Thursday, May 09, 2013

Helpful Reflections on Ascension Day

Why is it a big deal?

Kevin DeYoung:
First, Christ’s ascension benefits because we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). Our Lord Jesus in heaven pleading our case, so that whenever Satan accuses us in our conscience or dates to lay a charge against us before the Father, Jesus, Christ, God’s own Son and our flawless advocate, stands ready to defend us and plead His own blood for our sakes. Think about that. Christ is our prayer partner in heaven. He intercedes for us before the throne (Rom. 8:34).

Second, Christ’s ascension benefits us because we now have our own flesh in heaven; our lives are hidden with Christ who dwells in glory above (Col. 3:3-4). Christ’s flesh in heaven is a guarantee that ours will be there too someday. Our hope is not an eternity as disembodied souls but real, resurrected, material human bodies in God’s presence forever. Christ’s body is the first one there, but not the last.

Third, Christ’s ascension benefits us because we get the Holy Spirit as a result. As Jesus Himself explained to His disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). This was no knock on His own earthly ministry, but Jesus understood that as a man He was limited to one place at a time. But once He ascended to heaven, He could send another Helper (John 14:16) to give us power from on high and to be with us forever.

Think about the implications of Christ’s ascension. The ascension means we are in heaven, right now. Through union with Christ, we truly are not citizens of this world. Colossians tells us to set our minds on things that are above, because our lives are hidden with Christ who dwells there (3:2-3).

The ascension also implies that “asking Jesus into your heart” does not mean inviting a kind friend or comforting therapist into your life. It means—if we are using the nonbiblical phrase in a biblical way—that we are expressing our desire to be one with the king of the universe. The Jesus who lives within our hearts is sitting exalted at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

Most staggering of all, the ascension means that God has granted all rule, power, authority, and dominion (Eph. 1:21-22) to a man! This is why the scene I mentioned at the beginning from Lord of the Rings has everything to with Ascension Day. Yes, men have stumbled badly. Sin has wrecked havoc on the world because Adam reached for the fruit like Isildur grabbed hold of the ring. Elrond was right: the race of men is weak, failing. But Gandalf was more right: we must put our hope in men. One with our flesh reigns in heaven. One from our race will return as King. A man sits on Gondor’s throne, and the race of men will reign once more (2 Tim. 2:12).

The good news of this holy day is that Jesus Christ is exercising the dominion that man was made to have from the very beginning (Gen. 1:28). The ruin of the first Adam will be undone by the reign of the second. Because of Christ’s ascension, we know that the incarnation continues, Christ’s humanity lives on in heaven, the Spirit lives in our hearts, and a flesh-and-blood, divine human being rules the universe.
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