A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Theological Basics of Jesus' Ascension

As today is Ascension Sunday, I have decided to highlight briefly the basics of the doctrine as I outline them in my theology course I teach at Ashland Theological Seminary.

The ascension is the act by which Christ brought his post-resurrection appearances to an end. The ascension signaled Christ's departure from the disciples in a "physical" manner. He passed into the heavenly realm until his second advent.

The Heidelberg Catechism suggests three benefits that we receive from Christ's ascension:

1) The exalted Lord in heaven is our advocate in the presence of the Father (Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 7:25). Since Christ offered the perfect sacrifice for sin, he alone is qualified to be our advocate (Hebrews 10:12).

2) The ascension indicates the exaltation of humanity itself. The Heidelberg Catechism states that we have "a sure pledge that he as our Head, will also take us, his members, up to himself"

3) It is because Christ ascends that we can receive the promised Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit is the sign of our inheritance as children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus. It was only after Jesus ascended that the church received the Spirit (John 7:39; Acts 2).

Therefore, in the ascension it is demonstrated that the risen Lord lives in heavenly communion with the Father and that he takes an active part, through the Spirit, in the working of God in the world.

Traditionally, the ascension has meant: 1) that the exalted Christ is the priestly advocate who intercedes on our behalf; 2) Christ shares in the sovereignty of the Father; and 3) no earthly authority can exhaustively represent Christ since he is free, that is, he is not captive to the church or any earthly nation.

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