For the past several months I have been preaching through Philippians on Sunday mornings. It seems that in each section I delve into, Paul is calling people to look heavenward, set their sights on the future, and be motivated by the breaking through of the coming eschaton into our current experience.
So the language N.T. Wright (1) has been employing to refer to heaven, or the co-existing kingdom of God has been helpful in explaining what it is that Paul is so fired up about. It is not some distant death dependent dwelling place of God for which Paul is pursuing his “prize.” No, he is seeking the “power of the resurrection” right there in his time and space. He is vividly aware that he and his Philippian cohorts have already been made “citizens” of heaven and that the benefits of that citizenship should follow them around wherever they go.
At the same time he is extremely motivated by the knowledge that at the end of the age, all the glimpses he gets of the new creation will replaced with scenic overlooks.
His other focus is that of living a cruciform lifestyle that includes an embracing of suffering and focus on Chirst in his life and death. But right now what is more intriguing to me is how the language of Wright’s book gives us a kind of scaffolding of images with which to understand the reality of the “already” kingdom – or the creation that is “already” being made new.
(1) N.T. Wright, Simply Christian (San Francisco: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2006), 55-140