Happy Ascension Day!
I remember a few years ago when I first discovered that Ascension Day is a national holiday in Indonesia. This was surprising to me for many reasons, but probably the biggest reason was that here in America, not only would it be strange for the Ascension to be a national holiday but even the church doesn't usually commemorate the Ascension. But that is a shame as the Ascension is just as important of an event in the history of the world as is the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In fact, without the Ascension, the mission and purpose of Jesus’s time on earth is incomplete.
So I was surprised and excited to learn that the church in Indonesia has not made the same mistake as the church in America, and does in fact celebrate the Ascension of Christ. It is a blessing to be reminded every year that our Lord not only rose from the dead, but has ascended to the throne of Heaven.
7 Glorious truths about the Ascension of Christ
1) The Ascension is Proof that our Sins are Forgiven
Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That was His mission. His return to heaven signifies that He accomplished that mission.
Hebrews 10:12-14 tells us that:
“when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
After Jesus died for the sins of His people and after he rose again, Jesus ascended and sat down at the Father’s right hand, and the Father confirmed that the final payment for sin had been made. His mission to save all those who would trust in Him was accomplished.
2) The Ascension Means we have a Priest
When Jesus ascended, His intercessory work on behalf of His people began. This means that right now Jesus is interceding for and representing His people before the Father. Through this ministry Jesus acts as our High Priest and he applies His own righteousness and His own blood as a covering for our sins.
He acts as our lawyer in the court of heaven, and when we are rightly found guilty and deserving of death He steps in and applies His own death in our place so that we are covered by His righteousness and are considered no longer guilty. As John Calvin wrote, “Jesus stands before the Father’s face as our constant advocate and intercessor. Thus he turns the Father’s eyes to his own righteousness to avert His gaze from our sins.”
Because of the ascension we have access to the throne room of God, and because of Christ, at the throne, we find mercy and love, not punishment and judgement.
3) The Ascension Means that we have a King
The ultimate meaning of the ascension is that Jesus has ascended to the throne. Yes, Jesus was physically taken up to heaven, but that ascension was also symbolic of the ascension of Jesus to His throne.
Jesus’ ascension was His enthronement as King of the universe. He was given dominion, power, and authority and He is ruling from heaven right now - He is not on vacation.
This means that the Gospel message is not just that Jesus is Savior, but that He is also King. He didn’t just forgive sin, he is Lord over all. We may not always realize or recognize it, but He is ruling even now. To have a saving relationship with Jesus is to recognize Him not only as your Savior, but as your King and to seek to submit to His rule in all areas of your life.
I Pet 3:22 tells us that Jesus has:
“...gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”
Jesus’s reign has begun with the Ascension and it will be completely fulfilled someday when He returns and establishes His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
4) The Ascension Means we have Work to do
Why didn’t Jesus bring His disciples up to heaven with Him when He ascended? Why don’t we instantly get beamed up to heaven the instant we become Christians? If Christ is not here on earth, then why did He leave us Christians here?
Because we have work to do. Remember what Jesus told His disciples right before He ascended up to heaven? In Acts 1:8 He said that they, “will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
And in Matthew 28 the great commission is recorded, where Jesus told His disciples that,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We have the incredible privilege of being Jesus’s ambassadors. What an honor and responsibility it is to be ambassadors of the kingdom of heaven!
Remember what the angels told the disciples when Jesus ascended and they were all just standing around looking into heaven? Acts 1 tells us that while the disciples were gazing up into heaven where Jesus had ascended two angels appeared to them and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Jesus is coming back, but until He does, we have work to do. We have a King and a Kingdom to tell the world about.
5) The Ascension Means we have Power to do the work
We aren’t left to do the work in our own power. No, Jesus ascended and the Holy Spirit descended. Jesus didn’t just leave us with a job to to do, He gave us the power to do the job. The Mission He left us is impossible to do in our own strength. The ascended Lord sent the Spirit to be with His people, to empower them for worldwide mission, and to transform them to live new lives that reflect their King and His Kingdom.
This last point is important. Sometimes we can get the idea that Jesus went back to heaven and left His work here on earth incomplete, so therefore it is our job to finish what He started. No, that is not correct. Jesus completed His mission. What did He shout out on the cross? “It is finished”. How could we think that we would be able to add something to Jesus’s work?
What we are called to do is to live out of the freedom and victory that Christ has accomplished and to proclaim it to the world. We don’t earn the victory for Christ, we live in light of it. This is what Paul says in Colossians 3:1-4. He tells us that if our life is hidden and united with Christ, then His victory is our victory. We merely live in light of His power and glory - we don’t try to earn our own. And it is the Holy Spirit that unites us to Christ and enables us to live daily in light of the Gospel.
6) The Ascension Means we have the Presence of Jesus
It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that unites us spiritually to Christ. Jesus said something very surprising and probably confusing to His disciples in John chapter 16. He said it is better for Him to leave than to stay. I don’t know about you but I would have been very confused if Jesus had said that to me. “What do you mean Jesus?!”
Well, here is how it is better…When Jesus was on earth physically He could only be in one place at one time. But now, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is able to be with all of His people in a personal way at all times in all places. So you and I can talk and walk and abide in Christ all day everyday, even if we are on total opposite sides of the globe. Because Christ ascended and the Holy Spirit descended, Christ can be present around the world as He works in and through His spiritual body - the Church.
7) The Ascension Means we have a Home
Lastly, the Christian hope is a hope that is centered on the rule and reign of Christ, who will one day bring in the fullness of His kingdom. All of history is moving toward a defined goal - the return of the King. The return of OUR King. Past, present, and future find their meaning in light of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the grave and in His exalted state that will be fully realized in His victorious return as King.
And when He returns, Scripture tells us He will do two things - He will judge and He will welcome. He will eternally judge all those who have opposed Him and He will welcome all those who have trusted in this life in Him for their salvation from their sins. To those who have been washed by the blood of Christ,
“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Pe 1:3–4).
Our inheritance is sure, our place in heaven is secure, Jesus is preparing a place in our Father’s house, He is making ready the great wedding feast in anticipation of that glorious day that His bride, the church, made up of believers from every tribe, nation and language comes home.
Jesus’s ascension to heaven is His homecoming to His Father. And His homecoming prepares the way for our homecoming to be with Jesus forever. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:2–4
Because Christ has ascended - we have a home.
As we celebrate and remember the Ascension of Jesus this year I pray that it has a new vibrancy and potency in your life. As we look around at the brokenness and helplessness of this world that has been crippled by one little virus, we are reminded how frail and temporary this earthly life is. As we see the fear and the pain and the sorrow and uncertainty that COVID-19 has caused, let us cling to the truth that our King is on His throne, that He has defeated our greatest enemies of sin, death, and Satan, and that He is returning someday- maybe even today - to bring all those who trust in Him to their eternal home where there will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more death. May we cling to that hope and may we proclaim it to a fearful and suffering world. Until the day that Jesus returns, let us live out of the identity that His life, death, resurrection AND Ascension has secured for us.
Ascension Day Devotional
by John Freiberg, Missionary in Southeast Asia sent from Kaleo Church