I Believe in the Ascension
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Michael Horton said:
"We typically treat the ascension as little more than a dazzling exclamation point for the resurrection rather than as a new event in its own right (We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles' Creed)."
Very rarely do we hear sermons and lectures on the ascension. We focus most of our time on the death and resurrection of Jesus. The ascension is an essential truth of the Christian faith that has incredible implications.
I used to think the disciples were sad when they watched Jesus leave them (Acts 1:11); however, Luke 24:51-52 tells us:
"While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy."
Why did they return to Jerusalem with great joy?
1. Jesus Told Them He was Preparing a Place for Them in Heaven.
In John 14:1-4, Jesus tells His disciples:
In My Father's house are many rooms...I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.
The disciples knew Jesus was going to Heaven to prepare a place for them to be with the Father forever. This is great news for us who believe Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6)!
2. The Disciples Knew the Holy Spirit Would Come Soon.
In John 16:5-8 Jesus tells His disciples:
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (v. 7-8).
Jesus told the disciples it would be to their benefit if He left them because the Holy Spirit would come in His fullness and the good news of Jesus would spread throughout the ends of the earth (see Acts 1:4-8).
3. The Disciples Knew Jesus Would Return.
Acts 1:11 says, "This same way Jesus, who has been taken from you into Heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into Heaven."
My parents have a tradition where they walk my family out the door and wait until we drive away, waving to us. They watch our car slowly disappear in the distance. It's special to them when we return once again, oftentimes in the same car and in the same manner we left.
The same is true for the disciples. They knew Jesus was leaving, but we have hope and anticipate the return of our Savior who will come from Heaven riding on a white horse claiming victory (see Revelation 19:11-16).
The disciples left Bethany and returned to Jerusalem with joy because they knew Jesus was preparing a place for them in Heaven, the Holy Spirit would soon come, and Jesus would return.
Why does the Ascension of Christ matter to us?
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that "after Jesus had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven."
Jesus is not simply sitting on His throne, resting. Rather, He is sitting on His throne, ruling.
1. Jesus is King, and He is Protecting Us from the Evil One.
David says in Psalm 110:1: "The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'"
Jesus is exalted to the place of greatest honor, and He is placing His foot on the heads and necks of the defeated, our enemies. He is king and is protecting us from the attacks of Satan.
2. Jesus is Priest, and He is Interceding on our Behalf to the Father.
The great song, "Before the Throne of God Above" says, "Before the Throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea, a great High Priest Whose name is love, Who ever lives and pleads for me."
Jesus is putting in a good word for us to the Father, He is pleading our cause.
Paul Washer says,
"Imagine if we didn't have Jesus on the throne pleading for us. We would have no good word spoken of us. Satan, the Father of lies, the Accuser, would give us a charge that says, 'Guilty, guilty, guilty.' Without Jesus on the throne, we would have no defense."
Because Jesus is on the throne, we have someone who defends our cause. We have someone who can sympathize and empathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:14-16). We have a God, a Priest, who cares for us and hears our prayers.
The ascension is a big deal that we need to talk more about.