Series: Easter Sermons
The Glorious Ascension of Christ
April 09, 2023 | Andy Davis
Exaltation of Christ, The Offices of Christ, Resurrection
Christ’s glorious ascension to heaven is Almighty God’s final vindication of his incarnate Son on earth in his earthly mission.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
I. The Father Raises His Son and Glorifies Him
It’s Resurrection Sunday, in case you didn't know. All over the world, Christians are assembling to celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead, Christ's resurrection, the greatest moment in human history. The greatest moment in human history, for it addresses, indeed conquers, all of our greatest enemies, and it feeds all of our greatest hopes. Our greatest enemies have been vanquished by Christ's death on the cross, and by His resurrection victory, death itself, what the scripture calls the last or the final enemy, an enemy that remains undefeated except by Christ, and will continue to do so. It does not matter how much brilliance is shown even in this region by pharmaceutical researchers or medical procedure researchers, death will still stand over all of their efforts. We know that death comes unexpectedly to anyone in any walk of life. It does not matter, their socioeconomic background, their age, their apparent health, death stands overall as the final enemy, but Christ has defeated death on our behalf.
We have also the terrors of God's judgment, His written record against us for our sins that Colossians tells us stood opposed to us, and that Christ has completely addressed those by His bloodshed on the cross. That long record of our sins, through faith in Christ, will not triumph over us and condemn us to hell. Then, there's Satan, the accuser who would stand before God and accuse us accurately of those very sins I just mentioned. He has been destroyed. He has been defeated by Christ, as the author of Hebrews tells us. All of our enemies have been addressed, and all of our greatest hopes are wrapped up in Christ's resurrection body.
The best is yet to come, brothers and sisters. It doesn't matter how high a high you achieve today, emotionally. All of us are less than we should, because for us in Christ, our best things are all yet to come. We are being brought to a world in which there will be no more death, mourn, crying, or pain. Jesus made this one promise in John 14:19, which is why we Christians celebrate, "Because I live, you also will live." Hallelujah. He gives us the spoils of His victory. We should celebrate. It's right for us to be filled with hope and to sing praise. In the book of Revelation, they sang praise. Revelation 5:12, "Worthy is the lamb who is slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise." That's heavenly worship, hymns of praise sung by the angels and by the saints in heaven. Here on earth, we have hymns, focused, many of which we sung today. My favorite is Charles Wesley's “Christ The Lord is Risen Today”:
“Christ The Lord is risen today, hallelujah. Sons of men and angels say, ‘Hallelujah.’ Raise your joys and triumphs high. Hallelujah, sing ye heaven’s and earth’s reply, hallelujah. Love's redeeming work is done. Fought the fight, the battle won. Death in vain forbids Him rise.” Isn't that good? Death tried, but failed. Christ has opened paradise. So, it is right that we should celebrate Christ's awesome resurrection victory.
So, why in the world am I preaching today on Christ's ascension? Some of you know it's because I've been here 25 years and I've run out of ideas. The internet never forgets, so I can't do the old stuff. And no, that's not it. It was just that the Holy Spirit pressed this theme on my heart. I saw the logical extension of the exaltation of the Father in reference to the Son. There is theological richness in this topic, the Ascension of Christ. All of my friends around me in ministry, they told me they've never heard a sermon on it. Actually, I haven't thought much about it. It's just maybe a theological detail that people don't think much about. They generally skip it, but they shouldn't. I hope that after today's sermon you'll see how rich and powerful this concept is, this final, visible, powerful, exaltation, vindication of the Son by the Father.
