where is Jesus now?

N.T. Wright on the ascension and heaven:

...the ascension demands that we think differently about how the whole cosmos, so to speak, is put together and that we also think differently about the church and about salvation. Both literalism and skepticism regularly operate with what is called a receptacle view of space; theologians who take the ascension seriously insist that it demands what some have called a relational view. Basically, heaven and earth in biblical cosmology are not two different locations within the same continuum of space or matter. They are two different dimensions of God's good creation. And the point about heaven is twofold. First, heaven relates to earth tangentially so that the one who is in heaven can be present simultaneously anywhere and everywhere on earth: the ascension therefore means that Jesus is available, accessible, without people having to travel to a particular spot on earth to find him. Second, heaven is, as it were, the control room for earth; it is the CEO's office, the place from which instructions are given. "All authority is given to me," said Jesus at the end of Matthew's gospel, "in heaven and on earth."
The idea of the human Jesus now being in heaven, in his thoroughly embodied risen state, comes as a shock to many people, including many Christians...often it's because our culture is so used to the Platonic idea that heaven is, by definition, a place os "spiritual," nonmaterial reality so that the idea of a solid body being not only present but also thoroughly at home there seems like a category mistake. The ascension invites us to rethink all this; and, after all, why did we suppose we knew what heaven was? Only because our culture has suggested things to us. Part of Christian belief is to find out what's true about Jesus and let that challenge our culture.


The early Christians, and their fellow first-century Jews, were not, as many moderns suppose, locked into thinking of a three-decker universe with heaven up in the sky and hell down beneath their feet. When they spoke of up and down like that they, like the Greeks in their different ways, were using metaphors that were so obvious they didn't need spelling out. As some recent writers have pointed out, when a pupil at school moves "up" a grade, from (say) the tenth grade to eleventh, it is unlikely that this means relocating to a different classroom on the floor above...
The mystery of the ascension is of course just that, a mystery. It demands that we think what is, to many today, unthinkable: that when the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or a bout a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different
kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time. We post-Enlightenment Westerners are such wretched flatlanders.

Both excerpts are from Surprised By Hope, Chapter 7.


Julia said...

So I was thinking about reading some N. T. Wright. What would you suggest as a good starting point?

Recovering Sociopath said...

Surprised By Hope would be a great starting point. Other good ones would be The Last Word or Simply Christian. I've also really enjoyed the For Everyone commentary series. If you want to get super heavy duty right away, you could tackle his Christian Origins and the Question of God series-- they are what my husband calls "choke a mule" books.

Zanshin said...

I think it is difficult to be certain whether Jesus is currently thoroughly at home in the physical heaven or merely will be at some point before the general bodily resurrection. He is the firstfruits of the new creation, but he went to prepare a place for us, so can we be sure it's finished yet? Assuming he is continuing to be in his thoroughly embodied risen state, heaven must at least be habitable by such and inhabited by Jesus. But I wonder what the building process is like. It also brings to mind the question of how or if that relates to our building the kingdom of God on this earth.

jculver said...

Funny - I'm finally reading Surprised by Hope and just read that chapter with lots of underlining. I'm on board with his general rejection of Platonism, though I'm sure there must be a paper out there titled "Why Plato isn't the Platonist everyone thinks he is..."

Recovering Sociopath said...

Re: "he went to prepare a place for us," in this interview, Wright seems to be saying that Jesus was specifically referring to what might be termed Paradise-- the post-death but pre-Resurrection state. Also that the "I go to prepare I place for you" statement, as Fr. David elucidated in a recent sermon, wasn't talking so much about building as making lodging arrangements, as a dragoman would go ahead of a group of travelers and make lodging arrangements at the next inn.

Interesting stuff, eh?