It’s easy when we talk about the story of the Bible to end with Jesus. “He won!” we say, and then we get on with our lives. The balance of the New Testament—the letters, the stories of Acts, the craziness that is Revelation—is just there to inspire us to live correctly, right?
But the Bible’s story doesn’t end with Jesus returning to heaven, and the stories and letters of the apostles have just as big of a part to play in God’s quest as Jesus’s success on the cross. Even more so, the rest of the New Testament contains the part of the story that believers today still participate in. The story’s not over and we have a role in it.
With Jesus’s success where Adam failed, he also stepped into the role that king David had tried and ultimately failed to execute: the head of a new people. Just as the promise of God had moved from Abraham to all Israel at Sinai and then back to a single person in David, so now again, the promises extends to all those who are loyal to the True King. Jesus represents believers to God, and his success and righteousness is ours as a result.
But further still, Jesus opened the door to the healing of the human heart. Throughout the Old Testament, it was increasingly obvious that the humanity that had fallen in Eden was broken. Through Jesus, however, humanity has begun to be remade. Jesus walked into the darkness, seized the light of hope, and returned with it to his people. God’s quest saw its highest point of success in Jesus’s victory, but it’s not over.
Humanity as a whole has begun to be remade as people choose to follow Jesus. As their king, he reconnects them to God through the Holy Spirit, enlivening what had been dead for so long. But humans who live in obedience to Jesus are still stuck with fallen flesh. The material part of humanity hasn’t been remade yet—only the immaterial. And so, like an outdated computer trying to run the most recent version of Windows, believers struggle.
But faithfulness to Jesus comes with the promise that, one day, we will be remade in our entirety. Our hardware will get updated to match our software. And it’s with that promised hope that God has invited the followers of Jesus to join him in finishing this quest he started. The world is full of humans who still remain separated from God and suffer under Adam’s curse. And followers of Jesus have the opportunity to bring them all into Jesus’s kingdom.
Our role in the story is crucial. God has entrusted the final leg of the quest to us imperfect humans. We’re being remade into the image of Jesus—he is, after all, the true human. But we also have the task of inviting others into a trusting relationship with God. That invitation comes with the promise of a return to true humanity for all who will follow Jesus.
So the task of believers in this penultimate leg of the quest is both internal and external. Internally, we work with the Spirit to follow Jesus’s example in submitting to God and dying the death-of-self every day. Externally, we work with the Spirit to invite others into the kingdom of Jesus with the promise of full restoration.
The story of God in the New Testament is the story of his people living out that quest. The book of Acts outlines the growth of this new kind of humanity throughout the known world. The epistles wrestle with the tension of dying-to-self and submission to God. And it’s all part of the quest that will not end until we’ve seen our race finished.
The author of Hebrews picks up on that theme, describing the journey of faith like a race. Those who’ve gone before us have lived their part of the story, and now it’s our turn. We too have to lay aside our focus on ourselves, look solidly to Jesus who is our model for renewal, and run with faithfulness in pursuit of true humanity.
God still has the full restoration of humanity, the earth, and the order of all things to accomplish. But we play a part in that goal even now before we’re completely renewed. It’s important to understand that the story didn’t end with Jesus returning to the Father. The story won’t end until God makes all things new.