I'm back again to drop another quote from N.T. Wright's book, "Surprised by Hope". I have to tell you--this book has become one of my top favorite books. For the first time in my life, I think I truly understand how Jesus' resurrection, and our eventual resurrection provide us with the Christian hope. In light of this fresh understanding, I feel like I'm seeing the purpose of my life in technicolor--no longer in black and white.
Go get this book. Set aside 3 months and work your way through it. Read it with a friend and discuss it as you go. You'll emerge from your study with an understanding of what to expect when life "as you know it" is over--the understanding the very first Christians had! But, more importantly, I think, you'll have a renewed sense of purpose in your faith, and in how you spend your days on this earth.
Here's the quote I promised. I may be back in days to come with another sample. Hopefully, these teasers will work their magic and you'll read this treasure for yourself. Do it. I'll look for your thank you note in a few months.
"But the most important thing to say at the end of this discussion, and of this section of the book, is that heaven and hell are not, so to speak, what the whole game is about. This is one of the central surprises in the Christian hope. The whole point of my argument so far is that the question of what happens to me after death is not the major, central, framing question that centuries of theological tradition have supposed. The New Testament, true to its Old Testament roots, regularly insists that the major, central, framing question is that of God's purposes of rescue and re-creation for the whole world, the entire cosmos. The destiny of individual human beings must be understood within that context--not simply in the sense that we are only part of a much larger picture but also in the sense that part of the whole point of being saved in the present is so that we can play a vital role (Paul speaks of this role in the shocking terms of being 'fellow workers with God') within that larger picture and purpose. And that in turn makes us realize that the question of our own destiny, in terms of the alternatives of joy or woe, is probably the wrong way of looking at the whole question. The question ought to be, How will God's new creation come? and then, How will we humans contribute to that renewal of creation and to the fresh projects that the creator God will launch in his new world? The choice before humans would then be framed differently: are you going to worship the creator God and discover thereby what it means to become fully and gloriously human, reflecting his powerful, healing, transformative love into the world? Or are you going to worship the world as it is, boosting your corruptible humanness by gaining power or pleasure from forces within the world but merely contributing thereby to your own dehumanization and the further corruption of the world itself?" (Wright, N.T. "Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church". New York, NY: Harper Collings Publishers, 2008.)