Ascension Day – Jesus’s ascension matters

Jesus_ascension_2

By Brian Tabb at DesiringGod.org

It is impossible to overstate the importance of Good Friday, when Jesus died for our sins, and Easter Sunday, when he was raised from the dead — but Jesus’s earthly ministry did not stop there.

After the resurrection, Jesus taught his disciples about God’s kingdom for forty days (Acts 1:3) and then he was “taken up” to heaven (Acts 1:2, 11). The cross and empty tomb are at the very heart of the gospel message proclaimed by Jesus’s followers throughout history (see 1 Corinthians 15:1–4). However, for many evangelical Christians and churches, Jesus’s ascension is simply an afterthought to Easter and Good Friday.

Here I want to highlight six aspects of Jesus’s ascension or exaltation, in hopes that this significant and climactic event in Jesus’s life will no longer be an afterthought for you.

1. Jesus continues to work after the ascension.

In Acts 1:1–2 we read, “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up…” The small but important word began signals that Jesus’s ascension does not mark the cessationbut the continuation of his work as Lord and Messiah. That’s what Luke’s second book, is all about, the “Acts of the risen Lord Jesus,” which he works from heaven, through his people, by the Holy Spirit, for the accomplishment of God’s purposes.1

2. The ascended Lord Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to his people.

After his resurrection Jesus told his followers, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).2 In his Pentecost sermon Peter explains, “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 that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:33). God promised in Joel 2:28, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” and this promise is fulfilled by the exalted heavenly Lord Jesus. The ascended Lord sent the Spirit to be present with his people (John 14:16), to empower them for worldwide mission (Acts 1:8; 4:31), and to transform believers to live new lives reflecting their king (Romans 8:9–11; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

3. Jesus’s ascension is his heavenly enthronement as King.

At Jesus’s ascension he is installed as the true king of the world. According to the Apostles’ Creed, he “ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” Jesus is taken up to heaven in a cloud (Acts 1:9–11), and Stephen declares that he sees the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56). These texts suggest that Jesus’s ascension fulfills the important prophecy of Daniel 7:13–14:3

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Jesus’s kingdom cannot be destroyed and will not pass away! According to Revelation 3:21 Jesus conquered and sat down with his Father on his throne, where he receives unending praise (Revelation 5:6–13). Jesus will reign at God’s right hand until all enemies are subdued under his feet (Psalm 110:1; Acts 2:34–35; 1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews 1:13). Thus God’s kingdom has been inauguratedthrough the enthronement of Jesus, who now sits on heaven’s throne and will return to consummate his kingdom on earth as in heaven.

4. Jesus’s ascension is his return to his Father.

Before and after his death and resurrection Jesus declares that he was sent by his Father and must return to his Father:

I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father. (John 16:28; cf. 13:1, 3)

Jesus said to Mary, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

There has been no sweeter reunion in the history of the world than Jesus’s return to his Father! Perhaps the closest analogy is a courageous, wounded soldier returning to his loved ones after a hard-fought victory. Jesus fully accomplished his mission and glorified the Father on earth, and at Jesus’s ascension the Father glorifies the Son in heaven (John 17:4–5). Take heart that Jesus’s homecoming to his Father prepares the way for our homecoming to be with Jesus forever (John 14:2–4).

5. The ascended Lord Jesus is our heavenly mediator and high priest.

Jesus is the unique mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). His death and resurrection secure our forgiveness, justification, and reconciliation with God (Romans 4:25–5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:18–21). Note also that the exalted Lord Jesus is now in heaven interceding for his people as our true high priest and advocate (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 1:3; 7:25; 8:1; 1 John 2:1). During his earthly ministry Jesus’s work was geographically limited — he didn’t teach in Ethiopia while healing in China. But now he is at work everywhere and able to hear and respond to his people’s prayers no matter the time or place. He sympathizes with our struggles and promises to do whatever we ask in his name (John 14:13–14; Hebrews 4:15–16).

6. The ascended Lord Jesus will return as King and Judge.

In Acts 1:11 two angels explain to the disciples, “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Jesus’s heavenly reign will one day be fully realized on earth (Revelation 11:15; 19:10–16; 22:3). This is the very thing we ask for when we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). At his return, the Lord Jesus will execute divine judgment, vindicating his downtrodden people and judging his enemies.4

What It Means for Our Lives

To sum up: Though often overlooked, the ascension completes Jesus’s earthly mission and signifies his enthronement as heavenly king. Jesus has completed his Father’s mission and he now rules with all authority and intercedes with all sympathy as our mediator and high priest. I close with four implications of Jesus’s ascension for our lives.

