What has Jesus been doing since his ascension?
This is the question that Frank Viola wrestles with in his new book “Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ.” Viola has been on something of a quest to discover Jesus afresh, authoring and co-authoring several other books on the topic. Here, we discuss what Viola calls the seven aspects of Jesus’ present-day ministry.
RNS: I loved your book “Jesus: A Theography” with Leonard Sweet. You seem to be writing a lot on Jesus these days. What sparked this for you?
FV: “Jesus: A Theography” tells the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, whereas “Jesus Now” explores the present-day ministry of Christ. It answers the question, “What is Jesus doing now?” It’s an entire study on what Jesus’ ministry has been since His ascension and until His second coming, and how it benefits every believer.
I embarked on the journey because I know of no other book that’s addressed this specific subject in any detail and in a way that every reader can understand. So I felt an exploration of the seven aspects of Christ’s present-day ministry was needed.
RNS: Seven aspects of Christ’s present-day ministry?
FV: Yes. They are Great High Priest, Good Shepherd, Heavenly Bridegroom, Author and Finisher of Our Faith, Builder of Ekklesia, Head of the Church, and Lord of the World. I went through the entire New Testament from Matthew to Revelation to find every verse that gives insight into what Jesus has been doing since His ascension. Each chapter describes one of these facets, so each chapter is like a different side of a diamond when you begin turning it. To my mind, all of them shine brilliantly in their own way.
RNS: Did you find anything that caused you hesitation?
FV: In my chapter on the High Priestly ministry of Christ, I decided to come out of the gate pretty strong against two contemporary problems. One is the legalism that’s in the drinking water of the Christian faith today that makes God’s people afraid of the Lord and heavily focused on their own service, works, and growth. This can lead to one of two problems: condemnation and guilt or self-righteousness and a judgmental attitude toward other Christians.
On the flip side, I took dead aim at the opposite teaching which has gained ground today. It’s the idea that because we’re under grace, God doesn’t care if we sin, and we should never feel bad if we transgress.
I decided not to hold back in presenting the biblical viewpoint in contrast to these two extremes. Part of the challenge is that legalists don’t see themselves as legalistic, and those who believe that grace is a license to sin don’t view themselves as being unbiblical. So it takes some careful nuance to expose these two issues.
RNS: What question stumped you the most in this exploration of Jesus? And did anything blow you out of the water?
I wrestled hard with the idea that Jesus is Lord of the world. If that’s true, I wondered, why do we see corruption, sin, violence, pain, and suffering in the world? I discovered an answer, and it is included in the book. I was blown out of the water by how Jesus in His High Priestly role benefits every believer each day.
RNS: Name one thing you want people to remember after reading “Jesus Now.”
That Jesus isn’t sitting up in heavenly places yawning until He returns. He’s very active. I want readers to know specifically what He’s doing that will benefit them, if they simply avail themselves of it.