What does the Ascension signify about Jesus' role in heaven?

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The Ascension of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament, is not merely a historical event but a profound theological milestone that holds deep significance for understanding Jesus' role in heaven. This event, which occurred forty days after Jesus' resurrection, is described primarily in Acts 1:9-11 and alluded to in several other scriptural passages. Through the Ascension, we gain insight into the intercessory, kingly, and priestly roles of Jesus at the right hand of God the Father.

The Event of the Ascension

Before delving into the implications of the Ascension, it is crucial to recount what occurred. According to Acts 1:9-11, after Jesus had spoken to His disciples, He was lifted up before their eyes, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. As they were gazing into heaven, two angels appeared and promised that Jesus, who was taken up into heaven, would come back in the same way they had seen Him go into heaven. This moment is pivotal as it marks the physical departure of Christ from earth to a heavenly existence.

Jesus as Intercessor

One of the primary roles that Jesus fulfills in heaven as a result of His Ascension is that of an intercessor. Romans 8:34 asserts, "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." This intercessory role is crucial for believers because it assures us that Jesus is actively involved in presenting our needs and prayers to the Father. Hebrews 7:25 further amplifies this by stating, "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them." Here, the perpetual priesthood of Jesus is highlighted, showing His ongoing commitment to the welfare of His followers.

Jesus as King

The Ascension also cements Jesus' role as King, seated at the right hand of the Father, a position of honor and authority. Ephesians 1:20-22 describes how God worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come." This enthronement is a testament to the supreme authority that Christ holds over heaven and earth. His kingship is not just a title; it is an active role where He rules, guides, and directs the cosmos according to the divine will.

Jesus as Priest

Furthermore, the Ascension highlights Jesus' role as a heavenly priest. According to the order of Melchizedek, His priesthood is eternal, unlike the Levitical priesthood which required a succession of priests. Hebrews 8:1-2 tells us, "Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the holy places, in the true tent that the Lord set up, not man." In His ascended state, Jesus performs the ultimate priestly service by offering Himself as a sacrifice once for all and continually presenting this completed work before the Father. This priestly ministry is essential for believers' ongoing sanctification and relationship with God.

Theological and Eschatological Significance

Theologically, the Ascension of Jesus is a cornerstone that supports several key doctrines of Christianity. It affirms Jesus' divinity, His victory over death, and His glorified human nature which He retains in heaven. This event also sets the stage for the promise of His return, thus holding an eschatological (concerning the end times) significance. Acts 1:11 promises that Jesus will return in the same way He was seen going into heaven, which fuels the Christian hope of the second coming of Christ.

Practical Implications for Believers

For believers, the Ascension is not just a past event but a present reality with practical implications. Knowing that Jesus is actively involved in heaven on our behalf provides comfort and assurance. It encourages us to live righteously and to persevere in faith, knowing that our King, Priest, and Intercessor is advocating for us. It also compels us to be mission-oriented, just as the disciples were galvanized to spread the Gospel after Jesus ascended and they received the Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, the Ascension of Jesus Christ signifies His ongoing ministry in heaven and His supreme authority over all creation. As believers reflect on this event, they are encouraged to deepen their trust in Christ's continued work on their behalf and to live in eager anticipation of His glorious return. Through the Ascension, Jesus' roles as intercessor, king, and priest are magnified, offering profound comfort and challenge to the church today.

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