What’s So Epic About Jesus? Frank Viola Answers
Previously in FaithVillage, prolific author and passionate conference speaker Frank Viola shared his thoughts on his newest book, Revise Us Again. Today, Frank talks about Epic Jesus, a talk-turned-ebook that has generated a great amount of positive response.
FV: Has the message you preach in Epic Jesus been lost amongst so many other competing messages, both those coming from the church and those coming from the world? If so, why has this happened?
I think that’s probably accurate. As to why, I don’t have the answer for that. All I can say is I’ve been surprised by the response. Since it was released in September, the audio has gone viral. The demand was so great that we put it in eBook form on November 1st. Ever since, it’s been doing very well on both Kindle and PDF.
FV: Why do we lose sight of the grandiosity of God?
Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s a matter of “losing” sight. With respect to my own journey, I assumed I knew Jesus. I assumed I understood His greatness, etc. But that changed when someone unveiled Him to me in such striking glory and power that it wiped everything else off the table. I was wrecked.
That experience was a starting point. And it has become an ever-growing revelation of Christ in my life. It correlates to what Paul said in Galatians, “God was pleased to reveal His Son in me” and his prayer in Ephesians 1:17ff. that the Holy Spirit would grant us “a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.” This was the back-story behind the message, Epic Jesus. (I discuss my personal testimony on that score here in more detail.)
In short, the message is a right-brained reading of one of the richest texts in all of Scripture: Colossians chapter 1. The talk frames the passage into an unfolding drama that builds until a high-fever pitch. People who are linear in their thinking may not resonate with it as much as those who are more right-brained in their thinking and approach. The message is an act of painting with words.
FV: As humans wrapped in time, is the eternal nature of God too challenging for us to fully grasp so that it affects our lives in a profound way? How can we better appreciate that God is the page and we are the line?
I don’t think it’s a matter of grasping it intellectually as much as a matter of being shaped by its mystery, enormity, and power—all of which is in Jesus Christ Himself.
That particular part of the message was drawn from a chapter I’m writing for a future book. The chapter explores every occurrence in the New Testament where the phrase “before the foundation of the world” . . . “before the world began” . . . “eternal” and “eternity” are used. When I traced those terms throughout the New Testament, I was riveted by what I discovered.
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega at the same moment. Our future and our past are part of His NOW.
It’s been reported that a student once asked Martin Luther, “What was God doing before he created the world?” Luther’s response was, “He went into the woods and cut rods with which to punish good-for-nothing questioners!” Calvin’s response to the same question was similar: “God was not idle, but was creating hell for curious questioners!”
While I respect Luther and Calvin, I don’t agree with their sentiments toward this question. To my mind, what happened “before the foundation of the world” is of critical importance. And it is for this reason that the Scriptures are not silent on the matter.
Tracing this subject in the New Testament caused me to apprehend the vast immensity of Jesus Christ in profound new ways as well as the enormity of His purpose where it concerns us mortals. Statements like “Before Abraham was I AM” . . . “I am the Alpha and Omega” . . . and “all things were created in Him” took on fresh application. The boundless love of God acquired new dimensions and the security it brought to my heart was overwhelming.
As I’ve stated in my book, From Eternity to Here, in Jesus, eternity and time meet. In Jesus, the divine sphere and the human sphere intersect. In Jesus, the material of the heavenlies and the material of the earthlies overlap.
Time and eternity are fulfilled in Christ. Jesus is the Temple of God and the Garden of Eden in living-breathing-walking-and-talking form. He is the embodiment of “on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s the back-story of what was behind that part of the talk.
FV: Why does it matter that Christ is the new Adam and the new Israel, or that the Old Testament is best seen through the lens of Christ’s life?
Because we will never come to understand who Jesus really is without such an understanding. Nor will we ever come to understand the Old Testament and its fuller meaning. When we learn to see Christ in the Old Testament, as God intended, it brings the ancient text to life. And we encounter our Lord within its pages anew and afresh.
Jesus said, “All Scripture points to me.” That’s more explosive than most evangelicals realize (so I’ve discovered). Christ is literally present on every page in either direct prophecy, analogy, illusion, type, promise, or shadow.
FV: What do you hope to accomplish with Epic Jesus? Why does the world need to hear this message?
To my mind, the Christian life is centered on knowing, loving, and expressing Jesus Christ on this earth with others (a la, the church). We come to know God in Christ by the Spirit when He is unveiled to us in power and reality. The Spirit’s job is to reveal Christ to our hearts, to make Him real to us, and to form His character within us (a la, “transformation.”)
In knowing Him, we love Him. In loving Him, we learn to express and display Him. And this is a matter of learning to live by His indwelling life. Epic Jesus deals with all of these themes, including the meaning of the gospel, the kingdom, and the church in a way that transcends the traditional view. (So I’m told anyway.) Readers can hear or read the talk here: www.ptmin.org/epicjesus
By the way, the eBook is only 24 pages, but it’s incredibly dense. Those who want to explore some of the themes in more detail may be interested in looking at Jesus Manifesto, written with my friend, Leonard Sweet.
One person recently remarked that Epic Jesus and N.T. Wright’s new book, Simply Jesus, go hand in hand. Simply Jesus presents Jesus freshly from the Gospels while “Epic Jesus” presents Jesus freshly from Paul’s epistles. Both presentations of Christ go together.
FRANK VIOLA is the author of numerous Christian books, including the newly released EPIC JESUS - http://www.ptmin.org/epicjesus - REVISE US AGAIN, the bestselling FROM ETERNITY TO HERE, JESUS MANIFESTO and REIMAGINING CHURCH (the constructive sequel to PAGAN CHRISTIANITY). His website contains a vast array of free articles, podcasts, interviews, and discussion guides: www.ptmin.org, and his blog, BEYOND EVANGELICAL, is one of the most popular in Christian circles today: www.frankviola.org.
Originally posted on November 28, 2011.