  1. Remember that Jesus is presently reigning as king and remains active and engaged in our world and our lives.
  2. Therefore live boldly, confidently, and strategically as servants of the exalted king of heaven. Know that your labors in the Lord Jesus are not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
  3. Sufferers, take heart that Jesus is not indifferent to your struggle. He has endured great suffering and is thus the most merciful and sympathetic counselor and mediator. Take your cares to your ascended Lord who hears your prayers and can respond with all heaven’s authority.
  4. Finally hope in a glorious future. The ascended Lord will return as judge and king. He will abolish injustice, end suffering, and destroy death and set up his kingdom of truth, righteousness and love. Best of all, we will be withour king forever.

     

Ascension Day Post – The Preexistence of Jesus Christ

Also read this related article on the deity of Christ: Who do you say that I am? and Wayne Grudem’s: What does Christ’s Ascent into heaven mean for me? 

The Preexistence of Jesus Christ (via) Tyndale publishers Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible (P 609)

THE DOCTRINE OF THE SON

1) Introduction. It has been estimated that some forty billion individuals have lived upon this earth since Adam. What a contrast can be seen in this vast multitude of humanity. These men have explored and settled every corner of their earth. They speak dozens of languages, practice multitudes of religions, and have formulated numerous cultures.

But every single human being shares one vital thing. His purpose of life down here and his eternal destiny afterward depends completely upon his personal relationship with the subject of this study, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is, therefore, absolutely impossible to overemphasize the importance of His life. The key question of the universe continues to be: „What think ye of Christ? Matthew 22:42

Note the following:

To the artist he is the One altogether lovely (Song of Solomon 5:16)

To the architect he is the chief Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6)

To the astronomer he is the son of righteousness (Maleachi 4:2)

To the baker he is the Bread of life (John 6:35)

To the banker he is the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44)

To the builder he is the sure foundation (Isaiah 28:16)

To the carpenter he is the door (John 10:7)

To the doctor he is the great Physician (Jeremiah 8:22)

To the educator he is the new and living way (Hebrews 10:20)

To the farmer he is the sower and the Lord of the harvest (Luke 10:2)

2) The Preexistence of Jesus Christ as God. It is possible (as some have done) to hold to Jesus’ preexistence without believing in his diety. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult brazenly declares that Christ preexisted as Michael the archangel prior to Bethlehem. But the Bible dogmatically declares both his preexistence and his diety.

A. The fact of his divine existence.

1) As taught by John the Baptist. „John bare witness of him, and cried,  saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me” (John 1:15, see also John 1:27,30). According to Luke 1:36, John’s birth occured 6 months prior to Christ’s birth, but John declares that ‘he was before me’, a reference to Jesus’ preexistence.

2) As taught by the Apostle John.”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).”For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and showed unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” (1 John 1:2). Here the Apostle John connects Jesus’ preexistence to his diety.

3) As taught by the Apostle Paul. „Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of a cross (Philemon 2:6-8).

4) As taught by the Apostle Peter. „Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (1 Peter 1:20)

5) As taught by Christ himself. „For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38) „I am the living bread which came down from heaven:if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, „Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” (John 6:51,61,62). Jesus said unto them, „Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 6:58). „And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5). Here Christ requests that the Father share His glory with the Son. But note the Father’s previous statement about his glory in Isaiah: „I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another…” (Isaiah 42:8). One is thus forced to conclude that either Christ was God indeed and had rightful claim to this glory, or he was an arrogant impostor demanding something the Father would never give Him!

B. The activities of the preexistent Christ. What was the Savior doing  prior to his Bethlehem appearance? The Scriptures make it plain that he was busy indeed.

1) He was creating the universe. „All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3).”For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). „Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the world…And, thou, o Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands” (Hebrews 1:2,10). This creation included everything, from electrons to galaxies, and from angels to Adam.

2) He was controlling this created universe. „Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High” (Colossians 1:17) Our Lord Jesus not only put all things together, but he continues to keep all things together.

3) He was communing with the Father. „I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast loved me” (John 17:23). „Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24)

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