“And when [Jesus] had said these things, as [the disciples] were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” —Acts 1:9 ESV
“The LORD says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” —Psalm 110:1 ESV
“[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. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” —Ephesians 1:20–23 ESV
We all know that familiar scene in sports. Tears streaming down a player’s face after enduring all opponents and coming out victorious in the end. Words don’t do justice to the emotions of joy and happiness that flow from complete success. The trophy is handed to the victor and in that very moment, everything that they had worked for was completed.
From a spectator perspective, we can see the joy and satisfaction on their face, but we can’t experience or know fully what they feel. This is because we weren’t there for all the hard work, sacrifice, time, energy, and single-minded devotion it took to get that victory. We don’t know the journey that person endured.
At this point in the Hero’s journey, Jesus’ work is finally completed. He descended from heaven to earth and the Son of God took on flesh. He has endured all the testing, hardship, and persecution prophesied in the Old Testament at the hands of sinners in order to save fallen humanity. Jesus has been raised from the dead and the time has now come for Him to ascend back to His Father in heaven. That is what we are looking at this week: the Ascension and Session of Christ.
These two topics in the redemptive work of Christ are often neglected in many Christian churches. This means that many individual Christians are not aware of the practical implications of Jesus’ return to heaven and His sitting down at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Session). But as we will see, these two topics are significant to the work of Christ and our current interaction with Him as Christians.
For Christ, the Hero of humanity, His ascension back to heaven is proof of His glorification. Paul wrote, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name…” (Philippians 2:9–11 NASB). When Jesus came to earth and became a man, His eternal glory, the glory He had with the Father for all eternity, was veiled under human flesh. He momentarily revealed it on the Mount of Transfiguration. But in His ascension, Jesus was returning to the glorious state that He was in before—only now as the victorious Savior King and Hero of humanity. His ascension proves that He is superior to any other Old Testament hero, that He is superior to angels, authorities, and powers. The Ascension further proves that Jesus is humanity’s Hero.
For the Christian, for you and me, this biblical reality has massive implications for us. I will only mention two of them. First, the Ascension proves that Christ’s redemptive work on earth is finished and accepted by God. The author of Hebrews argues this in great detail in his letter. He teaches that Jesus has brought a single, once-for-all sacrifice to God (Hebrews 9:12) when He died on the cross. Therefore, Christ has now sat down (Hebrews 1:3; 10:12; 12:2) in heaven, showing that no repetition of His sacrifice is necessary. No further salvific work is required. It is finished!
Secondly, the Ascension means that we have a Mediator in heaven who sympathizes with us and intercedes on our behalf (1 John 2:1). Jesus has experienced everything humans experience—birth, growth, temptation, suffering, and death—and therefore He can serve effectively as a Mediator before God in heaven (Hebrews 2:17; 5:7–10). Christ’s ascension assures the church that God understands the human situation and that Christians can therefore approach Him boldly in their prayers (Hebrews 4:14–16).
All of this and more proves that Christ’s ascension is an indispensable aspect of Christian teaching. It is the basis for recognition of Christ’s exalted status and for the Christian’s confidence and hope.