Appreciating the Ascension: A Very Present Help

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We have thus far this week considered two practical significances of Christ’s ascension. First, we saw that, at his ascension, he took his throne and received authority over all creation. Second, we observed that the ascension empowers us to hold fast our confession and emboldens our prayers at the throne of grace. In John 14, Jesus gave another practical significance of his ascension.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

(John 14:15–17)

As the disciples lamented the thought that Jesus would be taken from them, he assured them that it was both necessary and beneficial for them that he ascend. If he did not ascend, the Spirit—the Helper—would not come. “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). The ascension was crucial for the coming of the Spirit.

The disciples could not fathom how Jesus leaving could possibly benefit them. They desperately wanted him to stay—so that they could stay with him. They perhaps did not at that stage understand that they would not remain together as a group forever. Obedience to the Great Commission would spread them far and wide and Jesus, in his physical body, could not be with them all the time. The Spirit would not be bound by physical limitations. He would be with all disciples at all times in all places at the same time. There is nowhere the believer can go without the presence of the Spirit.

Christians throughout the ages have taken deep comfort in this truth. Christians have known of the presence of the Spirit in the gathering of the saints. They have known of the presence of the Spirit in family worship and private devotion. They have testified to the presence of the Spirit in prison, and in persecution, and during hijackings, and in the face of certain death. The Spirit is indeed our limitless, always-present Comforter, whose coming was secured by Jesus’ ascension.

Apart from the ascension, we would not experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Jesus sent the Spirit “to be with you forever” (John 14:16) and promised, “He dwells with you and will be in in you” (John 14:17). Through the Spirit, we have union with the Father and with the Son. This abiding presence was secured by Christ’s ascension.

Apart from the ascension, we would be deficient in our understanding of truth. Jesus called the Spirit “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) and promised that this Spirit “will teach you all things” (John 14:26). The teaching ministry of the Spirit was secured by Christ’s ascension.

Apart from the ascension, the church would be devoid of power in the Great Commission. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

We all know what it is to fail in our walk with Christ and to desperately need help. That help is available to us in the person of the Holy Spirit, who was given at Christ’s ascension. Because of the ascension, we have a very present help in trouble.