Monday, June 2, 2014

Rejoice in the Ascended Jesus! He provides power for Christian living and is preparing to return

Luke 24:50-53 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. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God.

We have been now on the glorious truth of Christ's ascension for the past several days.  My prayer has been that these last several posts have brought glory to Him and has caused you to have a more exalted view of Jesus Christ. Today's post, like yesterday's aims to explain why the ascension of Jesus Christ is cause for rejoicing. In the opening passage above, we see the disciples' response to seeing the blessed Lord ascend into heaven: "And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy." 

As we saw in yesterday's post, two reasons to rejoice over the ascended Jesus is because:

1. He Presides Upon His Throne
2. Promised Holy Spirit has come

We noted yesterday a key anchoring point that will also serve today's post as well: Focusing upon the Ascended Jesus increases your joy in Jesus.  Today we will look at two other reasons why we can rejoice in the Ascended Jesus: Power for Christian living and Preparation for His return. 

Jesus ascended to provide power for Christian living
The ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven was not only a historical event, and a cosmic event but also an event that would provide the basis for Christian living for every generation of the converted church. Theologian William Conner notes: The whole New Testament after the Gospels is written from the standpoint of the exalted Christ. The writers do not so much look back to the historic Jesus as they look up to the glorified Christ."1 To clarify further what Conner is talking about, I heard a preacher makes the following statement that aids in summarizing the entire New Testament: "Who Jesus Was is found in the Old Testament and the Gospels; Who Jesus is now is found in Acts and the Epistles; who Jesus will be is found in His return in the Book of Revelation."  

As I come to know "Whose I am", I discover "who I am". Those two fundamental truths, if retained, function as the bedrock of practical everyday Christian life. The following scriptures serve to show how Jesus' ascension is the power source for the Christian life:

1. Ephesians 1:18-20 "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 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."

2. Colossians 3:1-3 "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God."

3. Hebrews 4:14-16 "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

4. 1 Peter 3:22-4:2 "who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. (4:1) Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God."

So another reason to rejoice in the ascended Jesus is due to the fact He provides power for Christian living, and really Christian identity.  By focusing upon the ascended Jesus, our joy in Him increases.  But notice one more reason to rejoice (can we ever rejoice in Him too much? Never!)

Jesus ascended into Heaven to prepare for His return
He who descended down to earth the first time went back up or ascended, according to Ephesians 4:8-12. So then, since Jesus ascended, the question is: what's next? The Bible is uniformly clear that Jesus is coming back once again.  The second coming of Jesus Christ is an unending source of hope and joy for the Christian.  Seeing such hope connected to Jesus' ascension aids us in seeing why He ascended:

1. Acts 1:9-11 "And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

2. Acts 3:20-21 "and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time."

3. Philippians 3:20-21 "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."

Due to Jesus' ascension and soon return, whatever He did, we also will have the opportunity to do.  Thus being that He ascended, we as well will get to experience an ascension called the rapture, as seen in 
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words."

Jesus' ascension, in providing the opportunity to get ready to return back to earth for His people, provides much encouragement to saints of God.  Revelation 1:5-7 notes: "and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— 6 and He has made us to be a kingdom,priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen." And then one more passage, Revelation 2:26-27 "He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations;27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father."

Truly when you and I focus our attention upon the ascended Jesus, will find our joy in Him increased. Over these past couple of posts we have laid out four main reasons why we can rejoice over the ascension of Jesus Christ:

1. Presides upon His throne
2. Promise of the Holy Spirit
3. Power for Christian Living
4. Prepare for His Return

May you and I focus more and more upon the ascended Jesus, so that we may increase our joy in Him!

1. Walter Thomas Conner. Christian Doctrine. Broadman & Holman Publishers. Page 65 

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