WAKE UP, AMERICA! It’s Time to Give More Attention to the Ascension

[Editor’s Note: Today is Ascension Day, but do most Christians care? In this blog post, David Bryant reveals why we can’t ignore what he says may be “the most neglected doctrine of all.”]

In my previous blog I noted how this National Day of Prayer (NDP) happens to intersect with the worldwide celebration of the Day of the Ascension.

Observing that the 2016 NDP theme was “Wake Up, America!” I asked: What are we to wake up to?

My answer was this: If Christians in America would wake up to the profound implications of Jesus’ ascension to the Father’s right hand, this would unleash a spiritual awakening—a Christ Awakening—unlike anything we’ve ever known.

Possibly the Most Neglected Doctrine of All

So, here’s a follow-up quiz: Of the full panoply of doctrines that form the foundation of the Church, which one may be the most neglected doctrine of all?  Which one hardly ever gets mentioned, let alone explored?

I suggest to you it is the Ascension.

The fact is that tragically in most of our country’s 400,000 congregations the Ascension is hardly ever recalled.

We make much of Jesus’ incarnation (Christmas), his crucifixion (Good Friday), and his resurrection (Easter).  But does that go far enough?

In reality, apart from the Ascension everything else our Lord has done for us would be rendered null and void. Let me explain.

Think about this: If the Father had not invited Jesus to sit down on heaven’s throne, where would we be?  What if the Father had not been able to say to his Son (in essence), “My dearly beloved Son, I am totally satisfied with all you have accomplished; it is sufficient for the salvation of the nations. So come now, sit at my right hand and reign over the universe, as your everlasting inheritance”? Would we have any hope at all?

Remember how the disciples celebrated as they watched Jesus rise and vanish into the clouds (Acts 1)? R. C. Sproul observes: “How then can we account for their great joy? They had come to realize the meaning of Jesus’ teaching, that it was to their advantage that he depart. Once they grasped the where and the why of the ascension they were able to rejoice in the when of his departure.”

On that day of unbridled praise, God’s dear Son—incarnated, crucified, and resurrected—was enthroned in the universe with all authority in heaven and on earth, forever.

The Scripture That Dominated the Early Church

Psalm 110 is the most frequently quoted or referenced Old Testament passage by New Testament writers. Why is that?  I suggest it is precisely because it focuses on the Ascension, beginning with: “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand . . . rule in the midst of your enemies.’”  The Ascension must have dominated the life of the early Church quite a bit.

Take a look at Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. The primary theme of his sermon is the Ascension.  He made a beeline for that truth, climaxing his proclamation like this:

God has raised this Jesus to life and we’re all witnesses of it.
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.

Then Peter presses on to conclude his sermon with these words (and here comes Psalm 110):

The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies a foot stool for your feet.’
Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this:
God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified,
both Lord and Messiah.

This is the emphasis that spawned the first Christian congregation.  It was to this message that 3,000 responded and were baptized in one day. And it’s primarily about Christ ascended—sitting down with all power on high.

What Does “Sitting Down” Imply?

When the Bible recounts that Jesus “sat down” at God’s right hand, the phrase might be interpreted by some as fairly passive, like saying: “When he finally finished his redemptive work, he took a load off and relaxed.”  But actually “sat down” means the very opposite.

Think about a courtroom. Right before the trial begins everybody in the visitor’s section is seated. The jurors are in the jury box. The lawyers for the defense and the prosecution are poised at their tables. Stationed in their proper places, everyone is ready to begin—except nothing happens. That is, nothing happens until the judge walks in and sits down at his bench, perched above the courtroom. The moment the judge is seated is when things start to really go into action.

The same could be said of our Lord Jesus Christ described as “sitting down” on heaven’s throne. At that moment the kingdom of God swung into a level of hyperactivity that will continue unabated until the consummation of the ages.

That is because the Ascension was the official inauguration and installation of the King of the Universe. It was the ratification of all aspects of his redemptive work. It was the proof of his incomparable dignity and total supremacy. It was the sign that he will never have any competitors or any successors.

From that moment forward Jesus became the locus of the fullness of God’s majesty, sovereignty, and saving grace. From that moment forward Jesus also became the focus of the fulfillment of God’s purposes in the Church and among the nations.

