybe we’ll go one day but has not got much to do with who we are down here. We don’t get that message when we read the Bible. We inherited our view from a Western philosophical and intellectual tradition. Two hundred years ago, this tradition decided that we would send God away into His ‘heaven’, out of sight. This was ultimately for our own convenience, so that we could run the world the way we wanted without interference.
We have seen not only the world, but also (heaven help us!) God himself, Jesus, the Bible, and even ourselves as praying Christians, in light of this view. We have lived split-level lives; as a result, we have a split-level eschatology about where we will go after death.We have lived split-level lives; as a result, we have a split-level eschatology. Click To Tweet
The Other Way Around
This eschatology states that we will leave this world before we go to heaven, but the Bible puts it back the other way around. In the last great scene in the Bible, what we see is not people being taken away from earth to go to heaven; instead, it is the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth so that God’s world will be one.
The good news? In Jesus Christ, this has already happened. In Jesus, the twin halves of God’s good creation have already been joined. We as followers of Jesus Christ are called to live in a world in which heaven and earth have already come together once, for all, and forever.
It may not look like that when you read the newspapers, when you see what’s on the television. Often you say, ‘If this is what heaven on earth looks like, then something has gone badly wrong’. And that is true. But through the power of Jesus Christ, in the strength of His Spirit, we are enabled to be people through whom Jesus’ reality can be launched fully. We are to be people, as this first chapter of Ephesians tell us, through whom the same power which raised Jesus from the dead will be at work. When this happens, signs and elements of that heaven-on-earth reality will come to birth in our midst.
The Heaven and Earth Project
Many of us (including myself) have grown up in a world and church that didn’t look at reality like this. For some of us, heaven was always a long way off, and we had to muddle along on earth as best we could in hopes of arriving at heaven eventually.
We have been robbed of a central bit of our inheritance. Jesus taught us to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven’. Jesus launched the heaven-and-earth project, and it’s not going away until that day when God’s work is fully done.Jesus heaven-and-earth project is not going away until God's work is fully done. Click To Tweet
Read the rest in Professor Wright’s ebook “A Whistle-stop Tour of Ephesians“.