Jesus Christ - He Ascended into Heaven
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Sunday, February 15, 2009 -

“We believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hades; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen”

Acts 1:9-11 - “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. [10] And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, [11] and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

Today we come to the phrase in the Apostle’s Creed highlighting the ascension of Jesus Christ up into heaven - “...on the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty...” The fact that the ascension of Jesus was a very important event in the thinking of the early church is born out in the mandate that, when Judas was replaced as an apostle, the candidates all had to be eyewitnesses of the ascension:

Acts 1:21-22 - “So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, [22] beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection."

True, first and foremost these Apostles were called to be “witnesses to His Resurrection,” but there is no escaping that they had to be witnesses of His ascension as well. Why? Why is the ascension of the man Jesus Christ, God the Son, so important to the Christian church? Let’s face it, there aren’t as many musicals written celebrating the ascension of Jesus as there are celebrating His birth or His Resurrection. But the ascension of Jesus is a crucially important event for the Christian church. We need to ponder its meaning and implication.

1) THE SCRIPTURAL ACCOUNTS OF THE ASCENSION ARE ALL DESIGNED TO SHOW US THAT JESUS ACTUALLY WENT TO A SPECIFIC PLACE AFTER HIS RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD - Acts 1:9 - “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”

Let’s face it, Jesus didn’t have to leave this world in this gradual, visible manner. He could have chosen some time at night, or some time when nobody was standing around. He could have left this world in a blinding flash of light. Why did He choose this very obvious, gradual, physical manner of ascending into heaven?

I think the explanation of the angels probably sheds the best light on this whole event. The angels tell the disciples that Jesus had been “taken up from you into heaven...”(Acts 1:11). That is, He didn’t just evaporate or disappear. He went somewhere. The whole visible, gradual, observable nature of the ascension is designed to show that Jesus wasn’t just vanishing. He was leaving one place for another place.

When you think about it, the need for the ascension is obvious. If Jesus really rose from the dead and conquered death - that is, if He rose from the dead never to die again - and if He isn’t physically present anywhere on earth today, then He must have gone somewhere. I mean, the ascension is the logical conclusion to what we know to be true of the Resurrection. Jesus isn’t here right now because He has left here for another real place.

Of course, this is what Jesus had already predicted He would do: John 14:1-2 - “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. [2] In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

The ascension is designed to give evidence to the truth of those words. Jesus didn’t just disappear, leaving everyone to wonder what happened to Him. He visibly went to another place confirming the truth of His own words of promise.

2) CHRIST’S ASCENSION COMPLETES THE DEMONSTRATION OF HIS COMPLETE VICTORY OVER DEATH AND THE GRAVE - Remember, Jesus was not the first person the disciples had seen come back to life from the dead. There had been several occasions when they had witnessed the incredible power of God in bringing the dead back to life. They had seen Jesus, just with the sound of His voice, call Lazarus out of the grave three days after he had been buried.

But the Resurrection of Jesus was different from those cases. Lazarus was brought back to life. But Lazarus never conquered death. Death caught up with Lazarus again. Lazarus faced death twice (though I imagine with much less fear the second time!). But Jesus rose from the dead never to die again. And we know Jesus didn’t die again because the disciples saw Him ascend up into heaven - alive forevermore.

This is so important for us. If Jesus didn’t conquer death, He can’t give eternal life to anyone else. But if He did conquer death He is the Author of eternal life for us as well. This is exactly what Jesus meant in His wonderful words, brimming with hope beyond our wildest dreams - “Because I live, you shall live also!”

3) IN HIS ASCENSION JESUS TAKES OUR FULL HUMANITY INTO HEAVEN - True, Jesus was glorified when He ascended into heaven. But He was not de-humanized. He is in heaven today as the man Christ Jesus. Paul says so: 1 Timothy 2:5 - “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus....”

I get excited just thinking about this. Jesus did not discard human flesh when He ascended into heaven. The reason the disciples saw Jesus go up into heaven is He didn’t ascend into heaven as a spirit or a ghost. They saw the man Christ Jesus going right up into heaven.

That’s very important to me because that’s where I want to go. I want to know that resurrected, glorified human beings can go to heaven, not just ghosts. If it’s just for angels it does me no good and offers me no hope. But the Bible gives eyewitness account - the kind that would stand up in court - that people saw the man, Christ Jesus ascend up into heaven.

The New Testament sets the ascension of Jesus Christ before us as a certain hope when trials and difficulties come our way: Hebrews 6:19-20 - “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, [20] where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Storms come our way. Winds of trial and difficulty blow hard at times. But you and I both know what an anchor does for a ship in a storm. The anchor holds. The anchor links the tossing ship with something sure and stable. We look to the fact that Jesus Christ has already ascended into heaven. He has reached the “joy that was set before him.” And so will you and I. The ascension proves this to be true.