What Is Jesus Doing Now?
His Ongoing Ministry as Seen Through Hebrews and Ephesians

In Jesus' three-year ministry, God worked in His world in magnificent new ways as Tim illustrated well in his article. Jesus showed God's love and compassion and confronted those needing to change. After His resurrection, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit and worked with the church to continue His ministry and carry the good news of His death, burial and resurrection for our forgiveness and Salvation.

As His followers wrote the New Testament, they revealed things about Jesus' life before He came to earth. He was with God in the beginning. By Him God created all things (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-4). Through Old Testament times, Jesus followed Israel as a "spiritual rock," a source of "spiritual food" (1 Corinthians 10:3-4).

The New Testament writers also revealed much about Jesus' future. It is thrilling to look forward to His promised return, His final victory over death and the arrival of God's eternal city where He will live with His people forever.

The past is clear to see; it's done. We can visualize a future hope vividly described, but what about today. What is Jesus doing now?

One qualification as we seek to answer this question. It is true that the work of the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are so integrated it is often difficult to tell them apart: "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30); "The Lord is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:17, 1). Careful study, however, on what Jesus is doing today will reward and encourage us.

Our Sustaining, Saving, Sanctifying, Perfecting Priest to God in Hebrews

Our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29; He lives in unapproachable light; He is light and pure love). How do we get near a God like this whose intense holy presence is deadly to the sin that so easily entangles us?

Hebrews affirms Christ made the world. Further, "He upholds all things by the word of His power" (1:3; as Colossians 1:17 says, "in Him all things hold together"). To live in God's world, and to get and stay near Him, we need sustained power. This power comes from Jesus today. Though "we do not see all things subjected to Him," Jesus, the source of this power, rules over everything in His creation. God has "put all things in subjection under His feet" (2:8; cf. Ephesians 1:22).

By taking away the sin that cannot enter God's presence, Jesus sanctifies His brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:11); "Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate" (13:12). This is one among many ways "He gives help to the descendants of Abraham" (2:16). Jesus, helps people come to God today. Sanctification prepares them. Jesus' daily sanctifying work includes cleansing our consciences so we can serve with Him freely: "how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (9:14); "having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (10:22).

Jesus is "the Apostle and High Priest of our confession" (3:1). As Apostle He was sent to gather us; as priest He returns to Godís sanctuary to represent us. To help those confessing Him become acceptable to God, He brings their confession to God, acknowledging each one to His Father (cf. Matthew 10:32). This adds meaning to our understanding of Hebrews' exhortation to "hold fast our confession" (4:14).

As our High priest, Jesus represents us today in the very presence of God where we could not go alone. We would be dead strangers without Him. His work of representing us to God "continues forever." He "holds His priesthood permanently" (7:24): "Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them" (7:25). Hebrews stresses that it is through Jesus we draw near to God. He is our shield and guide into the realms of holiness. To further help us along the pathways of holiness, Jesus sees the needs of hearts laid open before Him (4:13) and intercedes on our behalf with God now as every need arises.

An additional benefit of Jesus' action for us now is confidence, not from ourselves, but from Him as the living way into God's presence: "we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (10:19:22).

Having "His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" (8:1) is thus not a passive position. It is the ideal place from which Jesus represents people to God.

He is "a minister in the sanctuary" (8:2). "He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises" (8:6; cf. 9:15). While the covenant is inaugurated once, every sinner's case requires mediation with God. Jesus is our constant mediator to whom we come (12:24). 1 Johns 2:1 affirms this by saying "we have an advocate with the Father." Advocacy is an active ongoing role particularly in the "propitiation for our sins." This will cease only when we are finally perfected by Him.

Jesus' ongoing work includes perfecting those who have come to God through Him, who have died and graduated as it were into Godís eternal presence. Through Him we have access not only to God but "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect" (12:23).

Jesus is the "author and perfecter of faith" (12:2; and life; Acts 3:15) and the constant object of our faith. Hebrews exhorts us to be "fixing our eyes on Jesus" (12:2). He deserves our full attention. Hebrews affirms Jesus' promise to always be present with us, to "never leave you or forsake you" (13:5; Matthew 28:20; cf. Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5). His constant presence is possible because "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (13:8). He is perfect, faithful, compassionate, concerned, all-powerful, able to meet every need, God forever; past, future, now.

As we look to Him, Jesus is a conduit not only for our confession and prayer to God, but also for our praise and thanks: "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name" (13:15).

In a profound intersection with Ephesians, Hebrews ends affirming it is through Jesus that God equips and shepherds His church: "Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (13:20-21; cf. Philippians 1:6). Through Christ, God works in us that which is pleasing now.

Ephesians: Living, Growing and Serving in Jesus, the Head of His Church

Ephesians stresses the ongoing relationship of Jesus and His church through whom His ministry continues. God "put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (1:22-23). The kindness Jesus showed in His earthly ministry continues according to God's purpose "so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" (2:7).

Hebrews emphasizes our connection with God through Christ who represents us to God as our High Priest. Ephesians stresses our progress through growth in this relationship which Jesus causes now: "but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (4;15-16). The way Jesus works with each Christian is individually tailored to their gifts and aptitudes that in turn function to compliment the specific gifts and contributions of others.

Both Hebrews and Ephesians affirm that God works through Christ in the lives of His people to accomplish His will. Christ works along a glorious "two way street." He represents us to God; God works through Him in us to continue His ministry to His world.

Like Hebrews, Ephesians underscores the ongoing saving and sanctifying work Jesus does now. Note the delightful image in this call to repentance:

"Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you"
(5:14; cf. Isaiah 26:19; 51:17; 52:1; 60:1; Romans 13:11). Life outside of Jesus is a sleepy death. Waking up to Christ is experiencing His light shining. In this light Jesus sanctifies: "Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word" (5:25-26).

Summary Reflections on Jesus Now

The Hebrews were tempted to return to an old ineffective covenant, the Ephesians to polytheistic pagan idolatry. Both needed to know Jesus is alive and active in His ministry of representing people to God and God to people through His church. We face the same temptations. We likewise need to grow in our awareness of what Jesus is doing now for us in God's presence and what He wants to do through us.

Right now Jesus holds all things together and sustains the life of the universe and His church. He fills all in all. Right now He continually mediates the covenant of love between unholy people and a holy God. He shines on everyone who awakens to Him. He intercedes for us. He sanctifies us continually as we consciously walk in His light in preparation for the time we will enter the fullness of God's blazing holy light. He perfects all those who pass through this veil, making the final finishing touches of the work He started. He carries our praises and thanks to God. He causes and directs the nourishment and growth of His body in love and service. He equips and works in and through His people. It is a humbling privilege to have God work through us to continue Jesus' ministry of salvation, caring and compassion.

Hebrews and Ephesians are two places to find answers to the question "What is Jesus doing now?" I encourage you to look elsewhere in the New Testament and seek to be an answer to Paulís prayer to comprehend that which is beyond knowledge: "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God" (3:17-19).

Paul Birston

August 2011©

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