Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 4:1-32; Psalm 68
He Ascended into Heaven
We don’t hear it preached about that much, and we don’t usually talk about it a lot, but the ascension of our Lord into heaven was the next major event after his resurrection – and an important one at that. It’s squeezed between the day of his resurrection and the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit, that is, between Easter and Pentecost, but it has a meaning and importance of its own, and we need to honor that.
Ascension is observed the fortieth day of Easter, for we are told that he appeared “to them during forty days … speaking about the kingdom of God.” That time was necessary so that he might confirm the disciples in their faith that he really was indeed risen, so that they would be completely confident when they went out and preached that he really was indeed alive. He also used those forty days to teach the disciples further concerning the kingdom.
But on that fortieth day, he ascended – went up – into heaven. He had told the disciples earlier: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). Thus, we learn that one reason why Jesus had to remove himself from the earth was so that the Holy Spirit would come. Jesus is the one who sends the Spirit, and it is the Spirit’s task to enlighten us as to the mind of Christ (John 16:14). We are not told why the two cannot be here at the same time; we only know that in the divine economy, it is so.
Another reason for our Lord’s ascension into heaven was so that he could take his seat at the right hand of the Father. This is his exaltation as the Lord of heaven and earth (Philippians 2:9). From that place of eminence, he receives our praises and our worship. But he does not allow himself to receive our praise without doing even more for us – as if he owed us any more of his magnanimous services. No. He chooses further to be our intercessor right at the very side of the Father as our great High Priest, for “he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). It is a most comforting thought that the one who died for us is the one who prays for us. And beside our Lord’s intercessions for us in heaven are the Holy Spirit’s intercessions for us on earth (Romans 8:26-27). Finally, from heaven our Lord heads his Church, who through the Spirit gifts his Church that she might fulfill what is remaining of the ministry. Thus, we see that even on high, our Lord is anything but idle, but continues his ministry – sending, ruling, interceding – and all for our salvation and his great glory.