“When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive and He gave gifts to me. He…ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things.” Ephesians 4:8-10
In Acts 1:1-3 it records that for the forty days between Resurrection Sunday and Ascension Thursday, Jesus Christ presented Himself alive with many infallible proofs, spent the time instructing His disciples concerning the Kingdom of God, and gave them final commands. Of the day of Ascension, the synoptic gospels and the book of Acts offer the following details. Matthew records that Jesus met His disciples on a mountain. There He declared that all authority had been given to Him in heaven and on earth, and He commissioned them to go to all nations, baptizing and making disciples in His name. He left them with the promise that He would be with them until the end of the age. Mark declares that after He spoke, He was received up into heaen and sat down at the right hand of God, and that the apostles went about preaching the word in power with the Lord confirming their words with signs and wonders. Luke indicates that He led them out as far as Bethany and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. In Acts he adds that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come upon the apostles in Jerusalem and that it would be the power that they required to be His witnesses. As He was received up into the clouds, angels appeared to the apostles with the promise that just as Jesus had ascended into heaven, so He would return to the earth in the same manner.
This is an important day within the Paschal cycle. When the Lord took upon Himself human flesh and ultimately went to His death on the cross, He humbled Himself as it says in Philippians 2:6-8, “although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” Philippians 2:9 continues, “Therefore God also highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every other name…” This supreme glorification of Christ took place in part when He ascended and sat down at the right hand of the Father in glory. Daniel 7:13-14 may give us a glimpse of that moment. “I was looking in the night visions, and behold with the clouds of heaven, One like the Son of Man was coming. And He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him, and to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom.”
Four major things were accomplished at the Ascension of Jesus. First, Jesus entered into the glory that was rightfully His from all eternity (John 17:4-5 and Psalm 110:1-2). Second, from heaven He sent forth the promise of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-15). Third, as the Great High Priest He entered into the Holy of Holies not made with hands to make intercession for us (Hebrews 8:1-2; 9:11-15, 24-28; and 10:19-22). And lastly, He went into heaven to prepare a place for us (John 14:1-4). We commemorate Ascension Day by looking to the skies as the apostles did on that day and recalling His promises. The day is intended to remind us, as Paul says in Ephesians 1:20-23; 2:4-7, that Jesus is head over all things to His church, and that we, with him, have been seated in the heavenlies awaiting the culmination of the age and the inauguration of the everlasting Kingdom. As we look to the heavens may our prayer always be, “Amen! Come Lord Jesus Christ” (Revelation 22:20).
Russell currently serves as an elder in the church. His own spiritual pilgrimage extends back almost 40 years and includes a sojourn in the Roman Catholic, American Baptist, Lutheran, Independent Charismatic, Independent Congregational, home fellowship, and Federated Congregational church settings. In these settings he has served as a catechist, bible teacher, independent school principal, outreach coordinator, and ordained pastor. His current life verse is Romans 1:15. “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you…”