It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I gave any real thought to the doctrine of Christ’s bodily ascension–the fact that after his resurrection Jesus took up a place of honor and power at the right hand of the Father in heaven. It’s not something that gets a lot of attention in contemporary preaching or in publishing, but it’s all over the NT (Luke 24; Acts 1:10-11; John 16:7; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:21-22; Col. 3:1-4; Heb. 9:24; 1 Pet 3:22, etc.). What’s more, it’s a central doctrine of the Christian faith–so much so that it gets a line in the creed: “He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”
This absence is a shame because, in fact, it’s something that we’re told to consider often.
Paul instructs the believers in Colossae to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). The command is not a one-time thing because the word “set” or “seek” is in the present, active imperative indicating continuous action–basically he’s saying we should be doing this all the time. Paul wants us constantly considering the reality of Christ’s life at the right hand of the Father. Why? Because through our union with Christ, what is true of him has become true of us. If Christ is risen and ascended, then we are risen and ascended with him. (Eph. 2:4-7) If we don’t understand this, we’ll miss out on some of the deep assurance that comes from the truth of the Gospel.
While there is far too much to say about Christ’s ascension and current rulership of the universe, the Heidelberg Catechism helpfully gives us 3 benefits of Christ’s ascension to consider:
First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; (1 John 2:1; Rom.8:34.)
Secondly, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that he, as the head, will also take up to himself, us, his members; (John 14:2; John 17:24; John 20:17; Eph.2:6)
Thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, (John 14:16,7; Acts 2:1-4,33; 2 Cor.1:22; 2 Cor.5:5.) by whose power we “seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth.” (Col.3:1; Phil.3:14)
Christ is now in heaven as our advocate, interceding for us, lifting up prayers, presenting himself as evidence, as it were, of his accomplished work on our behalf. There’s no need to doubt that our salvation is securely accomplished with Christ, seated after passing through heavens (Heb 4:14; 8:1). Also, since he is there and we are connected to him, we can be assured that one day we too will be seated with him, experiencing the fullness of God’s presence, ruling and reigning as God always intended us to be. He’s there “preparing a place” with the Father for us (John 14:3). Finally, Christ has not left us alone, but has given us his Spirit as an “earnest”, a down-payment of the glory to come. And not only that, but as the catechism points out, he himself is the one who helps us to keep our eyes set on the reality of Christ’s ascended life.
Take some time this week to look up those verses; consider Christ, who is your life, risen and ascended (Col. 3:1-4). When you start to do that, all the petty things, the little things, the “earthly things” that Paul talks about, will start to take on their proper dimensions as your security in him is strengthened and your love for him grows.
Praise the living and Ascended one, our life and our assurance.
Soli Deo Gloria