Celebrate the Ascension in 2022!
Embrace Christ’s Rightful Claim and Enjoy It!
What do you think might be the most neglected truth today in the entire panoply of evangelical doctrines?
My discovery after decades of travel across the globe, into almost every stream of the Church, leaves just one answer: the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.
More specifically, the coronation of his ascension.
Consider this: Christmas celebrates Jesus’ incarnation. Good Friday remembers his crucifixion. Easter trumpets his resurrection. But how many congregations ever set aside even one Sunday a year to proclaim the coronation of God’s Son—to celebrate the actual day Jesus was welcomed to sit on God’s throne?
Yes, some traditions set aside the last Sunday before Advent begins in November in the Western church calendar as the Feast of Christ the King Sunday (Wikipedia has a great article about it.) But even then, not many who participate grasp the profound ramifications of what was accomplished when our Savior assumed his cosmic royal title as the one who “in everything is to have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18). And few of us incorporate this truth into every facet of our daily walk with Jesus.
What if there had been no ascension?
Just think of this: If Jesus had not ascended—if there had not been a day, like today is a day, when the Father invited his Son to sit at his right hand—what would be left for us?
In other words, what if there had not been a moment when, in so many words, the Father was free to announce to his Son, before all heaven, an affirmation something like this?
Is it not evident that despite all Jesus did for us in all those other ways, we still would be utterly lost if there had been no ascension coronation?
In other words, if the Father had not been fully satisfied with all that his Son did for us, would not all of his sacrificial work have been rendered null and void? Would we not be forever undone, without help and without hope, if Jesus had not entered heaven on our behalf, celebrated with hymns of victory?
Furthermore, if Christ had not ascended for us, where else could we go to find the Father’s welcoming arms? There would be no High Priest to represent us and intercede for us at the throne. We would be stripped of our open access into God’s presence.
There would be no one preparing a home for our eternal dwelling. Our lives, as well as the whole universe, would be without the Mediator necessary to reconcile and reconstitute all things with the will of God (Colossians 1:18-20; Ephesians 1:9-10).
Also, this means Pentecost would have been permanently postponed, leaving believers today devoid of the Spirit’s indwelling power. In addition, the hundreds of God’s promises meant to become Jesus’ inheritance and then shared by him with all who belong to him would be locked up and shelved.
That means the joy of Jesus’ indwelling life and power meant for all the saints would elude us because the Master himself would be stuck in the past, as it were, where he was last seen 2000 years ago, visiting with his disciples after exiting the tomb—but since then left at the fringes of history and even our own life journey.
But Jesus has ascended!
Not passively but actively—
“He went up” (Acts 1).
Exactly forty days after he rolled back the stone, he sat down on the throne—making it the most dominant piece of furniture in the universe. He has been exalted above every name in this age and the age to come (Ephesians 1:20-23).
Therefore, we are saved! Right now, we share daily in the risen, ascended life of the Ascended One! In fact, Scripture declares that in God’s eyes, we are already “seated with Christ in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2). That’s how wrapped up every Christian is in the coronation of Jesus’ ascension and all that flows from it.
Bishop N. T. Wright gives the wonder of the Ascension rich, historical perspective by contrasting it with first-century myths about Roman emperors. He writes in his book Simply Jesus:
Anyone familiar with the world of the early Roman Empire would realize what was happening. After the death of Julius Caesar, people swore they had seen his soul ascending to heaven. Augustus, Caesar’s adopted son, promptly declared that Julius was, therefore, a god; which meant that he, Augustus, was now ‘son of god’ . . . When Augustus himself died, the process was repeated, as it was with many (though not all) of his successors. The parallel is sufficiently close to make any readers in the Roman world realize what is going on.
Jesus is radically upstaging Caesar. Actually, if we think of the [Ascension] as the opening frame of the book of Acts, we get the point, because the closing frame is Paul in Rome, under Caesar’s nose, announcing God as king and Jesus as Lord . . . the strange paradox [is] Paul in chains announcing that the Roman world has a new emperor. [It] sets the tone for all kingdom work in the present time (emphasis added).
We must not lose sight of the fact that the early disciples took on a mission to proclaim Christ not only as Redeemer but also as Conqueror, as the only legitimate sovereign of all, as the “Ruler of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1)—the one whom N. T. Wright names as the “Cosmic Caesar.”
Did you know that until the end of the first millennium, many congregations placed graphics portraying the Ascension in the dome of their church buildings? It was their way of reminding members, each time they gathered, that they convened in the presence of the reigning Christ.
Should that not be the experience of every congregation on planet earth today whenever we gather to worship, pray, study God’s Word, fellowship, or prepare ourselves for mission? We are always living in the presence of the Supreme Commander of the universe, who holds sway at all times in everything, in every place, in every church, in every life. Ephesians 4 tells that Christ ascended in order to fill the universe with himself!
In his next blog post, David will share with you the dramatic conclusion
of his reflections on the Ascension in
About the Author
Over the past 45 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular CHRIST TODAY podcast.