Rethinking Life After Death: The Resurrection NT Wright

Lots of controversial thoughts in the following video. My thoughts below. Please leave a comment. Note N T Wright does not embrace conditional immortality but he does challenge Christians to rethink much of the traditional views of the afterlife.

I have read most of NT Wright’s Surprised by Hope. He asks us to rethink ” Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church”. I greatly appreciate his perspective particularly in the area of Christian mission. He challenges much of the traditional view of the afterlife in a way that I find much more appealing that Rob Bell’s approach. He does not however embrace all of conditional immortality as you will hear in the video. On the question of immortal souls in his book he writes

“Again, much Christian and sub-Christian tradition has assumed that we all do indeed have souls that need saving and that the soul, if saved, will be the part of us that goes to heaven when we die. All this, however, finds minimal support in the New Testament, including the teaching of Jesus, where the word soul, though rare, reflects when it does occur underlying Hebrew or Aramaic words referring not to a disembodied entity hidden within the outer shell of the disposable body but rather to what we would call the whole person or personality, seen as being confronted by God. As to immortality, 1 Timothy 6:16 declares that only God himself has immortality, and 2 Timothy 1:10 declares that immortality has only come to light, and hence is presumably only available, through the gospel. In other words, the idea that every human possesses an immortal soul, which is the ‘real’ part of them, finds little support in the Bible.”1

Yet he still holds to a conscious intermediate state.

Regarding hell

N. T. Wright rejects eternal torment, universalism, and apparently also annihilation; but believes those who reject God will become dehumanized, and no longer be in the image of God”2



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About Tarnya Burge

Tarnya Burge is the webmaster for She is  on the editorial team for From Death to Life. Her late husband David Burge and Tarnya have 8 children. She is a self-confessed geek who feels that knowing some theology helps her know God better.

They all say `the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion’. I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means ‘the science of God,’ and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about Him which are available. From “Mere Christianity” C S Lewis


  1. Why is it necessary to muddle the subject by speaking of “life after life after death.” The NT speaks not of the “resurrection of the body” but of “the resurrection,” because “resurrection” always means the resurrection of the whole person. The only NT way out of death is via resurrection. Resurrection occurs at the Second Coming of Jesus and the catching up of the saints is for the purpose of meeting the returning Messiah and escorting him to the earth. “It is by this process that we get to be with the Lord,” Paul wrote. And by no other means. There is no “being with Jesus” apart from via future resurrection at the Parousia. Why is the conversation so vague about what Christians will do in that renewed earth of the future Kingdom of God to be introduced at the Parousia? Dan. 7:18, 22, 27 speak of the saints possessing the Kingdom and ruling it and adiministering it with the returned Messiah. Without a clear “Adventist (not 7th Day)” understanding the whole subject remains a huge fog– unnecessarily. Bishop Wright nicely speaks of the paganism which has replaced the biblical truth. That is the real problem. The Bible rejects the idea of the natural immortality of the soul. Once that piece of paganism, that we all live on bodiless, is rejected, the NT will be allowed to speak clearly to us. Christian destiny is to return from the sleep of death via resurrection to life in the renewed earth of the Kingdom. Thus the saints are destined to inheirt the earth (Matt. 5:5), about which the church says absolutely nothing (at least clearly). Funeral sermons constantly render the biblical message of resurrection incomprehenisble! Surely we can do better than this!

