† Happy Ascension Day! †
Thursday, May 30, is Ascension Day.
Here’s a great explanation of what the Ascension of our Lord is all about.
The Ascended Savior no longer shows Himself in visible form to His believers on earth until His return at the end of the world, on the last day. His Ascension, therefore, took place before the eyes of His disciples “while they beheld” (Acts 1:9), in order that the truth of His ascension might be historically established for the disciples and the entire Christian church. Our Lord may have chosen simply to disappear from their eyes, as He did after His resurrection on several occasions (see Luke 24:31).
The Ascension marks our Lord’s return to God’s right hand, with the human nature he assumed in the Incarnation (Mark 16:19; 1 Peter 3:22). The “right hand of God” is an expression to indicate and describe the heavenly throne of Christ’s exalted humanity, as Scripture clearly teaches, for instance, in Ephesians 4:10: “He…ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things” or Ephesians 1:20-23: “God raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and has put all things under His feet.”
What must be understood when one wonders about how the actual body and blood of Christ, the human nature, is able to do such things, is the fact that this humanity, this actual human flesh and blood, was assumed into the person of the Son of God, thus sharing in the divine nature. We cannot, with our human reason, “figure this out” and most attempts to do so end with false doctrine throughout the ages, including the erroneous beliefs of the Reformed church regarding the two natures in Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has ascended far above all heavens “not only as God, but also as man” and “rules from sea to sea and to the ends of the earth; as the prophets predicted, Ps. 8:1-6; 93:1f; Zech. 9:10 and the Apostles testify, Mark 16:20” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article VIII, 27.
Why is the truth that Christ, according to both His Divine nature and human nature, ascended to heaven of such powerful comfort? The Formula of Concord answers this question: “We hold . . . that in His Church and congregation on earth He is present as Mediator, Head, King, and High Priest, not in part, or one half of Him only, but the entire Person of Christ is present, to which both natures belong, the divine and the human; not only according to His divinity, but also according to, and with, His assumed nature, according to which He is our Brother, and we are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone.”
The Human Nature of Christ now shares completely various attributes of the Divine Nature and thus, in this miraculous and wonderful mystery, our Lord Jesus Christ, according to both His human and divine nature, “lives and reigns to all eternity” (Small Catechism). This is most certainly true! Thanks be to God. © LCMS FAQs
† Christ’s Session at the Right Hand of God †
He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). The right hand of God is not a circumscribed locality in a spatial heaven, but the infinite power and majesty of God, filling all in all and ruling all things (Exodus 15:6; Psalm 118:16; 139:7–10; Isaiah 48:13; Matthew 26:64). To sit at the right hand of God, therefore, means to occupy a position of supreme power and dominion. [Christ] has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him (1 Peter 3:22). [God] raised [Christ] 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).
The divine nature of Christ always was at the right hand of God, i.e., it always exercised sovereign dominion over all things (John 5:17–23). Also to the human nature this majesty was communicated; but during His humiliation Christ refrained from making full use thereof. But now also this human nature fully participates in the actual exercise of this sovereign authority and dominion. (Cf., F.C., Th. D., Art. VIII, 78, Triglot, p. 1043).
It is a great comfort for us Christians to know that He, who has all power in heaven and on earth, is our dear Savior. He, who is the Lord over all, is also the Head of the Church, which is His spiritual body. His Christians are closer to Him than anything else; hence, He uses His sovereign power over all things in the interest and for the benefit of His friends. As Joseph in Egypt used his royal power for the benefit of his brethren (Genesis 46 and 47), so Christ governs the universe for the particular well-being of His Christians. As the head makes everything subservient to the welfare of the body, so Christ, the Head of the Church, lovingly governs and mightily protects His Church, and manages the affairs of the world so that all things work together for the good of His Christians (Romans 8:28).
The exalted Savior continues to perform His threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King. As our Prophet He gives us teachers (Ephesians 4:8–12); as our High Priest He intercedes for us (Romans 8:34); as our King He governs the kingdom of power in the interest of His kingdom of grace (Ephesians 1:20–23).
