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Wilberforce and the New Heaven

Wilberforce and the New Heaven

By Chuck Collins
July 26, 2021

William Wilberforce lived for the cause of upholding the dignity of every human being. He is best known for his campaign to abolish slavery. He was on his deathbed July 26, 1833 when friends brought him the good news that a bill for the full abolition of slavery had passed its second reading in Parliament. This assured its eventual passage! For four decades, Wilberforce had fought hard to abolish the evil practice of human beings imprisoning other human beings throughout the British Empire.

Slavery was only one of the many issues Wilberforce took on. With influential and wealthy friends at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Clapham, a little village today located in southwestern London, the Clapham Church (later "Sect") pushed for the education of common people, supported Bible societies, orphanages, Sunday schools, and worked to abolish the inhumane treatment of chimney sweeps. He wrote "Real Christianity" to call Christians to boldly live for the cause of Christ in an age when so many were lulled into thinking that one person cannot make a difference.

What motivates Christians like Wilberforce to act for justice, beauty and evangelism? Not some artificial mandate to construct the Kingdom of God on the earth. Rotary Club religion, the so-called "social gospel" or "liberation theology," makes Christianity into some social reform movement and uses Christ as a motivational tool. The social gospel that is merely a moral improvement project is often driven by guilt and coercion, and pulpit pounding preachers and community organizers who preach that we need to do more and try harder to alleviate hunger, homelessness, inequality, violence, immorality, and ugly art. But, just looking around, that doesn't work. The social ministry that God wants is the natural result of a heart and human will that is changed by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit. The Clapton Church understood this: only God builds God's Kingdom, and this happens when he recruits Christians in this life to the purposes of restoring a fallen world. In this life we see in a very small way the recreation that will be the experience of all creation when Jesus returns to bring heaven to earth. In the meantime, all creation waits eagerly for its fulfillment and freedom (Rom 8:19-23).

When Jesus bodily rose from the dead, he inaugurated the recreation of this wonderful created world which is our future hope. And he enlists his new creation, entrusting to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:17-18). "I know that God's new world of justice and joy, of hope for the whole earth, was launched when Jesus came out of the tomb on Easter morning, and I know that he calls his followers to live in him and by the power of his Spirit and so to be new-creation people here and now, bringing signs and symbols of the kingdom to birth on earth as in heaven" (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope). Wright goes on to say that this is the "calling, in the present, to share in the surprising hope of God's whole new creation."

If God's final purpose is life after life after death, life beyond heaven in the New Heaven and the New Earth (Rev 21, 22), then I wonder if our actions for recreation in the soon-to-be-recreated earth will last for eternity? Our efforts for justice, beauty and evangelism that come from the love of God and for joy in his ultimate purposes in creation. I so look forward to the day when Jesus will return and it will be universally appreciated that everyone is endowed by their Creator with immeasurable dignity. When all earthly injustices and inequalities will be righted, and no one there will want for anything in the face-to-face presence of Jesus Christ. Where the corruptness of creation and pollution will be made into a city garden of overwhelming beauty with trees that clap their hands and mountains sing for joy. Funeral homes there will surely become art museums where every painting is more magnificent that Whistler's "The White Girl," everyone will be more fit and artistic than Simone Biles, and where Esperanza Spalding and James Galway are just the warmup acts to the real musical presentation of the evening. When Jesus broke the bonds of death in his resurrection, he began what will soon be heaven on earth, and he invites us to join William Wilberforce and many other in his great plan for the redemption of all creation.

Chuck is the Director for the Center for Reformation Anglicanism. His wrigings can be found here: https://anglicanism.info

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