Theology 101 — Ascension Significance (part 2 of 5)comment (0)
May 8, 2014
By Jerry Batson
As previously noted, Christ’s ascension was the intermediate stage of His exaltation. The initial stage was His resurrection and the final stage was His enthronement. When Peter spoke before the Jewish Council in response to questioning by the high priest, he began with the fact of the resurrection, saying, “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed” (Acts 5:30). From that, Peter moved straight to the enthronement, “God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior” (Acts 5:31). While Peter did not mention it, we know that the ascension was the connecting link between resurrection and enthronement, with all three stages together constituting Christ’s exaltation.
In John 7:37–39 we read the account of Jesus seizing a high moment during the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles to issue a thirst-quenching invitation to all who would listen by telling them of living water. In recording that dramatic moment, John appended an inspired explanation about the living water, saying, “Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (v. 39). The descending of the Spirit awaited the ascending of Jesus. From His exalted position in heaven, Christ “poured out” the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).
Jesus had earlier spoken to the disciples about the Spirit’s coming and His work of convicting the world. On that occasion, He declared, “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Then in highly concentrated statements, Jesus gave a brief elaboration on each aspect of that convicting work. Our attention is drawn to what He said about the Spirit’s convicting concerning righteousness but referring to His ascension: “Concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer” (John 16:10).
How does Christ’s going to the Father — His ascension — relate to righteousness? Let’s start with the incarnation: the divine Son of God became fully human. Among other things, this allowed Him to suffer death. In His bodily resurrection, Jesus did not divest Himself of humanity. Rather He elevated it by expressing humanity in a resurrection body. His resurrection appearances to a variety of people were in that body. Forty days after the resurrection, in that body He was accompanied by human witnesses to the Mount of Olives. As they watched, He was caught up from their sight. He did not later reappear bodily. They saw Him no more. Why? Because He was accepted back into heaven, taking a full humanity into the Father’s presence. That acceptance witnessed to His perfect righteousness. That people saw Him no more also witnesses to that acceptance.
A portion of the Holy Spirit’s work in the world is to convince people that there is a righteousness that God will accept into His heaven. Christ’s is the only righteousness earth has seen that is fit for heaven. The ascension witnesses to that righteousness.
Do we desire heaven? Hopefully so. If so, we dare not trust our own versions of human righteousness. The best version we can muster is comparable to filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). The Holy Spirit seeks to help unrighteous people trust Jesus, who grants believers a heaven-bound, God-accepted righteousness. The ascension of Christ points us to the truth of the gift of righteousness. What do we do when offered a gift? We gratefully and graciously accept it.