Every year we celebrate important moments in the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Each December 25th, we celebrate Jesus’ virgin birth. Each Spring we celebrate Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. What is often overlooked, however, is Jesus’ ascension. The Ascension of Jesus Christ is the physical withdrawal of the visible presence of Jesus from Earth into Heaven 40 days after His resurrection. Luke described it this way:
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3)
The Ascension of Jesus is meaningful to Christians because it signifies the end of Jesus’ work on Earth and His continuing work in Heaven. The New Testament speaks of Jesus’ ascension in the following verses: Acts 1:6-11; Luke 24:50-53; Ephesians 1:20; 4:8-10; Phil 2:9-11; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3; 4:14; 9:24. In our sermon, we will discuss why Jesus ascended into heaven, what He is currently doing in heaven and why this is to our advantage.
Why did Jesus Ascend into Heaven?
Jesus had always planned to ascend back into heaven. It is important to talk of His ascension as going “back into heaven” because He came from heaven. God the Son “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) as Jesus. Jesus spoke in John 6:33 of Himself: “For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” When we celebrate Jesus’ ascension, we celebrate Jesus’ exaltation. Jesus’ work of redemption on Earth is finished and He is exalted to Heaven. He was taken up to glory where He sits at the right hand of God the Father where He reigns as King of Kings (Mt 28:18; Eph 1:20-22; 1 Cor 15:27; 1 Pet 3:22). He is the Head of the Church (Col 1:18). Christians belong to Christ and when we gather together as a local Church, we do so to worship Him.
What is Jesus Doing in Heaven?
We have already learned that Jesus is sitting at the Father’s right hand in the position of highest honor. Jesus also told His disciples in John 14:2-3, “…I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” In John 16:7, Jesus told them: “It is to your advantage I go. I will send the Helper (Holy Spirit). Peter explains this well in Acts 2:33: “Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” We will discuss Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit next week, but what is Jesus doing now?
He is Interceding for Us
Jesus our High Priest (Heb 6:20) and His heavenly ministry is linked to priestly work. As Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, He carries on a ceaseless work of intercession on our behalf (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1). Jesus is our Advocate with the Father. An advocate is someone who speaks on behalf of another. The essence of Christ’s intercession is intervention in our interest (from His throne). We have access to the Father because of Jesus Christ. When we are born again, we are forgiven of all our sins and granted the righteousness of Christ. Jesus cares for us.
He Gives Gifts to Us
Jesus cares for us and equips us. From his position of authority, Jesus also lavishes upon us the benefits that He won because of His life, death, and resurrection. Paul told the church in Ephesus that Jesus has “ascended for above all the heavens, that He might fill all things” (Eph 4:10). He goes on to say, “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11-12).
Jesus’ ascension means that we receive another Helper (John 14:16); the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the disciples. Through the Holy Spirit, God continues to equip us for service and battle (Ephesians 4:8-12). We will discuss this more next week when we discuss Pentecost.
Why is it Better for Jesus to be in Heaven?
While Jesus’ body is in heaven, He promised: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is the unique Son of God who has a Divine and Human nature. R.C. Sproul explains: “Jesus’ divine nature makes Him always present with us. He is omnipresent in His deity as God’s Son.” In the heavenly sanctuary, Jesus is accessible to all who invoke him (Heb 4:14), and he is powerful to help us, anywhere in the world (Heb 4:16; 7:25; 13:6-8). We also have the promise to continually dwell with Him forever. Jesus loves us and is available for us at any time. He will not leave us comfortless. He promised that His ascension was for our benefit and He also promised to return for us. Remember the words of the angels to Jesus’ disciples: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Let us remember Jesus is aware of all that we are going through and He cares for us. Let us serve the Lord with gladness and share the Good News with our family and friends.