The Ascension of Christ

by Elmer Towns
 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. Acts 1:9


     The ascension of Christ occurred when Jesus met with his disciples, forty days after his suffering (Acts 1:3). During this time, called the post-resurrection ministry, the Lord taught his disciples more fully concerning the ministry they were about to have. On the day of ascension, Jesus met with his disciples on the Mount of Olives, just outside the city of Jerusalem. There he reminded them once again of the spiritual power they would soon receive and repeated the commission to take the gospel to the whole world (Acts 1:8).

     Jesus reminded them that they could never know some things, such as the time of his return, but there was one thing they could be certain of. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

     When Jesus completed that command, it was as though he had given them their final orders. There was nothing else left to do. With the disciples watching, he ascended up into a cloud. Two angels stood by and reminded the disciples that Jesus would return to earth, in the same manner he had departed. Jesus left his disciples and entered the presence of his Father to begin his present ministry in heaven. Luke recorded this event in a single verse, "And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld; he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9).

     The ascension of Christ is one of the important doctrines of Scripture, but, similar to the doctrine of the virgin birth, there are only a few but strategic passages devoted to the subject. The historical event of the ascension is recorded in Acts 1:1-12 and the writers of the New Testament epistles based much of their doctrine on the fact of this event.


     The disciples who witnessed the ascension of Christ probably did not completely understand what they were seeing. It involved more than his physical return to heaven. The ascension meant that Christ was returning to his former place of authority in heaven, he was reclaiming his former place of glory, and he was beginning a new ministry for believers in heaven. The technical aspects of the ascension are as follows:

     The end of self-limitations. When Christ became a man, part of the kenosis experience involved the voluntary limitations of his comparative attributes. Jesus was still God and able to exercise any of those attributes according to his own will, but Jesus chose not to exercise his selfwill but rather to do the will of his heavenly Father (John 4:34). At the resurrection, those selflimitations ended. This meant that, although Jesus was still the same omnipotent God who spoke the world into existence (John 1:3; Heb. 11:3), there was a time during his earthly life and ministry when he chose not to exercise that power (John 18:36, 37). Jesus was still the same omniscient God who alone understands all the intricacies of our immense universe. Yet he determined during his earthly ministry that there were some things he would choose not to know (Matt. 13:32). Jesus was still omnipresent, meaning he was everywhere present in the vast universe, yet for a brief period of his eternity he chose to limit himself to the confines Q a human body (John 1:14). Christ no longer limits himself b exercises all his attributes to their full potential.

     The glorification of Christ. From the beginning of time, Jesus, had his own glory. That celestial glory was temporarily hidden during his earthly life. But on earth, John could say, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14). Perhaps John made reference to the glory when "Jesus was transfigured" (Matt. 17:2) on the mount of transfiguration. Some feel the earthly humanity was the perfect example of what every man should become, hence as a man, Jesus glorified God. As Jesus approached the cross, he prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). When Jesus hung on the cross, he looked forward to the glorification of himself and the joy of that time (Heb. 12:2). At the resurrection of Christ, Jesus was glorified, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him' a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9). Where the previous glory of Christ in heaven was dependent upon his person, this added dimension of glory is based upon his completed work.

     It is interesting to contrast the post-resurrection appearances of Christ and the postascension revelations. In the former instances, Christ had sufficiently veiled his. glory to the point that he was often not recognized, such as with the disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:16, 31), or Mary Magdalene who also did not recognize him (John 20:14). His person was witnessed by John, Paul, and Stephen. There was no doubt in their minds that they were in the presence of deity. The difference between John's meeting with Christ in John 21 and Revelation 1 was the glorification of Christ that he received at his ascension.

     The exaltation of Christ. Closely related to his glorification was the exaltation of Christ to his new position of authority. David, in a messianic psalm, prophesied concerning this exaltation of Christ when he wrote, "The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Ps- 110:1). Peter quoted this psalm in his message on the day of Pentecost in his discussion of the resurrection. He concluded by pointing out the Lordship of Jesus Christ. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). The apostle Paul also cited the resurrection and ascension of Christ as his exaltation. "Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9). Jesus is the object of worship by those around his throne. They cry out, "Worthy is the Lamb" (Rev. 5:12).

     The entrance of humanity into heaven. Paul noted, "To be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). This entrance into heaven is only possible because "the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus" (Heb. 6:20). Jesus was the first man to enter heaven with a glorified body. At his ascension, he became "the man in the glory" (Heb. 7:24).

     The beginning of a new ministry. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he was not entering retirement. He simply added a new task to his job description. He had finished his task of dying for the salvation of the world (John 19:30) but now he lives for the saved as their intercessor and advocate. In his position, Jesus is continually interceding for Christians as they are tempted to sin (Heb. 7:25). He gives them grace to keep from sinning. If, on occasion, they should yield to temptation and sin, Jesus becomes their advocate before God (John 2:1). As such, Christ forgives the sin based on his sacrifice and restores the Christian after he sins. (For a further discussion of the present ministry of Christ, see Chapter 23.)


