The ascension of Christ is given far too little attention in many evangelical churches. Patrick Schreiner released a book last year flowing from this very burden: that the ascension is neglected and misunderstood, but a deeply necessary doctrine of the Christian faith. He argues, in fact, that Christ’s work would be incomplete without the ascension.
The New Testament affirms the importance of the ascension. By exalting Christ to his right hand, God offered evidence of ongoing delight in his Son. The Scriptures offer at least five reasons that the ascension was an indispensable part of Christ’s ministry. This week, we take a small break from our consideration of the parables to highlight this fivefold significance of the ascension.
The first reason, which we consider this morning, is that, at the ascension, Jesus took his place at the right hand of the Father. In ancient thinking, the right hand was a place of privilege. The right hand of a king or a god was a place of authority. When Christ ascended to the right hand of his Father, therefore, it was both a sign of God’s favour upon him and a sign of authority.
Daniel prophesied this event and its significance hundreds of years before it took place.
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given 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.
The New Testament confirms the royal significance of the ascension. Paul writes that the Father “raised [Jesus] 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” (Ephesians 1:20–21). The apostle clearly ties Jesus’ “rule and authority and power and dominion” to his being “seated at [God’s] right hand in the heavenly places.” Peter agreed when he wrote that Jesus has “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). Jesus received his kingdom at the ascension.
Jesus’ royal authority has significant implications for his subjects. Since believers are seated with Christ in the heavenlies (Ephesians 2:6–7), we share his exaltation and victory over the powers of darkness. This means that we can be victorious in the spiritual conflicts we face. The church can expect victory in the Great Commission because Christ reigns. Christians can expect to overcome sin in their lives because Jesus Christ reigns. There is no justification for us to give into a defeatist attitude because Jesus Christ is King.
The notion that Jesus is king over all should give Christians motivation to exercise influence in every area of life. It should inform our view of vocation, family, education, the arts, entertainment, and politics. Christians should seek to exert gospel influence in every area of life, motivated by the belief that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.
As you go about your day today, remember that Jesus Christ is king and submit your own mind, will, and emotions to him. But also allow the reality of his kingship to encourage you that he will prove victorious over everything that opposes him and that sin, the world, and the devil have no authority over his subjects in the church.