He begins by saying that heaven is NOT home, it is a stop en route to a resurrection body and life in a renewed earth. The new creation (Rev 21:1) will be a different reality with both continuity and discontinuity (and its pretty hard to press the details too far here)
– no more sea (Rev 21:1)
– no more death, mourning, crying or pain (Rev 21:4)
– no more sin (Rev 21:7-8)
– no more curse (Rev 22:3)
But there is also continuity with the present order. The place is described as a GARDEN CITY:
Wright brings out the strong parallels here between Genesis and Revelation. The latter fulfils and completes the former.
– Gold and precious stones are in both places: Gen 2:12 – Rev 21:11, 19-21
– Eden is watered by 4 rivers: the city by the river of life
– Eden’s tree of life now reappears, spanning the river of life, and all now have access to it
The location is a city, the new Jerusalem – and we get into some theology of the city here. The heavenly city is a picture of the earthly city redeemed. This city has security, space and beauty. It is rich in all the things we long for in city life.
What is going to be in the city? Here Wright argues for a biblical holism instead of Greek dualism. In the biblical worldview everything is sacred. There is no ‘spiritual’ versus ‘earthly’ dualism. The new creation is much more concrete and earthy than many imagine.
But what about 2 Peter 3:10 and the obliteration of the earth by fire? He argues the best manuscripts point to the fire ‘exposing’ or ‘laying bare’ the earth, not burning it up (as in the KJV – which is not based on the best Greek texts). So this fire is more one of revealing all before the judgement of God, not a literal destruction of earth.
What actually ‘continues’ into the new creation? The best of human culture (see Is 60:5-11; Rev 21:24-27). A human world cleansed of all sin and imperfection and one that will develop and grow in ways that cannot be imagined as human life proceeds honouring and glorifying God.
The creation itself will no longer ‘groan’ (Rom 8:22) but will be liberated and at peace.
Who will be there? People from all the nations, reconciled through the cross. A redeemed and renewed humanity. Enjoying resurrection life (and resurrection bodies); the perfect presence of God; and the blessing of creative work in the service and worship of God.
Of course all this is in vision and symbolism. It is beyond our grasp fully to comprehend. The picture is one to inspire and encourage. Wright says it sets his pulse racing and imagination soaring. This is Christian hope. And this hope has profound implications for the present. He concludes saying that:
i. All our work now contributes to the content of the new creation. Work matters, society matters, justice matters .. this world is not just an arena for evangelising souls, all we do has eternal significance.
I agree with this – but when you start pushing, it actually is very difficult to say ‘how’ life in the here and now impacts the future. Stephen Williams has argued that the strongest biblical motive for Christian life in the present is simply love: love of God and of neighbour.
ii. All our behaviour here must be governed by the standards of the new creation. God’s people are called to be signs and witnesses of the glorious life to come in the here and now.
The book closes with a question about the new creation:
‘Are you investing your life and work in it and living now by its standards as a citizen of the city of God?’