Within 50 days of the crucifixion of Jesus, three enormous events transpired: the Resurrection—the Ascension—and the Day of Pentecost. Each of these events was essential in the plan of God, and each is fundamental to our Christian faith.
It’s not wrong to emphasize the resurrection. But Christ’s resurrection without His ascension 40 days later would have left the church helpless. And Christ’s ascending without the Holy Spirit’s descending on Pentecost 10 days after that, would have rendered the church powerless.
The ascension of Christ after His resurrection is the connecting link between the past ministry of Christ and His future ministry. Griffith Thomas said, “No complete view of Jesus Christ is possible unless the ascension and its consequences are included.” His ascension completes His resurrection. Without the resurrection, Christ’s death would be meaningless, and without the ascension, Christ’s resurrection would be incomplete. We would have a resurrected Savior, but not one at God’s right hand in His place of authority.
When you put it all together, there is a beautiful unity and completeness: First—Jesus descended to earth—becoming man—to be the Incarnation. Second—Jesus died on the cross as the God-Man—to be the Sin-Sacrifice. Third—Jesus was brought back to life—rising from the grave—to be the Savior. Fourth—Jesus ascended into heaven to His throne—to be the Intercessor. Fifth—Jesus will descend from heaven as King of kings—to be the earth’s righteous Ruler.
Many times during His earthly ministry, Jesus predicted His ascension, like when He said, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father” (John 16:28). In the same context, He connected His departure with the Spirit’s arrival: “When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (verse 13).
The word “ascension” is used to mean the physical removal of Jesus Christ from this earth, to a different place, sphere and ministry in heaven. Following His resurrection, Jesus spent forty days with His disciples. Then, “He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen” (Acts 1:2). Jesus had taught them “things concerning the kingdom of God” and “commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised…for you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (verses 3-5). After the Holy Spirit came on them they were to receive power to, “be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (verse 8).
Luke recorded, “After He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (verse 9). While the apostles were “gazing intently into the sky while He was going” (verse 10), two angels beside them said, “Why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (verse 11).
That is the record of Christ’s ascension. So, what makes the ascension so important?
- Christ Ascended so the Holy Spirit could Indwell Believers
Jesus promised, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:37-39). After the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, He will always be present comforting God’s people (John 14:16, 17); He leads and empowers churches for worldwide mission (John 16:13; Acts 1:8; 4:31); and He indwells and transforms believers into the likeness of Christ (Rom. 8:9-11; 2 Cor. 3:18).
- Christ Ascended to Assume His Glory as King
The testimony of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, verified that Jesus had reclaimed His place on God’s throne: He said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56). Daniel prophesied about the Son of Man, “to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).
- Christ Ascended to Be Our Mediator
The Bible teaches, “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). The ascended Savior constantly assures the salvation of believers and the intercession for their prayers—“He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). We rejoice that “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34), assuring that nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ (verse 35).
Though often overlooked, the effects of Christ’s ascension touches the lives of believers every day, in every way, assuring hope in a glorious future. We may pray and live boldly, confidently and strategically as servants of our exalted King because He is over us on His throne in heaven. And because of His ascension—that will not change!