I saw this Time Magazine article today at https://time.com/5743505/new-testament-heaven/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-brief&utm_content=20191230&xid=newsletter-brief.
Some excerpts are included below, but I recommend reading the entire article. It points out for us again that we always need to be mindful of the scriptural authors’ world view at the time they were writing. It is too easy for us to superimpose modern day theological ideas on what those authors actually intended.
“To understand what the first followers of Jesus believed about what happens after death, we need to read the New Testament in its own world — the world of Jewish hope, of Roman imperialism and of Greek thought.”
“The followers of the Jesus-movement that grew up in that complex environment saw “heaven” and “earth” — God’s space and ours, if you like — as the twin halves of God’s good creation. Rather than rescuing people from the latter in order to reach the former, the creator God would finally bring heaven and earth together in a great act of new creation, completing the original creative purpose by healing the entire cosmos of its ancient ills. They believed that God would then raise his people from the dead, to share in — and, indeed, to share his stewardship over — this rescued and renewed creation. And they believed all this because of Jesus.”
“The scriptures always promised that when the life of heaven came to earth through the work of Israel’s Messiah, the weak and the vulnerable would receive special care and protection, and the desert would blossom like the rose. Care for the poor and the planet then becomes central, not peripheral, for those who intend to live in faith and hope, by the Spirit, between the resurrection of Jesus and the coming renewal of all things.”