Bible and Theology
Christ Is Enthroned: Glorying in Ascension Day
May 25, 2017

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Can you imagine the gates of heaven in all their splendor? With angels, strong and mighty, guarding the ancient doors? Then, Christ Jesus approaches, and they cry, “Who is this King of glory?” (Psalm 24:8). They gaze upon the Lord of glory with holy fear, awe, and worship—for He is the mystery of God’s redemption plan, the incarnate Word of God, the seed that crushed the serpent’s head (see Genesis 3:15), the “mystery kept hidden for ages and generations” (Colossians 1:26) that even “angels long to look into” (1 Peter 1:12).

On Ascension Day, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, ascended to the heavenly realm. But He did not simply disappear or change form; He entered heaven’s gates having fulfilled His earthly ministry, securing a place in eternity for all who would call upon His name.

Clouds

Through the ascension, we are reminded of what we will have in heaven—a real and concrete life in the presence of God.


Although Ascension Day is largely ignored in the church today, it is a significant moment in history because it emphasizes:

  1. The significance of Christ’s authority.

Hebrews 1:3 says, “After [Jesus] had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Right at this moment, Jesus the Son is enthroned at the right hand of God the Father, exalted in glory. In his Spirit-filled address at Pentecost, Peter explained how this affirms Christ’s lordship:

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. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. (Acts 2:33-36, emphasis added)

Christ’s position of authority in heaven affirms His identity as God incarnate, our only mediator, and the only way to the Father. Jesus was not just a good man; He was the perfect, sinless God-man. Jesus did not merely teach us about God; He is God. He did not merely tell us about salvation; He is our salvation. He did not merely point us to God; He is the only way to God.

  1. Christ’s continuing work through and for His people.

Seated at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus’ work as the great high priest and King of kings is continuing today. As Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow articulate in The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God:

When you went to bed last night Jesus was at work subduing his enemies. While you slept he was continuing to rule over the world. He was still at it when you woke up this morning and even now as you read this. That is the outrageous claim of the ascension. It is outrageous because his rule is not recognized in his world. . . . Yet the story of the ascension is the story of the enthronement of Jesus as the king of the world. (29)

Jesus is not only still alive and at work today from His heavenly throne; He is also alive and at work today through His people. From the beginning, Jesus emphasized that His earthly exit was for our good: “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). And in His final words to the disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

While we wait in the place between the ascension and the return of Christ, we are reminded of the holy purpose of this age: the fulfillment of Christ’s commission to make disciples of all nations—something we cannot do without the power of His Holy Spirit working in our lives.

  1. The believer’s ultimate destination.

Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

What a beautiful assurance—that right now, Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for His children. The ascension reminds us of our eternal destination in Christ. It shows us Christ’s permanent presence in heaven. Through the ascension, we are reminded of what we will have in heaven—a real and concrete life in the presence of God. And so the ascension continues to declare Christ’s Gospel message of freedom through His saving work.

  1. Christ’s coming return.

Immediately after Jesus was taken up into heaven, two angels appeared with a message for the disciples: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). At this pivotal moment in history, God wanted His disciples to know, “This isn’t the end. Hold onto the hope of My return. Remember the end of the story.” Above all, we are motivated to fulfill God’s work because we know that the one who loves us is coming back.

A GLORY THAT COMPELS US TO FINISH THE RACE

Because the ascension is the enthronement of Christ, it gives us courage and reminds us of His sovereign rule over all: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). If we look to the cross and the ascension, remembering His love and power, we will labor well and harvest plentifully by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Have you neglected the glory of the ascension? It’s a bizarre event in the eyes of our culture—a man flying up into the air and entering a heavenly realm. We may even be tempted to be embarrassed by such a claim, but “has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20). What a tragedy it would be to ignore such a beautiful and freeing event in Christ’s ministry. So this Ascension Day, rest in the work of Christ—what He has done for you on the cross, what He is doing for you now from His throne, and what He will do for you when He brings you to your true home.