Missing the Climax of the Gospel Story

With the celebration of the Ascension just behind us, I wanted to draw attention to what I think is a very important point made by Matthew Bates in his recent book Saved By Allegiance Alone.

We generally tell the story of the gospel by telling about the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus. Those events--birth, death and resurrection--are the Good News, the gospel.

But according to Bates, this telling of the gospel is leaving out the final, climatic moment in the story. It's like walking out of the final act of a play. Or reading all of the Harry Potter novels but skipping The Deathly Hallows. You never get to the climax and culmination of the story.

So what is the climax and high point of the gospel? It's the Ascension, Jesus being seated as Lord and King. The entire point of the gospel story--as the culmination of Israel's story--is Jesus being enthroned as Ruler of the world and cosmos.

If you never get to that point in the story, argues Bates, you fail to get to the defining Christian confession, that Jesus is "Lord of all." And if you miss that, you miss the heart of the Christian life and community, confessing and swearing fealty (i.e., faith) to the one, true king.

In short, the climax of the gospel is the Ascension. But how many churches and church members celebrated that event last week or this past Sunday?

Very few, I'm guessing, which is diagnostic of why there are so many enduring problems with American Christianity.

We haven't recognized, preached or celebrated the central point of the gospel,

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