     Everything Jesus accomplished had an impact on the life of the believer. As a result of the ascension of Christ, Christians have a number of benefits for a fulfilled life and successful service. The following chart identifies some of the results of the ascension of Christ.

1. The sending of the Holy Spirit John 16:7
2. The giving of spiritual gifts Ephesians 4:8
3. The imparting of spiritual power Acts 1:8
4. The preparation of a heavenly home John 14:3
5. The standing of the believer Romans 8:29

     The sending of the Holy Spirit. If Christ did not ascend to heaven, we would not have the ministry of the Holy Spirit for the church. Jesus taught that both the Father (John 14:26) and he himself (John 15:20) would send the "Comforter." . This could not be accomplished during his earthly ministry. Jesus said, "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,, (John 16:7). This promise was again made by Jesus on the last ' recorded meeting with his disciples on the last day of his ascension (Acts 1:5). Less than ten days later, the Holy Spirit came in mighty power upon the disciples (Acts 2:1-4). Today the Holy Spirit lives in every Christian (1 Cor. 6:19) and helps them live for God (Gal. 5:25).

     The giving of spiritual gifts. When a person is saved, he not only receives the Holy Spirit, he also receives his spiritual gift(s) (1 Cor. 12:11; 1 Pet. 4:10). A spiritual gift is an ability to serve God, given initially by Christ. "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men (Eph. 4:8). After a Christian is saved he must discover his gift(s) (1 Cor. 12:1, 32) and develop those gifts for better service. The Bible contains three lists of gifts (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4). Certain special abilities were given by God to the 9 apostles as signs to verify their preaching, as mentioned in the last chapter of Mark's Gospel. These were considered by most scholars to have been temporary, and given primarily as signs to unbelieving Jews (1 Cor.1:22). The Bible instructs the Christian to seek "earnestly the best gifts" (1 Cor. 12:31). Everyone should seek to use their gift or gifts to glorify God. There may be other gifts that God gives to people that are not specifically identified in Scripture. The exact number of the gifts is not uniformly accepted by all Bible scholars, since the reference to spiritual gifts in Ephesians 4, for example, appears to refer to the positions certain gifted people fill in the church and not necessarily to the gift or gifts themselves. For example, a pastor might have the gifts of teaching, exhortation, wisdom, and faith.

     The imparting of spiritual power. A third benefit of the ascension of Christ was the giving of spiritual power to his disciples. Jesus taught his disciples to "tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24:49). On the day of Pentecost, the disciples received this spiritual power to witness. The power was continuously present in their lives as they continued to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This spiritual power is available to every believer today in the same power God used in the resurrection and ascension of Christ (Eph. 1:19, 20). By yielding to God (Rom. 12:1) and being filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18), we will be better able both to witness and to live our lives for God. The preparation of a heavenly home. A fourth result of the ascension of Christ involves the preparation of heaven for Christians. Jesus said, "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 14:2). When Jesus ascended to his Father's house, we must assume he began preparing those dwelling places. Had there been no ascension, there would be no place prepared for those who trust Christ as Savior.

     The standing of the believer. When Jesus ascended to his Father, those who trust Christ as Savior ascended with him. God "hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:6). As Jesus was exalted at his ascension, so the Christian is raised up and stands before God because of the ascension of Christ. This is an application of the union every believer has with Christ.

     The preparation of the throne. Jesus, the King of kings, is currently seated on his throne in heaven, preparing the millennial throne for the years that he will rule on earth. The angel Gabriel told Mary before the birth of Christ, "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David" (Luke 1:32). John was told concerning the ascended Christ, "The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof" (Rev. 5:5). Most Bible commentators agree that the book or scroll is the title deed to the world. When the seven seals are broken and the scroll is opened, the announcement is made: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (Rev. 11:15). This is the end of the tribulation and the beginning oŁ the millennial kingdom.


     After his post-resurrection ministry, Jesus ascended to his Father, leaving Christians behind to love and serve him. We were identified with Christ in his ascension, and as a result have a legal standing of perfection in the heavenlies. This makes it imperative that we demonstrate Christlikeness in our daily life that is as consistent as possible with our standing in heaven. The angels asked the disciples who witnessed the ascension, "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). In expectancy of his return, we need to live for Jesus as he makes intercession on our behalf.


     Monday: Acts 1:1-11

     Tuesday: Ephesians 4:7-16

     Wednesday: Philippians 2:1-11

     Thursday: 1 Corinthians 12:1-18

     Friday: 1 Corinthians 12:19-31

     Saturday: Romans 12:1-16

     Sunday: John 14:1-12  


Taken from: What The Faith Is All About by Elmer Towns