After what felt like several minutes of blank stares, one student chimed in, “He’s watching over the dinosaurs.”
I’m still not sure what his comment meant. But then I saw: they had no idea what Jesus is doing right now. Perhaps that’s because we tend to make much of Christ’s first coming, and we all speculate about his return, but we rarely talk about the present. Jesus is vaguely seen as “out there” somewhere, watching over us, blessing us, doing wispy spiritual things—or worse, letting the world run amuck.
So what is Jesus doing right now in heaven? The answer has vast implications for missions.
The Apostles’ Favorite Bible Verse
Psalm 110:1, the Old Testament text most cited by the apostles and other New Testament writers, gives us a clue. David writes, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” (ESV).
David is recording the conversation in heaven between the Father and the Son, and the New Testament links it with Jesus’ victorious ascension. Upon his arrival in heaven after the resurrection, the Father issued Jesus a mandate to reign on his heavenly throne with all authority on heaven and earth (see Matthew 28:18).
For how long?
“…Until I make your enemies your footstool” (v. 1c). The aim of Christ’s current heavenly reign is for his enemies to be brought into subjection. Christ’s kingly rule has been growing like a mustard seed since his first coming (Matthew 13:31-32). God has been steadily defeating Christ’s enemies for the last 2,000 years.
What does that look like? Well—we were once his enemies but now have been transformed into joyful followers (see Romans 5:10). Christ’s current charge is the joyful conquest of rebel hearts through the gospel. This must continue until the end (see 1 Corinthians 15:24-25).
But if Jesus has all this power right now in heaven, why has he delayed his return so long?
Waiting While He’s Working
Peter exhorts us to “count the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:15a). Be patient, he says, because Christ will tarry only as long as it takes him to save all his people.
Though the wait be long, he promises to finish the task. One day all will rejoice that “[t]he kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
This reality shapes everything the church does in the present. Christ’s present rule in heaven demands missionary activity on earth.
The Implication for Missions
God could write the gospel in the sky, but he doesn’t. Christ’s kingly rule doesn’t spread by the sword or by starry signs above. Instead, he uses everyday things like missions, prayer, and evangelism.
Evangelism takes the good news of Christ’s reign to souls governed by the flesh and the devil. Prayer is the pleading of God’s people, “Thy kingdom come.” And missions is how Christ’s dominion breaks into the unreached world.
We know that one day, God will finish putting everything under Christ’s feet. He will ultimately gather people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Revelation 5:9, 7:6). So as long as there are peoples and nations who haven’t heard the gospel, God’s mission isn’t done—and neither is ours.
What is Jesus doing right now? Not floating around the universe wasting time. He is reigning as Lord and causing knees to bend worldwide, powerfully using our preaching, praying, and going.
So let’s get to work.