The Father's vindication of the Son is completed in His ascension to heaven. It's absolutely needed because the death of Christ on the cross was a picture of humiliation, of total rejection by His own people, of in some sense complete rejection by God himself. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The cross and agonizing death, the cruelest form of torturous death that the vicious people like the Romans could devise and utilize. The victim was held up to utter scorn and humiliation, then died slowly in exquisite pain, surrounded by onlooking mockers and haters. But infinitely worse than the human shame and physical pain was the spiritual dimension. Anyone who hung on a tree was under the curse of God. Since Jesus was bearing our sins for us in our place, He was completely cursed, infinitely cursed, bearing the white-hot wrath of God as our substitute. That's why Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
His enemies on looking, thought He was dying for His own sins of the blasphemer. Isaiah predicted that that's what they would think. Isaiah 53:4, "We considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him and afflicted." But Isaiah also in that same passage told us why, Jesus died in our place as our substitute. “He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him. And by His wounds, we are healed. We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to His own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
But that truth, that message, could only be established in history if God accepted the sacrifice of Jesus. He proved it by the vindication of His Son, that His bloody sacrifice was acceptable to God on our behalf. The only possible way that could be was by His resurrection victory, His resurrection from the dead. But I believe, as you study the ascension, that resurrection victory, God thought it insufficient for the total vindication of His Son. There was more vindication yet to come. God intended to exalt Jesus to the highest place, completing His return journey, as He descended from heaven to earth and then went from earth back up to heaven. From heaven to earth, choosing to accept a human body, being born of a woman, entering the womb of a woman, and from the manger then to a life of humble self-denying sacrificial service to everyone and to God, day after day, perfectly living out the two great commandments, to love God with all of His heart, to love His neighbors himself, a life of humble servanthood. Then, to the cross, that ignominious, scandalous, ugly, shameful death on the cross. So, we see down, down, down, traced out in Philippians 2, that dissent from heaven to even to death on a cross, and then the reverse journey, then God raising Him up, up, and even higher up in His resurrection and ascension and seating Him on His throne in heaven.
This is the very thing that Jesus had demanded of His father in His prayer in John 17:5, "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." That's what He asked for. It's what He deserved. "Give me my glory back." The fact that it was the Father doing this to Jesus, ascending Him, is clear from the consistent passive voice used in scripture concerning the ascension. Luke 24:51, "And it came to pass that while He blessed them, He was parted from them and was carried up into heaven." The passive voice means action was enacted on him, a force came on him. The ascension was something done to Jesus by the Father. Again, Acts 1:9, our text this morning, "After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes. And a cloud hid Him from their sight." All the other references to the ascension, they're all passive. It's something that was done to Jesus. And by who? By God the Father. God did it to vindicate His son. It is immeasurably more significant and important than we think it is. Why do I say that? Luke wrote two books in the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. He ends the Gospel of Luke with it and begins the book of Acts with it. The ending of the Gospel of Luke, "When He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them, and was taken up into heaven. And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they stayed continually at the temple praising God," the end of the Gospel of Luke. Then, again in Acts 1:1-12, the reading you heard this morning, that’s how He begins. The story of the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem through Judea and Samaria and the beginning of the journey to the ends of the earth, which is continued to this present day. It starts with the ascension, so it must be significant. Without the ascension, the mission of Jesus would've been incomplete.
"The ascension was something done to Jesus by the Father. …It's something that was done to Jesus. And by who? By God the Father. God did it to vindicate His son."
Jesus descended from heaven to earth to bring us to God. To bring us to God, that's why He came. And He Himself must precede and ascend back into heaven to open the way for us. "I'm going there to prepare a place for you," as He prays in John 17:24, "Father, I want those whom you have given me to be with me where I am and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you love me from the creation of the world." He wants us to see His glory. So, by faith this morning we're going to try to do that. We're going to try to see the glory of Christ descended. Someday we'll see it with our own eyes, or as Charles Wesley put it in the next stands of that beautiful Easter hymn, "Soar, we now where Christ has led, following our exalted head. Made like Him, like Him, we rise. Ours, the cross, the grave, the skies." That's what today's message is about.
II. The Facts of Christ’s Ascension to Heaven
Let's talk about the facts of Christ's ascension to heaven. The timing, when did it happen? Jesus' ascension happened 40 days after His resurrection. During that period, Jesus poured scripture into His disciples. Remember the two disciples on the road to Emaus? He opens up the scripture and their hearts are burning within them while He opens the scriptures to them. Later in that same chapter, Luke 24, Jesus went to the disciples in the upper room and gave them more doctrinal instruction from the Old Testament. "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me and the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms. Then, He opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures." He is doing this over a period of 40 days, a 40-day seminary, wouldn't you like to enroll in that? The greatest teacher in history with 40 days of concentrated work in the prophets and the law of Moses and the Psalms.
