Our Hope in the Ascension
Do you know what week this is in the Christian calendar? Thursday, May 18, is Ascension Day this year. In some church traditions the ascension of Christ is celebrated the same way Christmas and Easter Day are celebrated in other denominations and churches. Whatever you think about observing the Christian year, the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ does really matter. It is an important moment in the gospel, and it is also a significant event for our Christian living.
But I wonder have you given much thought to the ascension of Jesus? If not, this Sunday we will talk about our hope in the ascension.
How important was the ascension of Jesus to the authors of the New Testament? Luke certainly thought it was crucial. It was the last paragraph of his Gospel, and at the beginning of his second volume, called the Acts of the Apostles, he describes it at even greater lengths. Peter refers to it in his sermon on the day of Pentecost. And then he assumes it when he describes the miracle at the beautiful gate of the temple in Acts 3. The ascension of Christ also lies behind Stephen’s experience when he was being martyred. It also lay behind the experience of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road.
John tells us how Jesus spoke about it in John 6:62, and then in His farewell conversation with His disciples. There are other passages that refer to its importance, such as Ephesians 1:20-23 and Philippians 2:9: ‘God has highly exalted the Lord Jesus.’ And in Philippians 3:10, He is now in heaven, and we are waiting for Him to return. While in Colossians 3:1 Paul writes, ‘He has ascended and is seated at the right hand of God.’
In the book of Hebrews, the ascension is implied in various places. Think of Hebrews 4:14: ‘Jesus has passed through the heavens and is at God’s right hand.’ Or think of the portrayal of Jesus in Revelation 12, where He is caught up to heaven and is ascended to the throne of God.
Indeed, the Bible places a sense of significance on the ascension of Jesus Christ. It was the next great event following Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. In fact, it marked the completion of his present work here on earth. As the hymn states, ‘All his work on earth has ended, joyfully we sing, Jesus has ascended, glory to our King.’ John says in his Gospel, ‘He came from God and He was going back to God.’ Jesus’ resurrection tells us that His atoning sacrifice has been accepted. His ascension tells us that He has completed all the work His Father gave Him to do on earth.
Jesus was taken up into heaven in a cloud, and there was a reason for that; it wasn’t just to hide Him from sight. In God’s mighty acts, a cloud regularly appears. It is sometimes called the ‘shekinah cloud,’ the bright shining cloud that manifests the presence of the invisible glory of God. Our Lord went into heaven riding on a kind of triumphant chariot of glory.
The early church loved to think of the words of Psalm 24 in this connection. As Jesus approaches the summit of the hill of the Lord, the angels accompanying Him cry out, ‘Lift up your heads, O gates, that the King of glory may come in.’ And like an antiphonal choir, the angels call back, ‘Who is this King of glory who seeks entry?’ And the answer is given, ‘The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle… the Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.’ So, the doors swing open. Jesus who has conquered sin and death, comes to His coronation.
What a majestic scene. The ascension means that Jesus who was crucified for us, now occupies the throne of heaven and now reigns over all things for us. That is surely something worth remembering and celebrating in worship.
I hope you can join us this Sunday as we celebrate the ascension of our Lord, Jesus Christ as we talk about our hope in the ascension from Luke 24:50-53.
Plan to join us this Sunday for a luncheon immediately following our worship service. The church will provide meat and drinks. We ask you to bring some sides and desserts.
For His Glory,