The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The disciples anxiously followed their Lord from Jerusalem to Bethany (Luk 24:50). Did they stop as they crossed the brook Kidron and remember the last time they had stepped across its waters? Did they want to linger at Gethsemane? We are not told. It was to Bethany that they ultimately came.

Perhaps they were thinking that the time had finally come. Their triumphant Savior was about to establish the Kingdom, to assert His Messiahship and claim the crown. No one would be able to gainsay that the Man who had been placed upon a cross, who was now alive, must be the Messiah! Their expectations must have been high. After three years of having been misunderstood and denied, doubtless He would assert with power His Kingship. Instead, something totally different yet as amazing as the resurrection took place, something as important as His death, burial and resurrection: it was His ascension. Acts 1 describes it in detail.

Its Veracity Defended

The disciples were eyewitness. There is no possibility of spiritualizing this as men have tried to do with the resurrection. This was not an “uplifting experience” in which the disciples somehow had a spiritual experience that saw the power of God still present at God’s right hand. This was not an illusion brought on by emotional ecstasy. The account in Acts 1 emphasizes the experience as a reality by employing words such as seeing, beholding (v9), sight (v9), looking (v10), gazing (v11) – all words which attest to an eyewitness account.

He passed:

Through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,
To the throne of Godhead,
to the Father’s breast;
Filled it with a glory of that perfect rest.[1]

Its Vicinity Defined

“He led them out as far as to Bethany” (Luk 24:50).[2] The small village lay in the proximity of Gethsemane. Perhaps the reason He chose Bethany was that it was the only place He frequented where He was always welcome. Bethlehem had no room for Him, Nazareth and Capernaum rejected Him, Jerusalem gave Him a cross, but Bethany always had a welcome for Him. The last week of His sojourn here on earth, Bethany, and more particularly the home in Bethany, welcomed and cared for Him.

The Verbs That Describe It

The language of Acts 1 is thrilling to consider. Action verbs give us a sense of the wonder which marked the moment: “he was taken up,” “a cloud received him,” “as he went up,” “this same Jesus … taken up.” Luke, in his Gospel, adds to the list that He was “carried up” (Luk 24:51).

The Shekinah cloud escorted Him into the throne room where He entered with full moral right and sat Himself down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens (Heb 8:1). He went up by virtue of His Person; He was received up by heaven as though in rebuke to earth that had rejected Him. He that carried a cross to skull hill was now carried up to heaven, there to be addressed by His Father: “Sit thou at my right hand, until …” (Psa 110:1).

The Victory It Declared

The disciples were left gazing up into heaven as they marked His path from earth to the Father’s right hand. He passed through the domain of Satan, the prince of the power of the air, and went through it unimpeded. All the hosts of hell had to step aside as the mighty conqueror strode triumphantly through their domain (Col 2:15). Their supposed victory at Calvary was their ultimate defeat. His ascension through their sphere demonstrated to them their impotence and was a harbinger of their ultimate and final overthrow.

The Vindication It Displayed

A day came when Joseph was called from his prison cell and ushered into the throne room of the Pharaoh. As a token of his exaltation, a ring was placed upon Joseph’s finger, investing him with authority and majesty. In a far greater manner, the glorification of God’s Son has placed Him at the summit of universal dominion and glory. Listen to some of the words of the NT writers:

  • “God also hath highly exalted him” (Php 2:9)
  • Far above all principality, and power” (Eph 1:21)
  • “He … is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens (Eph 4:10)
  • Higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:26)

God has given the highest place to the Man to whom earth gave the lowest place. He is not just exalted but highly exalted, not only above all but far above all. God could not honor His Son in any higher measure.

The Vital Basis for Doctrine

The ascension of our Lord Jesus is vital to doctrinal truth. In the Hebrews epistle, the presence of the Lord Jesus in heaven is our surety of the New Covenant. Just as Israel’s acceptance year by year depended on the acceptance of their High Priest on the Day of Atonement, so Christ having entered into heaven is our assurance of our acceptance. It enables us to come boldly, to enter with confidence, and to draw near with all assurance. Throughout the Hebrews letter, it is the ascension and session of Christ at God’s right hand that is stressed. Four times over we are told of His being seated on a throne. Each mention assures us that:

  • He sits on the throne of universal control (Heb 1:8)
  • He occupies a throne of unfailing comfort (4:16)
  • He sits in unquestioned confidence (8:1)
  • His sits as the unchallenged champion of faith (12:1-2)

It is also the guarantee of a future for Israel, the Church and the nations. “This same Jesus … shall so come in like manner” (Act 1:11). His feet will one day step down on the Mount of Olives when He shall come to reign (Zec 14:4). It assures us of His victory at Calvary. It assures us of God’s satisfaction with His work on the cross, of the ultimate triumph of all God’s purposes and plans, and of the eternal honor and glory due to the Son. His vicarious death, victorious resurrection and visible ascension are all indispensable to our salvation and blessing.

[1] Caroline M. Noel (1817–1877)

[2] Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.