Where was the ascension? Luke tells us that it was on the Mount of Olives near Bethany. The language used is “a Sabbath day walk from Jerusalem.” That's 2,000 cubits. 2,000 cubits or about six tenths of a mile, that might be a little more helpful. Really close there to Jerusalem, but on the Mount of Olives.
What happened? What was the ascension? Jesus, having assembled them there, gives them one more version of the Great Commission. All four gospels have a different version of the sending out of the disciples to the ends of the earth with the message of the gospel. Acts 1:8, is the last time, "You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. And you'll be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth." Those are His last words to the church. Having done that, Luke's Gospel tells us He extended His hands and blessed them. Then in Acts 1:9, "After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight." He seemed to have floated higher and higher, defying gravity. He's not defying it. He invented it. He's in charge of it, like the walking on water, same thing there. He can do what He wants with gravity because He rules over it. So, He ascends higher and higher., and the apostles are standing there gawking up, just looking like this for a while. Long after the event was over, I think, they're still looking, so, then God dispatches two angels. Would you loved to be the angels, like, "Pick me, pick me. I want to go there and tell these guys. Get moving.” “They were looking intently into the sky as He was going when, suddenly, two men dressed in white stood beside them, "Men of Galilee," they said, ‘Why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven,’ note the passive voice again, "has been taken from you into heaven” will return in the same way you've seen Him go into heaven."
Let me say a note about that, the Second Coming. They said Jesus would be coming back "in the same way you've seen Him go." And amazingly, to the same place. How do I know that? The prophecy in Zechariah 14, I'm not going to go into that. We'll take another half hour to go into Zechariah. But trust me, Zechariah 14 is about the Second Coming and about the final battle that the Lord fights as a conquering king against the enemies of His people. He comes back, Zechariah 14:4, "On that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem." He's coming back to that same place. God loves those kinds of details. So, He leaves from one spot and comes back to that same spot. Beautifully, at His Second Coming, He's going to send out His angels, and they'll gather His elect from the four winds, from one of the heavens to the other. We get to do our own version of what Jesus does in the ascension, we get to rise from the earth and meet Him in the clouds. Tell me you're not looking forward to that. Of course, you'll need some help, an angel will have to pick you up. They're going to lift you up as the rapture passage in I Thessalonians teaches in verse 16-17, "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with a voice of the archangel with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever." That's our future.
Now, as I was preparing for my sermon on the Ascension, of course, I needed to consult Wikipedia. I've got to go there and find out what they know about the Ascension. Not much. So, I went there, and I found that some, supposedly, Christian theologians find the Ascension an embarrassment. They're actually embarrassed by it, because I think it represents an archaic, even mythological, cosmology, a structure of the universe that science has now disproved, similar to the flat earth or the earth being the center of the solar system and the sun revolving. We know that's not true. Science has moved beyond that, so, it's a little bit of an embarrassment. Let me tell you something. I'm embarrassed about people who are embarrassed about the Bible. God knows cosmology very well. He invented it. He didn't weave a mythological cosmology into the Bible. The Bible doesn't assert anywhere that the earth is flat. It doesn't say anything about the earth being the center of the solar system, except in the language of sunrise and sunset, which we still use post-Copernicus. We have no problem with that. Neither does it say that heaven is up there like some border you cross, and you're now in a different place, so that now that we've had space flight and gone on the moon, we've disproved the Bible. Famously, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier and an atheist, mocked the idea of a heaven above the earth, saying, "Why are you clinging to God? Here, Gagarin flew into space. He didn't encounter God. So, it's not up there.” They don't understand that the realms, the heavenly realms that I'm about to unfold for you, that the Bible clearly teaches, that one of them is physical, but then is with spiritual dimensions that go beyond our comprehension. The Bible cannot so easily be disproved. Paul himself speaks of being caught up to the third heaven. So, as the first and the second and the third, first being perhaps sky, second outer space, and third the heavenly realms. That's just a simple arrangement we'll go into a little more detail in a moment. Actually, why not right now?
