Today I’m sharing from Core Christianity.
Christ’s ascension turns humiliation into exaltation.
Christ ascended into heaven, an event we too often overlook, thinking it has little significance. The last thing we read in Luke’s Gospel, and one of the first things we read in his sequel (the book of Acts), is that Jesus ascended into the sky after appearing to his disciples in his resurrected body. As Luke records, Jesus led his disciples as far as Bethany, lifted up his hands to bless them, and while doing so parted from them and was carried up into heaven (Luke 24:51). In response, the disciples worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (24:52).
Prior to Jesus’s ascension in front of his disciples, he appeared to two of his followers on the road to Emmaus (Lk. 24). Believing that he was the one to redeem Israel, they were perplexed as to why Jesus could suffer defeat on a cross. Their confusion only grew when they heard the tomb was empty. Rebuking these two men for their ignorance, Jesus responded, “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Jesus then took them back to the Old Testament Scriptures and showed them how the entire Old Testament pointed forward to this climactic moment in redemptive history.
Peter makes a similar point in Acts 3:19-21. He tells his listeners to repent, not only so that their sins might be blotted out, but also that God might send the Christ “appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 2:20-21).
Both of these passages declare that the ascension was anticipated in the Old Testament as the very means by which the crucified Christ transitioned from his state of humiliation to his state of exaltation. The ascension, in other words, is the mechanism by which Christ is fittingly lifted up as the victorious king. As a result of this ascension, Christ now sits at the right hand of the Father, ruling and reigning over all (Eph. 1:20’21; Heb. 10:12; Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33).
The Puritan Thomas Watson drives this point home in his book A Body of Divinity. While on earth, Jesus lay in a manger, but now he sits on his throne. On earth, men mocked him, but now angels adore him. On earth, his name was reproached, but now God has given him the name above every name (Phil. 2:9). On earth, he was in the form of a servant (John 13:4:5), but now he is dressed in the robe of a prince and kings cast their crowns before his throne. On earth, he was the man of sorrows (Isa. 53), but now he is anointed with the oil of gladness. On earth, he was crucified, but now he is crowned. On earth, he was forsaken by God (Matt. 27:46), but now he sits at God’s right hand. On earth, he had no physical beauty (Isa. 53:2), but now he is the radiance of the glory of God (Heb. 1:3). Without the ascension, there can be no exaltation of our crucified and risen Lord. Without the ascension, the king returns victorious from battle, but no ancient doors open to receive him into glory.
Christ’s ascension assures us of our past, present, and future redemption.
Not only is the ascension the indispensable means by which Christ is exalted as Lord and king, but it also demonstrates that his priestly work of redemption is secure. We tend to think of Christ’s priestly work on our behalf as limited to the cross. However, Scripture says his priestly work as mediator continues in heaven (Rom. 8:33:34; 1 Cor. 15; Eph. 4; 1 John 2:1).