I Believe Jesus Descended, Rose & Ascended - Part 3
I believe that Jesus ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
This is one of the most remarkable statements in the Apostles’ Creed and it is also one of the most neglected areas of Christian doctrine. Even though we believe in the ascension of Christ, we tend not to think about it very much, at least when compared to the death and resurrection of our Lord. We know that Jesus died to redeem us from our sins and that He rose from the dead for our eternal life. We know that we couldn’t be saved without Good Friday or Easter Sunday. Where does the Ascension fit in? The event itself is only briefly mentioned in Mark, Luke and Acts. By contrast both the crucifixion and the resurrection are described by all four gospel writers in great detail. And because the event itself is so unusual, it is difficult for us to visualize exactly what happened. To many people it seems like a P.S. to the main message of the gospel—perhaps a convenient way for Christ to go back to heaven. But does it really matter today? And is it essential to our Christian faith?
We believe that Jesus ascended into Heaven. We believe that He is seated at the right hand of the Father Almighty. This morning I want you to understand what this next great affirmation of faith means for us today.
I. HIS ASCENSION AUTHENTICATES HIS DEITY
- "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." (Hebrews 4:14, ESV)
- three years before His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus was immersed in the River Jordan by John the Baptist to inaugurate His public ministry
- as He came up out of the waters, we are told that the Holy Spirit – in the form of a dove – settled upon Him, and the audible voice of God proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
- for the next three years, Jesus would steadily reveal His true nature to the Disciples
- the testimony of others authenticated his
- John 1:26-29 "John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. “It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” . . . The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" NASB95
- ILLUS In John’s Gospel we have an incident that is illuminating for us. It is during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. Jesus had come to the feast and there was a buzz all over the city. People are openly asking the question, “Could this be the Christ?” Some were absolutely convinced that he was, contending, “When the Christ appears, will he do more signs than this man has done?” The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the most anticipated of annual Feasts for Israel. For seven days the Israelites presented offerings to the Lord, during which time they lived in huts made from palm fronds and leafy tree branches. The purpose for living in the booths was to recall the sojourn of the Israelites prior to their taking of the land of Canaan. Over the course of the week 71 bulls, 15 rams, 105 lambs, and 8 goats were offered as burnt offerings to the Lord. The culmination of the Festival took place on the last day when a Jewish Priest would draw a pitcher of water from the Pool of Siloam and carry it in a sacred procession to the altar at the Temple. It was there that the Priest would pour the water from the pool of Siloam at the base of the alter. This was to signify their faith and hope in the fulfilment of God's promise to pour out the Holy Spirit upon His people. It was during this highlight of the Feast, that Jesus stood up and cried out “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37, ESV). With that a great debate broke out among the people, Is this the Christ or isn’t it. The Jewish leaders sought at that point to arrest Jesus.
- now, I tell you all of that to point your attention to John 7:45-47
- "The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:45-47, ESV)
- ILLUS. Later in John’s Gospel – the tenth chapter – Jesus has another encounter with the Jewish leaders. We’re told that the some of the Jews have picked up stones and are ready to hurl them at Jesus. At that point Jesus asks them the question, “I have shown you many good works from the Father [referring to His miracles]; for which of these do you stone me?” At the end of the conversation Jesus tells them; "Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38, NIV)
- Jesus tells the Jewish leaders, “Look, if what I say is not enough to convince you that I am the Son of God, then look at the miracles I’ve done. They alone should convince you.”
- Matthew 27:54 "Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” NASB95
- in spite of all this, the Bible tells us that some still doubted
- "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." (Matthew 28:16-17, NIV)
- was the resurrection true?
- is Jesus really to Anointed One – the Son of God who takes away the sin of the world?
- "When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God." (Luke 24:50-53, NIV)
- unlike the resurrection, which no one say as it was actually happening, the disciples actually saw Jesus ascend into heaven
- it must have been an awe-inspiring sight
- the verb taken up carries the idea of being lifted straight up into the air
- this is no parlor trick
- David Copperfield is not putting on a show
- they saw him rise, then they saw him disappear into a cloud, then they didn’t see him at all
- then they returned to the Temple in Jerusalem and worshiped him
- ILLUS. That phrase “They worshiped him” is one of the strongest arguments for Jesus’ divinity, and one too seldom noted. The Jews a were militantly monotheistic culture. All their lives they had pronounced the Shema, “Here O’ Israel, the Lord they God is One, and you shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deuteronomy 6:5, NIV). To give worship and praise to a mere human was blaspheme and worthy of execution. That they so willingly and openly gave worship to the risen Christ and accorded praise and honor to One who was also unmistakably and totally human testifies that they were thoroughly convinced of Jesus’ Deity.
II. HIS ASCENSION CONSECRATES HIS MINISTRY
- the Apostles’ Creed not only tells us that Jesus ascended, but it tells us to where He ascended
- I believe that Jesus ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father
- the New Testament uses three words to describe Jesus’ status in Heaven
- in the ancient world, when a king wished to honor someone, he offered them a seat at his right hand
- that seat was the seat of greatest honor
- it was also a seat of authority that rivaled the authority of the king himself
- what does it mean to say that our Lord is now seated at the Father's right hand?
