The good news of the gospel is NOT that you go to heaven when you die

the unabridged gospel Jan 22, 2024

Then [the apostles] gathered around [Jesus] and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8)

As we saw last week, Christ’s death and resurrection was sufficient to redeem every square inch of creation. The disciples knew this, of course, which is why they were giddily asking Jesus when he would reveal his kingdom in full.

But in his final words before his ascension, Jesus turned the disciples’ attention away from the timing of the kingdom and toward a task—specifically, the task of serving as his “witnesses.”

Expounding on the original Greek of this passage, Tim Keller explains that the word “witnesses” here means “more than simply winning people to Christ…The church is to be an agent of the kingdom…ordering lives and relationships and institutions and communities according to God’s authority to bring in the blessedness of the kingdom.”

“Authority” is the keyword there. Because while “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to [Christ]” (see Matthew 28:18), our King has chosen to delegate that authority to you and me. While Christ has inaugurated the eternal kingdom of God, he has given you and me the task of implementing it. Which is exactly how God has been working since the beginning of this cosmic drama!

Think about it: In Act 1 of The Unabridged Gospel, God inaugurated the first creation, but he didn’t finish it. He created Adam and Eve and tasked them with the First Commission to make culture and further implement heaven on earth. Adam and Eve failed, ensuring our need for a Redeemer (see Act 2). In Act 3, Christ has saved us “not by works.” But he has saved us for “good works” in Act 4 where we all stand today—specifically the “good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (see Ephesians 2:8-10).

You see, “Redemption is not just about being saved from sin,” explains professor Nancy Pearcey, “it is also about being saved to something—to resume the task for which we were originally created.” In other words, the good news of the gospel is not just that I get to go to heaven when I die but that I get to partner with God in revealing heaven on earth until I die. 

But unlike Adam and Eve who had a single vocation, you and I have a dual vocation today: the First Commission to make culture and the Great Commission to make disciples.

“The new calling to make disciples does not negate or cancel out the original calling to create culture,” explains pastor John Mark Comer. “It’s a both/and….a dual vocation.”

But as important as our work is today, we must remember that God alone will finish the work of “thy kingdom come” in the fifth and final act of history. It is to that conclusion of The Unabridged Gospel we will turn to next week!


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