Saturday, May 31, 2014

Shadows of the Ascension

Genesis 5:24 "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him."

Introduction & Review:
We have been exploring these past couple of days the event and explanation of the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. In today's post I thought we would widen our focus to include Old Testament foreshadowings and predictions that give background to what would be the glorious event of Jesus' ascension into heaven. As Jesus Himself taught His disciples in one of His resurrection appearances to them in Luke 24:44, all the Old Testament speaks about Him.  With such a thing being the case, we can include not only the glorious truths of Jesus' life, cross and resurrection, but also His ascension.  

Certain figures that foreshadowed the ascension
Two men in the Old Testament stand out as foreshadowing the ascension of Jesus: Enoch and Elijah.  To define what exactly is entailed in an ascension like event, three words must be kept in mind: up, glory and empowerment. Enoch's catching up by God into Heaven in Genesis 5:25 gives us the first idea.  Quite simply, Enoch was walking with God and then in an unannounced event, was suddenly "wisked away" by God.  This action was so sudden and so dramatic that the Hebrew Text literally could read: "It was as if he had not been there". 

The second man, Elijah, is taken into heaven by God in 2 Kings 2:9-12 "When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” 10 He said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” 11 As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces."  Now notice the three main ideas we mentioned earlier about what entails an ascension-like event: "I am taken from you" speaks of the idea of going up in verse 9; then the chariots and horsemen of God taking up Elijah, thus the second idea of "glory" along with the third idea of Elisha receiving the anointing of Elijah's or "empowerment". These three ideas then of "up", "glory" and "empowerment" function as seeds of revelatory thought in the Old Testament that can aid us in understanding the fullness of Christ's ascension in the New Testament. 

How The LORD Yahweh in the Old Testament was depicted as "ascending" up before His people as a revelation of His Divine Power and Glory
According to Nave's Topical Bible, two Psalms provide amazing foreshadowings and ways of understanding the meaning and significance of Jesus' ascension into heaven.  Psalm 47:5-8 reads: "God has ascended with a shout,The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet. 6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises. 7 For God is the King of all the earth; Sing praises with a skillful psalm. 8 God reigns over the nations,
God sits on His holy throne." The great preacher Charles Spurgeon remarks on Psalm 47:5 - "Faith hears the people already shouting. The command of the first verse is here regarded as fact. The fight is over, the conqueror ascends to his triumphal chariot, and rides up to the gates of the city which is made resplendent with the joy of his return. The words are fully applicable to the ascension of the Redeemer. We doubt not that angels and glorified spirits welcomed him with acclamations. He came not without song, shall we imagine that He returned in silence? 'The Lord with the sound of a trumpet.' Jesus is Jehovah."1

Another Psalm, Psalm 68, speaks equally well towards predicting and foreshadowing what would undoubtedly be the ascension of Jesus. Psalm 68:18-19 in particular says - "You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men,
Even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there. 19 Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation." Ephesians 4:7-10 explicitly states that Psalm 68 is speaking of Jesus' ascension: "
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)"

So in considering the Old Testament backdrop, we can see one of the reasons why Jesus concluded His earthly ministry in an ascension: to express His exalted Deity before His disciples. 

Closing thoughts: We should rejoice when God is exalted
Now I find it interesting upon viewing these two Psalms that we find reference to joy over the fact that God is being exalted in the lifting up of His glory before the people. Psalm 47:1 begins by saying: "O clap your hands, all peoples;Shout to God with the voice of joy." Psalm 68:32-35 ends Psalm 68 with these words - "Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth,Sing praises to the Lord, Selah. 33 To Him who rides upon the highest heavens, which are from ancient times; Behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice. 34 Ascribe strength to God; His majesty is over Israel And His strength is in the skies. 35 O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!" 

As we consider these Old Testament shadows and predictions of the Ascension, we have cause to rejoice over the fact that now we can read about the substance and fulfillment of those marvelous truths. This idea of joy and God's exaltation is clearly shown in how the disciples respond to Jesus' ascension in Luke 24:51-53 "While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God."

May we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to stir our hearts to rejoice and marvel over the ascended glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1. Charles Spurgeon. Treasure of David, Volume One. Associated Publishers and Authors. 1970. Page 395.

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