A. FIRST, IT MEANS HE HAS A PERMANENT PLACE IN HEAVEN
- when Jesus returned to heaven in triumph, he was given a permanent place next to the Father's throne
- our Lord didn't have to search for a seat in heaven
- when he arrived, there was a seat with his name on it’
- that seat is at the Father's right hand and is his forever
SECOND, IT MEANS THAT HIS WORK OF REDEMPTION IS NOW COMPLETE
- while he was on the earth, he spoke often of "the work" of the Father (John 4:34; 9:4; 17:4)
- His work came to a climax when he hung on the cross, bearing the sins of His people
- when he died, God poured out his wrath on Jesus even though Jesus was perfect and pure and wholly innocent
- but as the sinless substitute, he took the punishment I should have received so that I might go free
- just before he died, Christ shouted out, "It is finished" (John 19:30)
- in the Aramaic language which Jesus spoke, the phrase literally means "paid in full."
- the work was done; the debt was paid
- I can never be charged with the guilt of my sins because Jesus paid it all
- the ascension signifies that the Father has accepted the work of his Son
- it consecrated our Lord’s Earthly ministry by setting it aside as the only remedy for sin
- since God has accepted Christ, nothing more can be added to what he did when he died on the cross and rose from the dead
- ILLUS. Hebrews 10:11 reminds us that there were no chairs in the Tabernacle because the priests were not allowed to sit down. They stood to perform their work because their work was never done. Every day the priest would kill another animal—signifying that the price of sin had not yet been paid. But when Christ returned to heaven, he sat down because he had offered himself as the one sacrifice for sin forever.
C THIRD, IT MEANS HE IS NOW IN THE PLACE OF SUPREME AND HIGHEST HONOR IN THE UNIVERSE
- God has exalted him and given him a name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9-11)
- at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will one day confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father
- consider what this means:
- the victim has become the victor
- the crown of thorns has been replaced by the crown of eternal glory
- the spear has been replaced with the scepter of regal authority
- Jesus is our man in heaven
- "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIV)
- when we go to the throne of grace in prayer, we do not have to worry about being turned away
- Jesus always ushers us into the presence of the God
III. HIS ASCENSION VALIDATES HIS LORDSHIP
- "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:9-11, ESV)
- of all the titles given to Jesus in the New Testament, the title Lord became by far the most commonly used, widespread, and theologically important
- it would hardly be going too far to say that the word Lord became a synonym for the name of Jesus
- for those early believers it was a word of great significance
- many Christians today are guilty of making Christ only a figurehead of their spiritually while continuing to run their lives just as they did before
- it may be possible to fake the lordship of Christ now, but in the early days of the church, Lord was not a word used flippantly by believers
- the greatest threat to the church today is not secular society, nor hedonism, nor humanism
- the greatest threat to the future of the church today is the spiritual shallowness of so many believers
- ILLUS. I once heard an evangelist say that, . . . most new believers have to backslide for ten weeks to catch up with the spiritualness of the average Christian!
- I suppose there is a lot of truth in that statement
- they are unknowledgeable, undisciplined and uncommitted
- Jesus is their Savior, but he has never become their Lord and Master
- brothers and sisters, you will never master life until Jesus becomes your life’s Master
- how about a church where Jesus is Lord?
A. THE IMPLICATIONS OF CHRIST’S LORDSHIP
- the doctrine of the Lordship of Jesus Christ is an intensely personal doctrine and an immensely practical doctrine
- it’s a doctrine that touches our lives at every point
- Christ’s lordship will affect the decisions you make
- Christ’s lordship will motivate the things that you do
- Christ’s lordship will illuminate the things that you think and the attitudes you hold
- we simply cannot be half-way disciples
- /"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:37-39, ESV)
- ILLUS. In his book, "On This Rock I Stand" evangelist Vance Havner refers to halfway Christians. "A "halfway Christian" he says, “works both sides of the street. He is religious because it helps him in business and gives him a self-righteous satisfaction. But he has no intention of making Jesus Lord of his life.”
- no decision has greater consequences than how we’ll respond to Christ’s call
- surrendering your life to His lordship means accepting His authority over your life
- we accept His rule and agree to submit ourselves in obedience to His will
- ILLUS. One of the most influential Christians of the 19th century was William Booth. You may not recognize his name, but you know the organization he established. He founded the Salvation Army. William Booth walked the streets of London, England and saw the poor, hungry, sick, and lonely people of the city. The people were crammed into crumbling buildings that were full of rats. They had no jobs. There was no one to help them. Worst of all, there was no one to tell them that Jesus cared. They did not know that Jesus died to be their Savior and rose again to be their Lord. William Booth made it his life s career to minister among the poor of his city. Years later when someone asked General Booth the secret of his success, he said, "God has had all there was of me to have! From the day I got the poor of London on my heart, and a vision of what Jesus Christ would do for them, I made up my mind that God would have all there was of William Booth. God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life."
Con. Have you given all your life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.The following words are from an old engraving on a cathedral in Labeck, Germany:
Thus speaketh Christ our Lord to us:
You call Me master and obey Me not.
You call Me light and see Me not.
You call Me the Way and walk Me not.
You call Me life and live Me not.
You call Me wise and follow Me not.
You call Me fair and love Me not.
You call Me rich and ask Me not.
You call Me eternal and seek Me not.
If I condemn thee, blame Me not.