Last time, we considered together the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted at the right hand of God, and some of the things that this shows us concerning His Person and His work. We now begin to think about the results of His ascension and glorification. Our contemplation this month will be with three great events that took place after, and as a consequence of, His ascension. In the record of Scripture, each of them is linked directly with the ascension, and could not have taken place without it. Each is also of inestimable benefit to us as His people, right up to today.
In the upper room, the disciples were sad, knowing that the Lord was soon to leave them. However, He had words of cheer for them, one of which was that it was actually for their benefit that He would depart: “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7, KJV). He would convict the world “of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8-11, KJV); bring to their remembrance what Christ had taught the disciples (John 14:26); guide them into all truth, and show them things concerning Christ and things to come (John 16:12-15) – doubtless what we now have recorded to us in the New Testament Scriptures. He would also give the power for witness (Acts 1:4-8).
That coming took place on the Day of Pentecost, 10 days after the Lord’s ascension, and Peter, in his message on that day, makes it clear that the coming of the Spirit was consequent upon the Lord’s ascension and glorification: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33, KJV).
Up to that time, the Holy Spirit was “with” the disciples, but from then on He was “in” them: “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17, KJV). But the blessed truth is that, not only those privileged men, but each believer of this dispensation is indwelt by that same Holy Spirit. Paul tells the Ephesians that, upon believing, “ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession” (Eph 1:13, 14, KJV). Indeed, His indwelling distinguishes the believer from the unbeliever: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom 8:9, KJV).
When He was on earth the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I will build My church” (Matt 16:18, KJV). The tense is future; it was not yet in existence when He spoke. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (just considered) was also the beginning of the Church (Acts 1:5; 2:4; 11:15-17; 1Cor 12:12, 13). He is the Head of the Church. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, states this clearly, and also the fact that it is consequent upon His ascension: “He (God) raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places … and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Eph 1:20-23, KJV).
This Headship is no nominal position, as if He were only a figurehead. No, it has practical results for us. Later in the same epistle, Paul writes of the Lord’s desire that believers “may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: From Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:15, 16, KJV). We are all joined to our Head, and it is from Him that the Church, His body, receives what it needs to grow and develop in spiritual health.
In the same chapter, Paul gives a gloriously graphic description of the Lord’s ascension, and another consequence of it: “When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men … And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:8-12, KJV).
A victorious military commander, returning triumphant from the battle, would bring his defeated foes as captives, and would receive gifts to give to those who were associated with him in his triumph. Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven in triumph, having trounced Satan and all his forces, and gave unto His people gifts for their spiritual benefit. Those gifts were people, from whose ministry His Church has benefitted throughout the years of its history.
We ought to marvel at, and be deeply thankful for, what He has done. Those in captivity were sinners (part of the enemy, and not His friends), but by His death He has set them free. They (saved sinners) are the very ones to whom He has given the gifts, and the gifts He has given to them are from among their number – also sinners saved through His triumph. What grace!
Surely great privileges are ours: we are indwelt by the Spirit, we are part of that great body, the Church, and we benefit from the gifts that the Lord Jesus gave to that Church. They are all blessings that are ours as a result of His ascension and glorification.