Let's talk about the stages of the ascension. I love documentaries about the Apollo space program. I've watched so many of them over and over. I geek out on that kind of thing. Saturn V rocket, all of the technology that those folks did with slide rules and pencils and paper and they made it work incredibly. These guys were geniuses. Just the achievement, it's remarkable. You think about the Saturn V rocket, it was a rocket in stages. First stage, second stage, that's how they decided to do it, it's remarkable.
I want you to picture then the ascension of Jesus in similar four stages, four stages of His ascension. The first stage, from earth through the sky, physically, until a cloud hid Him from their sight, like the Saturn V rocket moving up through the atmosphere. Some of you, I'm sure, have flown a kite. What's the highest you've ever gotten a kite up there? I had it so high I almost couldn't see it. It was way up there, and it was pulling hard. It was a windy day. It was near the beach. You picture that as a kite ascends higher and higher, it’s just like that. These guys are out there looking up, watching Him go, physical, going up higher and higher. Now, for the next three stages of His journey, you have to have eyes of faith. It's a different way to look. NASA had to invent different television cameras from the launch site so they could track the rocket as it went. It's something you can't just leave to a human camera worker. They were able to follow the predictable trajectory of the rocket.
In the same way, you need eyes of faith to be able to see the next three stages. If you don't have faith, you can't see it. You have to be able to see by faith based on the Word of God, the next phases or stages of His ascension. The author of Hebrews even gives us His language. Hebrews 2:9, "We see Jesus now crowned with glory and honor at the right hand of God." How do we see him? Only by faith, eyes of faith. The second stage of the ascension. Jesus passed through the heavenly realms. He moved through it. He's passing through the heavenly realms, He's beyond the physical. Now, He's in the heavenly realms. The language is “He passes through”, Hebrews 4:14. "Since then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God. Let us hold fast our confession." The spiritual realms are observing Jesus as He moves through.
The third stage is more of a destination. The author of Hebrews tells us, "He entered the heavenly temple, the heavenly holy of holies, and presented once for all His bloodshed on the cross as our priest," Hebrews 9:11-12, "When Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not manmade," that is to say not a part of this creation. "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the most holy placed once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption."
We're told in the Old Testament that both the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon were built according to a pattern and a vision shown to Moses and to David that then David handed off to His son, Solomon. That pattern, the author of Hebrews tells us, was a shadow, an earthly type or shadow of the real temple in heaven. Does that make sense? The tabernacle and the temple are both shadowing representations of the real tabernacle or temple in heaven, the real Holy of Holies. Jesus entered there in the heavenly realms.
The fourth stage of His ascension is above every created realm; it’s not a created realm. It's a place where only God can dwell, above everything, where creatures cannot go. Ephesians 4:8-10, "When He ascended on high, He led captives in His training, gave gifts to men.” What does “He ascended” mean except that He also descended to the lower earthly regions? “He who descended is the very one who," listen to this, "ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe." That's a powerful image, “higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe.” Again, the author of Hebrews has the same kind of conception. Hebrews 7:26, "Such a high priest meets our need, one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." That's a realm we creatures cannot enter, where only the creator God can be. Or, again, as Solomon prayed at the dedication of the temple, "But will God really dwell on earth or heaven. Even the highest heavens cannot contain you? How much less this temple I have built?"
The heavenly realms are a spiritual location where angels dwell and disembodied spirits, saints who have died, dwell in that heavenly realm. Jesus passed through all of that and ended up above it. He crossed that infinite gap that no creature can cross to sit at the right hand of Almighty God. Hebrews 1:3, "After the son had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the majesty in heaven." And then, again, Hebrews 8:1, "We do have such a high priest who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in heaven." Then, Hebrews 10:12, "When this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God."
