Category Archives: Ascension

“We know who the real King is” by Rankin Wilbourne

“It may not look like Christ is ruling the universe. Today it might look like just a crack of light under a door.

But the New Testament writers were confident because they knew the light had dawned (Rom. 13: 12) and that one day the door will open, and that light, the Sun of Glory, will flood the whole room.

The gravity of Christ being King is often lost on those of us who have no earthly king. But in the Roman Empire, the tiny church not only survived, but flourished, even amid terrible persecution.

They were willing to die because they knew who the real king was. And they believed He was worth dying for.

King David’s men once said to David, ‘You are worth ten thousand of us’ (2 Sam. 18: 3), and we can now say that to our King and make our lives wholly expendable to Him and His cause.

When you know that Christ is the seated and enthroned King, you too will be willing to surrender all your plans and ambitions into His hands.

Perhaps, with the persecuted church, you can even rejoice when you are counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Acts 5:41) because we know who the real King is, and He is worthy.”

–Rankin Wilbourne, Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2016), 165.

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“The crucified, resurrected, and exalted Christ” by Herman Bavinck

“It is the crucified but also the resurrected and exalted Christ whom the apostles proclaim. From that vantage point of the exaltation of Christ, they view and describe His earthly life, suffering, and death.

For the work He now carries out as the exalted mediator, He laid the foundations in His cross. In His battle with sin, the world, and Satan, the cross has been His only weapon.

By the cross He triumphed in the sphere of justice over all powers that are hostile to God. But in the state of exaltation, consequently, He has also been given the divine right, the divine appointment, the royal power and prerogatives to carry out the work of re-creation in full, to conquer all His enemies, to save all those who have been given Him, and to perfect the entire kingdom of God.

On the basis of the one, perfect sacrifice made on the cross, He now—in keeping with the will of the Father—distributes all His benefits. Those benefits are not the physical or magical aftereffect of His earthly life and death; the history of the kingdom of God is not an evolutionistic process.

It is the living and exalted Christ, seated at the right hand of God, who deliberately and with authority distributes all these benefits, gathers His elect, overcomes His enemies, and directs the history of the world toward the day of His parousia.

He is still consistently at work in heaven as the mediator. He not only was but still is our chief prophet, our only high priest, and our eternal king. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

There is, of course, an enormous difference between the work Christ did in His humiliation and what He accomplishes in His exaltation. Just as after the resurrection, His person appeared in another form, so also His work assumed another form.

He is now no longer a servant but Lord and Ruler, and His work is now no longer a sacrifice of obedience, but the conduct of royal dominion until He has gathered all His own and put all His enemies under His feet.

Nevertheless, His mediatorial work is continued in heaven. Christ did not ascend to heaven in order to enjoy a quiet vacation at the right hand of God, for, like the Father, He always works (John 5:17).

He went to heaven to prepare a place for His own there and to fill them here on earth with the fullness that He acquired by His perfect obedience. What He received as a reward for His labor for Himself and what He received for His own cannot be separated. He is all and in all (Col. 3:11).

The pleroma (fullness) that dwells in Christ must also dwell in the church. It is being filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19; Col. 2:2, 10).

It is God whose fullness fills Christ (Col. 1:19), and it is Christ whose fullness in turn fills the church (Eph. 1:23). The church can therefore be described as His pleroma, that which He perfects and gradually, from within Himself, fills with himself (Eph. 4:10), and is therefore itself being filled by degrees.

As the church does not exist apart from Christ, so Christ does not exist without the church. He is ‘the head over all things’ (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18), and the church is the body (σωμα) formed from Him and from Him receives its growth (Eph. 4:16; Col. 2:19), thus growing to maturity ‘to the measure of the full stature of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13).

The union between Christ and the church is as close as that between the vine and the branches, between bridegroom and bride, husband and wife, cornerstone and building.

Together with Him it can be called the one Christ (1 Cor. 12:12). It is to perfect the church that He is exalted to the Father’s right hand.

Just as through His suffering and death Christ was exalted in His resurrection and ascension to be head of the church, so now the church has to be formed into the body of Christ.

The work of the Mediator is one grand, mighty, divine work that began in eternity and will only be completed in eternity.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3Ed. John Bolt, and trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 473–475.

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“The ascension of our Lord” by Peter Toon

“Heaven is the place and sphere from where the universe is sustained and ruled. Heaven is the place and sphere from where salvation goes forth into the world of space and time.

For God’s salvation to be a universal and everlasting salvation, the incarnate Son, Jesus the Messiah, returned to heaven where He could be the source of salvation everywhere to all who believe.

From heaven, through the agency of the Holy Spirit the incarnate Son preaches the Word of God, builds up God’s church, and continues the divine work that began in the restricted area of Palestine.”

–Peter Toon, The Ascension of Our LORD (Nashville: Nelson, 1984), xiii.

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“What a wondrous thing” by Michael Horton

“What a wondrous thing it is that even though Jesus Christ has been exalted to the throne of God, absent from us in the flesh, we may nevertheless only now be united to Him in a manner far more intimate than the fellowship enjoyed by the disciples with Jesus during His earthly ministry.

Having united Himself to us in our flesh, in our sins, in our suffering and death, He now unites us to Himself in His new-creation life by His Spirit.”

–Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 587.

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“How does Christ’s ascension into heaven benefit us?” – The Heidelberg Catechism

49. Q. How does Christ’s ascension into heaven benefit us?

A. First, He is our Advocate in heaven before His Father.[1] Second, we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that He, our Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself.[2] Third, He sends us His Spirit as a further guarantee,[3] by whose power we seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, and not the things that are on earth.[4]

[1] Rom. 8:34; I John 2:1. [2] John 14:2; 17:24; Eph. 2:4-6. [3] John 14:16; Acts 2:33; II Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:5. [4] Col. 3:1-4.

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Lord’s Day Hymn – “His people’s hope, His people’s wealth”

“The Head that Once was Crowned”
By Thomas Kelly, 1820

The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty victor’s brow.

The highest place that Heav’n affords
Belongs to Him by right;
The King of kings and Lord of lords,
And Heaven’s eternal Light.

The joy of all who dwell above,
The joy of all below,
To whom He manifests His love,
And grants His Name to know.

To them the cross with all its shame,
With all its grace, is given;
Their name an everlasting name,
Their joy the joy of Heaven.

They suffer with their Lord below;
They reign with Him above;
Their profit and their joy to know
The mystery of His love.

The cross He bore is life and health,
Though shame and death to Him,
His people’s hope, His people’s wealth,
Their everlasting theme.

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“This One has gone up” by William Willimon

“The cosmology of the ascension bemuses because the puny ‘modern mind’ no longer asks questions for which cosmic, universal answers are needed. The doctrine of the ascension is not for sunny, calm, ordered days in May. Its force is not that of escapist nostalgia but of defiant, clenched-fist apocalypticism. It’s a faith for the last days and darkest days, days caught between the heel of Caesar and the chant of the mob.

The One who came and stood beside us, who felt the heel of Caesar, the fickleness of the mob and the cowardice of disciples — this One has gone up. He is God, not just for the church but for the whole world. Nothing shall be beyond His Lordship. There is no escapism in this doctrine. It is time to stop gazing up into heaven (Acts 1:11) and start looking on earth for evidence of His rule, because no matter who is in the White House or what the newspapers say, Christ is Pantocrator (i.e. ‘Ruler of All’ ).”

–William Willimon, May 19, 1982. “Deus ascendit,” Christian Century. 99 (18):590-591.

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