“…the 40 days following that glorious Easter morning are filled with joy unspeakable, countless alleluias, and hope that does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts as a result of the Resurrection of Christ. However His resurrection was a part of His over all mission to save the world. The next step following Resurrection is Ascension and glory!”
Listen to the podcast!
Listen to the hymn!
Read the podcast transcript!
Welcome to episode #13 of the Anno Domini Podcast. A podcast dedicated to the supremacy of Christ over all things including our days, weeks, and months.
Join me as we explore how Christ is revealed through the cyclical life of the church calendar year. We’ll discover how this calendar once structured culture and how it can again. We’ll also discuss practical ways to observe and celebrate these holy days in our quest to glorify God and live the good life in the midst of all good He has given us.
Happy Ascension Day to you! It has been over 6 weeks since the last episode of Anno Domini and in that time we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. During family worship I often will begin with the words “Christ is Risen, Alleluia!” to which my wife and children reply “He is risen indeed, Alleluia!” While Lent, the 40 days preceding Easter are marked with repentance, and a sort of bittersweet dread knowing that the cross awaits, the 40 days following that glorious Easter morning are filled with joy unspeakable, countless alleluias, and hope that does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts as a result of the Resurrection of Christ. However His resurrection was a part of His over all mission to save the world. The next step following Resurrection is Ascension and glory!
Historical / Practical
When we look through the list of commonly celebrated Church Calendar days, Ascension Day and the following Ascension Sunday are two days that are often altogether ignored by Christians. It’s very rare for a church to have an Ascension Day service and most churches won’t even give it any mention on the proceeding Sunday. The significance is often not understood as celebrating this day has fallen out of practice and because of this, one of the most important days of the Christian calendar is missed and often without a second thought. I hope to change that perspective in some small way today. So let me begin with this, just as Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness alone, fasting, and being tempted by the devil, so now having been raised to life and having been given a glorified body, He will spend His last 40 days on earth fellowshipping with His people, eating and drinking, and enjoying His victory over death. At the conclusion of these 40 days we are told in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles that Jesus was taken up in and received into a cloud of glory and the disciples were unable to see Him. He was received into the glory cloud and the two cherubim flanking the entrance into this glory cloud, came and promised the disciples that He would one day come again in this same way. For Jesus, after He ascended into glory, we are told throughout the New Testament that He was seated at the right hand of God to reign over everything until He has put the last enemy under His feet, death itself.
For most Christians, this is a fairly familiar story although hardly celebrated. While the coming of Christ into the world gets a LOT of attention, Here at the Anno Domini podcast, we did 8 episodes during Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany and yet here we’re only doing 1 episode for Christ’s victorious ascension and His enthronement over all creation. Why do we ignore what could be argued is the most important part of Christ’s life, His coronation as King? Good Friday and Easter Sunday play out for us the epic struggle of Good triumphing over evil but it is in Christ’s Ascension that the King is crowned.
I’m sure there are many reasons the primary one being that our culture no longer emphasizes the holiday but it also could be that the conclusion of a journey or story, no matter how victorious somehow can leave us with a feeling of emptiness. As if you want the story to keep going and it has ended before you’re ready. Christ’s Advent is full of potential and anticipation. Therefore the thinking might go, His ascension signals the end of greatest story ever told and how do you get excited to celebrate that? I’ll probably always enjoy the beginning of the Lord of the Rings to the end of the story for the rest of my life. At the beginning I’m eagerly anticipating everything that is to come. At the end, I realize the journey is over and there is a sense that we now are left behind and the story has gone on without use. Now I don’t imagine people consciously think these thoughts when they read or think about the Ascension and the reign of Christ but could be that we’ve disconnected the Ascension of Christ into the heavenly realms and our own covenantal Ascension with Christ that we’ve been promised in Scripture? Certainly the story has none of the bittersweet ending if we have risen with Christ in a covenantal sense. To put it another way, if we are raised with Christ, it changes everything. Let me share a couple of texts that I think support this idea.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Grace to you and peace from… Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Did you catch that? We have been raised up with Jesus in His Ascension and just as Christ is High Priest and King of Kings so we, who are called to be like Christ, have been made kings and priest to God the Father with Him. In other words, when Jesus ascended into heaven, He was taking us with Him in a covenantal sense.
