A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, once wrote, “Christ ascended to the right hand of God that He might lift us up into an ascension life.” The New Testament Writers believed the ascension of Christ was extremely important and wrote and preached of it often. It is fascinating that the Old Testament verse quoted or alluded to in the New Testament more than any other is a verse directly related to it. “TheLord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’” (Psa 110:1). This verse is referred to in the New Testament a total of twenty-three times.
We read the account of Christ’s ascension in Acts 1:6-11. We are told: “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). However, the implications of Christ’s ascension are much broader than this account. First and Foremost, the New Testament writers wanted us to understand that Christ had not only been raised from the dead (quite remarkable in and of itself), but He has also been exalted to God’s right hand and enthroned as King. Here is the point as Stephen Seamands explains it: “For Jesus is not only risen but reigning, not only alive but sovereign, not only central but supreme.” Therefore, when we fail to exalt Christ as reigning King, something or someone else inevitably assumes the throne.
Not only has Christ been exalted, but also Christ followers have been raised to new life in Him. We read over and over again in the New Testament that those who have professed faith in Christ and confessed Jesus as Lord, are joined to Christ. The Apostle Paul repeatedly declared, now they are “in Christ.” Meaning that the major movements in Christ’s life are now movements we are now caught up in too. This truth leads us to the second reason why the New Testament writers kept coming back to Psalm 110:1. They understood that not only was Jesus raised as exalted King but since believers are now joined to Him, they too were destined and invited to sit with Him on the throne. In the revelation given to John we read: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev 3:21). The tragic reality is that many Christians do not realize this, never learning to live in Christ from the seated-on-the-throne position that has been granted them in Christ. Now there is no doubt that believers can be “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” But, the simple truth is, if we are going to be any earthly good we must be heavenly minded.
Again look at Luke’s words: “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). We are to understand the cloud as reminiscent of the cloud that descended upon the tabernacle constructed by Moses and the people in the wilderness (Ex 40:34) and the temple built by Solomon (1 Kings 8:10-11). With the cloud came the glory or manifest presence of God. To enter it was to be in the immediate presence of the Lord. Christ ascending into heaven means that Christ was brought back to the place of the fullness of God’s presence. When He became incarnate, the eternal Son voluntarily laid that aside (Phil 2:5-11) and limited Himself to and awareness and experience of God’s presence through human faculties and consciousness. The ascension means that the period of self-limitation had come to an end.
The fact that Christ ascended into heaven also means that Jesus is no longer limited by time and space, as He was during His earthly life when He could only be in one place at one time. N.T. Wright points out, in biblical cosmology, heaven and earth are not two locations within the same spatial continuum; rather they are dimensions of God’s creation. And since heaven relates to earth tangentially, the One who is in heaven can be present everywhere at once on earth. One of the practical realities of this is that Jesus is fully accessible, without needing to travel to a particular spot on earth to find Him. Jesus is always with us in actual presence. As Stephen Seamonds explains: “because we are with Him in heaven and He is with us on earth, that means we can live every moment of our lives in the holy of holies presence of God. This reality led St. Patrick to pray: “Christ be with me, within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” Because Christ is in heaven and no longer on earth, He can bring redemption to all places at all times. Since Jesus is “the one who ascended,” He can “fill the entire universe with Himself.” This truth led Paul to proclaim: “He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph 4:10)
Not only has Christ been exalted and His followers raised to new life in Him, but also believers have been gifted with the Holy Spirit. The ascended Christ baptizes with the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:33). Through the Spirit, both in our personal lives and as communities of faith, we are given power to be witnesses (Acts 1:8), to carry out Christ’s mission (Jn 20:21-22), to live victoriously over sin (Rom 8:9; Gal 5:16-25), to overcome weakness (Rom 8:26), to forgive our enemies (Acts 7:55-60), to now we are God’s beloved (Rom 1:7; 8:15-16) to be bold ad courageous (Acts 4:8-13, 29-31), to use our spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-11), to exercise spiritual authority in Christ (Acts 16:18), to persevere in prayer (Eph 6:18), to patiently endure trials and suffering.
All of this is why A. B. Simpson proclaimed: “Christ ascended to the right hand of God that He might lift us into an ascension life. Let’s encourage one another to rightly acknowledge and live in this precious reality. It is a joy to do life with each of you and be united together with Christ in such a significant way.