Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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What was the Ascension of Jesus Christ?
By Dr. Richard P. Bucher
The Scriptures teach that 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus, in miraculous fashion, physically ascended (was lifted off the ground and began floating upward) to return to the glory of His Father and sit down at his right hand. This was a visible event, witnessed by His disciples on Mt. Olivet outside of Jerusalem. Having finished the work the Father had sent Him to do, Jesus now triumphantly returns to the glory of His Father. This event, along with Christ's birth, crucifixion, and resurrection, is the one of the major events of His earthly ministry. To this day it is celebrated by many Christians 40 days after Easter.
What passages of Scripture speak of the Ascension?
Luke 24:46-53 -- He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Acts 1:1-3, 8-11 -- In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God . . . But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
Mark 16:19-20 -- After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
John 14:2-6 -- "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Daniel 7:13-14 -- In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Psalm 110:1-2 -- The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.
See also Luke 9:51; John 6:60-62; Ephesians 4:8-10; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:3.
Why Did Christ Ascend to the Father and What does it Mean for Us?
A. Christ ascended to prepare a place for those who believe in Him in heaven. Jesus is our forerunner. This gives us certainty of everlasting life!
John 14:2-3 -- "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Hebrews 6:18-20 -- God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
B. Christ ascended to send people to proclaim the saving Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit (He is our Prophet).
Ephesians 4:10-12 -- He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
John 16:6-8 -- Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.
John 20:21-23 -- Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Acts 1:8 -- But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Luke 10:16 -- "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me."
C. Christ Ascended to Intercede for us before the Father (He is our Priest).
Romans 8:34-35 -- Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
1 John 2:1-2 -- My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
D. Christ ascended to sit down at the right hand of God to rule over His Church and the entire universe (He is our King).
The expression "sitting down at the right hand of God" means that Jesus, also according to his human nature, is present everywhere and has power and authority over the entire universe. Though He had always possessed this power as the God-man, while on earth He had taken the form of a servant and had laid aside the full use of this power. After His ascension to the right hand of God, He now makes full use of this power. What does it all mean? It means that Jesus, our divine-human Savior reigns! He controls all for the good of His Church! Nothing happens outside of His control!
Ephesians 1:20-23 -- [God] seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. See also Psalm 110; Daniel 7:13-14.
Philippians 2:6-11 -- Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.