Christianity 201

April 5, 2016

“He is not here, he is up there.” – The Ascension (Part 2)

Ascension of Jesus

I know, you were expecting “He is not here, he is risen.” Well, yes; that, too. Today we’re in the second part of what is a single article at Christian Today, a UK publication similar to Christianity Today in the US. If you missed yesterday’s post here, just click the link below to read both parts together at source.

Where is Jesus now? And what is he doing?

•••by David Robertson

What does it mean for us?

1) Jesus is not here – At least not in his body. He has gone. He is risen. We do not literally see his body, hear his voice or touch the holes in his hands. But that does not mean we cannot know him, hear him or be with him. We need to point out to our unbelieving friends that the argument ‘if only Jesus was here and I could see and hear him, then I would believe in him’ does not hold water. Why? Because most of the people who did see and hear Jesus did not believe in him. In fact many of them crucified him! They and we, need something more.

2) He has sent his Spirit – We have lost the human voice on earth and the presence of the physical body. But Christ still has a human voice and a physical body which we can communicate with. How? He sent his Spirit.

Through the Holy SpiritI have just become a granddad. The only problem is that my daughter is in Australia. I can’t just hop on a plane and go over and be physically with her. But through the wonders of modern technology I have seen my granddaughter, spoken to her and to my daughter. There is a sense in which the connection between the believer and Christ through the Holy Spirit is like the ultimate Skype call. The bible uses the idea of being ‘in Christ’ to describe the intimacy of the connection in such a way that it parallels the intimacy of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as Skype collapses the distance between here and Australia for some of our senses, so the Spirit collapses the distance between here and heaven so that we really are in Christ. When we sit at the Lord’s Table he really is there, when two or three gather he really is present. The Holy Spirit unites Christ and his Church in such a way, that although the ascended Lord is not everywhere, he is everywhere accessible.

Again to our unbelieving friends we point out that unless they are ‘born again/from above/of the Spirit’, they cannot even see the kingdom of God, never mind enter it. Becoming a Christian is not about adopting a way of life, religion or philosophy. It is about becoming connected to the living, risen, ascended Christ. Becoming part of his body. Knowing him, following him, serving him, loving him. It is the most dynamic and real of relationships.

3) Christ’s work continues – He is still actively our Prophet, Priest and King. He sends us his Word – the scriptures are the living, breathing, cutting voice of Christ to us today as much as they were when they were written. Christ’s work continues as priest. His sacrifice is finished but his work of intercession continues. Hebrews 4: 

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

We really can approach the throne of grace. It’s not just some inner mystical experience. This is for real! When we take communion, it’s not just a symbol, nor is it the literal physical body of Jesus – but He is really present. We are connected to the whole Christ and fed by the whole Christ.

He is our king. Whatever our circumstances, however powerful our enemies appear to be – Christ reigns over all. His kingdom will come. Ephesians 1:

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”

4) We have a glorious hope: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3 – NIV)

The Christian is always in the realm of the ‘now but not yet’. Christ reigns now, Christ is with us now, but there is more to come. There will come a day when our bodies will be renewed like his. We shall be like him for we shall see him as he is. This is not ‘pie in the sky when you die’ but ‘steak on your plate while you wait!’ It is because we are ‘in Christ’, it is because we know Christ the king, it is because we are assured of his return and ultimate victory that we can live in hope, serve the poor, weep with the broken, and share the Good News. We are now Christ’s body here on earth. He is our Head. We can do nothing without him. But we can do all things through him.

This is the wonder. The Spirit not only collapses distance, he also collapses time so that we connect with Christ in the past – we are with him on the Cross, Christ in the present and Christ in the future.

Some might say, that’s all very well but it sounds like high falutin’ theology… not much practical use. You are kidding! There is nothing more practical than this. Even in terms of evangelism and worship, when we are gathered together as the covenant community of Christ’s people, we need to know his presence in such a way that any unbeliever walking in falls down and says ‘truly God is among you’! This is only the foretaste, the first fruits. The best is yet to be. We long for his return, when everything shall be reconciled. Maranatha.

Even so come soon Lord Jesus.


David Robertson is minister of St Peters, Dundee, Scotland; director Solas CPC; husband of Annabel, father of Andrew, Becky and EJ; author, debater, broadcaster and Uni chaplain. Follow him @theweeflea

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