Friday, May 17, 2013

Ascension: The Good News That Our God Reigns

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)
In Isaiah 52, God speaks of a coming day when He would comfort and deliver His people, establish peace and reign over them. In the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word for “brings good news” and “brings glad tidings” is euangelizo (to evangelize) and refers to preaching the gospel. God’s promises was that one day there would come one who would proclaim the gospel, the good news that “Your God reigns.” At the end of that chapter, God speaks of “My Servant,” which is a reference to the Messiah. “Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high” (v. 13). All of this is fulfilled in the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to His throne in heaven. God has exalted Him, given Him the name that is above every name and made Him Lord over all.

Paul refers to this reality in his letter to the Jesus believers at Rome. In chapter 10, he says, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (v. 9). Then he explains:
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:10-14)
This is about the preaching of the gospel. Then he refers to the text in Isaiah: “As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (v. 15). What he describes in Romans 10 is the fulfillment of what God said in Isaiah 52. The good news of the gospel is the announcement that Jesus is Lord.

This proclamation was very politically charged, particularly in the Roman Empire, where Caesar was supposed to be the one who was proclaimed as Lord and King and the one who brought peace and salvation to the world. But the confession of the Church and the good news of the gospel declared that not Caesar but Jesus is Lord.

All who heard Paul preach understood this very well. We can see it in Acts 17, when Paul taught in the synagogue at Thessalonica and announced, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ” (v. 3). Though some of the Jews there believed the good news, many others rejected it. When those who rejected it saw that many Gentiles also believed the gospel, they gathered a mob to go after Paul, who had been staying at the house of a man named Jason. Not finding him there, they dragged Jason before the rulers of the city and said, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king — Jesus” (vv. 6-7).

Indeed, there is another King, and His name is Jesus. All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth, and God the Father has seated Him at His own right hand. That is the good news, the message that brings salvation to the world.