Today Jesus is not waiting to be crowned as king. He’s only waiting to be recognized as king.

Martin Luther described it this way: “When Jesus Christ utters a word he opens his mouth so wide that he embraces all heaven and earth even though that word be but a whisper. A word of the emperor is powerful, but that of Jesus Christ governs the whole universe” [emphasis added].

Pope John Paul II put it like this in his helpful book Jesus Christ, Son and Savior: “By his ascension, kingship has been conferred on Jesus over the whole economy of salvation. Therefore Christ is Lord of the entire universe. As Redeemer of the world the ascended Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of the human race, and the answer of the yearnings to every heart” [emphasis added].

Let’s Join the Celebration of the Coronation!

When Jesus came into Jerusalem on the day the Church celebrates as Palm Sunday, prior to his crucifixion and resurrection, remember how the people crowded around him applauding him and welcoming him?

If we combine the cheers they joyfully shouted (compiled from different gospel accounts) we hear: “Hosanna!” which literally means “Lord, save us right now!” Or we might paraphrase it: “Come and save us. We’re ready. We’re willing. Let it happen.” Also they proclaimed: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” as well as “Blessed is the King of Israel!” and “Don’t be afraid; your king is coming!”

It gives me chills to think that there was a day, like today is a day, when similar acclamations arose in heaven from myriads of saints and angels at the very moment Jesus was inaugurated as Supreme King and sat down at the right hand of the Father.

Can you hear their chorus?  Wouldn’t you like to join them?

All blessings rest upon our King! You have saved us now and forever.
Blessed are you, Jesus Christ, because you have done all that was needed
to fulfill for all creation the designs of God for the glory of God.
No longer do we need to be afraid because you have taken your throne
and so your kingdom is moving victoriously into all the earth.

“WAKE UP, AMERICA!”  Wake up to what?  Wake up to the Redeemer exalted and crowned, who is to have the supremacy in everything (Colossians 1) and who, therefore, is your only hope.

In the midst of 2016’s furious scramble for the presidency of our country, we need this Savior! We need this vision of him as our Redeemer King like never before!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Bryant

Known as a proclaimer of Christ and Messenger of Hope, David Bryant is the founder and president of Proclaim Hope!, a ministry whose goal is to serve a nationwide Christ Awakening. David is the author of five books, including Christ Is ALL! Join in the Joyful Awakening to the Supremacy of God’s Son.

9 Comments
  1. […] Thursday I’ll blog on the Ascension—this cosmic, one-time event, which in many ways is the capstone of everything else we believe […]

  2. Historically, the Feast of the Annunciation is the Feast of the Incarnation, NOT the Feast of the Nativity (Christmas). In light of the current debate on life issues, this is significant!!

  3. david bryant 3 years ago

    John…How nice to hear from you. So much has happened with TCI since the one you hosted in Nova Scotia. Take a look at the brand new videos here at ChristNow.com. I just met with a group of pastors in NYC yesterday who are going through the videos together right now.

    As to your point, yes I am fully in agreement with your corrective. My main effort was to share with my readers in as uncomplicated a way as possible my main point — which is that for most of the evangelical world when it comes to our various “celebrations” (for most “Christmas” = “incarnation” even though it really is about “nativity”, I just let that slide for simplicity sake) the one we consistently neglect is the Ascension. I can’t tell you how many people in the past 48 hours where I’ve been traveling and sharing about Thursday have remarked about how they never think about the Ascension or hear about it. So my blog was to get to THAT point as quickly as possible.

    Some day I ought to do a blog on the major “holy days” of the Christian calendar that focus on Christ and what each on tells us about the glory of who he is. Hey….maybe YOU could write that for us as an Anglican priest! Seriously. Think about it. The door is open anytime. Every blessing to you, John, in Christ Jesus. David

  4. Dennis Crane 3 years ago

    I am so grateful for you David and your persuit of all that Christ is to us and for us!
    May He continue to bless you and all who hear so that He will have His rightful place in our hearts and lives.
    So that His kingdom will be manifest and draw many to trust Him as their Lord and King over all.
    The Lord bless you and keep you, Dennis

  5. […] Note: In a previous blog, we shared how Ascension Day is neglected by many Christians. In order to shed some light on this holiday, we’re providing ten questions and answers by […]

  6. Salvatore A. Luiso 3 years ago

    Hi David,

    I’m glad that you are doing so much to inform Christians of the importance of the Ascension of our Lord, King Jesus.

