Part of the central achievement of the incarnation, which is then celebrated in the resurrection and ascension, is that heaven and earth are now joined together with an unbreakable bond and that we too are by rights citizens of both together. We can, if we choose, screen out the heavenly dimension and live as flatlanders, materialists. If we do that, we will be buying in to a system that will go bad, and will wither and die, because earth gets its vital life from heaven.
But if we focus our attention on the heavenly dimension, all sorts of positive and practical results will follow. In Colossians 3:11 Paul sees the unity of the church across cultural and ethnic boundaries as one of the first of these results. In the passage that follows, he lists all kinds of other things that ought to appear in the life of anyone who really sets his or her mind on the world that is now Jesus’ primary home, the world that is designed to heal and restore our present one. In each case what he’s talking about is actual current physical reality, shot through now with the life of heaven.
The created order, which God has begun to redeem in the resurrection of Jesus, is a world in which heaven and earth are designed not to be separated but to come together. In that coming together, the “very good” that God spoke over creation at the beginning will be enhanced, not abolished. The New Testament never imagines that when the new heavens and new earth arrive, God will say, in effect, “Well, that first creation wasn’t so good after all, was it? Aren’t you glad we’ve got rid of all that space, time and matter?” Rather, we must envisage a world in which the present creation, which we think of in those three dimensions, is enhanced, taken up into God’s larger purposes, no doubt, but certainly not abandoned.
~ N. T. Wright, [Surprised by Hope]