One of the things that Rob Bell touches on in Velvet Elvis is eschatology. He does a great job of explaining the ‘new heavens, new earth’ idea, countering the popular misconception that the afterlife involves being sucked off to a disembodied heaven.
One of the most tragic things to ever happen to the gospel was the emergence of the message that Jesus takes us somewhere else if we believe in him. The Bible ends with God coming here. God, in the midst of people who can imagine nothing better, celebrating the life that we all share. (171)
Importantly, he looks to the garden in Genesis 2 and the city in Revelation 21-22 as pictures of our Christian hope.
In Genesis 1 and 2, we are told of a garden, but in Revelation 21 and 22, we are told of a city. A city is more advanced, more complicated than a garden. If a garden is developed and managed and cared for, it is eventually going to turn into a city. If there was no sin or death, creation would still move forward because God doesn’t just want to reclaim things; God wants to seem them move forward. (161)
Maybe, just maybe it’ll catch on! I think a better understanding of our Christian hope will give Christians a better sense of purpose to this life here and now. It’ll help them see why environmental stewardship is so important and why peace and social justice matter. We’re part of the good news! The good news that God is coming back to rule the Earth!
I’d reached a real low point in my faith in 2000. I went to talk to my friend, Ian Packer, about it. I think he must have been inspired, because instead of dealing with all the immediate problems I had with my faith, he asked me what I thought happened when I died. And I made the mistake of saying I hoped to go to heaven!
If you would like to know more on this, N.T. Wright has written some good stuff – especially ‘New Heavens and New Earth’. And then, of course, you can also read Velvet Elvis, which is much easier to get hold of.