What does Christ’s ascent into Heaven mean for us? Wayne Grudem

1. Christ ascended to a place.

After Jesus’ resurrection, he was on earth for forty days (Acts 1:3), then he led his followers out to Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, and „lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51)

A similar account is given by Luke in the opening section of Acts: „When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven he went, behold, two men stoodby them in white robes, and said, „Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven”(Acts 1:9-11).

These narratives describe an event that is clearly  designed to show the disciples that Jesus went to a place.

From Wayne Grudem’s Biblical Doctrine PP. 266-268

He did not suddenly disappear from them, never to be seen by them again, but gradually ascended as they were watching, and then a cloud (apparently a cloud of God’s glory) took him from their sight. But the angels immediately said that he would come back in the same way in which he had gone to heaven. The fact that Jesus had a resurrection body that was subject to spatial limitations (it could be at only one place at one time) means that Jesus went somewhere when he ascended into Heaven.

2) Christ received glory and honor that had not been his before as the God-man.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he received glory, honor and authority that had never been his before as one who was both God and man. Before Jesus dies, he prayed, „Father glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made” (John 17:5). In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter said that Jesus was „exulted at the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33), and Paul declared that „God has highly exulted him: (Phil. 2:9), and that he was „taken up in glory” (1 Tim 3:16; cf Heb 1:4) Christ is now in heaven with the angelic choirs singing praise to him with the words,”Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).

3. Christ was seated at God’s right hand (Christ’s session).

One specific aspect of Christ’s ascension into heaven and receiving of honor was the fact that he sat down at the right hand of God.

  • The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would sit at the right hand of the God: „The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand, til I make your enemies your footstool” (Psalm 110:1). When Christ ascended back into heaven, he received the fulfillment of that promise: „When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high” (Heb 1:3). This welcoming into the presence of God and sitting at God’s right hand is a dramatic indication of the completion of Christ’s work of redemption.
  • The act of sitting at God’s right hand is an indication that he received authority over the universe. Paul says that God „raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and and power and dominion, and above every name that is named”(Eph. 1:20-21). Similarly, Peter says that Jesus „has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him” (1 Peter 3:22)
  • Christ also received from the Father, the authority to pour out the Holy Spirit on the church. Peter says on the day of Pentecost, „Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear” (Acts 2:33)

The fact that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God in heaven does not mean that he is perpetually „fixed” there or that he is inactive.

He is also seen as standing at God’s right hand (Acts 7:56) and as walking among the seven golden lampstands in heaven  (Rev. 2:1). Just as a human king sits on his royal throne at his accession to the kingship but then engages in many other activities throughout each day, so Christ sat at the right hand of God as a dramatic evidence of the completion of his redemptive work and his reception of authority over the universe, but he is certainly engaged in other activities in heaven as well.

4) Christ’s ascension has doctrinal significance for our lives.

Just as the resurrection has profound implications for our lives, so Christ’s ascension has significant implications for us.

  • We are united with Christ in every aspect of his work of redemption. Christ’s going up into heaven foreshadows our future ascension into heaven with him. „We, who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet theLord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17) The author of Hebrews wants us to run the race of life with the knowledge that we are following in Jesus’ steps and will eventually arrive at the blessings of life in heaven that he is now enjoying: „Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”(Heb. 12:1-2). And Jesus himself says that he will one day take us to be with himself” (John 14:3)
  • Jesus’ ascension gives us assurance that our final home will be in heaven with him: „In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I fo and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14 2:3). Jesus was a man like us in every way, yet without sin, and he has gone before us so that eventually we might follow him there andlive with him forever. The fact that Jesus has already ascended into heaven and achieved the goal set before him gives great assurance to us that we will eventually go there also.
  • Because of our union with Christ in his ascension, we are able to share now (in part) in Christ’s authority over the universe, and we will later share in it more fully. This is what Paul points to when he says that God „rasied us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). We are not physically present in heaven, of course, for we remain here on earth at the present time. But if Christ’s session at the right hand of God refers to his reception of authority, then the fact that God made us sit with Christ means that we now share in some measure in the authority that Christ has, authority to contend against „the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12; cf vv.10-18) and do battle with weapons that „have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4).

This sharing in Christ’s authority over the universe will be made more fully our possession in the age to come: „Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Cor.6:3). Moreover we will share with Christ in his authority over the creation that God has made (Hebrews 2:5-8). Jesus promises, „He who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, I will give him power over the nations, and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received power from my Father” (Rev. 2:26-27). He alsopromises, „He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself have conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21). These are amazing promises of our future sharing in Christ’s sitting at the right hand of God, promises that we will not fully understand until the age to come.

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