Ask any Christian today what happens after death and you’ll hear about leaving earth and going to heaven. While that is not untrue, it is not the center of the historic Christian hope. Much of modern Western Christianity has adopted the Greek notion that ultimate freedom is the lack of physicality, a soul “free” of its body. The classic Christian view, however, is not escapist. When a Christian dies, his or her spirit or soul goes to be with Jesus to rest. But that is not the end. And while God does promise rewards in the age to come, the point is not to make up for all the suffering and evil on earth. The Christian view of hope is neither evacuation nor compensation but resurrection, restoration and new creation.
The Western Church has been influenced been questions and views that arose in the Medieval period, where the Church became preoccupied with what happens to a soul after death. The early Christians, however, spoke very little about that. Their concern was with the return of Jesus, which would mark the culmination of the “Age to Come”– the time when the dead in Christ would receive bodily resurrection, the Kingdom of God would come to earth, and heaven and earth would be made new (1 Cor. 15).
Here are a few short videos (90 seconds or less) of acclaimed New Testament scholar, former Canon Theologian and Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright, articulating the classic, historic Christian view of life after death.
On Why Heaven Is Not the End:
On What the Bible Means by “Heaven”:
On What Happens After You Die: