Wright’s popular level book ‘Surprised by Hope’ was written to give a practical way of understanding what the Christian hope is. He dismisses the idea that salvation is simply about a concern for post-mortem destiny and expresses that Jesus’ primary mission was not about ‘saving souls for a disembodied eternity’ but rather to rescue people from evil in the present time so that they could ‘enjoy, already in the present, that renewal of creation which is God’s ultimate purpose… (Wright, 2007:204). Wright shares his dismay that much of Western Christianity sees salvation as primarily a personal thing between them and God.
The problem arises if ‘we see “salvation” in terms of “going to heaven when we die”, because the main work of the church is bound to be seen in terms of saving soul for that future’ This is a problem if it takes the emphasis off the Church’s much needed work within the present (Ibid. 209) Wright defines salvation as ‘being raised to life in God’s new heaven and earth’ (Ibid. 210). Wright’s understanding of the future bodily resurrection for all believers in Jesus is what he is alluding to in this section. Rather than righteous souls going up to heaven, the new Jerusalem will come down and be completely enjoined with earth to form a recreated and restored heavens and earth (see Revelation 21) and the physical bodily resurrection of all those who followed Jesus will occur as part of this recreation. Alongside this Wright believes that God’s future recreation act has already ‘broken in with the resurrection of Jesus’ meaning that ‘the future rescue which God had planned and promised was staring to come true in the present.’ This means the Church has the responsibility of rescuing people in a holistic way. ‘We are saved not as souls but as wholes.’ (Ibid. 211)
Wright believes that we are very often asking the wrong questions when discussing salvation. He sees how these questions will affect our understanding of the atonement itself. If we are concerned with how we escape hell despite all the wicked things we have done, then the answer will be ‘because Jesus has been punished in your place.’ If on the other hand we are concerned with how God’s ‘future purposes’ to recreate and restore the world will be carried out despite ‘human rebellion’ then the answer will be ‘because on the cross Jesus defeated the powers of evil which have enslaved rebel humans and so ensured continuing corruption’ (Ibid. 211-212).