The Ascension of Christ
In the traditional church calendar, this is the week when Christians remember the ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father. Accounts of Christ’s ascension are found in Mark 16:19, Luke 24:50-53, and in Acts 1:6-11. Other passages that touch on the ascension are Acts 7:55-56; Ephesians 1:19-23, 4:8; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 4:14, 9:24; 1 Peter 3:22; and Revelation 5. These passages teach that, after his resurrection, Jesus left the realm of earth and entered, in bodily form, into the Father’s presence.
What is the significance of the ascension? Here are four important truths affirmed by this event.
- The ascension means Jesus is in charge.
After his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt. 28:19) Christ’s authority is depicted metaphorically by the idea that he sits at the right hand of the Father. Christ is right now governing everything that happens in this world. (See Ephesians 1:22-23.)
In their book, The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God, Tim Chester & Jonny Woodrow write: “When you went to bed last night Jesus was at work subduing his enemies. While you slept he was continuing to rule over the world. He was still at it when you woke up this morning and even now as you read this. That is the outrageous claim of the ascension.”
That fact that Jesus reigns over the world is a comforting thought for the believer, especially in moments of sorrow, fear, or stress. Is life a little crazy right now? Take heart, Christian – the One ruling this world is the One who loved you enough to die for your sins. Jesus is in charge! You have nothing to fear.
- The ascension means the Kingdom is almost here.
The timeline of redemptive history unfolds like a dramatic story. Significant scenes in this story include: the creation; the fall; the flood; the covenant with Abraham; the giving of the law; Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land; the promise of a Messianic King from David’s line; the incarnation of the Messiah; his death on the cross; his resurrection from the dead. The story will conclude with the return of Christ to judge the world and establish the eternal kingdom.
Where are we in this timeline? The ascension of Christ (followed by the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost) is essentially the final scene before the grand finale. In other words, we are living in the Last Days. We have already passed the final milestone before the end of the trip. Soon and very soon we will see the King!
3. The ascension means our Savior will never forget us.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he ascended in bodily form. This is mysterious and raises many questions. But it also gives us great hope. Jesus did not abandon his incarnate, resurrected body and then enter heaven as an incorporeal spirit. His divine nature is still (and will always be) united with his human nature. As one pastor put it, “Jesus didn’t leave behind his ‘skin suit’ when he went into heaven.”
The fact that the Second Person of the Trinity still possesses a human body and a human nature means that he still empathizes completely with us human beings. (See Hebrews 2:17 and Hebrews 4:14-16.) When I see a 3-year-old boy crying over a broken toy, the only way I can empathize with him is to draw on a distant memory. (It has been a long time since I was a 3-year-old boy.) However, if I were still 3 years old, I would know exactly what he is feeling. What a comforting thought to know that being human is not just a distant memory for our Savior. He still has flesh and blood. This means that he still understands us. He will never forget his people – his divine nature has been united with our human nature forever!
4. The ascension means Christ is praying for us.
The New Testament teaches that, in his ascended state, Christ intercedes in prayer for the church. Romans 8:34 says, “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is … interceding for us.” Hebrews 7:25 says, “Christ is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”
What does it mean to say that Jesus intercedes for his people? Though there is much mystery surrounding this idea, the Bible tells us that we can be deeply comforted by the thought that Jesus prays for us. Theologian Louis Berkhoff wrote, “It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life … He is presenting to the Father … spiritual needs which … we often neglect to include in our prayers; … He prays for our protection against … dangers of which we are not even conscious…. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end.”
Christ has ascended to the Father. Our Savior is in control of the world. He understands us and empathizes with our weaknesses. Our names our continually on the lips of the Savior, as he prays to the Father on our behalf. And very soon, he will come again.