The Ascension of Jesus Christ
The disciples who witnessed the ascension of Christ probably did not completely understand what they were seeing. It involved more than his physical return to heaven. The ascension meant that Christ was returning to his former place of authority in heaven, he was reclaiming his former place of glory, and he was beginning a new ministry for believers in heaven.
What Happened At the Ascension?
The End of Self-Limitations
When Christ became a man, part of the kenosis experience involved the voluntary limitations of his comparative attributes. Jesus was still God and able to exercise any of those attributes according to his own will, but Jesus chose not to exercise his self-will but rather to do the will of his heavenly Father (John 4:34). At the resurrection, those self-limitations ended. This meant that, although Jesus was still the same omnipotent God who spoke the world into existence (John 1:3; Heb. 11:3), there was a time during his earthly life and ministry when he chose not to exercise that power (John 18:36, 37).
Jesus was still the same omniscient God who alone understands all the intricacies of our immense universe. Yet he determined during his earthly ministry that there were some things he would choose not to know (Matt. 13:32). Jesus was still omnipresent, meaning he was everywhere present in the vast universe, yet for a brief period of his eternity he chose to limit himself to the confines of a human body (John 1:14). Christ no longer limits himself and exercises all his attributes to their full potential.
The Glorification of Christ
From the beginning of time, Jesus, had his own glory. That celestial glory was temporarily hidden during his earthly life. But on earth, John could say, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). Perhaps John made reference to the glory when “Jesus was transfigured” (Matt. 17:2) on the mount of transfiguration. Some feel the earthly humanity was the perfect example of what every man should become, hence as a man, Jesus glorified God.
As Jesus approached the cross, he prayed, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). When Jesus hung on the cross, he looked forward to the glorification of himself and the joy of that time (Heb. 12:2). At the resurrection of Christ, Jesus was glorified, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him’ a name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). Where the previous glory of Christ in heaven was dependent upon his person, this added dimension of glory is based upon his completed work.
It is interesting to contrast the post-resurrection appearances of Christ and the post-ascension revelations. In the former instances, Christ had sufficiently veiled his. glory to the point that he was often not recognized, such as with the disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:16, 31), or Mary Magdalene who also did not recognize him (John 20:14). His person was witnessed by John, Paul, and Stephen. There was no doubt in their minds that they were in the presence of deity. The difference between John’s meeting with Christ in John 21 and Revelation 1 was the glorification of Christ that he received at his ascension.
The Exaltation of Christ
Closely related to his glorification was the exaltation of Christ to his new position of authority. David, in a messianic psalm, prophesied concerning this exaltation of Christ when he wrote, “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Ps. 110:1). Peter quoted this psalm in his message on the day of Pentecost in his discussion of the resurrection. He concluded by pointing out the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The apostle Paul also cited the resurrection and ascension of Christ as his exaltation. “Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). Jesus is the object of worship by those around his throne. They cry out, “Worthy is the Lamb” (Rev. 5:12).
The Entrance of Humanity Into Heaven
Paul noted, “To be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). This entrance into heaven is only possible because “the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus” (Heb. 6:20). Jesus was the first man to enter heaven with a glorified body. At his ascension, he became “the man in the glory” (Heb. 7:24).
The Beginning of a New Ministry
When Jesus ascended into heaven, he was not entering retirement. He simply added a new task to his job description. He had finished his task of dying for the salvation of the world (John 19:30) but now he lives for the saved as their intercessor and advocate. In his position, Jesus is continually interceding for Christians as they are tempted to sin (Heb. 7:25).
He gives them grace to keep from sinning. If, on occasion, they should yield to temptation and sin, Jesus becomes their advocate before God (John 2:1). As such, Christ forgives the sin based on his sacrifice and restores the Christian after he sins.
What the Ascension Accomplished
Everything Jesus accomplished had an impact on the life of the believer. As a result of the ascension of Christ, Christians have a number of benefits for a fulfilled life and successful service. The following chart identifies some of the results of the ascension of Christ.
The Results of the Ascension of Christ
- The sending of the Holy Spirit – John 16:7
- The giving of spiritual gifts – Ephesians 4:8
- The imparting of spiritual power – Acts 1:8
- The preparation of a heavenly home – John 14:3
- The standing of the believer Romans – 8:29
The Sending of the Holy Spirit
If Christ did not ascend to heaven, we would not have the ministry of the Holy Spirit for’ “. the church. Jesus taught that both the Father (John 14:26) and he himself (John 15:20) would send the “Comforter.” . This could not be accomplished during his earthly ministry. Jesus -. said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you,, (John 16:7). This promise was again made by Jesus on the last ‘ recorded meeting with his disciples on the last day of his ascension (Acts 1:5). Less than ten days later, the Holy Spirit came in mighty power upon the disciples (Acts 2:1-4). Today the Holy Spirit lives in every Christian (1 Cor. 6:19) and helps them live for God (Gal. 5:25).
The Giving of Spiritual Gifts
When a person is saved, he not only receives the Holy Spirit, he also receives his spiritual gift(s) (1 Cor. 12:11; 1 Pet. 4:10). A spiritual gift is an ability to serve God, given initially by Christ. “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men (Eph. 4:8). After a Christian is saved he must discover his gift(s) (1 Cor.
12:1, 32) and develop those gifts for better service. The Bible contains three lists of gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4). Certain special abilities were given by God to the 9 apostles as signs to verify their preaching, as mentioned in the last chapter of Mark’s Gospel. These were considered by most scholars to have been temporary, and given primarily as signs to unbelieving Jews (1 Cor.1:22). The Bible instructs the Christian to seek “earnestly the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31). Everyone should seek to use their gift or gifts to glorify God. There may be other gifts that God gives to people that are not specifically identified in Scripture. The exact number of the gifts is not uniformly accepted by all Bible scholars, since the reference to spiritual gifts in Ephesians 4, for example, appears to refer to the positions certain gifted people fill in the church and not necessarily to the gift or gifts themselves. For example, a pastor might have the gifts of teaching, exhortation, wisdom, and faith.
The Imparting of Spiritual Power
A third benefit of the ascension of Christ was the giving of spiritual power to his disciples. Jesus taught his disciples to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). On the day of Pentecost, the disciples received this spiritual power to witness. The power was continuously present in their lives as they continued to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This spiritual power is available to every believer today in the same power God used in the resurrection and ascension of Christ (Eph. 1:19, 20). By yielding to God (Rom. 12:1) and being filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), we will be better able both to witness and to live our lives for God.
The Preparation of a Heavenly Home
A fourth result of the ascension of Christ involves the preparation of heaven for Christians. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). When Jesus ascended to his Father’s house, we must assume he began preparing those dwelling places. Had there been no ascension, there would be no place prepared for those who trust Christ as Savior.
The Standing of the Believer
When Jesus ascended to his Father, those who trust Christ as Savior ascended with him. God “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). As Jesus was exalted at his ascension, so the Christian is raised up and stands before God because of the ascension of Christ. This is an application of the union every believer has with Christ.