What do I mean by a covenantal sense? Well, Christians believe that we are covenantally sinful as a result of the sin of Adam in the Garden. When Adam disobeyed God, all of humanity was cast into sin. We are born into sin and before we even have a chance to actually do something wrong we are already guilty. This covenantal responsibility was passed from our first father, Adam. However, the covenantal responsibility however can cut both ways. Just as we were covenantally guilty through the sin of the 1st Adam, we have been made covenantally innocent by the work of the 2nd Adam. There are many ways in which this works itself out in the Christian life but as far as the Ascension is concerned it means that just as Christ was raised up in glory to His status of High Priest and King, so we are raised up with Him.
Peter Liethart observes, that…“(The Ascension) connects the work of Jesus to the destiny of the human race…the Ascension is the climax which comes with Jesus, the last Adam, as the priest King fulfilling the mandate that Adam was given to rule the earth and to raise us up to thrones with Him so that we can rule the earth along with Him.” – Peter Liethart
Now if this is true, and I believe it is, there must be some practical ways in which this changes us. We don’t want to face the realities brought about by Christ and walk away from them unchanged.
The first thing to remember is that glory is always preceded with death. Christ was raised to glory on His day of Ascension. That is true but to get to this point in the journey He took up His cross and set the example for us to follow. He was tempted by Satan to be glorified before His death. He know the glory, the kingdom, and reign would ultimately come but that first He would have to give up everything to gain it. Therefore we can remember that to reign with Christ means to first die. This certainly is true for Christians in the literal sense but it is more immediately true in the metaphoric sense. Each day we must die to those desires that are antithetical to the Kingdom of Heaven. Die to desires that no King or Queen have any business in pursuing. As Paul tells us in Colossians 3:1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. To do this we must cultivate a hatred of worldliness and a love of Godliness. As the Kings and Priests of God, we must stop our love affair with the hollow and empty promises of the world.
Second we must actually believe that it matters. Christ is reigning right now Not someday. Not after the tribulation. Not later. Not tomorrow, Now. The Ascension of Christ and the many New Testament verses that speak of Him being seated and reigning at the right hand of God are not future things that will come. They are realities that are present now. This is especially helpful as Christians find themselves living in a world gone mad. Psalm 2 says that the Heathen nations rage and the people imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed,Now listen to what the Anointed one does when feeble man plots against Him…He laughs. “He that site in the heaves shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” I would encourage you to read the entirety of Psalm 2 but suffice it to say that in a world gone mad, a world when leaders try and take counsel together instead of submit to the Rule of the Christ, they will only find themselves mocked, terrified, and broken like a potter’s vessel. Christ is King right now. We are lifted up with Him and have been commissioned to bring the conquering good news to all the world are we’ve been promised that even the gates of Hell will fall before us. Now let’s go live like that was true.
I have a hymn for you today that is of epic proportions. I mean that literally as it actually has 10 verses and for hymn that is about as long as they get. This particular hymn was written in 1862 by Christopher Wordsworth and I believe that after you have listened to and hopefully learn to sing this song, you will be encouraged to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. That would would walk as Kings and Queens and as Priests to God.
Because this is such a long hymn I will read each stanza and comment VERY briefly on each verse.
See, the Conqueror mounts in triumph;
See the King in royal state,
Riding on the clouds, His chariot,
To His heavenly palace gate!
Hark! the choirs of angel voices
Joyful alleluias sing,
And the portals high are lifted
To receive their heavenly King.
Christ is the heavenly King being received into glory as His reward for faithfulness. He rides on chariots because He is a Warrior King returning victorious from battle.
Who is this that comes in glory,
With the trump of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies,
He hath gained the victory.
He Who on the cross did suffer,
He Who from the grave arose,
He has vanquished sin and Satan,
He by death hath spoiled His foes.
Christ’s victory came about by suffering and laying down His life as a ransom for many. He gained the victory through suffering and in doing so cast down sin and bound the strong Man, Satan. He has thus destroyed all of His foes. Again go and read Psalm 2.
