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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC Weekly, 2006-05-21

Text: Acts 1

This Thursday (25 May) is commemorated by some as "Ascension Day" which is 40 days after Easter Sunday. According to Acts 1:3, Jesus ascended up to heaven from the Mount of Olives, which is on the east of Jerusalem, 40 days after His resurrection. He was answering some questions from His disciples and giving them His final instructions. Then, while His hands were lifted up to bless them, He was taken up to heaven. The disciples knelt down in worship and saw Him going up further and further until He disappeared into a cloud. What a glorious sight that must have been! Two angels suddenly appeared and told them the wonderful truth - "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

If you were to visit the Mount of Olives today, you will see a small dome-shaped shrine there, and inside it is a hole in the cemented floor where the rock underneath is exposed. This rock is believed to be the exact spot from which Christ ascended. However, no one really knows where Christ ascended from, because all that is given about the location in Acts 1:12 is that it was at the Mount of Olives and a Sabbath day's journey from Jerusalem. What is of greater importance is the significance of this event. The Ascension of Jesus Christ was a spectacular event, filled with awesome truths for us!

The Ascension Demonstrates His Glory

From the Resurrection of Christ, we know that we serve a risen Saviour. From His Ascension, we know that we serve a glorified Saviour! Jesus Himself looked forward to this in the prayer He made before going to the cross. He said, "O Father, glorify thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." (John 17:5). The Ascension fulfilled this prayer when Jesus was restored to the pristine glory He had as God the Son. "God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name" (Philippians 2:9).

He now sits at the Father's right hand, the place of highest honour in heaven that is rightfully His! (Acts 2:33,34) There are some who think that the expression, "at the Father's right hand" is merely figurative, and only means that He has great authority. But just before Stephen died he had a glimpse of Jesus standing on the right hand of God, ready to receive him up to heaven (Acts 7:55,56). Therefore the Father's right hand indicates a real geographical location.

Dear Reader, if you truly love the Lord Jesus, your heart will be thrilled to know that He is now glorified in heaven, sitting at the Father's right hand! He is no longer the suffering servant on the cross, but the glorified Son of God sitting majestically on high! 

The Ascension Brings Great Benefits to Us

Ephesians 4:8 tells us that it was at the Ascension of Christ that all the spiritual gifts were given to believers - "Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." The expression, "He led captivity captive" (from Psalm 68) portrays Christ as a mighty conqueror returning to His home country in a grand victory procession, leading all His prisoners of war, and distributing the spoils of war generously to all His subjects. The verses after that describe some of the gifts He distributes - apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers - all of these are designed "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (v.12). Without them we would not be able to serve Him or build His kingdom. 

However, the most important gift that the Church has received out of Christ's Ascension is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had explained to His disciples that this was the reason why it was so needful for Him to ascend to heaven. Jesus said, "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you." (John 16:7) By virtue of His Ascension to the Father's right hand, Christ has sent the Holy Spirit to all believers, so that they may be empowered to be His witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8)!

What would have happened if the Lord had given His disciples the great commission but not the power to carry it out? They would probably have remained as a small and weak group of believers, unable to make any impact on the world at all, and unable to resist the great persecution they would face from both Jews and Gentiles. It was the Holy Spirit who transformed them into a mighty movement. This movement spread so quickly and made such a deep impact that the world was turned upside down (Acts 17:6)! 

The Holy Spirit empowered the preaching of the apostles, and crowds of people came under conviction and repented of their sins. At Peter's preaching on the day of Pentecost alone, 3,000 souls were saved (Acts 2:41). And shortly after that, at Peter and John's preaching at the Temple, another 5,000 believed in Christ! The rest of the book of Acts give further accounts of conversions and missions brought about by the Holy Spirit. In Acts 13, the Holy Spirit directed the church at Antioch to send out the first missionaries. And that was the beginning of the 3 missionary journeys of the apostle Paul that saw many new churches planted throughout Asia Minor and Greece.

Therefore, whenever we see the work of the Holy Spirit and we marvel at how lives are being saved and changed by His power and how successful missionary work has been because of Him, let us remember that these would never have happened without Christ's Ascension to heaven. 

Another benefit that we are receiving all the time from Christ's Ascension is His Intercession for us at the Father's throne. While He descended down to earth to be our Saviour, He ascended up to heaven to be our Intercessor! Hebrews 7:25 "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."

