This the 19th installment of 52 reviewing RA Torrey’s 1898 publication What The Bible Teaches. See all of Lex’s posts here. A PDF copy of the book can be downloaded here. You are welcome and encouraged to join the discussion in your comments to these posts.
THE ASCENSION OF JESUS CHRIST
We now arrive at the elevated topic of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. Was it necessary and why? And what does it mean for the Believer and creation?
The Ascension is not to be confused with the “Assumption.” Don’t get me started on that! (Google it.) (But notice the base part of the word.)
I got to thinking, since Jesus rose from the dead, was this enough for the plan of salvation, was anything else necessary? After all, His death atoned for the sin of the world, and His resurrection gave us the promise of life and victory over death. What else was needed?
Apparently there was one more thing – His Ascension. He told Mary at the tomb, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'” John 20:17 So indeed this is not just icing on the cake, it was a vital part of the plan. In this chapter Torrey explains some of the reasons this last act of the Passion Play was crucial.
The Gospel of Luke and that author’s Book of Acts describes the Ascension of Christ. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. Luke 24:51 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. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” Act 1:9-11 This last sentence is why I keep looking up on those beautiful blue sky, gorgeous white cloud days in a very expectant manner, hoping, hoping, hoping.
Torey states the purpose of the ascension, that it was to glorify the person of Jesus, since until that point He had not yet received His glorified body – thus His statement to Mary outside the tomb. And it was also to glorify His Father (John 17:1, which even though spoken prior to the Passion could be an extended reference to the Ascension). Torrey also gives verses to show that Jesus’ ascension was a forerunner of our own ascension and that He went to prepare a place for us, in the many mansions He talked about.
There is also the fact that God was displaying the greatness of His power in having Christ seated at His right hand to give us hope and confidence in our inheritance (see Ephesians 1:18-20). Of critical importance as well is that with Christ at the Father’s right hand He is a high priest for us in our weakness of the flesh on earth, as an intercessor and helper. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Which leads me to probably the most important purpose for Jesus to ascend into Heaven, which is that if He did not then the Helper would not come. “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. John_16:7 That Helper is how we become Born Again, the singular act without which it is impossible to see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) With the Helper, namely the Holy Spirit, we are awakened from the sleep of death, our spiritual eyes are opened, life is given to our spirit with the promise of life to our bodies as well, our sins are forgiven, and we can see the face of God though the Word. Whereas before, this all sounds like a nice fairy tale and a vague dream. But with the Spirit gracing the earth because Jesus ascended to His Father, He can share with us the power to know God, to know the truth about creation, life, ourselves and the state in which we find ourselves. The veil is finally lifted.
Torrey concludes this chapter with the exaltation that the Ascension bestows on Christ. With Hebrews 1:3, 1 Peter 3:22 and Ephesians 1:21, 22 we see an exalted Christ above and over everything in creation, in glory and majesty:
When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high
(Jesus Christ) who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church
What a chilling sight this must be. And soon we who are called to His purpose will share this sight in the presence of His angels, kneeling before the majestic throne of grace. Amen!
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]