Wright on “treasure in heaven”

July 17, 2015

More than any other contemporary Christian thinker, N.T. Wright has reminded us that at the center of our Christian hope is future resurrection into God’s renewed, restored, and re-created world on the other side of death, Second Coming, and final judgment. Merely going to “heaven when we die,” he says many times over, pales in comparison and doesn’t do justice to the biblical message.

I agree for the most part, although popular Christian thinkers from previous generations—I’m thinking of Billy Graham and C.S. Lewis, for instance—often had this full-bodied vision even when they used the word “heaven”—as many do today.

Nevertheless, Wright is right that the popular imagination often pictures heaven as an escape from this world—as a place where we’ll float on clouds in some disembodied, ethereal place far, far away. This picture of heaven pervades many 19th century hymns that remain popular today—not to mention many dumb Hollywood movies.

I find these words from Wright about “treasure in heaven” in the story of the Rich Young Ruler helpful:

When Jesus says ‘You will have treasure in heaven’, he doesn’t mean that the young man must go to heaven to get it; he means that God will keep it stored up for him until the time when, in the Age to Come, all is revealed. The reason you have money in the bank is not so that you can spend it in the bank but so that you can take it out and spend it somewhere else. The reason you have treasure in heaven, God’s storehouse, is so that you can enjoy it in the Age to Come when God brings heaven and earth together at last. And ‘eternal life’, as most translations put it, doesn’t mean ‘life in a timeless, otherworldly dimension’, but ‘the life of the Age to Come’ (the word ‘eternal’ translates a word which means ‘belonging to the Age’).

Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone (Louisville: WJK, 2004), 135.

5 Responses to “Wright on “treasure in heaven””

  1. Grant Essex Says:

    Wright is no doubt a genius, but his view that every scholar since Augustine has misunderstood the Apostle Paul on justification is rather hard to get my brain around.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Me too, although I think his critics make too much of the dispute. He ends up in the same place—justification by faith alone—even though he gets there by a slightly different path than the Reformers. He wants to emphasize that there’s much more to the story than individual salvation—although he doesn’t deny that that’s important. He always says we should be more committed to the Reformers’ method, Sola Scriptura, than to any specific formulations they arrived at. I don’t know… I love the guy.

      If you haven’t already, read his chapter “Israel” in Simply Christian. That helped me make better sense of the Old Testament. He’s very good at making sense of the grand narrative of scripture.

      Frankly, Grant, Wright is more responsible than anyone for my evangelical re-conversion and my coming around to a high view of the authority of scripture. He was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. (Maybe it was the accent?) I owe him a debt of gratitude.

  2. Grant Essex Says:

    That’s awesome!

    His view of the grand narrative is something the modern Christian is prone to miss. It’s all Jesus and the NT, for much of them. In giving such weight to God’s covenant promises, he makes searching the Scriptures so much richer. Every one of those covenant promises is integral to the story.

    You and I have dialogued before about how what happened at the Cross was of cosmic proportions. God, through his Son, reconciled all of creation. The universe, the kingdom of God, Israel and all of mankind. Wright sees that, I think correctly, as not being fulfilled until the last day of judgement.

    The fact that Jesus died once for all sin, but then works that out in us, one sinner at a time, in the most personal and loving way is just incredible to this sinner. How could it possibly be any better than that!!

  3. veritasvincit Says:

    Check out Dennis Prager’s set of videos on the Ten Commandments on youtube.

    The 1st Commandment begins “I am the Lord your God who BROUGHT YOU OUT OF EGYPT.”

    The deliverance of Israel is just as important as the Cross of Christ (I realize I must be careful here) in redemptive history. Setting Israel apart as the people of God out of whom the Saviour would be brought forth is an essential part of my identity in Christ.

    It’s not that Luther and the reformation got it wrong. It’s just that they only got an important part right and in reaction to Rome rejected much in the tradition that was true. The matter is further complicated by the anabaptists and the radical reformation.

    JIm Lung


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