Grace Thoughts

On God's Word, His Church, and His World

  • The Ascension of Jesus

    Rev. Samuel Perez

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    What does the Bible teach us about the Ascension of Jesus?

    May 5, 2016

    Updated: May 21, 2023

    To download a PDF of this article, click here.

    Ask someone about Christmas or Easter, and you'll get a familiar nod. Ask them about the Ascension, and you might risk a blank stare, even from Christians. The Ascension of Jesus is a forgotten truth in our day. Along with His incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, the Ascension is an indispensable aspect of the salvation Jesus has accomplished on behalf of His people.
        The Ascension is not simply the moment when Jesus was taken bodily, visibly, and locally from earth into heaven. It is the climactic point up to that point of His exaltation (which began in His resurrection). The Ascension is when Jesus is raised into heaven to sit down on His throne at the right hand of God the Father (also called His session). Jesus, perfect God and perfect man, is crowned as the Priest-King over all things. There is a Man at God’s right hand, which signals the restoration of human vicegerency through Jesus Christ (in antiquity, a vicegerent exercised rule on behalf of a ruler). Jesus receives all authority in heaven and on earth from His Father. As Lord over all, Jesus gathers to Himself His elect through the witness of His Church and applies His finished work to His people. Through His continual intercession and perfect superintendence of all things, Jesus the King is working all things in creation and history for His glory and His people’s good. The devil and evil forces are not in ultimate control of this world and the events of earth. God the Son is. So, do not be afraid.
        This often neglected aspect of our Savior’s work is front and center in the Bible. Here is a small selection of passages:

    Gen 1:27: The kingly mandate of the first Adam, fulfilled by the second Adam.

    2 Sam 7:16: God’s covenant with David promises an everlasting throne and a king to always sit on it.

    Ps 2: The Messiah is given the nations of the world as His inheritance.

    Ps 8: In creation, man is given the place of prominence and dominion which he loses in his Fall but which are restored in the New Man.

    Ps 72: A prayer to God for the King of Israel who is ultimately Jesus Christ.

    Ps 89:19-37: God’s Anointed King will rule, and God’s favor will always be upon Him.

    Ps 110: The most quoted psalm in the NT that promises that Christ will rule until all His enemies are destroyed.

    Ps 146-150: The Psalter concludes with an exaltation of the supreme and righteous kingship of YHWH.

    Is 9:6-7: The Promised Messiah will have a government that knows no end.

    Dan 2:31-45: The Kingdom of God, established from a small stone cut by no human hand, overtakes and breaks all earth’s kingdoms.

    Dan 7:13-14: The Son of Man receives a kingdom that has no end.

    Mt 6:10: We are taught to pray that God’s will and kingship would be fully revealed on earth as it is in heaven.

    Mt 22:15-22: God alone is sovereign, not Caesar.

    Mt 26:64: At his trial, Jesus prophesies His ascension, further infuriating the Sanhedrin.

    Mt 28:17-20: Jesus’ declaration of supreme authority in the Great Commission.

    Mk 16:19; Lk 24:50-51; Acts 1:9: The Gospel writers record Jesus’ ascent into heaven.

    Lk 1:32: Jesus is the true Heir of David’s throne whose kingdom will have no end.

    Acts 2:33, 36: The Spirit was poured out because Jesus was exalted to God’s right hand, and has entered into His full anointed lordship over all things.

    Acts 4:24-30: The Church prays Psalm 2. The nations vainly conspired against Jesus, God’s anointed King, and they vainly conspire against His Church, too.

    Acts 5:31: God exalted Jesus to His right hand to give Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. Christ’s ascension and session are necessary for salvation.

    Rm 8:34: There is no condemnation for Christians because Christ died, was raised, and seated at God’s right hand where He is interceding for us.

    1 Cor 15:22-28: History concludes with the full subjection of the world to Christ, and Christ handing over His kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rebel power and authority.

    Eph 1:20-21: God raised Jesus from the dead, raised Him into heaven, and seated Him at His right hand, over all powers in heaven and on earth.

    Eph 2:6; Col 3:1: We have been raised with Christ and seated with Him in heaven now, where we are to seek our life.

    Eph 4:8-14: Like all kings of antiquity, Jesus Christ gives gifts in His ascension to His throne. The gifts given are to his Church, which He leads out of captivity in the train of His conquest.

