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Catechism Class: Introduction to The Ascension of Christ.


Catechism Class. Lord’s Day 18A, Q.46. 

The Ascension of Christ – Introduction

Q.46 What do you confess when you say, he ascended into heaven? A. That Christ, before the eyes of his disciples, was taken up from the earth into heaven, and that he is there for our benefit until he comes again to judge the living and the dead 

Our objective in this episode is to introduce the doctrine of the ascension of Christ.  Then, in our next two lessons, we will go further, and see the theology of the ascension, and look at its implications for modern believers – the application of the doctrine. So, what do you know about the ascension of Christ?  Who celebrates Ascension Day, or The Feast of the Ascension, officially celebrated on a Thursday on the 40th day of Easter (or 39 days after Easter Sunday) – and that fact was unknown to me up until now.  But the ascension of Christ is such an important event in the life of Christ, that some reformed church leaders are making a point of including an ‘Ascension Sunday’ service in their annual church calendar. 

There is one general observation that we need to make about the Ascension. When we think about it we automatically look to that passage in Acts 1, where Luke records it for us.  But it would be wrong to think that is the only reference to it.  It’s far more pronounced in the Bible than that.

  • Luke’s Gospel. Where Luke concludes his record of the life of Christ with an account of the ascension. Luke 24:50-5  
  • Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, shortly after personally witnessing the event, pointed out that when God spoke through the prophets of One who would be raised up and taken up to the throne of God to be seated at His right hand, He wasn’t speaking about David, but a bout Jesus. – Acts 2:32-36  
  • John’s Gospel has plenty of references to the ascension of Christ. John 3:13  John 14:2-3  John 20:17  
  • Paul wrote about it in his great christological hymn in Philippians 2:8-9  
  • The Psalmist had lifted his voice in praise to God, in anticipation of this event. Psalm 24:7-10 

The ascension is not a single-passage vignette that we can just ignore.  It is a theme of the life of Christ deeply embedded in the biblical text and in Christian theology.  It’s a pity that Luke hasn’t have given us some more information about this event, for it is of huge significance. And that significance is not yet fully realised.  So let’s take a few minutes to consider the biblical text that gives us the account of this event and note that:- 

  1. It was VISIBLE. he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight The disciples saw it happening.  Let’s see the actual ‘ergonomics’ of the event — the workings, the actual happening itself…
  1. He was taken up. Isn’t there a great significance in that. Jesus ASCENDED. He did literally rise up, before the eyewitness of the disciples and ascended into heaven. There was huge symbolism in that ascension. He rose from this earth to heaven, he rose to an exalted position.  Kevin deYoung writing on the Gospel Coalition website, says, “Having triumphed over death and the devil in his resurrection, Christ ascended into heaven locally, visibly, and bodily—locally in that he spatially left earth below for heaven above, visibly in that the disciples saw with their own eyes (as a public event) that he departed from them, and bodily in that the physical flesh of the Son of God is no longer with us on earth.”
  2. He was received into glory! Can you even begin to imagine the rapturous welcome that Christ, God’s son received that day as he ascended into heaven, and was lauded by the heavenly host as he took his place upon his throne, seated at the right hand of the father, having fully satisfied God’s justice, completed his plan, demonstrated his love on the cross, defeated the works of Satan, defeated death and the grave, redeemed the elect… We can’t imagine it, but the psalmist could. And he expressed his anticipation in Psalm 24, when he wrote of the heavenly gates being flung open, to welcome in the King of Glory!   

b) It was GLORIOUS. Forhe was received up into a cloud.If you are familiar with the account of the transfiguration of Jesus you will know that when he was transfigured, when his heavenly divinity temporarily shone through his earthy humanity, there was a cloud! A BRIGHT cloud. A cloud like that would speak to the watching disciples of the GLORY OF GOD – being present with them and shielding them from the brightness of his holy presence, as the veil had hidden Moses’ face when it glowed. Here is that cloud again, – God the Father was present in all his Glory, and that cloud that received Jesus that day was simply to remind the disciples once again that Christ had ascended into heavenly glory.  

For us, like the disciples, the Ascension of Jesus is an historical event that warms our hearts!  Jesus rose from the dead and he ascended into heaven.  It is pivotal in how we, as believers understand who Jesus is, where he is, and what he is doing in relation to us.  Illus. J.M. Boice, in ‘Foundations of the Christian Faith,’  “We measure the spirituality of groups or-individuals by their perception of the person of Christ. The world likes to think of him as a baby in a manger, an introductory image at best; the RC thinks of him as being continually on the cross, and this ties with their repeated sacrifice of the mass, but for the evangelical, Christ is not only incarnate, crucified and buried, but he is risen from the dead, and ascended to his father’s right hand, where he is seated and enthroned as our advocate and our king.”   In our next lesson, we shall go a step further and begin to tease out what the ascension teaches us about who Jesus is, and where he is, right now.

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