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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Ascension of Jesus and His Present Ministry as High Priest

Don Stewart :: What Is the Meaning of the Ascension?

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What Is the Meaning of the Ascension?

The Ascension of Jesus and His Present Ministry as High Priest – Question 2

The ascension of Jesus Christ is one of the most important events in His life and ministry. Indeed, it is significant for a number of reasons. They include the following.

1. It Was the End of Jesus’ Earthly Ministry

First, the ascension meant the end of the earthly ministry of Christ. The last act He performed before taking His place in heaven was the ascension. It was, therefore, the culmination of His first coming to the earth.

The writer to the Hebrew notes this. He emphasizes that Jesus ascension means that now Christ sits as our high priest in the heavens:

Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up. (Hebrews 8:1, 2 NRSV)

Jesus’ earthly ministry was complete with His ascension. Yet His ministry continues as our high priest in heaven. He is now ministering in a heavenly sanctuary.

2. It Was Jesus’ Return to His Former Residence and Glory

The ascension was also Jesus’ return to the place of His former residence. This is where He took hold of what was rightfully His.

We find that Jesus prayed to receive His former glory in His prayer to God the Father on the night of His betrayal:

And now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began. (John 17:5 NLT)

The ascension accomplished the answer to this prayer. Jesus has now returned to His place of honor with God the Father.

The Apostle Paul wrote about the exaltation of Jesus Christ to the Philippians. He emphasized that Jesus, who humbled Himself while here upon the earth, is now highly exalted in heaven. Paul explained it this way:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV)

Jesus Christ is now exalted on the right hand, or place of authority, of God the Father. He is now receiving the honor and majesty He deserves.

At the ascension, God the Father seated God the Son in the heavenly places. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Ephesians:

I want you to know about the great and mighty power that God has for us followers. It is the same wonderful power he used when he raised Christ from death and let him sit at his right side in heaven. There Christ rules over all forces, authorities, powers, and rulers. He rules over all beings in this world and will rule in the future world as well. God has put all things under the power of Christ, and for the good of the church he has made him the head of everything. The church is Christ’s body and is filled with Christ who completely fills everything. (Ephesians 1:19-22 CEV)

The Son is now exalted.

We must remember that during His time on the earth, Jesus had certain self-imposed limitations. For example, He limited Himself to being at only one particular place at a time. This is no longer the case. Once Jesus ascended to God the Father in heaven these limitations were no longer in force. He is now the risen Lord, awaiting the time which He will return and claim what is rightfully His on the earth.

3. Jesus’ Work Was Satisfactory: The Father Accepted the Son

All that Jesus Christ had set out to do had been accomplished. The fact that Jesus ascended into heaven and remained there is also of great significance. God the Father received Jesus, God the Son, back into His presence. This gave evidence to the fact that Jesus’ earthly ministry was acceptable to Him.

Indeed, the Scripture records that the work of Jesus Christ had been finished, and finished in a way that satisfies God the Father. Therefore, we can have assurance that our sins have been forgiven by what the Jesus has accomplished because God the Father has accepted Him into His presence. This is a very important biblical truth!

As he was dying by stoning, the martyr Stephen testified to seeing Jesus at the right hand of God the Father:

When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:54-56 TNIV)

This is a further indication that God the Son returned to the presence of God the Father.

4. The First of Resurrected Humanity Has Now Entered into Heaven

Jesus was the first human being to enter heaven with a glorified body. The writer to the Hebrews stated that He is our forerunner:

Where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:20 NASB)

While Jesus was the first to enter heaven with a glorified body He will certainly not be the last. Those of us who have trusted Him will also receive a glorified body.

Thus, the presence of Jesus Christ in heaven is the guarantee that each believer will be resurrected and taken there to be with God the Father.

5. Christ Began His New Ministry of Intercession and Advocacy

Once the mission on earth was accomplished Jesus ascended to take up a new mission—He is the Intercessor and Advocate for believers. The writer to the Hebrews stated:

That is why he is always able to save those who come to God through him. He can do this because he always lives and intercedes for them. (Hebrews 7:25 God’s Word)

He continually pleads our case before the God the Father. Jesus is the One who represents us when we sin.

