On Monday, I wrote, “Life isn’t about always being happy, but it is about being hopeful…” What should we be hopeful about? On the rough days, where can we find motivation to persevere?
The answer is revealed through the climax of the Bible. The core of the Christian faith is the Gospel. Often as Christians we view the Resurrection as the center of the Gospel. Because of our culture, we think of the climax as an emotional event right before the end of the story. The structure goes… begining -> conflict -> climax -> epilogue. However, the ancient writers used the chiastic structure. In the chiastic pyramid, correlating events lead towards and away from the center. The center of the story is the climax.
So what is the center of the Gospel? What is the climax, the most important part? Luke and Acts tell the full story of the Gospel. They were both written by the physician Luke and they were both part of the same book. Somewhere along the line, scholars decided they should be separate. But Luke and Acts reveal the center of our faith. Based on the chiastic pyramid, the ascension of Christ is the middle of the story. Luke ends with His ascension and Acts begins with it (see Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9).
Jesus’s return to Heaven is the climax.
The cross and Resurrection are foundational to our faith. What happened in Jerusalem is important. But if His return is just an epilogue, fixing the loose ends, then we’re missing something.
Here’s what we’re missing: Jesus is coming back! He will return the same way we saw Him go.
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11, NIV)
The climax changes everything. Once we understand the hope of Heaven, everything on Earth pales in comparison. The hope gives us the fuel to go through the trials. When we don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning, the hope gets us going. When we don’t see the purpose in trying to live a godly life, the hope reminds us why we aim for righteousness. Hope is the reason we don’t have to fear the wickedness in the world. Hope is the reason we can have peace about the future.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14).
After the Resurrection, I’m sure the disciples were left wondering, “now what?” Or at least that’s how I feel. The hope of the Gospel is not solely rooted in the fact that Jesus rose from the grave. The hope is found when we realize the story’s not over yet. In fact, we’re part of the story!
I’ve often struggled with connecting the anticipation of eternity with living in the moment. How do we balance being fully present and looking Heavenward? I think that the angel’s words in Acts 1 provide the connection. The anticipation of eternity is found when we realize that Jesus will return. The present living is found when we respond the way the apostles did. The second half of the story (Acts) is all about people living out their faith. The disciples and other believers faced terrible persecution, but they continued spreading hope because they believed in Jesus’s return. They wanted to be found doing His work.
So stop looking up into the sky. Jesus is coming back. Believe it. Meanwhile, be His hands and feet on the Earth. Get out there and get messy.
– – Phebe