Three Reasons the Ascension Matters
Many churches traditionally celebrate the ascension of Christ this week, as we will at ACC on Sunday, June 2.
In Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:4-11, we read about Jesus ascending to heaven in bodily form in the presence of his disciples. Since we are given few details as to what happened, the event is mysterious. Yet the spiritual implications of the ascension are amazing. Tim Keller has written, “The ascension, when understood, becomes an irreplaceable, important resource for living our lives in the world—and it’s a resource no other religion or philosophy of life holds out to us.”
Here are three implications of the ascension of Christ for us today.
1. The ascension means that Someone who understands you perfectly is right now interceding for you before the Father.
The Incarnate Christ did not shed his human nature when he ascended to heaven. (Phil. 3:21 declares that when Christ returns, “our lowly bodies … will be like his glorious body”, meaning he still has a body.) This is wonderful news! The fact that Christ became one of us assures us that he understands us with perfect empathy. (See John 1:14, Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15.) The fact that Christ is still one of us assures us that he will never forget us in his prayers. (See Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:2).
Believer, this should fill you with courage and joy. Jesus understands you and is praying for you right now! The 19th Century Scottish pastor, Robert Murray McCheye wrote: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.”
2. The ascension means that Someone who loves you perfectly is right now in charge of this world.
Christian, no one loves you more than Jesus does. He gave his life out of love for you. And guess what – Jesus is in control of this world! In Matthew 28:18 Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Ephesians 1:20-22 says, “God … seated [Christ] at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet….”
Do you know what this means, believer? This means that you woke up this morning in a world under the complete control of Someone who views you with infinite love. Why are you anxious? Why are you afraid? John Calvin wrote, “Thus, since He has gone up there, and is in heaven for us, let us note that we need not fear to be in this world.”
3. The ascension means that there is no expiration date on God’s forgiveness for you.
A Christian might fear that, if she stumbles morally one more time, she will have reached the limit of God’s patience and find that he can forgive her no more. The ascension assures us that this will never happen. John 20:24-27 tells us that, even in his resurrected body, Jesus still bears the wounds received on the cross. Revelation 5:6 reports that these wounds are right now on display in the throne room of God.
Do you know what this means, believer? This means that for the rest of eternity, in the center of the Triune Godhead, there will always be a visual reminder of the atonement that was made for your sins. The ascension of Christ assures you that God’s forgiveness of your sins will never expire. 1 John 2:1 says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”
In 1742, the Methodist hymn-writer Charles Wesley celebrated this truth with these lyrics:
Arise, my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears:
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears:
Before the Throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on his hands.
He ever lives above,
For me to intercede,
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead;
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.
Five bleeding wounds he bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly plead for me;
Forgive him, O forgive, they cry,
Nor let that ransomed sinner die!
My God is reconciled;
His pard'ning voice I hear;
He owns me for his child,
I can no longer fear;
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And "Father, Abba, Father!" cry.