I can still clearly remember the moment in high school when one of my classmates confided that she thought heaven and hell were probably just on earth. I was shocked at the heresy. But this is one of the themes of Velvet Elvis that has really caught my imagination. Bell uses a lot of scripture to show that our purpose on earth is to foster goodness (love, peace - all the things that God is) and that these efforts, supported by God, will expand the "kingdom of God" (or the kingdom of good) until eventually the earth is restored to its original state of goodness. I'm saying this awkwardly (you have to read the book!), but that's the rough idea. Bell emphasizes that this "new earth" will still not be perfect or static - it will continue to grow and change but goodness will prevail.
Another idea of Bell's that makes huge sense to me is that Jesus/God is everywhere on earth where good is. He says God would never be so petty as to just appear in one Palestinian place and then depend on that specific event getting out over thousands of years. He says if you are going to be a missionary, don't go to "bring Jesus." He's already there. If anything, go to affirm the good that is God's presence, and give people a name for that, if they need it, and encourage them to do good and resist evil.
One of the insights I enjoyed most was Bell's contention that the Garden of Eden (the earth as it was originally before sin) wasn't perfect either. He points out that God saw it and said that it was "good." Not perfect. Just good. This made me giggle. Along with lots of other things in Velvet Elvis.
The word "eagerly" is old-fashioned, I guess, but it's a great word to describe how I read this book. Usually I read books on spiritual matters somewhat ploddingly, with a sense of duty that this is an important part of life. This book I tore through, enjoying every word, in much the same way as I'd read Bell's more recent book, Love Wins, which I reviewed earlier.