John wrote about this representation, or advocacy of God the Son. He explained what Jesus does in this manner:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1 NRSV)

Jesus is now pleading our case before God the Father. He is representing us.

6. It Allowed Christ to Send the Holy Spirit to Do His Work

Jesus’ ascension allowed Him to send the Holy Spirit in His place. On the night of His betrayal Jesus said the following to His disciples in the upper room:

But it is actually best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Counselor won’t come. If I do go away, he will come because I will send him to you. (John 16:7 NLT)

The Holy Spirit could not come, in a special way, until Jesus Christ was glorified. The Spirit of God now carries the ministry of Jesus all around the world. When Jesus was here on earth He was limited to one geographical place. This is no longer the case. Jesus promised that believers would do greater works than He.

John records Jesus saying,

I can guarantee this truth: Those who believe in me will do the things that I am doing. They will do even greater things because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12 God’s Word)

The works are greater in scope because the Holy Spirit indwells each believer with the ability to do the work of Christ. Every moment of every day God the Holy Spirit is working through the believers in all parts of the world to do the work of Jesus Christ.

7. It Allowed Spiritual Gifts to Be Given to Believers

With the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven He was able to send spiritual gifts to believers. Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:8-12 NKJV)

These gifts allow believers to do the work of the ministry.

8. Jesus Is Now Preparing Our Heavenly Home

In John’s gospel, we read about Jesus’ preparations for our heavenly home. He recorded the following:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together.” (John 14:1-3 CEV)

Jesus is in the process of preparing a place for believers. The Bible says that the real home for believers is in heaven. We are only pilgrims, or those who are merely temporary residents, here upon the earth. Peter wrote,

Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls. (1 Peter 2:11 NLT)

Heaven is our real home. We must always remember this.

9. It Anticipates His Return to Earth

The fact that Jesus ascended into heaven anticipates the time He will return to the earth. The angel said the following to the disciples who were watching Jesus ascend:

They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11 NRSV)

We know the exact spot, and manner, of His return because of the ascension. He will return visibly and boldly to the Mount of Olives.

Consequently the ascension emphasizes one of the great truths of Scripture—Jesus Christ will come again.

Summary – Question 2
What Is the Meaning of the Ascension?

The Bible says that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives in the city of Jerusalem. This took place some forty days after His resurrection from the dead. Jesus did this in the presence of His disciples. This ascension event has a number of important meanings.

The ascension of Jesus marked the end of His earthly ministry. With His ascension, Jesus’ ministry, at His first coming, was complete.

Furthermore, we find that Jesus completed all that He had set out to accomplish. He could ascend into heaven knowing that He had done the job which God had called Him to do.

Jesus Christ then took up His former residence at the right hand, or place of authority, next to God the Father. He no longer had a visible or physical presence on the earth. When he was being stoned to death, the martyr Stephen later saw Jesus next to the Father.

The fact that Jesus remained next to God the Father demonstrates that the Father received His sacrifice on the cross as sufficient. This is extremely important. As a glorified human being, God the Son entered the presence of God the Father in a body. Because Jesus was allowed in the presence of the Father demonstrates that His sacrifice on the cross was an acceptable sacrifice for sin.

Jesus is the first, but not the last, of resurrected humanity that enters the presence of God the Father. Those of us who have believed in Christ will follow.

Jesus now has the ministry of high priest. He is bringing our prayers to God the Father. Because of Jesus we now have access directly to the Father. Furthermore, Jesus is representing us when we sin. He is our Advocate; He pleads our case.

Once in heaven, God the Son sent God the Spirit to do the work of the ministry in the lives of believers. This includes the giving of spiritual gifts to do God’s work.

In addition, Jesus is presently preparing a heavenly home for those of us who have believed in Him. Someday we will join Him there.

Finally, His ascension into heaven anticipates His return to the earth. As the angel told the disciples, the same Jesus who ascended into heaven will return in the same manner.

In sum, the ascension has a number of very important meanings for the believer.

How Did Jesus Leave the Earth? ← Prior Section
What Is Jesus' Ministry Today? Next Section →
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