The Ascension

The Ascension

The Ascension.

“Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and then they could no longer see him. Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy.” (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-52; Acts 1:9).

WHO. The Lord Jesus, Son of God, the Anointed One.

WHAT. The Ascension, when Jesus was taken up into heaven in bodily form. He was then received by the angels in the glory of God’s Kingdom. In this act, Jesus united earth and heaven, and through this event, the Father verified the successful accomplishment of Jesus’ earthly mission.

WHERE. Near Bethany, at the Mount of Olives.

WHEN. Forty days after the Easter Resurrection, and ten days before Pentecost.

HOW. Jesus lifted off from the earthly ground and was carried away to heaven in a cloud.

WHY. Thoughts and verses on the Ascension.

1. A cloud took Jesus away into heaven. The cloud is a symbol of divine presence in Scripture, and was literally a manifestation of God’s presence on earth. Did God the Father descend from heaven in a cloud in order to escort Jesus back to heaven? A 5th century painting of the Ascension depicts Christ from the side view climbing to the top of a hill, and grasping the hand of God which emerges from a cloud above the hill, pulling Jesus into heaven. The Father may not have been sitting on His throne twiddling His thumbs while waiting for Jesus to make His appearance in heaven. God couldn’t wait. He wanted to personally escort His Son through the gates of the Kingdom. Just like the cloud led the Israelites through the wilderness, the cloud led Jesus into heaven.

“That is why the Scriptures say, ‘When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.’ Notice that it says, ‘he ascended.’ This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.” (Ephesians 4:8-10).

2. “By ascending through all the cosmic spheres, Christ took possession of them all, one after another, and becomes the head of the total cosmos, and makes the entire universe acknowledge Him as Lord.” (NJB notes). “By virtue of the redemption, all of creation belongs to Jesus.” (Father Reardon, Christ in the Psalms).

“Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept his authority.” (1 Peter 3:22).

3. Psalm 24 is the coronation song crowning Christ as Lord of all. It is a celebration of the Lord’s glorious entrance into the heavenly sanctuary and royal court.” (Father Reardon).

“Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates! Lift up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory!” (Psalm 24:7-10).

4. “The Lord leaves in order to be glorified with God the Father and to glorify us with Himself. He goes in order to ‘prepare a place’ for us and to take us also into the blessedness of God’s presence. He goes to open the way for all flesh into the ‘heavenly sanctuary, the Holy Place not made by hands.’ (Heb. 8-10). He goes in order to send the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father to bear witness to Him and His gospel in the world, making Him powerfully present in the lives of His disciples.” (Orthodox notes).

“This is the same power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.”  (Ephesians 1:19-22).

5. Since the Ascension, Jesus represents humanity at the right hand of God. We are as good as there with Him in the heavenlies through Christ’s representation, because we are “in Christ.” It’s the same thing when the team captains go to meet the referees before a game. The captain represents the whole team. The captain’s presence is the same thing as the whole team being present. Jesus is our Captain going before us into the heavenly realm, representing us in God’s presence.

“And Christ raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together, giving us joint seating with Him in the heavenly sphere, by virtue of our being in Christ Jesus, the Messiah, the Anointed One.” (Ephesians 2:6, Amplified Bible).

6. “Paul’s use of the past tense (in above from Ephesians 2:6) shows that the triumph of Christians in heaven is considered as actually existing, whereas the future tense treats it as something that is still to take place. Paul often treats a future reality as already existing.” (NJB notes). In other words, Paul loves to embrace the idea of the “continuous present,” the ongoing flow of indivisible time. Both what has happened and what will happen is true right now. We are already seated with Christ in the heavenlies, but it is nonetheless yet to happen.

“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 honor 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).

7. (Another thought on the cloud of the Ascension). “O thou who alone art the lover of mankind… the cloud which today envelops Jesus and ascends with Him to heaven, represents the smoke of the sacrifice rising from the altar of God. The sacrifice is accepted and the victim is admitted to God’s presence. The work of our salvation has been accomplished and is blessed.” (Orthodox Liturgy of Ascension Thursday).

“Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11). 

8. “The Ascension is an essential component of the very sacrifice of the Cross. The atoning sacrifice of Christ did not end on Golgotha, but was rendered perfect and complete by his definitive entrance into the eternal Holy of Holies. The Ascension is integral to the Lord’s priesthood. If he was simply on earth, he wouldn’t be our High Priest.” (Father Reardon).

“Who then will condemn us? No one – for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34). “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins – and not only our sins but the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2).

9. “The secret of the whole world of humanity is the love between the Father and the Son. That is at the root of it all. Upon the love between the Son and the Father hangs the whole universe. What it can mean exactly, you know, I cannot tell you. Why the Lord must go and ascend to His Father, though with Him all the time and with Him at the moment, I cannot tell you; but it means something, as if there were some center somewhere where this very body of His must be embraced by the arms of the Father before He was satisfied – as if He had to go back and tell His Father, “I have done it, Father, I have done it. It is over now and we shall have them all back by and by.'” (George MacDonald, from his sermon Knowing the Risen Lord).

“For Christ did not enter into a holy place made with human hands, which was only a copy of the true one in heaven. He entered into heaven itself to appear now before God on our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24)

10. The Ascension resulted in the glorification of Jesus Christ, in which His divine nature is finally unveiled. He shares equally in power and authority with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. His eternal royal status as Lord of all is immovable and unshakeable. For all eternity Jesus will share in the authority and honor of God. Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father in body and spirit, and “lives to make intercession for us.” (Heb. 7:25), to be the mediator between us and God. Jesus’ constant presence in heaven as our High Priest assures us our forgiveness and acceptance. The sacrifice is accomplished and eternally complete.

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

11. “The Ascension completed the union of God and humanity, for a Man who is God now reigns in heaven.” (Orthodox Liturgy).

“Yahweh said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet. Yahweh will extend your powerful kingdom from Jerusalem; you will rule over your enemies.” (Psalm 110:1-2).

12. The Ascension happened after forty confusing days of Jesus in His resurrected body. He was coming and going mysteriously. He was appearing and disappearing. The disciples needed to see the physical ascent of Jesus for a sense of closure to Jesus’ time on earth. The Ascension confirmed that Jesus’ true eternal home was in heaven, and his earthly ministry was accomplished. The disciples needed a formal departure of Jesus in order to begin preparing for the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

“O Christ our God, you ascended in glory and gladdened your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Your blessing assured them that you are the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.”  (Orthodox prayer).

13. The Ascension seems to be a fulfillment of the messianic vision of Daniel 7:13-14“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and he came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom that all the peoples, nations, and people of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” 

14. Jesus ascended while He was blessing the disciples. It was in the middle of or near the ending of His blessing that He started to be taken up to heaven. Is there any doubt what Jesus’ blessing entailed? Surely it was the traditional scriptural prayer of Aaron the High Priest, known to Jewish and Christian believers world wide and prayed fervently and faithfully for thousands of years:

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:22-27).

The UK Blessing — Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK – YouTube