  2. Thanks so much for this, and I assume that ADMIN is Tarnia?

  3. My sincere apoligies for spelling your name wrongly!

  4. Yes, the admin is me, Tarnya. No problem with the spelling.
    I agree with you that “Bishop Wright nicely speaks of the paganism which has replaced the biblical truth.”
    You wrote, “Once that piece of paganism, that we all live on bodiless, is rejected, the NT will be allowed to speak clearly to us.” And I guess that is where Bishop Wright and conditional immortality part company. He agrees that the soul is not immortal, he sees the pagan influence in the average Christian’s understanding of death but still he has some part of us living on bodiless. Quite what that is, or how it lives on, he does not seem to address.
    You wrote, “Funeral sermons constantly render the biblical message of resurrection incomprehenisble! ” Amen! And so these views attack, in my opinion the gospel. If some part of us lives on, then what need have we for Christ and His resurrection? As you stated above, “The only NT way out of death is via resurrection.”
    Having said all that, I find Bishop Wright book, Surprised by Hope, well worth reading, he has some challenging insights into the mission of the Church and I have recently ordered his book “After You Believe” which I am very much looking forward to reading. Greetings to you Anthony and your loved ones from New Zealand 🙂

  5. Perhaps Wright is like some other pastors, one that I know very well. When they take seriously the task of shepherding so many others who are so deeply entrenched in traditionalism, they feel the need to “turn the ship” very methodically and minimize the turbulence for the smaller ships in their wake. For instance, I am just a machinist, so my theology affects my career very little. Nobody following on facebook or twitter or whatever. No books already sold and loved…, or professional societies, and I’m not on the “Board of Directors”of any denominations or universities. And it still took me some years to re-think this and gradually start calling myself a conditionalist.

    And I think it is much easier for those who have simply always been there. This is a blessing, it really is.

    I think this tension is addressed well in the new Movie, “Hell and Mr Fudge” and I am anxious to see it… but alas, it seems that the bulk of evangelical churches in the US are passively resisting it, or ignoring, and hoping it will go away.

  6. Thanks for this splendid forum. Bishop Wright’s “life after life after death” I think, shows his reluctance to go all the way and simply tell us what the vast majority of texts give us, that the only way out of the sleep of death is by resurrection to life. You cannot come to life if you are already alive. In the Bishop’s system then the muddle which he rightly complains about in other areas, remains a muddle in the “life after death” issue. The NT and the OT is lucid here, resurrection means coming back to life, the whole person from death. Dan 12:2 says it all and the whole chapter in I Cor. 15. FF Bruce agreed many years ago with me in correspondence and later in his writings, that the interval of sleep is unconsciousness, from which condition we will be resurrected, ie brought back to life from non-life.
    The wider problem is a failure to define the Kingdom of God. Yes, the Kingdom of God is God returning to Zion in the Messiah, but no, that has not happened properly speaking since only at the 7th trumpet will the LORD and Messiah BEGIN to reign. Trying to do “life after death” without a clear Parousia and following Kingom of God on earth, is a grand muddle! Luke 19:11ff is a marvelous story which gives the true plot. The Messiah is coming back in the future to inaugurate the Kingdom on earth (for which Joseph of Arimathes was still waiting! and rightly). “Heaven at death” gives the ordinary churchgoer a false plot and the story has no ending on earth, and the Gospel of the Kingdom is ruined. Bishop Wright is helping us all by raising THE question: what has happened to the Gospel of the Kingdom in preaching the Gospel? The creeds have been severely misleading, as they leap from the birth of Jesus to his death! The Gospel about the Kingdom coming is the huge whole in the evangelical gospel. Conditional immortality grasped in its fulness will help the church to return to the NT. First step is to rid ourselves of a God who tortures forever and ever. Then allow the dead to be asleep until resurrection.

  7. Agreed, and this is like much of what Tom spelled out in “How God Became King”.

    But when it comes to really doing our best, individually and institutionally, to obey Matt 28, we would naturally (hopefully), want to clear the obstacles for unbelievers. I think it has to be much more about that (2 Cor. 4:3), than about being proven “right” (or Wright…) in our hermeneutics, and our logic, and subsequent Theology.

    Now,… in our society, the biggest obstacle for the most “honest” skeptics is the majority of the “evangelicals”, contentiously grasping universal immortality and the ECT that goes with the territory. What is so evangelical, or evangelistic about that???

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