Middleton convincingly argues that the Bible's plotline militates against the popularly held notion of "heaven" (i.e., an otherworldly, ethereal state devoid of cultural activity) as the goal of redemption. To the contrary, the zenith of Christ's redeeming work will be a complete restoration and renewal of creation where creation is not restricted to what is commonly referred to as "nature" but includes "the entire human socio-cultural order." Middleton states that his intention is "to explore the exegetical case for a consistent understanding of redemption as the restoration of God's creational intent, such that the appropriate hope of the redeemed is life in a renewed intra-mundane, earthly creation."
Middleton divides the essay into the following sections:
The Logic of Creation and Redemption
The Plot of the Biblical Story of Redemption
The Comprehensive Scope of Redemption in the New Testament
Problem Texts for a Holistic Eschatology
What Role Then for Heaven?
Here are some of the lines I found worthy of underlining:
With these two distinctions (concerning creation and redemption) in mind, it becomes easier to see that the traditional picture of "heaven" (found in many classic hymns and contemporary praise songs) as perpetual fellowship with, and worship of, God cannot constitute full redemption in biblical terms. This is because the traditional picture typically omits (and thus implies the negation or abrogation of) large areas of human life that God created good. "Heaven," therefore, as an eschatological state does not constitute genuine redemption of the multifaceted world God intended from the beginning. The logic of biblical redemption, when combined with a biblical understanding of creation, requires the restoration and renewal of the full complexity of human life in our earthly environment, yet without sin.In addition to fueling the kind of anticipation and eager expectation that the Bible describes as characteristic of the Christian life (but which, if we're honest, is frequently lacking from ours), this fuller-orbed view of redemption infuses many of the daily activities we're prone to think of as obstacles to our "spiritual" lives with profound significance.
It is sometimes shocking for readers of the Bible to realize that the initial purpose and raison d'etre of humanity is never explicitly portrayed in Scripture as the worship of God (or anything that would conform to our notion of the "spiritual," with its dualistic categories). Instead, Scripture portrays the human purpose in rather mundane terms of exercising power over our earthly environment as God's representatives...To put it another way, while various psalms (like 148 and 96) indeed call upon all creatures (humans included) to worship or serve God in the cosmic temple of creation (heaven and earth), the distinctive way humans worship or render service to the Creator is by the development of culture through interaction with our earthly environment (in a manner that glorifies God).