    I think that there is another significance to the fact that the Lord is *seated* at the right hand of the Father. From biblical times up to today, *sitting* is associated with masters and rulers, and *standing* is associated with servants and slaves. One can see this in the Gospels in Luke 12:35-38 and 17:7-10. So if the Lord Jesus, after serving in obedience to His Father while He was on earth, was continuing to serve the Father after His ascension to heaven, He might well be *standing* at the right hand of the Father, but not *sitting* there. (Compare I Kings 2:19 and Psalms 45:9 and 110:1. Interestingly, when Stephen was stoned, he saw the Lord *standing* at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56). I have heard one preacher say that the Lord arose from His throne then out of concern for Stephen.)

    Also: It is not clear to me from this article whether you believe that the Lord Jesus was King not only before His *ascension*, but also before and after His *incarnation*–indeed, from before the Creation. I think you do believe this–no?

  7. david bryant 3 years ago

    Salvatore….Maybe Jesus stood for Stephen as a sign that he was giving “honor to whom honor is due” since Stephen was laying down his life for Christ. Or maybe Jesus was standing in a position of “readiness” to descend and strike his enemies (as we read he will do one day in 2 Thessalonians 1).

    Of course Jesus has always been “king” in one sense — I see him pictured in Ps 24 for example. But not king as “Son of David” and not King as “the second Adam” and not king who is now bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; and not Redeemer King — which can only be said of him once he has conquered sin, death, Satan in our place and for our sakes. etc.

    Thanks for writing. David

    • Salvatore A. Luiso 3 years ago

      Hi David,

      Thank you for your response.

      Before the Incarnation, I was thinking of such passages of the Scriptures as these, which speak of God as king, or one who reigns–without distinguishing among the persons of the Trinity:

      Psalm 9:7
      Psalm 10:16
      Psalm 11:4
      Psalm 29:10
      Psalm 45:6
      Psalm 93:1
      Psalm 99:1
      Psalm 103:19
      Psalm 145:13
      Isaiah 6:1
      Jeremiah 10:10
      Lamentations 5:19

      Between the Incarnation and the Ascension, I was thinking of such passages of the Scriptures as these:

      The visit of the Magi to worship the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-11)
      The Triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which fulfilled Zechariah 9:9
      Luke 23:3 and John 18:33-37, where Pilate asks the Lord if he is the King of the Jews
      John 1:49, where Nathaniel says “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel”

      • Rev. Bob Driver 3 years ago

        From Rev. Bob Driver
        Many thanks David for reawakening our consciousness of the lord’s Ascension. Much scholarly work has been done in recent years, especially by McGill’s Dr. Douglas Farrow. I wondered if you would like to know a little of the Old Testament background to the Ascension? If you look up 2 Samuel 15, we find King David and his entourage fleeing Jerusalem from the usurper Absalom, the King’s own son. They cross the Kidron valley, (cf John 18:1) and ascend the Mount of Olives (verses 23 and 30. In verse 25, the King orders Zadok the priest to take the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark that the Israelites take into battle, back into Jerusalem. While King David leaves the outcome of this to God, verses 25-26, I am sure it is the King’s hope that the presence of the Ark will act as a kind of guarantee that the Rightful King will one day reign again on his throne. Fast forward to the account of our Lord’s Ascension in Acts 1. we find Jesus commanding His disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem…..” (verse 4). So we next, verse 12, find the disciples returning to Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives. They, the disciples, the Church, have become the guarantee of the return of the Rightful King to Jerusalem, the city which has been usurped by the religious authorities who had condemned our Lord to death – He comes of course in the form of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. What is of particular interest to those of us in the Catholic tradition, is the presence of Mary, our Blessed Lady in the upper room in prayer with the disciples. Mary is personified in our tradition as the Ark of the New Covenant because she carried (as the Old Testament Ark was carried), in her womb, our Lord. She is also personified as the Church because we are the womb of Christ – we nurture the Christ who is with us and in us and bring Him to birth in the world around us.

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