Throughout the last 2000 years, the Church has been obediently taking the Gospel to the world and to the nations, calling for them to come under the Lordship of Christ. Wherever the world parts ways with Jesus is where we have been called to serve. And when all the nations on earth finally bow their knee to the Lord Jesus Christ, when all rebellion is squashed, when all the families on earth are blessed in the seed of Abraham’s covenant, or are put under His titanic feet in cursing, then the end will come.
When writing a book, an author commonly develops themes in the first chapter that repeat throughout the drama but only find their resolution in the final chapter. This is precisely what God has done in the epic tale He has constructed called man. When God began His story, He created the first man and called Adam. God designed that man as the pinnacle of His creation, enlivened that man with His own breath, and placed him in a garden palace to rule and have dominion over the creatures. God installed this man as His viceroy, and along with his newly crafted queen, Adam was called to be fruitful in his labors, to multiply humans to fill the earth and extend God’s dominion to every square inch of the planet to the glory of God. And while Adam failed in this mission, this was the paradigmatic chapter God used to launch into His story.
Knowing this, it should not be surprising that God brings all of these themes together in beautiful, victorious harmony in the final chapter we are now living in. For instance, He raised a true and better Adam, Jesus, to succeed where Adam failed. Unlike Adam, who fell into the depths of sin, Jesus would ascend as the pinnacle of a new creation, high and lifted up, with a name above all names, to sit as God’s true and better viceroy. Like Adam, who was called to rule in a garden, Jesus ascended into paradise and sat at the right hand of God to be fruitful in His labors, to multiply disciples across the nations, and to bring the unruly world under the rule of Almighty God. Unlike Adam, who fell at the feet of the serpent, Christ crushed the serpent under His feet and has been plundering that dragon’s kingdom ever since. This final chapter that we are living in, where Christ redeems everything lost in the fall of Adam, is the last and concluding chapter in God’s grand masterpiece. This means you are living in the end times. Let me explain.
Over the last few weeks, we have been talking about how the book of Acts, especially in the events of Pentecost, prepares us for the fact that the end times are events that have already begun. This works itself out in two specific ways. First, the last days rightly refer to the final waning years of the Old Covenant era, where the temple, the priesthood, and Mosaic Judaism all came to a cataclysmic end with the downfall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Those were the last days of the Old Covenant, and when they were over, that chapter was closed forever and for good. Yet, on the other hand, the end times also refer to the beginning of a new era inaugurated in the first century. This is a final end-time epoch of earth’s history, a concluding chapter encompassing the entire reign of Christ, who will bring all things under His Lordship or under His feet.
Thus, the end times describe a unique forty-year period, a window of time, that occurred in the first century, where two distinct covenantal eras overlapped in the nation of Judah. At the same time that the Apostle Paul was preaching the Christian Gospel in Galatia, the high priests were offering sacrifices in Jerusalem. These two eras had overlapped. The penultimate chapter had yet to conclude before the final chapter began. During those forty years, between the ascension of our Lord in AD 30 and the downfall of Jerusalem in AD 70, both the New and Old Covenant eras existed simultaneously. One was nose-diving into its last and final hours, while the other was soaring to life, evidence that God’s final chapter of history had begun.
Today, I want us to build upon that foundation by seeing two things. First, I want us to clearly see how Jesus came into His reign and is in that reign right now. Second, without venturing into the bizarre and weird, I want to show how we can know precisely when His reign will be complete. With that, let us continue in Peter’s great sermon, recorded in Acts chapter 2:32-36.
Luke tells us:
This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”‘ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” – Acts 2:32-36
When Does the Reign of Christ Begin?
As this passage tells us, Jesus’ reign begins the moment He ascends and sits upon the throne. We are not waiting for a future millennial Kingdom of Jesus. He is also not currently in heaven twiddling His thumbs. He is reigning over His empire now, and the armies of hell are shuddering because of it. How do we know this?
For one, Luke tells us that Christ was exalted up unto the right hand of God in the resurrection and ascension. Jesus’ exaltation should be seen as His elevation above all men and His coronation to rule. For instance, being at the king’s right hand symbolized unparalleled authority. Men who were elevated to such a position would be considered the vice-regent, the second in command, with power over all men, save the King. In a sense, this is the position unto which God appointed Adam. Yet, Adam’s obedience puttered out, and fell into rebellion, before he reached his throne.