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Theology > Jesus > Resurrection and Ascension > Meaning of the Ascension


The Ascension speaks of Christ leaving the earth and returning to His heavenly glory. Following the forty days of appearances subsequent to His resurrection, Christ ascended into the clouds and disappeared from sight. The Lord left the disciples looking “steadfastly toward heaven” (Acts 1:10). This event concluded the earthly ministry of Christ. Several implications can be drawn from Christ’s ascension.

One, Christ ascended in order to return to the Father and the glory that He had shared with the Father prior to His coming to earth. Jesus Himself asked this question: “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Lu. 24:26). To this end Jesus  prayed in His so-called High Priestly Prayer: “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (Jo. 17:4-5).

Two, Christ was raised from the dead and ascended into the heavens in order to occupy an exalted position as a result of His obedience during His humiliation (Phil. 2:9-11). Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, speaks of Christ “being exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33). Christ was exalted “far above all principality and power and might and dominion” and in this position the Father “put all things under His feet” (Eph. 1:21-22; see: I Cor. 15:27-28; I Pet. 3:22). To Him has been given a name that is above every name (Phil. 2:9).

Three, Christ ascended in order that He might rule; Christ says that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). Anticipating this exercise of sovereignty by the Son, the psalmist reports a communication between the Father and Son:

You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel (Ps. 2:7-9; see: Acts 2:30).

Four, the ascension makes possible the granting of salvation: “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). Luke records a statement of Jesus, made after His resurrection: “It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations” (Lu. 24:46-47). Following the resurrection and ascension, the Church has the responsibility of the message, the message of salvation procured by Christ while on earth.

Five, Christ ascended in order to send the Holy Spirit. Several times Christ indicated that He must go so the Spirit could come. In fact, Jesus even asserted that it was best for the disciples for Him to return to heaven, for after His going to heaven then the Spirit would come to them with illumination and power (Jo. 14:16-18, 25-26; 16:7-15; Acts 2:23; 5:32).

Six, the Lord ascended that He might intercede for His people. In addition to the following, see: Heb. 4:14, 16; 13:6-8.

It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:34).

But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:24-25).

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:24).

And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (I Jo. 2:1).

Seven, the ascension unites the present with the future, that is, eschatology invades the historical. Jesus returned to the Father in order that He might return to the believer at the end of days; He went up that He might come down. From heaven He came the first time, and from heaven He will come the second time. He ascended to return; “this same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven “ (Acts 1:11).

Note: Christ ascended in His body; the body of Christ cannot be divorced from the Person of Christ—they are one and the same. And Christ in His body is presently removed from space/time; this in and of itself invalidates the idea of transubstantiation. The Son of God entered into a permanent state that previously was not true of Him (Heb. 9:24; 12:22-24). Human nature was glorified in a manner it had not experienced before.

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