"The heavenly realms are a spiritual location where angels dwell and disembodied spirits, saints who have died, dwell in that heavenly realm. Jesus passed through all of that and ended up above it. He crossed that infinite gap that no creature can cross to sit at the right hand of Almighty God."
That's three times the author tells us that it's a very important concept. It comes, we're told, from Psalm 1:10, at an invitation from God, Almighty God. Psalm 1:10, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit in my right hand until I make your enemies a foot stool for your feet.'" That's the invitation that God gave to His son, "Sit at my right hand." That's the truth of the ascension in its four stages.
III. The Spiritual Significance of Christ’s Ascension to Heaven
Let's talk about the spiritual significance of Christ's ascension to heaven. What is the point? I think the point of all of this spatial language, this up language, God isn't up, down, left, right. God is a spirit. But He uses that up language to give us a sense of our smallest in His exaltation. We are low, He is high, high above us. His exaltation, His glorious exaltation, He's high above everything. That's the language that Paul uses beautifully in Philippians 2:9 through 11, "Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that in the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." That's the name Lord God, that's the name that's above everything. And that's the highest place that the Father exalted Jesus to. God wanted all His people to see Jesus's glory for all time and bow the knee to him. That's why.
And what of the manner of this ascension. This four-stage ascension, I believe, was accompanied with much angelic celebration, don't you think? Don't you think the angels celebrated, sang their own songs? We have so many hallelujahs and triumphs in the book of Revelation. They're constantly celebrating. Events on earth, even minor events of judgment and different things, the angels in the book of Revelation are celebrating. How much more this when Christ ascended? And so, we have Psalm 47:5-8, “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises. Sing praises to our king, sing praises. For God is the king of all the earth. Sing to Him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations. God is seated on His holy throne." Now, that's triumph, and the angels are good at that. Psalm 68 captures it, which Paul quotes in Ephesians 4, "The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands. The Lord has come from Sinai into His sanctuary. When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train. You receive gifts from men, even from the rebellious that you, oh, Lord God might dwell there."
Imagine the victory train. He's ascending, leading captives in His train, like a general, a conquering general, riding through the streets of the capital city. They're all cheering wildly, and behind Him are trudging His enemies in chains. He's defeated our foes. He's defeated Satan and demons. As Colossians 2:15 says, "Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them triumphing over them by the cross." There's this victory train going through the heavenly realms with all the angels celebrating Christ's triumph.
This is also, I believe, the spiritual fulfillment of the high priest's physical climb. Much of the symbol of the temple and all of its activities were symbolic of Christ. The temple itself was located in the city of David, Jerusalem, Mount Zion. It was up high. Jerusalem is 2,575 feet above sea level. Most of the Jews, three times a year, when they would assemble, but especially the time of the Day of Atonement, they would come from all the localities and towns and villages, and they would assemble, and they would ascend. Three times a year, the Jewish men were commanded to come. But in this case, the place that God had chosen, the one place for them to assemble was very high up. They're going up and they're ascending. As they go up, they would sing Psalms. They're called the Psalms of Ascent. You can look in your Bible, Psalm 120 to Psalm 134. What does that mean, “psalms of ascent”? It's the Jews going up higher and higher to Mount Zion. They're ascending. They're going up, and they're singing praise songs. Then, when they get there, the Temple Mount itself is up high, high in the city. The glorious temple of Jesus, one of the most spectacular structures of the ancient world, was designed to use elevation height to make a spiritual point. The court of the Gentiles was the lowest part of the temple complex, where Gentile, anybody, could go. Fifteen steps separated from the court of women, so-called, where all Jewish people could go, men and women. But no Gentiles could go there. 15 steps up to get to that. Then, another 15 steps led to the next level where Jewish men could go. And then, another three steps led up to the holy place where only the priests could go, and where they would offer those normal sacrifices day after day.
