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As we count down the days till Christmas, we are continue to consider some of the physical “comings” of the Lord recorded in Scripture, moving backwards from his future, bodily return to his first coming as a babe in the manger. The second “coming” we want to consider is his ascension, which Daniel 7:13–14 describes as his “coming” from earth “to the Ancient of Days,” where he took his throne at the right hand of his Father.

While it is too often a neglected doctrine in the contemporary church, Christ’s ascension was a vital part of his ministry, for at least five reasons.

First, Christ’s ascension displayed his universal authority. When he came with the clouds to his Father, he received “dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Ephesians 1:20–21 and 1 Peter 3:22 likewise highlight the authority he was granted at the ascension.

The ascension encourages us that Jesus rules and will therefore see to it that he will accomplish his purposes for his church and for his individual people.

Second, Christ’s ascension assures our access to God’s throne for mercy and grace. Hebrews 4:14–16 teaches that, because he ascended, passing through the heavens, we can hold fast our confession and confidently draw near to his throne in prayer “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The ascension emboldens our prayers. We do not come timidly, like Oliver Twist, begging for a few more scraps. We approach him boldly, knowing that he rules and is willing to lavish his people with great graces.

Third, Christ’s ascension secures our indwelling by the Spirit. If he did not leave, the Spirit would never have come (John 14:15–17). In this sense, it was to our advantage that Christ ascended to heaven (John 16:7).

Because Christ ascended, Christians enjoy the abiding presence of the eternal Comforter. Whether gathered freely in corporate worship or driven underground by persecution, all Christians everywhere enjoy the comfort that only the Spirit of God can give. We enjoy that because of the ascension.

Fourth, Christ’s ascension produces our usefulness in the kingdom. It was when he ascended, taught Paul, that Christ left for his church the gifts that are necessary for kingdom work (Ephesians 4:7–13). Our only hope of usefulness in the kingdom is the reality that Christ is seated on his throne in heaven.

Christians today can be confident that the church will be built because Jesus is reigning. We can be confident that Christ’s disciples will mature because he is reigning. We can be confident that his disciples and his church will continue to grow in Christlikeness because he reigns. And we are confident he reigns because of the ascension.

Fifth, Jesus’ ascension serves as a promise of his return, which we considered yesterday. The angels at the ascension promised that Jesus would return in the same way he ascended: bodily and visibly. Our hope of his return is intricately linked to our affirmation of his ascension.

As you continue to count down the days to the celebration of the incarnation, take a moment to pause and reflect on the importance of the ascension, which highlights Christ’s universal authority, our access to God’s throne, our indwelling by the Spirit, our usefulness in the kingdom, and the promise of his return.