The Ascension of Christ
The ascension of our Risen Lord to the Father’s presence is narrated by Luke in both the Gospel that bears his name, and in The Acts of the Apostles (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11). In all the Gospels, Christ is presented in the wonder of His incarnation, the holiness of His life, the suffering of His atoning death, and in the triumph of His resurrection. In the two passages referred to above, our Divine Redeemer, having completed the work of redemption, ascends to His heavenly throne.
The Mount of Olives, the chosen place for His departure, was fraught with many a tender and hallowed association. From its slopes the incense of His prayers had ascended to His Father, and upon its grass His tears had fallen as He thought of the impending doom of the city of Jerusalem. Bethany, the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, the home in which, with delight, our Saviour often visited, was near the place of His ascent. How befitting that He should choose, as the point of His departure, the place made sacred during His pilgrimage by His frequent visits!
As the Saviour walked up the mountain with the eleven disciples, He assured them of the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower them in their witnessing for Him during His absence. When the moment came in which He was to leave the world and the little group of His disciples, “He lifted up His hands and blessed them.” He parted from them in the act of pronouncing a benediction; thus giving an earnest of what He would continue to do for them as He assumed His High-priestly office. It was also an indication of the blessings He will bring when He returns to earth. The great fact of the ascension which most deeply impresses us, is that Christ ascended as a Man. The “same Jesus” Who had walked with them, talked with them, eaten with them, the “Man Christ Jesus,” ascended bodily into Heaven. He was “carried up into Heaven” (Luke 24:51), and “He went up” (Acts 1:9-10). We gather from this that He was passive as well as active in His departure. The Father took His Son to glory; the Son went to the Father, as He had so often asserted in His ministry, “I go to the Father.” This is beautifully expressed in the words of Charles Wesley:
“Hail the day that sees Him rise,
Glorious to His native skies!
Christ, awhile to mortals given,
Enters now the gates of Heaven.”
The effect of the ascension of Christ upon the disciples is expressed in the words of Luke 24:52, “They worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” One would have thought that, being bereft of their Master, they would have returned with great sadness.
The ascension of Christ teaches:
God’s Satisfaction With His Sacrifice
The resurrection of Christ gives full proof that the penalty of guilt has been removed, and that the demands of a broken law have been met. The entrance of our blessed Lord into glory as the representative of His people gives evidence that the way into the Kingdom of God is now open. His resurrection is the pledge of the believer’s justification (Rom. 4:25) and the promise that, “Whom He justified, them He also glorified” (Rom. 8:30). The receiving up into glory (1 Tim. 3:16) from the Mount of Olives, is the crowning detail of a finished work.
The Descent Of The Holy Spirit
The chief reason the Lord Jesus gave for leaving His disciples was, “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). Again we read, “The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). He would no longer be with them in human form, but through the Holy Spirit’s presence He would be with them in just as real a sense as when He walked with them. The result of the Spirit’s indwelling them would be that power would be imparted to them to witness for Him and to reproduce many of the great works which He had performed.
These early disciples waited in Jerusalem with eager expectation for “the promise of the Father,” and their patient waiting was rewarded by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them. They then went forth to preach Christ with boldness and assurance, manifesting the transforming power of the Spirit’s indwelling.
The Proof Of His Lordship
Let us think of the heavenly welcome accorded Him as He rises in space, and passes through the “Everlasting doors.” Hark! The voices of the angelic hosts cry, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates: and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in” (Psalm 24). The question is asked, “Who is this King of Glory?” The answer is echoed by the heavenly chorus, “The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.” “The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.” Thus we see the victorious Saviour, returning to Heaven, acclaimed by “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” in approbation of His great work. Hear them as they say, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12). His ascension truly proclaims Him “Lord of all.”
The Prediction Of His Return
Our blessed Lord had said, “A little while and ye shall not see Me: again a little while, and ye shall see Me.” He also had said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself (John 14:3). Listen to the last word of the heavenly messengers, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven,” (Acts 1:11). His ascension is the pledge of His return, and who can tell how soon the “Everlasting doors” may open again, and the Lord come for His own. The hour of His return is drawing near, and, “To them that look for Him, shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28). As Israel waited anxiously to see their high priest come forth with uplifted hands, and to hear his benediction, “The Lord bless thee and keep thee” (Num. 6:24); even so, we wait to see our High Priest and King returning with hands uplifted in blessing. His presence at the right hand of God makes us eternally safe (Rom. 8:34), and also makes us certain of a place with Him in His glory. He will come just as He went, personally and visibly. This glorious promise cheered the disciples and made it easier for them to return to Jerusalem where they continued with one accord in fellowship and in prayers. While we wait His return, may we likewise enjoy fellowship with His people and give ourselves continually to prayer. “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching” (Luke 12:37).
In John 9, the first object that the eyes of the blind man ever saw was the face of Jesus, but alas, he did not know Him: When we get to Heaven we shall both see and know.
Self-denials and sacrifices made for the truth are not real losses.