Friday, 11 August 2017

The End is Not the End

Paul lived there two whole years in his own rented quarters and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete boldness and without restriction.
Have you ever come to the last paragraph of a novel and finished the story with a sense of regret that such a wonderful narrative should come to an end? I sometimes have. The characters and situations have become so real that you want to know more of what has happened. At the same time, there is a sense of conclusion, an understanding that this is where the author has finished his work.
The above quotation is the final verse in the book of Acts, the wonderful Bible book written by Luke, the evangelist, physician and travelling companion of Paul. The book records the establishment of the early church throughout the Mediterranean region, following Christ’s death and resurrection and impartation of the Holy Spirit, who breathed fire and power into the disciples of Jesus. In a roller-coaster narrative, we see miraculous healings and escapes, visons, riots, a shipwreck, squabbles, persecution and most of all, determined faith.
Luke chronicles the complete turnaround in the life of a young man who zealously persecuted the followers of Jesus, yet was transformed into a person who passionately lived and died for the sake of the gospel. The apostle Paul gave all he had and suffered much to serve the God that he loved, to preach and teach the gospel and to establish local church fellowships wherever he went. As the inspired, God-breathed word, Paul’s epistles or letters to various congregations and individuals comprise much of the teaching of the New Testament and as such are continuing to encourage and equip the church today.
When I read the last verse of Acts, I wonder why Luke, inspired by the Holy Spirit, chose to finish the historical narrative at that point. It may be that the book of Acts was written before Paul’s final trial and execution around 65AD, in order for Luke to chronicle events while they were still fresh in his mind.
As it stands, Acts finishes on a note of triumph, as well as sadness. In the final chapter, we are told that the Jews have rejected the gospel. The time of the Jewish conversion will come eventually, as we see in the prophecies of Revelation. The gentiles are being converted however, and the church is growing rapidly, taking the gospel message into new lands. Paul is teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ “with complete boldness”, even though he is under house arrest.
I’m thankful that the book finishes in this way, rather than by chronicling Paul’s death. Jesus’s death is recorded, but that was not the end. His glorious resurrection, ascension to heaven and the promise of His return give us great joy and hope. For death may be the physical end of our earthly lives, but it is but a step into the next part of our eternal lives, the doorway into our Father’s presence in Heaven.
What a great encouragement the book of Acts is. This last verse reminds me that God will give me the power and courage to live for Him and to have joy in knowing His love throughout my life.