What's the Big Deal about the Ascension?
Last month we observed one of the most glorious moments in the history of the world, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Easter and Christmas are the most recognizable of Christian holy days; however, there is another day that is not as well known that needs to be celebrated. It is Ascension Day, which occurs forty days after Easter. Many churches observe the following Sunday after Ascension Day and call it Ascension Sunday. This year Ascension Sunday is May 17.
For many years I simply thought of Christ’s ascension, which is mentioned in Acts 1, as merely the return of Christ to heaven and then I moved on into the glorious acts of the Holy Spirit through the Apostles in the book of Acts. However, in the past few years the Lord has used some powerful sermons from some godly men and some great Christian songs such as Before the Throne of God Above to stir my interest in Christ’s ascension and its significance in my life. I want to take a few minutes with the help of theologian Wayne Grudem to talk about the significance of the ascension.
First of all, Luke 24:50-51 and Acts 1:9-11 tell us that Christ went to heaven. In other words Christ ascended to a place. He did not go to some place in outer space to just wander around. He has a physical body and is in a physical place. Later in Acts 7:55-56 the young deacon, Stephen, affirms that he sees Christ standing at the right hand of God. Jesus told His disciples in John 14:2-3 that he was going to prepare a place for His disciples. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father. He is in a definite place.
Secondly, Christ has received glory and honor that had not been His before as the God-man. While he was fully God in His thirty-three years here on earth, he humbled Himself to take on some human limitations. Many ridiculed and despised Him, but now that He is back in heaven angelic choirs are singing praise to Him with such glorious words as “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!” Peter declared in his sermon at Pentecost that “God has highly exalted Him” (Acts 2:33) while Paul proclaimed that “God has highly exalted Him and given the Name that is above every name!” (Philippians 2:9)
Third, Christ is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. In the Old Testament we read that this would happen. In Psalm 110:1 we read, “The Lord said to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’” Christ’s position at the right hand of God the Father indicates that He has received authority over the universe. He is not the meek and mild, suffering Jesus. He has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand with angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him (1 Peter 3:22). The world might seem to be in chaos at times, but Christ is presently ruling. He has not yet physically established his kingdom, but, as the noted pastor Alexander Maclaren has stated, “[the establishment of Christ’s kingdom] is not to be effected by a single act of power, but by the slow progress of preaching the gospel.” Christ has received authority to pour the Holy Spirit out on the church. The power of the Spirit gives life to the gospel witness that we speak to others. While Christ is mentioned as sitting at the right hand of the Father He is not inactive. He is mentioned in Revelation 2 as walking among the seven golden lampstands in heaven. He is interceding for us when Satan accuses us (Hebrews 7:25).
Lastly, the Ascension of Christ has doctrinal significance for our lives. Since we are united with Christ in every aspect of redemption this means that the ascension of Christ gives us certain hope that we will one day ascend to be with him (1 Thessalonians 4:17). 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. We have authority through the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ combined with the power of the Holy Spirit that He has given us to contend against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly realm. (Ephesians 6:12). We have been given weapons and authority to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). Look around you and see the many professing believers in bondage to some type of wickedness. Part of the problem lies in false conversions, but some of the problem lies in a lack of understanding about the authority the believer possesses.
Let us lay hold of the glorious truth of the ascension and begin to act like people of the ascended King of Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord is presently ruling and reigning. Let us call those around us to repent and submit to our glorious King. This King who gave His life on a cruel cross to pay the penalty our sin deserved, who broke the power of Satan, and who rules and reigns at the Father’s right hand is the answer to what ails the world today. Let us embrace these glorious truths and conquer for King Jesus.