When the Lord Jesus was raised up from the grave, it was not long before He was raised up from world itself. Jesus first came up out of the earth, and He then came away from the earth. That departure from our world was His ascension into Heaven, a glorious transit between the moment of His resurrection and the triumphant moment of His enthronement in power and glory.
Scripture teaches us that He was ushered into the throne room of the Ancient of Days on numinous clouds of glory (Dan. 7:13-14). Contrary to a popular misconception, this prophecy is not referring to His Second Coming to earth, but rather to the Ascension. This is a glorious vision of the Lord coming into Heaven, not a vision of Him descending to earth. The one coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory is coming, not down to earth, but into the throne room of Almighty God. And when He arrived there, He was crowned with universal dominion and glory—power, majesty, and might, world without end. Amen.
The New Testament teaches this as well, and teaches further that we believers have a new birthright portion of this dominion and glory. We have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3), and this is true precisely because of the Ascension. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father (Eph. 1:20), and He is enthroned there as head over all things to the church (Eph. 1:22).
Our union with Christ, effected through the instrument of living faith alone, is a union well represented by our prefix co. Greek has a similar prefix representing the same reality, which for them is sun. As Paul put it, we were co-quickened in Christ (Eph. 2:5), and co-raised with Him (Eph. 2:6). We were also co-seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph.2:6), and this means that today we are celebrating the exaltation of the new mankind in Christ—for it was on this day that we co-ascended in and with Him into the throne room of the Ancient of Days.
This is not esoteric theology; this is why our prayers are heard. This is why we are able to pray in Jesus’ name. This is why our souls have a heavenly security, beyond the reach of anything that stings or harms.
All of Christ for all of life. This is what we are talking about, and we need to be talking about it all the time. We are united to His person and work. We are united with His entire life, and with His death, and with His everlasting life again. We were crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20), and we were buried with Him as well (Rom. 6:3). In Him, we were baptized by John in the Jordan (Matt. 3:14-16). There is nothing that belongs to Christ’s that is not also yours.
“Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor. 3:21-23).
Why are all things yours? The answer is because Jesus ascended and is enthroned in Heaven. And He ascended because He was raised from the dead, and He was dead because He was crucified. And He was crucified because He died to make all things yours.
The promises in the Bible about the grace given to us in Christ are so staggering that it would be easy for giddy spirits to misinterpret what we have been given. But Jesus did not float off into Heaven like a helium balloon. This is glory, sure enough, but it is the weight of glory. He did not float off, but rather He went before us like a pilot ship carrying an anchor into port ahead of the main ship.
“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb. 6:18-20).
We have a strong hope, a strong consolation, precisely because Jesus has ascended into Heaven before us. Our hope is in Heaven, our hope has dropped anchor there. He has done this as our forerunner—without the ascension therefore, we wouldn’t have a biblical hope or a strong consolation for our souls. And to note in passing, because many first century anchors were simply huge stones with a hole in the middle for the rope, this may also fit with other scriptural descriptions of Christ as a rock or a stone.
Christ is there as our high priest forever. He is there, serving in the order of Melchizedek forever. The highest seat of honor in the entire created order is a place that is occupied by a man, by the Son of David. The throne is the throne of David, mind, and not the throne of the eternal Trinity.
The Apostles Creed confesses this truth—“He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” The Nicene Creed confesses the same glory—“He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” But He ascended into Heaven as a man, as our elder brother, as our king and high priest.
So this is the ascension of man, not the demotion of God. As the Athanasian Creed puts it, Jesus Christ is inferior to the Father with regard to His humanity, and equal to God in regard to His divinity. Nevertheless, in His capacity as a man He is seated at the highest place of all creation—such that this is an inferiority crowned with all glory and honor, and we, His people, share in it. Crowned humanity is humanity still, and with it we are well content. We will spend all of eternity failing to get out to the limits of that new humanity, and so we do well to be content.
So the Ascension does not obliterate the Creator/creature divide, any more than the Incarnation did. God is always God, and we will always not be. We are always His creatures, restored to a true humanity by His divine Son. To speak the language of the theologians for a moment, the hypostatic union is a union . . . and not a hypostatic bridge.
It is therefore not possible to speak biblically about the ascension of Jesus without speaking also about the ascension of a new humanity in Him. And it is not possible to speak of the ascension of that new humanity without giving a gospel invitation to all men. Because Jesus Christ has risen, and is now seated above every name, in all glory and honor, we say to you and to all men what the voice like a trumpet said from the door of Heaven to the apostle John. And what is it that we say? We say, “Come up, come up” (Rev. 4:1). The risen Lord is here, and so come up.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.