While He lifts His hands in blessing,
He is parted from His friends
While their eager eyes behold Him,
He upon the clouds ascends.
He Who walked with God and pleased Him,
Preaching truth and doom to come,
He, our Enoch, is translated
To His everlasting home.
Because we live in a society that is currently dominated by doom and gloom, we often forget that when Christ preached the doom to come, He was preaching about something that was coming within just a few short years. The doom to come was the tribulation He describes in Matthew 24 and elsewhere. The truth was that there was doom approaching for the Jews and Christ, a Jew, was preaching truth to warn “those who have ears to hear.” Also, this hymn is going to give us a LOT of typology. Typology is the miraculous way in which the stories and characters throughout the Old Testament are “types” of Christ, acting out their small part in the stories they were given and foreshadowing the who the Savior of the World would be. In this case Enoch was with God and was no more because God took Him directly up into Heaven.
Now our heavenly Aaron enters,
With His blood, within the veil;
Joshua now is come to Canaan,
And the kings before Him quail.
Now He plants the tribes of Israel
In their promised resting-place;
Now our great Elijah offers
Double portion of His grace.
Three types of Christ, Aaron, High Priest, Joshua, Conquering King, Elijah Prophet of God. Prophet, Priest, and King.
Thou hast raised our human nature
On the clouds to God’s right hand;
There we sit in heavenly places,
There with Thee in glory stand:
Jesus reigns, adored by angels,
Man with God is on the throne.
Mighty Lord, in Thine ascension
We by faith behold our own.
Here we see a development of the covenantal nature of Christ’s Ascension, We sit with Him, We stand with Him, We see Christ’s ascension and as such behold or see our own ascension.
Holy Ghost, Illuminator,
Shed Thy beams upon our eyes,
Help us to look up with Stephen
And to see beyond the skies,
Where the Son of Man in glory
Standing is at God’s right hand,
Beckoning on His martyr army,
Succoring His faithful band.
Just a few days after the Ascension, Pentecost descended and with the coming of the Holy Ghost came courage to face the wickedness and danger of man just as Stephan did and see beyond the skies. Christ is in glory and He is beckoning on, encouraging on, and giving succor or aid to His faithful band of witnesses.
See Him who is gone before us
Heavenly mansions to prepare;
See Him who is ever pleading
For us with prevailing prayer;
See Him who with sound of trumpet
And with His angelic train,
Summoning the world to Judgment,
On the clouds will come again.
Christ has gone before us and will return again. When He comes He shall judge the quick and the dead.
Raise us up from earth to heaven,
Give us wings of faith and love,
Gales of holy aspirations
Wafting us to realms above,
That, with hearts and minds uplifted,
We with Christ, our Lord, may dwell
Where He sits enthroned in glory
In His heavenly citadel.
More theology of the ascension believers unto heaven. We are asking for faith and love in the here and now to accomplish the work Christ has given us.
So at last, when He appeareth,
We from our own graves may spring,
With our youth renewed like eagles’,
Flocking round our heavenly King,
Caught up on the clouds of heaven,
And may meet Him in the air,
Rise to realms where He is reigning
And will reign forever there.
The blessed hope of every believer lies in the ground of every man garden or cemetery you drive by. When Christ returns all flesh will rise unto judgement. For those found in Christ, we will be given new bodies renewed like eagles. We will then go and meet our Returning Lord in the air as we welcome Him to the New Heavens and New Earth.
Glory be to God the Father;
Glory be to God the Son,
Dying, risen, ascending for us,
Who the heavenly realm hath won;
Glory to the Holy Spirit!
To One God in Persons Three
Glory both in earth and heaven,
Glory, endless glory, be.
An epic Hymn like this should certainly end with a trinitarian doxology and Wordsworth does not disappoint. Glory endless glory be for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Amen.
With that I will play a new version of this Hymn. I didn’t leave out any verses so this song will take over 9 minutes to get through. However if you can add this hymn to your collection, you will find yourself being reminded constantly of the deep significance of the Ascension of our Lord.
Enjoy the song and may you have a blessed Ascension Day and Ascension Sunday as well and we will see you in a few days when Pentecost arrives.
See you then.