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Yesterday, we considered the important truth that the ascension assures us of Christ’s rule, and ours with him, through the gospel. But the New Testament highlights further practical significance of the ascension. The second truth that we must highlight is that the ascension guarantees us access to God’s throne for mercy and grace. The writer to the Hebrews points us to this truth.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

(Hebrews 4:14–16)

The writer here picks up on two truths with which the ascension helps us.

First, the ascension enables us to hold fast our confession.

The word translated “hold fast” implies gaining mastery of something. It implies deliberate effort to do something not easy or natural. The Hebrew Christians to whom the author was writing were facing tremendous opposition. It was not an easy thing to hold fast their confession. The easy thing was for them to abandon their confession of Christ as Lord and to return to Judaism. The author knew that this was a real temptation for them and points them to the ascension as a means of encouragement to persevere. Because Christ had ascended and was reigning, they could and should maintain their confession in the face of great opposition.

As South African Christians, we know little of the kind of persecution the Hebrew Christians faced. Nevertheless, we always face temptation to deny Christ. When pressure mounts, we should look to the skies. We should consider the truth of the ascension to help us hold fast our confession. Because Christ has ascended and reigns on the right hand of his Father, we should maintain our allegiance to him. He is the true King and we should pledge our undying allegiance to him.

Second, because Christ passed through the heavens and sat at the right hand of the Father, we can pray boldly, confident of his willing ability to answer our prayers.

Jesus Christ reigns. He is therefore able—and, the Bible teaches, willing—to answer the faith-filled prayers of his people. As a citizen of his kingdom, you can pray confidently in the face of uncertainty and unemployment and dread disease and deep discouragement because Jesus Christ reigns. As a non-citizen, you can confidently come to the throne for saving grace as you recognise your sin and your need of salvation in Christ. The ascension gives hope for answered prayer.

As you reflect again on the historical event of the ascension, allow it to embolden you to hold fast your confession and to encourage you in faith-filled prayer to the King who reigns over all.