DA – What upcoming projects are you currently involved in?
TW – I’ve just started work on a five-volume study of the Parable of the Fig Tree which I hope to have finished in a couple of weeks. It’s entitled “Surprised by Figs” and it’s really an attempt to get to the bottom of one of the most important passages in the New Testament. This fascinating story raises all manner of questions which I don’t think we have ever really got a proper handle of. In the parable Jesus is really showing us an altogether new way in which we can see the “kingdom of God” and how it relates to our understanding of sanctification. Up to now, the full implications of the story have been left partially hidden because of our inability to properly understand the historical context of the time in which it was written.
DA – What can you tell us about the latest thoughts on the “new perspective on Paul”
TW – Well, there has been a really interesting development in the last couple of years which is forcing us to rethink what we previously thought we knew about this whole thing. The key to understanding this is that before we can even begin to look at how Paul relates to the 2nd Temple Jewish world, we first have to understand how Paul relates to himself. The question we’re now beginning to ask is, “what was Paul’s perspective of Paul?” In other words, Paul’s teachings have to be seen through the prism of how Paul perceived his own identity to be. So before we can grasp the meaning of what he wrote, we must first learn about how Paul perceived himself. Until we do this, we can’t really get to grips with Paul’s understanding of Christian theology.
DA – What do we know about life after death?
TW – The New Testament is clear when it says that if we belong to Jesus Christ, we will go to be with Him after we die. That’s the good news. Then after an indeterminate amount of time, God will create a new Earth where it will be “as it is in heaven”. I call this “life” after “life after death”. But now there is an even further layer we must add to this. In this current life, Jesus asks us to “die daily” as part of us being born again. So in effect, “life after death” in this context is a one time event as well as being a lifetime process. So now when talking about the new Earth we must ask, “What do we know about “life after death” after “life” after “life after death”.
DA – What do you mean when you say, “Heaven is not the Christian hope”?
TW – There’s a lot of confusion within Christianity about what is meant by the word hope. Many Christians will scratch their heads and say something like, “Hope is about going to heaven and all that”, but is that really what it’s all about? What does “heaven” have to do with the here and now? Literally, what on Earth is our hope for this life? But when we really examine what all this stuff means, we actually find something a bit different. Jesus is really saying something like, “Oh, once in your life you will find someone who will turn your life around, bring you up when your feeling down. Now our dreams are coming true, through the good times and the bad. Yeah, I’ll be standing there by you.” And that is how we should understand the idea of hope.