† The Enthronement and the Celebration †
This glorious vision of God’s heavenly majesty and the coronation and enthronement of Jesus Christ are among the most beautiful chapters in the entire Bible. Revelation 4 and 5 picture the end result of God’s creation and in particular God’s redemption and restoration of the human race through his Son, Jesus Christ. This is where the whole story of God’s revelation to humanity ends: before his heavenly throne, under the reign of Jesus Christ. For the whole purpose of God’s activity toward all peoples and his creation is that it all would end in the worship and praise of God as the Creator and Savior through his Son. The actual conclusion to this heavenly vision is when the new heaven and earth have come about at the resurrection in the End (20:11–22:5).
When did the enthronement of Jesus Christ, pictured in Revelation 4–5, take place? The best answer appears to be that it took place at the ascension of the Lord Christ for the following reasons. It is certain that it took place after the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus, for the victorious Lamb appears in the scene as one who has been slain but now is alive (5:6). The Scriptures reveal that Jesus Christ would come into his heavenly glory after his resurrection. In his intercessory prayer for his disciples (John 17), Jesus prays that finally they might be with him to see his glory—a reference to his glory at the right hand of God in his heavenly majesty (Jn 17:24). In the accounts of the transfiguration, the glory of the Christ which was displayed was the glory that he would come into after his death and resurrection (see especially Lk 9:31–32). Just before Stephen was led away to his martyrdom, he looked into heaven by the Spirit and saw Jesus Christ in glory at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55–56). According to Peter, the exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God was after the resurrection and before the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that is, at his ascension (Acts 2:32–35; cf. Jn 7:39; Acts 3:12–13).
Revelation 4 and 5 are a dramatization of the exaltation of Jesus Christ at the right hand of God, as it appeared from heaven’s view. The description of Acts 1:6–11 is from the perspective of those on earth. We thus have two complementary visual descriptions of Christ’s ascension. As the disciples saw the Lord taken up from them to disappear into the heavens, at the same time Jesus was received by his heavenly Father, as pictured in Revelation 4 and 5. At his ascension he was enthroned and crowned as Lord so as to rule everything on behalf of his Father. The action of God giving the scroll to the Lamb represents this coronation and enthronement. What John sees in Revelation 4 and 5 is a reenactment of that which, in earthly time, had taken place some years before, at the Mount of Olives (Lk 24:50–51). However, the celebration that began and was initiated at the Lord’s enthronement was still going on when John saw the dramatization of it. And that celebration is still going on and will continue into eternity. The vision of Christ’s coronation at his ascension in Revelation 4 and 5 is given as if it were in the Greek perfect tense. What John saw actually happened in the past, but the results of that tremendous event are in the present and extend into the future. Christ’s exaltation as Lord continues, as does also the celebration with the singing of the “new song” in the Te Deum, for that “new song” is ever new and the One it celebrates is ever present with his church.
There has never been a celebration like that which began when the Son returned to his heavenly Father. For some two thousand years it has been taking place, and it will continue forever. Heaven broke into joyful song and celebration when the Son came back victorious. He was received by the Father and was given the authority, then and up to the End, to rule everything on behalf of God (see 1 Cor 15:20–28). But one can imagine how, not long before this, all heaven was in mourning when the Son was crowned with thorns and placed on a cross—witness the darkness that came over the face of the earth (Mk 15:33). In reality Jesus’ coronation, by which he created a kingdom for God and by which he himself became a king, was at his suffering and death (see Jn 12:27–33; Rev 5:9–10). But while his kingship was earned in his suffering and death, it would be a kingdom and a reign in glory. The crown of thorns gave way to a crown of many diadems (Rev 19:11–14; cf. Mt 26:63–64). The glory of the cross is now fully seen in the glory of the exaltation of Christ at the right hand of God in his heavenly majesty. Heaven is no longer in mourning; celebration has taken its place forever.