Theology 101 — Christ Ascendedcomment (0)
April 24, 2014
By Jerry Batson
Across denominational lines, Christians often confess their faith through the language of the Apostles’ Creed. In the creed is the confession that Christ died and was buried. Immediately following is the affirmation, “He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty.” This confession reminds us that the mission on which the Father sent His only Son into the world was not complete with His incarnate life, saving death and victorious resurrection. His mission was not done until His exaltation had been realized. We might think of Jesus’ exaltation as having three stages: resurrection, ascension and enthronement. Like a middle child is sometimes said to feel overlooked, we sometimes tend to overlook the ascension of Christ. While our celebrations of Christmas, Good Friday and Easter usually overshadow it, the ascension of Jesus deserves attention similar to that which we pay to His birth, death and resurrection.
The record is told rather briefly both in Luke 24:50–51 and Acts 1:9–11. Possibly because the New Testament uses only five total verses to record the event, Jesus’ ascension tends to be pushed into the background. Even so the New Testament contains quite a number of references to the significance of the ascension. In the next few weeks we will be considering some of these references and the signifiance they attach to the ascension.
But for now let’s consider that an unusual exit was a fitting complement to Jesus’ unusual entry into the world. The five verses that describe His exit tell us that while human eyes watched, Christ was carried into heaven, being lifted from the earth and taken out of sight by a cloud. Thus His miraculous exit formed a fitting bookend to His entry into the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth.
To be sure, the ascension had significance for Christ personally. As He faced the agony associated with His crucifixion, the testimony of Scripture is that He “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). A major part of the joy was no doubt the anticipation of the return to heaven.
As previously stated, the ascension had the distinction of forming the middle portion of His three-stage exaltation, which began with resurrection and ended with enthronement at the Father’s right hand. We might think of the ascension as the link between Christ’s initial condescension and His final exaltation.
Of significance both to Christ and us is the realization that His ascension attested the Father’s acceptance of both His person and work. We believe that the Bible clearly teaches that as the eternal Word, Christ took upon Himself a full human nature in a real human body. That the eternal Christ could return to heaven in a human body bears witness to His success in living a perfect life in a fallen world in human flesh, before taking His humanity into heaven. Had He not been without sin in His person, ascension and enthronement would not have been possible in a heaven into which nothing enters that is unclean or defiles (Rev. 21:27).
In the Christian calendar Ascension Day occurs 40 days after Easter, putting it in the sixth week after Easter. The next few weeks will be a good season for Theology 101 to probe further the significance of Jesus’ ascension.