The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 17

The Doctrine of Christ’s Ascension to Heaven

Last week, we commemorated the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But Christ’s redemptive work would not be complete without His ascension into heaven. Luke the physician, and writer of the Gospel according to Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles, was careful in recording for us the bodily appearances of the risen Christ to men for 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension. Luke 24:50-51 records, “And He led them out as far as to 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.” This was very clearly confirmed in Acts chapter 1, on Mount of Olives (vs 12), how when Jesus was speaking to His disciples, “… while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of sight” (vs 9). This record from the Scriptures shows that Jesus’ ascension was a literal, bodily return to heaven. He rose from the mount gradually and visibly, witnessed by many intent observers.

There are some who refuse to believe in the ascension of Jesus. In denying this important aspect of the work of Christ, they either declare that this event, and other events recorded in the gospels in the New Testament, are myths or stories made up to explain the disappearance of Christ’s body. For example, the novel, The Da Vinci Code, written by Dan Brown in 2004, gave a fictional story of how Jesus eloped with Mary Magdalene to Europe and started a family, and that this family was under the protection, and hidden by the medieval Catholic Church to propagate their doctrines of Christ. However, the Da Vinci Code, a so-called secret code known only by a few people like the one who drew The Last Supper, cannot be true. If it were true, there would be thousands of Jesus’ children in the world today. There would be many who would have claimed their lineage to Jesus and His so-called wife. The Bible does not record that Jesus was married. Christ remained singularly obedient to His Heavenly Father’s will and redemptive work for mankind.

And after completing this, the Heavenly Father received Him and gave Him all authority in earth and heaven, and is set at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2). The ascension of Jesus Christ is significant for it records the culmination of His divine mission on earth. God the Father lovingly sent His Son into the world to be born as the Saviour for men, and now He is returning to the Father. His ascension absolutely affirms that He is fully human and fully divine. Nothing on this earth or in the spiritual realm could hold Him back from His rightful position in heaven. Jesus was returning to His heavenly glory, exalted by the Father (Eph 1:20-23).

The Bible records how two other persons were also taken up to heaven, namely Enoch, who “walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.” (Gen 5:24); and prophet Elijah who, when he was talking to Elisha, “behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kgs 2:11). There are claims by others that Moses, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were also ascended into heaven, but these are not recorded in the Bible. Jesus’ ascension into heaven is clearly recorded in the Bible, the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Hence, as followers of Jesus Christ, we uphold this important aspect of Christ’s divine work.

How do we benefit from Christ’s ascension into heaven?

1) When our Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, all of His teachings, especially the promises He made, are sealed as true. For example, our Lord declared in the upper room where the last supper was held, “In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (Jn 14:2-3). Yes, those who believe on the Lord Jesus will have a place in heaven. There is a mansion waiting for you and me when we leave this earth. And “through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. … no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and the household of God (Eph 2:18-19).

2) When Christ ascended to His Heavenly Father, He left behind His Holy Spirit, and spiritual gifts, so that His followers which form the Church, the Body of Christ, will have no lack. Paul declared this to the Ephesian Christians, “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men… He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things… And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists, and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:8-12). Jesus Christ must ascend into heaven before the Holy Spirit can descend upon earth (Jn 15:26, 16:7). And when the Holy Spirit came down upon the worshippers in the Temple on the Day of Pentecost, the New Testament Church began as declared by Christ that He will build His Church (Mt 16:18). In the coming of the Holy Spirit, all believers of Christ will be blessed with godly temperaments through the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and the Church will enjoy a diversity of gifts (1 Cor 12:4). God’s Holy Spirit will have influence in the conviction and conversion of souls (Jn 16:7-13).

3) When Christ ascended into heaven, He was seated at the right hand of God to make intercession for us, as Paul stated in his epistle to the Roman Christians (Rom 8:34). Similarly, the Hebrew Christians were told that Jesus, our High Priest, “the priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec… Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:21-28).

Indeed, we are most privileged because our Saviour Jesus Christ did not just abandon us when He ascended into heaven. He did not leave us alone to wrestle against the spiritual wickedness in this world, but He gave us His Holy Spirit who comforts, strengthens and teaches us. And best of all, Jesus Christ Himself is interceding for us in heaven. With His prayer support, we can always be assured of His presence with us in our daily walk, and in our efforts for the commission of the gospel work that He has left us with before His ascension.

May we continue then to keep close to Him, and be faithful until He calls us to Himself.

Pastor Bob Phee
(1st printing on 19 April 2009)

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