The Practical Implications of the Ascension

Each year, forty days after the celebration of Easter, the church celebrates Ascension Day, commemorating the ascension of Christ from this earth to His heavenly abode.

We have the Easter season behind us. That season is greatly known in the world about us. Whether we know anything of the meaning of that season, is hard to see in the world. But of Ascension Day, you hear very little. Even we are, in some ways, like the world. It isn’t easy to forget Christmas, Good Friday, or Easter; but Ascension Day or Pentecost could easily slip by and be forgotten.

Why should this be? Ascension Day is just as important as any of the other days. Without the ascension of our Lord, His work of salvation would not be complete. For without His ascending into heaven, there would not be the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost.

The event of the ascension of Christ Jesus into heaven is not mentioned in detail as the other events of Christ. The event is mentioned in Mark 16:19, “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God.” In Luke 24:50, 51 we read, “And he led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” In Acts 1:9-11 we have a more detailed testimony of the ascension, where we read, “And when he had spoken these words, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? 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.”

In these verses we have a testimony of the ascension when it happened. There are many places that tell us of the ascension, and Christ many times told those that were listening, of His ascension. As we have it in John 16:7, “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.”

What are the implications of the ascension for the Christian, as he is in this world? We have an answer for this in Lord’s Day XVIII in question and answer 49, where we have a threefold benefit from the ascension of Christ. In answer to the question, “Of what advantage to us is Christ’s ascension into heaven?” First, he is our advocate in the presence of his father in heaven; Christ is our advocate in heaven for his people in this sinful world. By Christ’s work of atonement, we are made clean before the Father. The Father is delighted with the work of Christ as our Advocate, so that He may show His everlasting mercy and eternal love to us his chosen people, by the forgiveness of our sins.

The second advantage is “that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that He, as the Head, will also take up to himself, us, his members.” Christ took upon Himself our human body and soul in the human nature. That human nature was unfit to enter into heavenly glory. It was of this earth, corrupt through sin. We did not have the right to be delivered from that corrupt nature. That nature Christ took upon Himself without sin. Christ suffered all that was required to satisfy God’s justice, so that we could be righteous, and have the right to heavenly glory. Christ as our Head took our flesh into glory so that all that was His, may be ours. Then His ascension is our ascension. He is ascended up on high, so that we have the right to follow him.

The third advantage is “that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, by whose power we ‘seek the things which are above; where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on the earth.’”  This is a great advantage of the ascension. By the ascension of Christ, He sent the Spirit on Pentecost, so that we may be partakers of the heavenly life. We are delivered from the earth, earthy. We, by the Spirit, long for those things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. We are sojourners and strangers in the earth and, as Christians, we must declare plainly that we seek a better country.