The Ascension of Jesus Christ was the event after the resurrection where He left the earth and rose up gradually through the clouds returning to heaven. Jesus’ ascension into heaven was not merely an invisible move of His spirit, but an upward movement of His body that the Apostles could see with their eyes. Someone has said, “The cross is empty because Jesus died. The tomb is empty because Jesus rose. The earth is empty because Jesus ascended.” Compared to other great doctrines of the Bible, this event unfortunately has been neglected in the church. That may be due to the fact that it is not mentioned very often, but just because something is not mentioned often does not mean it is less important.
What Does the Bible Say about the Ascension?
While the New Testament writers do not use the common Greek word for “ascent” (“anabasis”) they do use other Greeks words that mean basically the same thing. The Greek verb “analambano” (to take up) is used of Jesus’ ascension in Mark 16:19; Acts 1:2, 11, 22 and 1 Timothy 3:16. Each time the verb is in the passive voice, He “was taken up” by God. The Greek term “anabaino” is also used in reference to Jesus’ ascension in John 3:13; 6:62; 20:17 and Ephesians 4:8-10. However, the clearest description of the ascension is given to us in two passages by Luke using two other different Greek words. Luke 24:51, “He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.” And Acts 1:9, “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” From these two passages it is clear that Jesus ascended visibly and physically. When He spoke His last words on earth, 40 days after His resurrection, He told His disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come, and then He rose off the earth and ascended upward through the clouds until the disciples could not see Him. Then at some point Jesus supernaturally was transported into the realm of heaven.
Why Does Christ’s Ascension Matter?
If Christ did not ascend to heaven we would not have the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The night before Jesus died on the cross He told the disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17). He went on to tell the disciples,
I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
(John 16:7). Unless Jesus ascended to heaven, He could never have sent us the Holy Spirit. The ascension also matters because Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father as our Advocate. The merits of the cross and the resurrection are forever in the presence of the Father securing our standing before Him. If Christ did not ascend, we would have no security that Christ’s perfect work has been applied to us.
While the world around us is in serious trouble and distress, it would be easy for us to get discouraged. But the truth about the ascension gives us great hope that Christ is on His throne. It instills in us deep and lasting peace that one day our entrance into heaven with be a welcome one because Christ is there who died and rose on our behalf.
8 Therefore it says,
“When He ascended on high,
He bled captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.”
9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;
17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
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