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We Live in the Not Yet

We Live in the Not Yet

What if Jesus called and said he was on the way? God’s Word, the Bible, tells us to be on our guard, constantly watching and waiting, and not so much for a sign or signs—they’re everywhere around us—but for the moment Jesus returns (see Mark 13). This is the Not Yet, the period on God’s timeline between Jesus’ ascension, his return to heaven and his promised return to Earth. The Book of Acts opens with Jesus’ bodily departure; he was not suddenly snatched away out of sight, nor did he simply vanish. Jesus was slowly and visibly lifted away, upward, right before the eyes of several witnesses. Imagine what that scene must have been like! Just after 8:30am on Tuesday morning, January 28, 1986, I was waiting in line inside a busy credit union in Monterey, California; while we waited, we watched CNN coverage of the space shuttle Challenger’s launch on the tv monitors mounted behind the cashiers. The conversations, the clicking on the keyboards, and just about all human movement suddenly came to a halt, followed by gasps of breath and tears as we watched the shuttle break into pieces shortly after lift-off. For what seemed like an eternity, no one could say a word. While that scene pales in comparison to the ascension of our Lord, I suspect the human reactions must have been similar. As an awed silence washed over the disciples, Jesus spread his hands over them in blessing then slowly and majestically began to rise heavenward. They watched in astonishment until, at last, far above them, he is folded into a cloud. They just stand there looking up, gawking, but Jesus is gone. For all of humanity, the Not Yet has begun. So, how do we live as Jesus’ followers without his visible, physical presence? We aren’t to be left staring at where Jesus used to be. We can encounter Jesus in the pages of the Bible, the preaching of the Word, through church fellowship, and by outreach. And because Jesus ascended, we shouldn’t worry over own departures in this life (relationships, health, or even from life itself). Jesus’ death and resurrection offer continued hope in the promise found in God’s Word that those who believe are saved—by God’s grace alone through His gift of our faith alone; the certainty of Jesus’ ascension guarantees the certainty of His bodily return. Although there has been much disagreement among Christians about the exact timing ...

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