A Prayer for Ascension Day

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Giotto, The Ascension of Christ, fresco; 1305.

Almighty God and Father,
thank You for Your everlasting love revealed in Jesus Christ,
who did not consider equality with You
something to be used to His own advantage,
but emptied Himself and took on the nature
of a servant and became human
for us and for our salvation.

Thank You that in Your infinite wisdom
this divine descent of the only begotten Son from eternity
made the way of the Cross
truly to become the pathway to abundant life.
Thank You that through His death and resurrection
the gateway to eternal life
not only brings us into Your household as children
but also seats us in the heavenly places
where He now lives and reigns with You eternally.

As we enter into true life through Him,
and we enter into Your forever family through Him,
so, too, do we find ourselves held in prayer through Him,
as He eternally intercedes for us at Your right hand,
Jesus the Messiah, ascended to glory,
the Name above all names, and our High Priest forever.

For all these blessings
beyond anything we could ask or imagine,
we thank You.
May our lives – in thought, word, and deed –
exist as living sacrifices of worship to You,
who reign with Your only Son, Jesus Christ,
and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forevermore.
Amen.

The Significance of Jesus’ Ascension

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Edward Bolwell, ascension day, Acrylic Paint on MDF Board; 2017

Today is Ascension Day, when celebrate the ascension of Jesus to the Father in heaven after His resurrection from death (Luke 24:49-51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:3-10). I believe this is one of the most-neglected aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus with great significance for our lives as disciples of Jesus.

I want to encourage you to read my three posts from earlier in this week on the importance of the ascension for our faith because of Jesus’ reign as King, Jesus’ mediation eternally, and Jesus’ future return in glory.

Read them here:

The Ascension and Jesus’ Return (Part 3 of 3)

fullsizeoutput_93fWhat does Jesus’ ascension have to do with his eventual return? When will it happen and how should we prepare for it? In this third and final installment of my three-part reflection on Ascension Day  this week, I want to reflect today on the significance of Jesus’ return after His ascension.

After Jesus’ ascension, two heavenly beings speak to the disciples: ““Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Throughout the New Testament, many writers tell us that there will come a day when Jesus will return to establish His kingdom fully “here on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Five things we know about Jesus’ return from Scripture are:

  1. It will happen (Acts 1:8; John 14:3)
  2. It will happen in God’s time (Acts 1:6-7; Matthew 24:36)
  3. It will be recognizable to all (1 Thessalonians 4:15; Revelation 1:7-8)
  4. It will bring the fullness of Christ’s victorious kingdom over all (Revelation 19:11-16; 21:1-5)
  5. It will bring vindication for God’s people in the sight of all (1 Thessalonians 4:11-5; 1 John 3:2)

Jesus, the Ascended King, will return in glory, bringing the fullness of God’s kingdom and righteousness that will lead into the establishment of the new heaven and the new earth. So let us be encouraged by the ascension of Jesus that it will be followed by His return and the consummation of all God’s purposes and plans. Let us persevere in light of the resurrection and ascension until the day of His coming or when we see Him face-to-face, whichever arrives first.

[Read Part 1: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Enthronement” and Part 2: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Intercession”]

The Ascension and Jesus’ Intercession (Part 2 of 3)

fullsizeoutput_93fPrayer is one of the most universal aspirations of the human heart, but what does it mean that Jesus, ascended with the Father, now eternally intercedes for us? In the second part of my three-part reflection on Ascension Day  this week, I want to reflect on the significance that after His ascension Jesus intercedes for us.

Forty days after completion of His work in the Cross and the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven to rule as King at the Father’s right hand. His sacrifice was a once-for-all event (Hebrews 9:24-28) that secured His place as the unique mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5).

The writer to the Hebrews builds upon these truths to help us understand Jesus’ role in the presence of God not only as King but as eternal intercessor: “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Some see this as Jesus forever bowed in prayer for us, but the picture is different and richer than that. Jesus stands in the presence of the Living God simultaneously as our Advocate and High Priest and Sacrificial Lamb before the Father. His eternal sacrifice is eternally effective and eternally offered before God on our behalf (Hebrews 1:3; 7:25; 8:1). Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, there is no one who and nothing that can condemn us before God (Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1).

Even more, since Jesus’ stands in the presence of God, His effective advocacy on our behalf transcends geography and time. Jesus is not limited by time and space as He was in the incarnation. Now, as He stands in the presence of God He hears and answers our prayers no matter when or where we lift them. In fact, we can always “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16).

So let us be encouraged that the death and resurrection of Jesus’ are always effective on our behalf because Jesus has ascended as Eternal King and Mediator. And let us always know that the grace of God flows abundantly through Christ to us when we reach out to Him in prayer.

[Read Part 1: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Enthronement” and Part 3: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Return”]

The Ascension and Jesus’ Enthronement (Part 1 of 3)

fullsizeoutput_93fWe celebrate Ascension Day this week, so I want to take this opportunity give attention to one of the most-neglected aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus.  Forty days after His resurrection, after appearing many times to the disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven with the Father again (Luke 24:49-51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:3-10). The ascension of Jesus is significant for many reasons, so over the next three days I would like to draw attention to three of these:

  1. after His ascension Jesus is enthroned with the Father
  2. after His ascension Jesus intercedes for us
  3. after His ascension Jesus will return

The Apostles Creed makes important reference to the ascension of Jesus with these words: “[He] ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” Jesus is enthroned as King in His ascension. When Jesus ascends from earth, the disciples witness of Jesus taken into the heavenly realm where God dwells: “he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:51). Stephen’s vision of the heavenly realm before his martyrdom expands this even further: “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

With these two visions of Jesus’ ascension and the reality on the other side of it, we find in Jesus’ ascension the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy:

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

Jesus often referenced this passage in relation to Himself. With the ascension we see that Jesus not only enters heaven, the place where God lives and operates, but receives His appropriate enthronement at the right hand of God in an unshakable kingdom.

This is echoed in further New Testament pictures of the heavenly scenes of worship:

  • “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21).
  • “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

The ascension of Jesus reminds us not only that God’s kingdom been inaugurated with the incarnation of Jesus, but that His throne is established at the Father’s right hand until He returns at the consummation of his kingdom at the new heaven and new earth. We know even now that Jesus reigns as King, no matter what happens around us.

[Read Part 2: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Intercession” and Part 3: “The Ascension and Jesus’ Return”]