The highest of all was the Holy of Holies, the Most Holy Place. Another 15 steps led up to that, where only the high priests could go once a year, the Day of Atonement, where they would offer the blood for the sins of the people. From the lowest place of the temple complex, the Court of the Gentiles, to the highest place in the temple complex, the Holy of Holies, was a journey of almost 50 feet. Four floors, going higher and higher and higher and higher, that's quite a journey. That ascent, that physical ascent made once a year by the high priest, pictures this ascent that Jesus makes, moving higher and higher and presenting His blood. Hebrews 9:11, 12, "When Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not manmade, that is to say not a part of this creation. He did not enter by the means of blood, of goats and calves, but He entered the most holy place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.”
IV. The Offices Christ Occupies in Heaven: Prophet, Priest, and King
When He ascended, what does He go to do? Here I want to zero our minds on the three offices of the Old Testament, prophet, priest, and king. All three of them find their consummation at the end of His ascension. They're fulfilled, perfected, at the end of His ascension journey. Prophet, priest, and king, I'm going to reverse the order. I'm going to start with priest, as we've already seen. Jesus moved through the spiritual realms into a heavenly temple where He does His work for us as our high priest.
The work of a priest mostly focuses on dealing with our sins. We are a sinful people. We're sinful people, and we need a priest. We need a sacrifice. We need atoning sacrifice. Jesus is our great high priest. Hebrew 7:26 says, "Such a high priest meets our need. One who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." What is the priestly work Jesus does after His ascension? There are three. First, He made a perfect final offering for our sin, once for all, completely effective in taking away the guilt of our sins. “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered himself. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves. But He entered the most holy place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption."
He also made an opening, a living way for you and I to come into the presence of God. Priests are, in the Latin word, “pontifex”, a bridge-builder, a mediator between God and man. He has made a way, as our mediator, for us to come into the presence of God. That's what a priest does. Hebrews 10 says, "Therefore, brothers, we have confidence into the most holy place by the blood of Jesus." In the Old Testament, there was a curtain separating the holy place from the most holy place. No one but the high priest could go into that most holy place on pain of death. We were not welcome. The old covenant central message is, “this far, you may come and no further.” You can't go up on Mount Sinai, or you'll die. Moses at the burning bush, the first words he heard from the burning bush was, "Do not come any closer." It's the first thing you ever heard from God at that burning bush, "Do not come any closer." But with Jesus, we have exactly the opposite. He has opened a way for us to come into the presence of God. “Since we have confidence to enter the most holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way open for us through the curtain, that is His body. And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith, having our heart sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” [Hebrews 10: 21-22]
And then, thirdly, as our priest, He makes intercession for us. Hebrew 7:24-25, "Because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them." Our salvation's not done yet. We're not saved to the uttermost or saved completely yet. We are in the process of working out our salvation with fear and trembling. Jesus is at the right hand of God, praying for you and for me. How is He praying? Just like with Simon Peter, as you heard earlier, "Simon, Simon Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat. But I've prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail." And it won't. If you're a true child of God today, your faith is never going to fail. Because you're so great? No, but because Jesus is at the right hand of God, praying to God for you that your faith won't fail. And it won't. So, that's the priestly ministry Jesus is doing on your behalf.
Secondly, prophet. Jesus consummates or perfects His ministry as the prophet by His ascension to heaven. A prophet was called upon to proclaim the word of God to the people of God, "Thus says the Lord." Jesus is the perfection and the completion of all prophecy. Hebrews 1:1 and 2, "In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. But in these last days, He has spoken to us through His son." Jesus is the perfection of the prophetic office. However, when His time on earth was done, He still had more to say to His people. He had many more things to tell them. The ongoing prophetic work done by the outpoured Holy Spirit on the church through the apostles, the entire New Testament hadn't been written yet when the ascension happened. It came as a direct result of His ascension as a pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the church. That's how we have the 27 books of the New Testament and all the theology we have of the cross.
Jesus said in a great understatement, "I have much to say to you more than you can now bear. I have more things to say. As a prophet I have more things to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own. He will speak only what He hears. And He will tell you what is yet to come. Listen, He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. He's going to finish my prophetic ministry to the church. The Holy Spirit will."
