Today is Ascension Thursday for both the Eastern and Western Christian Church (Protestants and Roman Catholics make up the Western Church). As Christians who love and submit to Jesus Christ as Lord, we should not only celebrate and remember his birth (Christmas), death (good Friday), and Resurrection (Easter Sunday), but we should remember his ascension and the pouring out of the Spirit. I did not get to celebrate this day with my family like I planned on doing as a family-Christian tradition, but at least we’ll read the passage below and the Heidelberg Catechism questions to remember this important moment in history and worship God for it today.
In Acts 1:9-11, we have the record of what Jesus did on the fortieth day after he rose from the dead:
9 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. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 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 Heidelberg Catechism says this regarding the ascension of Jesus:
Q. 46. How dost thou understand these words, “he ascended into heaven”?
Answer: That Christ, in sight of his disciples, was taken up from earth into heaven; (a) and that he continues there for our interest, (b) until he comes again to judge the quick and the dead. (c)
(a) Acts 1:9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. Matt.26:64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Mark 16:19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. Luke 24:51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. (b) Heb.7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Heb.4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Heb.9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Rom.8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Eph.4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) Col.3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (c) Acts 1:11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Matt.24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
Question 49. Of what advantage to us is Christ’s ascension into heaven?
Answer: First, that he is our advocate in the presence of his Father in heaven; (a) 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; (b) thirdly, that he sends us his Spirit as an earnest, (c) by whose power we “seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God, and not things on earth.” (d)
(a) 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: Rom.8:34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (b) John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. Eph.2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (c) John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. Acts 2:1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. Acts 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. Acts 2:3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. 2 Cor.1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. 2 Cor.5:5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. (d) Col.3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Philip.3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Question 50. Why is it added, “and sitteth at the right hand of God”?
Answer: Because Christ is ascended into heaven for this end, that he might appear as head of his church, (a) by whom the Father governs all things. (b)
(a) Eph.1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Eph.1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: Eph.1:23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. Col.1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (b) Matt.28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. John 5:22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: