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."
Philippians 2:9 "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name."
In the retelling of the facts surrounding the Person and work of Jesus Christ, Christians will usually speak of His remarkable life, His atoning death and His glorious resurrection. Sometimes too, Christians will add that they look forward to the time, yet future, when Christ returns. The Old and New Testaments both abound with numerous scripture references pertaining to these events. However, there is one particular event that few Christians ever mention and yet is vital to our understanding of Jesus Christ: namely His ascension.
What is meant by "ascension"?
When we speak of Christ's ascension, we refer to two things: first, the event of Jesus being caught up into the clouds or "ascending" before His disciples on the 40th day following His resurrection from the dead; then second, when we say "ascension", we refer to Jesus' inauguration to cosmic kingship, priesthood and prophet-hood over His church.
Both the event and meaning are entailed in conversations about Christ's ascension. The above two opening verses (Luke 24:50-53 and Philippians 2:9) respectively refer to the historical event of Christ's ascension and one of the key descriptions about the meaning of the event. The ascension, in the words of Bible teacher R.C Sproul, puts an exclamation point on entirety of Christ's first coming. In today's post we will consider some key Biblical texts that refer to the event of Christ's ascension, followed by some suggested points of application.
Getting a handle on the relationship of Christ's ascension to that of His resurrection from the dead
Two scriptures give us the beginning and ending points of the forty day period of time between Jesus' resurrection from the dead and His ascension into Heaven. Matthew 28:1 states: "Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave." According to Acts 1:1-3 "The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. 3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God."
Much of course occurred in that nearly six week period of time. In harmonizing all four Gospel accounts together in regards to their reports of Jesus' subsequent appearances, The NIV Harmony of the Gospels gives the following scriptural references for Christ's appearances leading up to His ascension:
1. Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18
2. Mt 28:9-10
3. Mk 16:12-13; Lk 24:13-32
4. Lk 24:33-35
5. Mk 16:14; Lk 24:36-43; Jn 20:19-25
6. Jn 20:26-31
7. Jn 21:1-25
8. Mt 28:16-20; Mk 16:15-18
9. Lk 24:44-49
Christ's ascension caps off and concludes the flurry of events issuing forth for 40 days following His resurrection:
10. Mk 16:19-20; Lk 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12
Closing thoughts for today
Thus we can observe the relationship between Christ's resurrection, His post-mortem appearances and His ascension.
By beginning to focus upon the scriptures that speak of the event of Christ's ascension, we can begin to see why this event is so crucial to our understanding and worship of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Unless Jesus had ascended, there would be no grounds for neither our worship of Him nor for His present ministry of mediator between God and man. Moreover, Christ's ascension bridges the conclusion of Christ's first coming to the anticipation of what will be His second coming. Finally, Christ's ascension marks what would be the culmination of His earthly ministry and the beginnings of His heavenly ministry as the One Who is truly God and truly man for us.