The importance of the Ascension of Christ cannot be underestimated. However, even though the early church put more emphasis on the Ascension than the birth of Christ, I’m afraid that we have missed, even lost, the life-changing significance of this singular event.
In Daniel 7:13-14, we find that, “…there was given to Him (the Son of Man…Christ) dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him…” Jesus would relate this “giving of power” to the Son of Man by declaring to the disciples, “…all authority in heaven, and on the earth was given to Me.” (Matt. 28:18) Now we know that ALL authority was given to Christ from before the world was, but there was a moment when He received it specifically in the matter of redemption, and in the creation and growth of the church, His body. The power of God is revealed in the resurrection…however, for the effect of that resurrection to be felt and known in the hearts of men, it was imperative that He ascend to His Father. For Pentecost to come, and the consequent outpouring of the Spirit upon All men, Christ had to ascend to the Father. “…But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of Me.” (Jn. 15:26) And with that outpouring, Paul writes, “…When He ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” (Eph. 4:8) Not only was the kingdom His, and all power, authority, and dominion, but He receives from the Father also the Gift of the Holy Spirit, and specific gifts of the Spirit to be given unto men. What does this mean for us who believe?
First of all, to be Christ’s, is to bear His name…and that Name declares that He has spoiled all “…principalities and powers, and made an open show of them, triumphing over them…” (Col. 2:16) That victory is ours IN Him. His authority is supreme, and absolute, and this is why nothing can separate us from the love of God. We are forever one with Him. Secondly, when Pentecost came, and the prophecy of Joel was realized, Christ poured out the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of the Father, into the hearts of men and women…there to testify by His Life and power of the greatness and goodness of God, to the intent that all men should be saved. And lastly, but certainly not conclusively, from heaven He deliberately, and decisively chose to give gifts of the Spirit to men and women. These are those God-given capacities to fulfill certain callings in the body of Christ. They are unique and personal, and correspond to the specific calling of the believer. And, they are irrevocable…”…for the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.” (Rom. 11:28)
On this Memorial Day, we remember those who have sacrificed for our nation, for us, that we might know the freedom of conscience and conduct. The Ascension is a Memorial Day, as it declares the certain effect of the sacrifice of Christ, the realized promise of His resurrection, but also, the promise of His Spirit, His indwelling, His calling and gifts, …all couched in the absolute authority of God.
So, we ask the question: What should I be if I am IN Him, raised with Him, seated with Him in heavenly places, having been given a specific calling, and corresponding gifts, realizing that Christ is in the heart by the Spirit? May we ever pray in the spirit of the hymn-writer’s words:
“…Less than thyself, O do not give. In might, Thyself, within us live; Come ALL Thou hast and art.”