When we think of the work of the Lord Jesus we may often consider His teaching or miracles. You may be drawn to think of His stilling of the storm. Maybe it’s His feeding of the 5,000. Perhaps you even consider His resurrection. Rarely however does the Ascension of Christ receive such prominence. If it is remembered, it is usually only tangentially as individuals consider Acts 2 and Pentecost. Rarely do we find ourselves satisfied to consider the work of Christ in Acts 1 and its prequel, Luke 24:50-53.
But what is the significance of the Ascension of Christ? What does it matter that Jesus departed unto the heavens? Why is it good for believers to know that Christ has indeed gone to be with the Father and is no longer physically found here on earth? How does this event relate to the rest of the Bible? The Ascension of Christ properly belongs to His exaltation as the Ascension leads to the coronation of Christ. To understand this dynamic, we do well to turn to the Old Testament prophet Daniel.
In Daniel chapter 7, we learn about the Son of Man. We do well to remember that the Lord Jesus regularly referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” (cf. Matt. 8:6; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:22; John 6:53). In Daniel’s prophecy we learn that the Son of Man comes unto God the Father riding on the clouds in order to receive His kingdom.
Let’s carefully read this text together from Daniel 7:13-14, “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (ESV) The Son of Man is not merely presented unto God the Father but is endowed forever with an everlasting and all-encompassing kingdom. The Ascension of Christ reminds us of this great Old Testament promise. (cf. Matthew 24:30-31; 26:64)
The Ascension was also necessary for Christ to send His Spirit upon the Church. Just as we would be without Easter was it not for Good Friday, so we would be without Pentecost was it not for the Ascension of Christ.
On the night before His crucifixion the Lord Jesus said, “when the Helper [that is the Holy Spirit] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me… You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father…” (John 14:26, 28 ESV) In His Ascension, Christ received the Kingdom from His Father and He sent the Holy Spirit upon the church at Pentecost. Christ sent His Spirit who has never departed from His Church.
As the Ascended King cares for His bride by sending His Spirit, the Lord Jesus also never ceases to pray for His people. The author of Hebrews wrote, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 ESV) Jesus always lives to pray for us O church.
Let’s make this personal. Jesus is always going to be alive, and as such, He will never stop praying for you O Christian. He never forgets you. He never ignores you. He will never leave you. He is able to save you, and empower you for His mission by His Spirit. You are being upheld by Him every moment of every day.
In considering His priestly work, the Heidelberg Catechism (written 1563) reminds us that in His Ascension “he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father … [and is] a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.” (Heidelberg Catechism Q. 49) Though Jesus may be absent from us with his body, He is always present with and in us by His Holy Spirit. And where our King goes, so one day shall we.
May the Ascension of Christ become a source of encouragement for you today, especially as we cannot see Christ with our eyes, or feel Him with our fingers. Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 ESV)