The Ascension of Christ

When we consider the Gospel of Jesus Christ we may often think mostly on his death and resurrection. The born-again believer is likely to be well versed in what the death and resurrection of Our Lord means for us, but what about his ascension into glory? Our union with Christ is not just in his death and resurrection alone, but in his ascension. True, one cannot enter into his ascension with him unless we have died and risen with him, but I believe in the importance of making every effort to join him in his fullness – his death, his resurrection and his ascension.

Let’s consider some purposes of the ascension of Christ.

Is not the death and resurrection of Jesus enough for God’s salvation plans to be accomplished for humanity? Soon after Jesus had risen from the dead he appeared to Mary Magdalene. One can only imagine her intense joy in witnessing the Messiah who was dead and is now alive, having overcome the power of death and hell. Perhaps in her heart then, she wanted a full embrace and unity with the risen Messiah, just as he was. But Jesus immediately responded, “Don’t cling to me, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father.” (John 20:17). Jesus tells Mary not to hold on to just the once dead and now risen Lord, for that is not the fullness of who he is and what he came to do. Jesus had yet to ascend to the Father.

His ascension is salvation from shame to honour, which brought God glory. Jesus stepped down from his place of glory in Heaven to come and serve the world that was created through him. The world did not recognise who he was, and he was despised and rejected by his own people who gave him over to sinful men to be crucified. His crucifixion was shameful. Hanging naked on a cross made for sinners, Our Lord endured the ridicules of the laughing onlookers. On the cross, the Father required the Son to take on all the shame of fallen humanity by bearing the humiliation of being beaten almost to death and then dying naked on a cross.
Shame is a deep issue that attacks our identity. It has the power to remove any sense of worth or value. Someone who is shamed has lost their honour and dignity, particularly in respect to where there is recognition that they have lost favour with God. Forgiveness of sins will rarely heal the person who feels shame because forgiveness is to do with wrong actions. Shame is to do with inner identity. Therefore, someone who has suffered shame needs to have their honour and dignity restored to them by someone of higher authority and honour – the highest being God himself.

So I believe it is with Christ. (Hebrews 12:2) “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus endured the cross and its shame, as well as the shame of being forsaken by God. (Matthew 27:46) But Jesus knew that he would have his honour restored to him as he ascended and sat down at the right hand of God, and this seat that Christ is now sitting on, is indeed, the seat of honour. (1 Peter 3:22) Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honour next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.

Furthermore, when Christ is honoured, this brings glory to God the Father. (John 5:22-23, John 13:31-32, Phil 2:11, John 17:1) Jesus had to ascend in order for the Holy Spirit to be poured out from above. Jesus said in John 16:7, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Furthermore, the Apostle Peter confirmed this as he preached to the crowds on the day of Pentecost. “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33)
Watchman Nee expresses it simply for us in his book, The Normal Christian Life. “Because the Lord Jesus died on the Cross, I have received forgiveness of sins; because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, I have received new life; because the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of the Father, I have received the outpoured Spirit.”

This I believe is a helpful description to how we can receive more of the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives today – to be living our lives under the Lordship and exaltation of Jesus Christ.
Because we receive the Holy Spirit from Christ in heaven, we are now seated with Christ in heaven, in the spirit. It is an awesome revelation that right now, in the spirit, God’s children are seated with Christ in the Heavenly Realms. Even though our bodies and lives are very clearly here on the earth, in the spirit, we are raised and ascended with Christ.
“All praise to God, the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. “ (Ephesians 2:4-7)
It is because Jesus has ascended into heaven that we have the Holy Spirit, and it is because we have the Holy Spirit that it is our present confirmation that we are united with Christ.
“And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.” (1 John 4:13)
Christ’s ascension into glory is our future inheritance. This, I believe, is one of the most important keys for the Church of Jesus Christ to make herself ready for the Bridegroom’s return.
This is a wonderful question to consider: How do we begin with the end in mind? The world does not know the future or how things will end, but because God has shared with us the mystery of Christ, we do know the end as revealed in Scripture. But how many Christians fall into the category of believing that the purpose of salvation is just that we will go to heaven when we die, instead of hell? Perhaps if we just focussed on the death and resurrection of Jesus we may come to that conclusion? But that was not the end of Christ’s journey, and it is not the end of ours. As Christ has ascended into glory, we also will ascend into glory. Not our glory, but His glory. As it was in the beginning (Genesis 1:26) and will be in the end (Revelation 5:10), we were created by God to rule and reign over the earth in the glory, power and authority of Christ. Our future inheritance in Christ is simply glorious!

Christ is the firstborn from among the dead and is the head of the Church. Like it should be with a woman giving birth, the head comes first and when the head comes forth you are certain that the body will follow. Christ is the head of the Church and we are his Body. He is the firstborn from among the dead. What Christ has gone through in his bodily resurrection and ascension into glory, we are certain that his Body will follow.
“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 5:1-2)
“This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27)
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honour at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
Let’s consider an earthly perspective. Prince William is the heir to the throne. He is not King yet, but he knows that it is his destiny and future. Therefore, he is empowered to live today in a manner worthy of his future inheritance. He is heir to the throne, and acts like it. We too are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, knowing our future inheritance and the riches and glory yet to come. In humility, reverence and awe, our lives today should be driven with the end in mind.
On a final note, consider John’s words in 1 John 3:2-3. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

If we give our attention and hope to our future realities in Christ, in his ascension, then it is assured that this will bring a purifying work to us in this life and truly prepare us for the Bridegroom’s return. This is a wonderful truth that we need to seek more insight and revelation of. Lord, may it be so.