The Ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven is one of the least known or celebrated events. It is better known in the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church than in the Protestant calendars. There are various reasons given for its absence, yet the major creeds and confessions of the Christian faith give the event an important part. The Apostles’ Creed reads: he ascended into heaven; and sitteth at the right hand of the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. The Nicene Creed expands it slightly: and he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end. The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England (1571) have these words: Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day. The Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention (1925, 1963) has these words: He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, partaking of the nature of God and man, and in whose person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.
The Ascension as an event can be studied from the three perspectives – the past, the present and the future.
The past is summarized by Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost when he says to the crowd: Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said: “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Throughout the New Testament the Incarnation is seen as the humility of Jesus. Paul writes that the apex of the Son’s humility was that he humbled himself in accepting the death on the cross. In one of his prayers the Lord Jesus Christ asks the Father to restore him to the glory that he had from the beginning. The Ascension is seen as the exaltation or the glorification of the Son for he has accomplished the plan of God when on the cross he said: It is finished. One can say that the Ascension has been the enthronement of the Son.
In the present one can argue that the Son is doing three things. The first one has been accomplished already. He has sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Church as he has promised. The second thing is that He intercedes to the Father based on the work that he has done on our behalf. He is our eternal Intercessor. The third thing that is taking place now is the leveling of the enemies of God.
The third aspect of the Ascension is that the same Jesus that went to heaven is coming back in glory and majesty. I remember when the communists would make fun of Christians by saying that we believe in pie in the sky that Christians would respond: No, we do not believe in pie in the sky, we believe in Jesus Christ in heaven who is coming back soon.
As we celebrate the historicity of Ascension we are confirming the future promise of God – He is coming back. The church throughout the millennia had this word: Maranatha which means, Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Celebrate the Ascension as a historic event and as you celebrate the past and the work that the ascended Lord Jesus Christ is doing in the present, look forward to the day when the same Jesus that went to heaven will return in glory and you will be a part of that glorious return.