    Phil 2:5-11; Heb 12:2: Christ’s humiliation preceded His exaltation, when God gave Him a name above every name. His humiliation and exaltation are the pattern for the Christian life.

    Heb 1:3: Christ sat down on the right of the Majesty on High (a Jewish circumlocution) after making purification for our sins. Christ is the Great Priest-King in Hebrews, the fulfillment of every OT type and shadow.

    Heb 2:5-9: In this quotation of Psalm 8, the writer states that, although we do not presently see Christ’s kingship in all its fullness, we do presently see Christ crowned with glory, all things having been subjected to Him.

    Heb 4:14-16; 8:1-2: We pray to Jesus because He alone is our Great High Priest-King who, seated on His throne of grace, sympathizes with us.

    Heb 10:11-14: Jesus, the Priest-King (in the line of Melchizedek), offers the perfect sacrifice for our sins and sits down at God’s right hand.

    1 Pet 3:22: After Christ’s ascension, all powers are subjected to His reign.

    Rev 3:21: The conquering King promises a place on His throne to those who conquer.

    The Heidelberg Catechism on the Ascension and Kingship of Jesus

    46. What do you understand by the words “He ascended into heaven?”
    That Christ, in the sight of His disciples, was taken up from the earth into heaven,[1] and continues there in our behalf [2] until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.[3]
    [1] Mt 26:64; Lk 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11; [2] Rom 8:34; Eph 4:10; Heb 4:14, 7:23-25, 9:11, 24; [3] Mt 24:30; Acts 1:11, 3:20-21

    47. But is not Christ with us even unto the end of the world,[1] as He has promised?
    Christ is true man and true God. According to His human nature He is now not on earth,[2] but according to His Godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit, He is at no time absent from us.[3]
    [1] Mt 28:20; [2] Mt 26:11; Jn 16:28, 17:11; Acts 3:19-21; Heb 8:4; [3] Mt 28:18-20; Jn 14:16-19, 16:13; Eph 4:8; Heb 8:4

    48. But are not, in this way, the two natures in Christ separated from one another, if the manhood is not wherever the Godhead is?
    Not at all, for since the Godhead is incomprehensible and everywhere present,[1] it must follow that it is indeed beyond the bounds of the manhood which it has assumed, but is yet nonetheless in the same also, and remains personally united to it.[2]
    [1] Jer 23:23-24; Acts 7:48-49; [2] Mt 28:6; Jn 1:14, 48, 3:13, 11:15; Col 2:9

    49. What benefit do we receive from Christ’s ascension into heaven?
    First, that He is our Advocate in the presence of His Father in heaven.[1] Second, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge, that He as the Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself.[2] Third, that He sends us His Spirit as an earnest,[3] by whose power we seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, and not things on the earth.[4]
    [1] Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; [2] Jn 14:2, 17:24, 20:17; Eph 2:4- 6; [3] Jn 14:16; Acts 2:33; 2 Cor 1:21-22, 5:5; [4] Jn 14:3; Col 3:1-4; Heb 9:24

    50. Why is it added: “And sits at the right hand of God?”
    Because Christ ascended into heaven for this end, that He might there appear as the Head of His Church,[1] by whom the Father governs all things.[2]
        [1] Eph 1:20-23; Col 1:18; [2] Ps 110:1; Mt 28:18; Jn 5:22-23; 1 Pt 3:22

    51. What does this glory of Christ, our Head, profit us?
    First, that by His Holy Spirit He pours out heavenly gifts upon us, His members;[1] then, that by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.[2]
    [1] Acts 2:33; Eph 4:7-12; [2] Ps 2:9, 110:1-2; Jn 10:27- 30; Acts 2:33; 1 Cor 15:25-26; Rev 19:11-16

    123. What is the second petition?
    “Thy kingdom come;” that is, so govern us by Your Word and Spirit, that we submit ourselves to You always more and more;[1] preserve and increase Your Church;[2] destroy the works of the devil, every power that exalts itself against You, and all wicked devices formed against Your Holy Word,[3] until the fullness of Your kingdom come,[4] wherein You shall be all in all.[5]
    [1] Ps 119:5, 105, 143:10; Mt 6:33; [2] Ps 51:18, 122:6-7; Mt 16:18; Acts 2:42-47; [3] Rom 16:20; 1 Jn 3:8; [4] Rom 8:22-23; Rev 22:17, 20; [5] Ps 102:12-13; 1 Cor 15:24, 28; Heb 12:28; Rev 11:15