So, Jesus directly tied the outpouring of the spirit of God to His ascension. John 16:7, "I tell you the truth. It is for your benefit that I'm going away. Unless I go away, the counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you." Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit. "Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you'll be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Jesus ascended to heaven to receive the gift of the Spirit, and when He received it, He poured it out on the church, poured it out on His apostles. He's been pouring it out ever since.
In the great Pentecost sermon, Peter preached these words, Acts 2, "God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 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 in here." The Ascension completes Jesus' prophetic office through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit, we, the church, are now enabled to do the work. As I said, the Spirit continues to be outpoured on the church, as Ephesians 4 says, "But to each one of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it."
That is why it says, "When He ascended on high, He led captive in His train and gave gifts to men.” What does “He ascended mean”, except that He also descended to the lower earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended, higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. “It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure, the fullness of Christ." The outpouring of the Spirit, the spiritual gifts, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and then the people doing the works of service, all of that, the completion of Jesus's prophetic ministry. It happens with the Ascension.
Central to that is our task of taking the gospel to the people we know. "You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be witnesses, my witnesses, to the end of the earth and to the end of time." We have a prophetic role to play in our time. We have to tell the people around us who are perishing, the truth. That's a prophetic role. We do that by the power of the spirit of Christ.
Then, finally, king. Jesus ascends to heaven to complete His work as priest and prophet and, especially, to reign as king. He was invited by God to do this. "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet,'" Psalm 110:2, the next verse, "The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion. You'll rule in the midst of your enemies." It's as a king that He sits down on the throne. Psalm 2, "God decrees that His only begotten the son will be king." The psalmist asks, "Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot a vain against Christ, the anointed one? God laughs at their feeble plots, and then He rebukes them in His rage, saying, 'I have installed my king on Zion, my holy hill.' I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to me, 'You are my son. Today, I've become your father. Ask of me, and I'll make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You'll rule them with an iron scepter. You'll dash them to pieces like pottery.'" He is reigning at the right hand of God.
Ephesians 1, "God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present Israel and the one to come. And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way." In His ascension, God raised Jesus infinitely above all rulers, authorities, powers, demonic powers, angelic powers, human powers. He's infinitely above them, reigning.
Christ's ascension then established, He says, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me." As a king, He protects His people, He provides for them, He rules over them, and He builds up their nation. That's what kings do, and that's what Jesus is doing at the right hand of God.
V. Our Faith-filled Response to Christ’s Ascension to Heaven
What is our faith-filled response to this? First of all, just the best thing you can do today is repent and trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. The exaltation of Jesus is so that we will believe in Him, that we will trust in Him, and our sins be forgiven. Could there be a greater tragedy than one of you listening to this message and walking out of this place lost, walking out of this place with your sins not forgiven? Why would that be? Simple faith, trusting in Him, the exalted Christ, that His bloodshed on the cross is sufficient for you and is the only answer for you. Trust in him.
Then, for all of us who long ago trusted in Jesus, join in the worldwide celebration today of the ascension, the resurrection, ascension of Christ. Stand in awe of it. Picture yourself. If you've been there, what would you think? You think no one is like this. Surely, this is the son of God, with infinite power, even over gravity. Delight in His office is perfected in heaven. Delight in the fact that He's at the right hand of God praying for you, that your faith won't fail, and it won't. That He has, once and for all, presented His blood for forgiveness of your sins, and they are forgiven. And that He has filtering your temptations and will not let your temptations go beyond what you can bear.
For Him as a prophet, drink in the word of God. You probably never thought about the ascension this much and probably never will again, I don't know that. But it's deep and rich and powerful. Meditate, drink in the truth of God's Word through Jesus, the prophet, who speaks to us.
Then, finally, as king, realize you are completely protected. He fights for you. He will not let anyone touch you. He will not let anyone tempt you beyond what you can bear. He will feed you from His table. He will invite you into His heavenly glory. He is your king. Worship him.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for this time of celebration that we've had today. We thank you for the beauty of the truths in the Bible. We pray that, as we go throughout this day, as we celebrate with family, and then throughout the week, that you would enable us to speak the beauty and the truth of the gospel to those who need to hear it so much. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.