Why is the ascension of Jesus Christ important?
While there has been much emphasis on the death and resurrection of Jesus, far less attention has been given to His ascension, or His return to the Father in heaven. What is the significance of this event?
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Acts 1:9-11 tells us what happened to Jesus after 40 days of appearances following His resurrection:
"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. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'"
The other direct reference to Christ's ascension is made in Luke 24:50-53:
"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God."
From these passages, several observations can be made. First, the ascension clearly marked the end of Christ's earthly ministry. What began in a manger in Bethlehem ended with His return to heaven.
Second, the ascension marked the success of His earthly mission. Jesus completed all the Father had designed for Him to accomplish. His birth, miracles, teaching, death, resurrection, and appearances had proven His divine nature and had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah's first advent.
Third, the ascension marked the time when Jesus once again enjoyed His heavenly glory. During His time on earth, with the exception of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9), Christ limited any expressions of the heavenly glory that He enjoyed prior to His earthly birth. His ascension began a new period during which Jesus would once again reign without limiting Himself to His earthly role.
Fourth, the ascension marks the beginning of the time when Jesus is preparing a place for His followers. John 14:2-3 teaches, "In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also."
Fifth, it indicated the beginning of His new work as High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16) and Mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15).
Finally, the ascension established the pattern for Christ's return. As the angels in Acts 1 told the disciples, Jesus will return just as He left (see also Daniel 7:13-14).
Jesus Christ currently reigns in heaven. His ascension marks the beginning of the time in which the Church actively communicates the message of Jesus to bring many to faith who will live with Christ for eternity in the place He has prepared for us.
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