People who pray for others are called intercessors. Moses, Aaron, Samuel, Hezekiah Elijah and Daniel were great intercessors. Beside them there were also the many priests of Israel: God had ordained them for the people of Israel to bring their needs to Him through them. But no man's intercession can ever compare with that of Jesus Christ. He is the perfect intercessor. His intercession began right after He ascended to heaven, and it has never ceased! There are many benefits that we receive through it: For one thing, it maintains our close fellowship with God. 1 John 2:1 "If any man sin, we have an Advocate (an Intercessor) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The only condition we need to fulfill for restored fellowship with God is to confess our sins sincerely.

Imagine what your life would be like if there is none to intercede for you and restore you to fellowship with God, each time you confess your sin: You would live in insecurity and uncertainty because your sins cut you off from God. Even though you are ultimately saved, there is no joy or fulfillment. But with Jesus Christ as your eternal intercessor, you can keep on enjoying sweet fellowship with Him. His provision for your weaknesses and needs is marvelously complete!

Christ's intercession also keeps you safe through any trial in life. Whether your problem is big or small, be comforted to know that He is praying for you. Remember all the Gospel accounts of amazing things that happened when Jesus prayed for others: Peter was delivered from being sifted by Satan and Lazarus was raised from the dead. There is much power in the prayers that Jesus makes for us! His intercession brings God's wisdom and strength to you to meet your need. It causes circumstances to change and makes all things work together for good. What tremendous encouragements these are! 

The Ascension Brings Great Hope for Our Future

One of the reasons why Jesus ascended up to heaven is to prepare a place for us there. He said in John 14:2,3 "In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." 

It is a sobering thought that as long as we are in this world, no place we live in is permanent. But we can be encouraged to know that Jesus ascended up to heaven to provide a permanent home for us. At the time when Christ lived on earth, it was common for close-knit families to live together under one roof. As the sons and daughters of the family grew up and got married, additional rooms would be added and prepared for them. When a son was about to get married, he would assure his bride that after he has got their apartment in his father's house all prepared and ready, he will come and take her to live with him on their wedding day. 

In this passage of John 14, we see Jesus doing the same thing. He promises His disciples that He is going back to prepare places for them in the many mansions of His Father's house. Some may ask why Christ has not returned yet. Does He need so much time to prepare the mansions for us? How do we know that He will keep His promise to return? The answer is found in His Ascension: Just after Jesus was taken up to heaven, the disciples were told in no uncertain terms that He will return to earth one day in the same way that He ascended (Acts 1:11). Therefore the Ascension of Christ anticipates the Return of Christ. It stands for us as a guarantee as well as a preview of His Return! 

The Ascension of Christ is also a preview of an awesome event that will take place when He returns - the Rapture of all believers. The important feature of Christ's Ascension was that He ascended bodily. It was not merely a spiritual ascension, nor a mere vision seen by the disciples. It was a bodily ascension! The body in which He ascended was a physical one that could be touched and held by the disciples, and that could ingest food given to Him. And yet this physical body was glorious in that it could vanish and disappear at will, and defy all the known laws of physics.

If we are alive when Jesus returns, we will be instantly transformed to have that same glorious body He has. Then, like Him at His Ascension, we too will find ourselves defying the law of gravity and going upward to meet Him in the sky! (1 Thessalonians 4:17) Believers who are resurrected from the dead will likewise ascend upwards to heaven.

The power that enabled Christ to ascend up to heaven is the same power that will enable the raptured saints and resurrected saints to ascend up to heaven to be forever with the Lord. Christ is our "forerunner" (Hebrews 6:20) or 'advance party' who has blazed the trail to heaven for us. That trail is the path we will one day be taking in our new bodies. Our identification with Christ will then be full and complete. Not only would we have died with Him, been buried with Him, and raised with Him from the dead (Romans 6:4,5), but we will also be ascended to Heaven like Him. There is no greater joy and satisfaction to the soul than to be fully identified with Christ in every aspect of His life!

However, all these glorious hopes in the future are yours only if you truly belong to Christ. If you are His, then all the truths about His Ascension apply to you. But if you do not belong to Him, you have absolutely no part in them. The high glory to which He has ascended can only strike terror in your heart because it means that you will face greater judgment at His hands on the Day of Judgment. You will also have no share in the manifold benefits that result from Christ's Ascension - no spiritual gifts, no empowerment of the Holy Spirit and no intercession made by Christ for you. The Ascension of Christ can offer you no hope if you do not belong to Him, because there is no future mansion in heaven for you, nor a resurrected body in which you can ascend up to heaven.

Dear Reader, please be sure that you belong to Jesus Christ. If you have not received Him personally as your Lord and Saviour yet, stop delaying. Come to Him now. The ascended Lord Jesus calls you now to bow your knee to Him and confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10,11). Will you do this right now?

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25