And Ascended into Heaven (Part 2)
Last time we looked at Christ ascending into Heaven and the benefits of his ascension for believers. This week we will be looking at the same line in the Nicene Creed but with a different focus. This week we will be looking at what he accomplishes in his ascension. The Westminster Larger Catechism answer fifty-three.
Christ was exalted in his ascension, in that having after his resurrection often appeared unto and conversed with his apostles, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and giving them commission to preach the gospel to all nations, forty days after his resurrection, he, in our nature, and as our head, triumphing over enemies, visibly went up into the highest heavens, there to receive gifts for men, to raise up our affections thither, and to prepare a place for us, where he himself is, and shall continue till his second coming at the end of the world.
Firstly, Christ is our forerunner. Christ ascended into Heaven in our nature and as our head. Just as we will share in the resurrection like Christ’s resurrection, we will also go up to be with him. The author of Hebrews explains that Jesus has gone into the Holy of Holies on our behalf (Heb 6:19-20). As our head, he represents us, remaining in our nature, the two natures (God and Man) hypostatically united together. His ascension means that we have a great high priest mediating for us in Heaven.
Secondly, his ascension shows that he has triumphed over all of his enemies. After defeating the enemy and triumphing over them, he returned home; the King does not continue to live on the battlefield but returns home. Paul explains in Hebrews that when Christ ascended on high, he let a host of captives (Eph 4:8). When the army returned home from a battle, they would bring their captives back with them. Christ defeated death on the cross; the proof is in the resurrection and still triumphs over them because he ascended to Heaven.
Thirdly, the triumphant King would not only return with captives but also many gifts and prizes of war. Christ from Heaven gives gifts to his people. He distributes the gifts to his Church. The gifts he gave his Church are the apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, and evangelists. He is ultimately giving the Church the ministry of peace and reconciliation.
Fourthly, to raise up our affections thither. We seek the things above because that is where Christ is. Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. We should therefore raise our affections to where Christ is, Heaven. As Paul writes in Colossians 3:2, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
Fifthly, Christ ascended to prepare a place for us. He is the great bridegroom preparing the house for his bride. Christ is coming again, and when he does, he will take his bride that we might be with him (John 14:3)
Lastly, Christ is waiting. Christ has told us that he is coming again to judge the quick and the death (John 5:26-29). We await the second coming of Christ because Heaven has received Christ until the time of restoring all things which God has told us by the prophets (Acts 3:21).