New Testament Scripture hope of resurrection of the body would appear to point to continuity with the present: that it is us who are made new, and that – though we will have been changed – we will be recognisable. Perhaps we won’t look like we did at 8, or 20, or 65, but we will recognise ourselves and be recognisable by others. There will be a continuity of memory, albeit a memory that is healed of the hurts we attach to events in our lives.
But we have tended to assume that our bodies will not experience continuity of place: that they will exist somewhere other than we do here and now. Heaven. Or, perhaps, a new earth.
New Testament Scripture ends with a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. The Greek word for ‘new’ should not be read as ‘wholly new, not seen before’ but as ‘made new.’
In other words, it is not just people who will be transformed – restored to wholeness, to full life-given potential - but also place. Which suggests to me that the cities of this world are eternal places: that the place where I live will be made new, recognisably this place but with all the consequences of separation from God – the boarded-up shops, the litter, the vandalism – transformed into something beautiful...
Such a reading implies that God is not simply concerned with extracting souls from a location that is destined to be scrapped, but that God is concerned with the place where we live, and with the transformation that his kingdom brings to that place. It is a transformation that will not be complete in this age, but which does begin in the present.
If Liverpool – or wherever you live – is in fact an eternal destiny, a place where people will live in eternity, what implications might that have for missional living?