Theology 101 — Ascension Significance (3 of 5)comment (0)
May 15, 2014
By Jerry Batson
As we continue thinking about the significance of Christ’s ascension, the Book of Hebrews draws our attention to another aspect, His return to heaven to be enthroned at the Father’s right hand. In several passages we learn that the ascension marked the inauguration of Christ’s high priestly ministry.
In Hebrews 4:14–16 the ascension is expressed as passing through the heavens, when we read, “We have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God.” That the ascended Christ is our great High Priest is part of our encouragement to “hold fast our confession” (v. 14).
Furthermore since He assumed a full human nature and lived in our kind of world, Jesus experienced temptation, just as we do. The grand difference, of course, is that He never yielded to His temptations. He was “without sin.” Nonetheless having faced temptation, our heavenly High Priest is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses” (v. 15). The sympathizing Savior knows our frailties, and that moves Him to help us in our times of weakness and need.
Confidence in prayer
A further result of Christ’s ascension to begin His priestly ministry in our behalf is confidence in prayer. The practical truth for Christian living in this passage exhorts, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 16). Thus the ascension of Christ connects with us at the point of prayer.
Hebrews 6:19–20 refers to the ascension as Jesus going as a forerunner into the heavenly sanctuary. In so doing, this passage also references Christ’s priestly ministry, “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behelf, having become a High Priest forever.” When Jesus ascended, in language descriptive of the ministry of Israel’s earthly high priests, we are told that He entered “the inner place behind the curtain,” which we are to understand as the very presence of God Himself. This was just as He said from the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Just as is true of His resurrection, Christ’s ascension is part of our Christian hope. As He is, so we will be. Joined by faith to Him, we also look forward with certain hope of going where He has gone. However turbulent life may become, our hope is a sure anchor.
If we continue reading in Hebrews we will come to chapter 7, where verses 25–26 elaborate further about our ascended and enthroned High Priest. Now permanently in the presence of God, He makes intercession for us. His intercessory ministry enables us to “draw near to God” and assures us of our never-failing acceptance before God. The passage calls this being saved “to the uttermost” (v. 25).
Hebrews 9:24 emphasizes again the fact that in His ascension “Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself.” Having returned to heaven, our High Priest appears “in the presence of God on our behalf.” The imagery enlarges slightly to suggest a High Priest who becomes our heavenly defense attorney, who represents us before God. With such representation, no charge can be brought against us that can stand up in God’s court. As it were, the scars in His hands and feet become eloquent testimony that He has already borne our judgment, and we go free for all eternity.