Read Colossians 3:1-17.
NT Wright reminds us that the Christian hope is not for escaping this world of conflict and getting into a disembodied “heaven,” but for a resurrection of the body into a new heaven and a new earth. While we may be conscious and with Christ between death and resurrection, the ultimate end is “life after life after death.” What this means exactly is not yet revealed, and there will be fundamental differences between this heaven and earth and the new ones. Paul refers to resurrection bodies as “spiritual,” rather than carnal, and elsewhere the heavenly city is said to be made of crystal, transparent. And yet, there are implications of what has been revealed for the way we live life here and now.
What should our attitude toward this earth and this life then be? Are we seeking to restore all things here on earth or to fly away and be with God? Is our hope for escape to heaven, or for rest, or for the beatific vision, or simply for a better bodily life in which darkness and opacity are made light and transparent?
Paul points us in the right direction. If we have died and been raised with Christ, our fundamental goals change. Our affections change at the deepest level. The things we seek in life, the desires that drive us, change from “things that are on earth” to “things above.” Earthly things include fornication, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed. You must rid yourselves of such things, as also of anger, malice, slander, and filthy language. “Things above” include compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and, above all, love.
For Paul, the Christian hope is not to fly away, it is for the Word of God to dwell richly in you here and now. To set your hope on heaven is to have holy desires, to put on the clothing of Christ, to let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. It is to do whatever you do in Jesus’ name, that is, to do what Jesus would have you do.
The person in whom the Word of God dwells richly is daily being renewed in knowledge and in likeness to God. Such a one is thankful. Such a one is patient and forgiving and at peace. Such teach and admonish and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
As Christ is hidden to the world, so are his people. But when the new crystalline Jerusalem descends from heaven, all will be revealed, and the better we see God the more we become like him. When Christ is revealed, so too will his people be revealed in glory, the glory of God.
Lord, help us to die with you and be raised with you—to die to earthly things and to set our hearts on things that are above. Teach us to live for you in this world and raise us with you in the next.