R.C. Sproul has said (among others) “If there is any dimension of the life and work of Christ that is neglected in the church today, it’s His ascension.” Evangelicals, for the most part, do a good job of emphasizing the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We often fail to see, however, the importance of the ascension. The ascension is Christ’s return to heaven after the completion of His atoning work. After finishing the work God sent Him to do, it was time for Christ to return to His Heavenly Father. Luke gives us a record of the ascension at the end of his gospel (24:50-53). Sproul suggests that there were four things that occurred because of the ascension of Christ, and these four things are the reason why it was to our advantage that Jesus departed.
1. Exaltation to Glory
In John 17, Jesus speaks of the glory He had with the Father before the world was created and looks forward to enjoying it once again. Even before his crucifixion, Jesus was requesting for God to grant Him the glory he once enjoyed. It was at the ascension that Jesus returned to the realm of glory. His time of suffering and humiliation was over, and He was now being exalted.
Before His passion, Jesus made it clear to His disciples that He was going away in order that He may send them another Helper or Paraclete (the Holy Spirit). Even though Jesus was leaving his disciples, His Spirit would remain with them. Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide them into all truth and it was only about ten days after the ascension that the promise of the Holy Spirit was realized. But without the ascension, there could be no Pentecost.
3. The Intercession of the High Priest
The third thing that happened at the ascension was that Jesus, our High Priest, entered into the Holy of Holies where He now functions as our Priest-King. As our great High Priest His chief priestly work is the work of intercession (For more on this read Hebrews 7:23-27 and 9:11-14). As sinful human beings, the only way we can stand before a holy God is through the atoning work of Christ. His shed blood ‘covers’ the sins of the redeemed. Those who have put their faith and truth in Christ can know that the Son of God is interceding on their behalf. That is why we can rightly call Jesus our Mediator.
4. The Coronation of the King
The forth thing that occurred because of the ascension was Christ’s coronation. Jesus was brought up to the right hand of the Father where He reigns and rules eternally. The kingdom of God is not something yet to be realized in the distant future. The kingdom has inaugurated because the King has been enthroned. Jesus is now the King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:5-11)! The name that was mocked and scorned and trampled upon at the cross is now the name above every name. As Hebrews 1:3 explains, “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). Later on in Hebrews we read, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12). His atoning work was now complete and now all the faithful await the day when Christ will return and make all things new.