Hopefully this short introduction to the ascension makes you think about the work of Christ and the effectiveness of his humiliation and exaltation. We need to always remember that the work he does he does for us. Next time you pray towards heaven, remember that you know your prayers are going up to heaven and into God’s presence because your kingly and priestly representative has ascended bodily into heaven on your behalf. He now sits in heaven and ministers for you and your salvation.
One vital component to the humiliation and exaltation of Christ is His ascension into heaven. The ascension is as central to the work of Christ as His death and resurrection, yet today it is largely unnoticed by the average evangelical believer. Our tendency is to focus on the cross of Christ while minimizing Christ’s going into heaven. We wrongly assume that the ascension is simply a sort of “Now that Jesus is done, he goes back to where he came from.” The reality is the ascension is a key component to the accomplishment of redemption.
Here are four key reasons that the ascension of Christ is essential to our understanding of the gospel:
First, the ascension is Jesus going back up into heaven in a glorified body. The ascension of Jesus is not just “Jesus going back to where he came from.” In fact, his entrance into heaven is His entrance into heaven in His resurrected glorified body. While the eternal Son of God dwelled with God from all eternity past, this is the first time that the Son of God entered the presence of God in his incarnate state. He died, he rose again, and now he enters heaven in the risen glorified state. He is crowned with human glory and honor (Heb. 2:6-9) and dwells in God’s presence. The Son of God now as the One who is also completely truly human is in heaven. This is advancement of the redemptive purpose of God. In fact, Jesus goes into God’s presence as our forerunner (Heb. 6:20). He is the advance guard climbing up into heaven, tethered to those he represents so that they will assuredly follow because they are tied to him. He went in as the pioneer, the trailblazer who has laid the course.
Second, the ascension is Jesus’ royal enthronement. If we read Acts 2 as well as Hebrews 1 and 2, the ascension is the fulfillment of Ps. 2:6-7; 8:6-8; and 110:1. God has taken the royal heir of David and set him on the throne in heaven itself at his own right hand. This makes him the highest king of the earth, the royal firstborn inheritor (Ps. 89:27). Key Davidic promises are fulfilled in the ascension. It is not David who ascends into heaven, but the son of David, the Messiah (Acts 2:33-35). Consider the words of Ps. 2:6-7:
Psa. 2:6-7 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.”