I am blogging my notes from a while back when I first read Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins”. Others have done a good job of responding to the book but I thought as I had them I would post my notes now.
In chapter 2 he makes the great point that heaven is not somewhere else and the gospel is not about escaping somewhere else. He also asks the question about how we will be happy there knowing others we love are not. That is a very good question. I wonder about that too.
He says that Jesus talks about “ages” (this one and the one to come) not an eternal future. He makes the good point that life in the age to come is heaven on earth. Everything “rescued transformed and renewed.” The day of the Lord, he goes on, is when God says “enough” to anything that threatens the peace, harmony and health that God intends for the world.
He makes the point that we long for justice and God’s anger to burn against evil but that we live with the haunting thought of our own contribution to what is wrong with the world. All good points, very well made.
“There is nothing wrong with possessions; it’s just that they have value to us only when we use them, engage in them, and enjoy them. They’re nouns that mean something only in conjunction with verbs. That’s why wealth is so dangerous; if you’re not careful you can easily end up with a garage full of nouns”
What a great way of putting it. “A garage full of nouns”. Rob Bell at his best.
“Jesus makes no promise that in the blink of an eye we will suddenly become totally different people who have different tastes, attitudes, and perspectives.” p50
I think I agree. We are re-newed not replaced. We die in Christ and are reborn by the Spirit etc but not in ways that mean we are a new person, disconnected from the one that grew inside our mother’s womb. (I find this concept hard to articulate but it is key in the bible. God could have destroyed everything when man rebelled against him and start again, but he chose to bring a new creation out of the death of the old. It seems that there is something that can be brought out of the grave that cannot be brought into being out of nothing.) We are in some sense the same being, but one who has been separated from their sin and brought to new Spiritual life. Now that will give us different tastes, attitudes, and perspectives. If it doesn’t perhaps we have not really been changed at all. But I think what he is talking about is when Jesus comes back, though the bible says we will all be instantly changed to be like him (1 Cor 15:52), it will just be the completion of the work that began in us on conversion. No one on Jesus’ return will be changed in their nature and reaction to him. Those that loved him in their life will love him still more, and those that rejected him in their heart will continue to push him away.
Rob makes the point that some will be surprised to be in heaven, ie “but when did we do X Y and Z for you Jesus?”. Others will be surprised to be in hell “away from me you evil doers”.
I’m not sure Mat 25:35-46 really means that doing good to God’s people is the way to get to heaven, and that therefore there will be a lot of surprised philanthropists standing at the pearly gates. To fit it with the rest of the bible’s emphasis on salvation by faith in Jesus, I take it to mean that those who trust in Jesus will demonstrate it by what they do.
“when Jesus talked about heaven, he was [sometimes] talking about our present, intense, real experiences of joy, peace, and love in this life, this side of death and the age to come. Heaven for Jesus wasn’t just someday; it was a present reality. Jesus blurs the lines, inviting the rich man, and us, into the merging of heaven and earth, the future and present, here and now.
To say it again, eternal life is less about a kind of time that starts when we die, and more about a quality and vitality of life lived now in connection to God” p 59
True, eternal life doesn’t start when we die. It starts now. It’s not about life that begins at death. It’s about experiencing the kind of life now that can endure and survive through death. But there is still a massive difference between this age and the next and though they may overlap, they are not the same.