‘He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty’
Timothy Cross continues looking at the Apostles’ Creed
Forty days after Jesus’ victorious resurrection, Scripture tells us that Christ ‘was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God’ (Mark 16:19).
Luke recorded this event in some detail. He wrote how, on the Mount of Olives, ‘as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight’ (Acts 1:9).
Fittingly then, the incomparable Christ who is the eternal Son of God both entered into and exited from this world in a supernatural manner.
Christ’s ascension was his homecoming. We can only imagine the scene of triumph and jubilation as he re-entered heaven’s glory, having accomplished his mission of procuring the salvation of God’s elect.
Psalm 24, however, gives us prophetic insight into that scene of triumphant joy: ‘Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors! … Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!’
Surprisingly, Christ’s ascension is rarely considered. Yet it has great pastoral implications for believers. John Calvin explained: ‘By his ascension into heaven he has opened to us the gate of the kingdom of heaven which was closed to everyone in Adam.
‘In fact he has entered into heaven with our human nature, in our name as it were, so that in him we already possess heaven through hope and sit with him in the heavenly realms. And it is for our good that he has entered into God’s sanctuary – a sanctuary not made by man’s hand’.
The Lord Jesus described heaven as ‘My Father’s house’, and went on to say to his disciples that he was going there ‘to prepare a place for you’ (John 14:1-2).
Heaven then is a prepared place for a prepared people. By his atoning death the Lord Jesus has made his people fit for heaven – and ever since his ascension the Lord Jesus has been getting heaven ready for his people!
‘Jesus Christ has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers subject to him’ (1 Peter 3:22). Christ’s coronation followed his ascension.
‘The right hand of God’ refers to the place of supreme honour, authority, power and pre-eminence. God the Father bestowed on his Son the highest honour and accolade because of the perfection of his redeeming work.
Christ was ‘crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death’ (Hebrews 2:9). ‘He … became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name’ (Philippians 2:8-9). At God’s right hand, Christ is both an exalted king and eternal priest.
The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now
A royal diadem adorns
The mighty Victor’s brow.
The highest place that heaven affords
Is his by sovereign right
The King of kings and Lord of lords
And heaven’s eternal light.
Christians contend for Christ’s crown and covenant. Jesus reigns! From his exalted position, he rules over all things for the glory of his name and blessing of his church – the people he died to redeem.
God the Father ‘raised him from the dead and made him sit 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 … and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church’ (Ephesians 1:20-22).
Whilst Christ’s ascension marked the completion and conclusion of his earthly mission, paradoxically, his ministry still continues. At God’s right hand he prays for his own. ‘Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us’ (Romans 8:34). ‘He always lives to make intercession for them’ (Hebrews 7:25).
Christ’s intercession is a facet of his high priestly ministry. The Old Testament priesthood was instituted to offer sacrifices for sin and make supplications to God. At Calvary, Christ offered his own self once for all as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all God’s elect.
Now, by his continual intercession, he keeps his people in the benefit of his sacrifice. ‘If any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (1 John 2:1).
He pleads our case by pleading his case! He has fully atoned for our sins and God the Father accepts us on the basis of his finished work. His sacrifice is complete. His supplication will continue until we are saved to sin no more. Blessed be his name!