Friday, May 30, 2014

How the ascension gives a window into Jesus' glory

Luke 24:50-51 " And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven."

Review from yesterday
In yesterday's post we began considering the event of Jesus' ascension into heaven.  The main point of yesterday's post was to list the key New Testament scriptures that demonstrate the reality of the event.  We saw that Jesus predicted or indicated His anticipation of ascension on several occasions throughout His earthly ministry.  We concluded with a quote from the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, affirming the reality and significance of the ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven.  Today's post will aim to begin unpacking and explaining the significance of Jesus' ascension. 

How ascension of Jesus into Heaven gives us a grand window into His glory
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 explains not only belief in the physical ascension of Jesus into Heaven, but also how it relates to three other significant truths: His resurrection, His return and His activity in the lives of Christians today.  This is what the BFM 2000 states: "He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord."

That statement summarizes for us the connection we as Christians have to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and all that He is and accomplished.  Each of the major events of our Lord's lives, a window is given through which we can see increasing manifestations of His glory.

For example, in His incarnation and virgin birth, the angels are depicted as singing "glory to God in the highest". Later at His Baptism, the voice of the Father is heard speaking from Heaven: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." In the midst of His earthly ministry Jesus reveals His pre-incarnate Divine glory to his disciples atop the Mount of Transfiguration. Even in His cross, scripture repeatedly states that the glory of His love is demonstrated.

The cross for many Christians represents the epicenter of Christian devotion - and rightly so - being that it is at the cross where humanity and Deity meet, being that the One Person who is humanity and Deity accomplished the necessary redemption. 

The windows of glory continue in what is considered the most important event, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  It is this event which, according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-20, is the article upon which the validity and reality of Christian faith rises or falls.  Without confessing one's trust in Jesus' death and resurrection, salvation cannot be applied.

As scripture marches forwards, especially in the Gospels, Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-10, we see the glory of Jesus Christ seen yet through another set of windows - His post-resurrection appearances.  As one writer has noted: "grace is but glory begun and glory is but grace completed." It is in those ten or so resurrection appearances of our Lord, over a period of 40 days, that we see the early  disciples established and solidified in their faith, and getting ready for what will be their message to a lost and dying world: "He is Alive!"

All of these key events: Jesus' incarnation/virgin birth; earthly life, crucifixion, resurrection and appearances give us windows into His glory.

However there is one event that not only gives us a window, but a grand, sweeping bay window into the glory of the God man - the ascension. There is no denying how much is suddenly opened up to us in the ascension of Jesus Christ.  It seems that once He had ascended, the New Testament explodes with scripture after scripture describing and applying the significance of the ascended Jesus to Christian identity and living. A few of these scriptures will serve to prove what we are talking about in this post:

Romans 8:34 "who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us."

Ephesians 1:20  "which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places."

Colossians 3:1  "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."

Hebrews 1:3 "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."

Hebrews 8:1 "Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens."

1 Peter 3:22 "who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him."

Closing Thoughts for today:

The main point of today's post was to begin moving from the event to explanation of Jesus' ascension into heaven.  The goal was to begin peering through the big bay window of glory that is His ascension. I close today with this quote from theologian Wayne Grudem on the significance of Christ's ascension for Christian living:

"The fact that Jesus has already ascended into heaven and achieved the goal set before him gives great assurance to us that we will eventually go there also. [B]ecause of our union with Christ in his ascension, we are able to share now (in part) in Christ’s authority over the universe, and we will later share in it more fully. This is what Paul points to when he says that God “raised us up with him, and
made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). We are not physically present in heaven, of course, for we remain here on earth at the present time. But if Christ’s session at God’s right hand refers to his reception of authority, then the fact that God has made us sit with Christ means that we share in some
measure in the authority that Christ has, authority to contend against “the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12; cf. vv. 10–18) and to do battle with weapons that “have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4).

1. Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Page 541.

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