As Jesus approached the cross, he prayed, “So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.” (John 17:5 NRSV)
The ascension of Jesus signaled the successful end of his earthly ministry, the return of his heavenly glory, his exaltation by the Father, the beginning of his new work as high priest and mediator of the new covenant, and it allowed him to prepare a place for us.
The Ascension was not a retirement, it was the beginning of a new job and glorified job description. He had finished his task of dying for the salvation of the world (John 19:30) and began living for believers as our intercessor and advocate. When he ascended to the throne of God and sat at the right hand of the Father, his kingly ministry for us began.
According to T.F. Torrance, four verbs are employed in the New Testament that speak of the ascension of Christ. All four of these words speak of the role of Jesus being the king, priest, and prophet.
- anabainein, to go up or ascend.
- kathizein, to sit down.
- analambanein, to take up.
- hupsoun, to exalt.
Anabaino – to go up, to ascend – is used in the Old Testament and speaks of the ascent of Moses of Mount Sinai, when he ascends to speak to the Lord. It was also used when referring to the high priest going into the holy of holies. Additionally, it was used when referring to the offering of sacrifices. When used to describe Christ’s ascension, it speaks to the ascent of the king to his enthronement as the king of glory; to the ascent to the temple or the presence of God for priestly service, and of the ascent of God as the whole burnt offering – or prayer.
In these ways the term ascension is essentially concerned with the royal priesthood of the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ, a priesthood exercised from the right hand of divine power. (Atonement, p. 267)
Kathizo – to sit – reminds us of the mercy seat in the heart of the holy of holies. The priests were not to sit, but our great high priest sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2) Here he rules as the messianic king who dispenses divine mercy and peace.
Analambano – to take up – refers to the lifting up of our hearts in prayer. It’s only use in the New Testament is in Luke 9:51, where it is often translated “receiving up,” and refers to the death of our Lord. Torrance says the indication here is that the ascension of Christ began with his being lifted up on the cross.
Hupsoo – to lift up – refers to Jesus’ exaltation from humiliation to glory. Again, this points to a connection between the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension. The exalted one is no longer bound by human restraints and self-limitations, but is clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49). Note, that Jesus tells the disciples that we will be clothed in the same way.
Questions for reflection:
- How does the idea of Jesus being the “whole burnt offering” change your view of your relationship to God?
- What does it mean that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice? (Hebrews 9:23-10:18)
- What does it mean for you and me that Jesus is sitting on the seat of mercy?
- In what ways do you see a connection between the ascension and the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord?
Torrance sums it up like this:
The ascension of Christ in this sense is his exaltation to glory and power but through the cross, certainly an exaltation from humiliation to royal majesty, but through crucifixion and sacrifice. For the power and glory of the royal priest is bound up with his self-sacrifice in death and resurrection. (Atonement, p. 270)
David prophesied about the exaltation of Christ in his messianic psalm, saying, “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)
The ascension was the beginning of a new ministry for our Lord. He finished the task of dying for the world and offered salvation to all who believe. He now lives as our intercessor and advocate – our high priest. The ascension has a powerful impact on the life of all believers. Here are just a few things the ascension brought for us.
- The blessing of a mediator, advocate, Savior, and friend who sits at the right hand of the Father – (1 Timothy 2, Hebrews 4, 1 John 2, John 15).
- The sending of the Holy Spirit – we will celebrate this at Pentecost and live in this reality year-round – (Acts 2, John 14-17, 1 Corinthians 6).
- The giving of spiritual gifts – as he sits on the mercy seat, he imparts gifts to us through the Holy Spirit – (Ephesians 4, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12).
- The indwelling of the Holy Spirit and imparting us with spiritual power – (Luke 24, Ephesians 1, Romans 12)
- The preparation of our heavenly home – he reminded us that the Father has many rooms – (John 14:3).
- The promise of salvation, justification, sanctification – (Ephesians 2, Romans 8).
As we look forward to Pentecost, I encourage you to reflect on these blessings of the Ascension. They give us cause for praise, and they point to our participating with Jesus in his work of bringing many sons and daughters to glory. Focusing on the Ascension enables us to better celebrate Pentecost and look forward to the season of Ordinary Time.
5 thoughts on “The Ascension and You”
“In his life Christ is an example showing us how to live in his death he is a sacrifice satisfying our sins in his resurrection a conqueror in his ascension a king in his intercession a high priest”- Martin Luther
Very good article. I don’t remember hearing such a clear description of the meaning behind these events. Thank you