By Grant McClung
Today – May 1 is “Ascension Day,” marking the day when Jesus Christ ascended up into heaven, as recorded in Acts 1.3-11. Unfortunately, many know nothing about the observance of Ascension Day. In Europe, where I have lived in missionary service, the day is officially observed but usually is nothing more than a day off work for most working people.
Across the world, Christians observe Resurrection Sunday (Easter) with church pageants and musicals. A few weeks later, the Christian world (especially Pentecostals!) place a focus on “Pentecost Sunday” but Ascension Day, “a day in between,” often goes unnoticed.
Not so with the Triune God. The Ascension of Jesus Christ was at the heart of the completion of God’s saving action in Christ, ending his humiliation, and exalting Him to the place of honor and authority at the right hand of God the Father. As Church of God theologian French Arrington states, “The earthly life of the crucified and risen Lord reaches its climax when He was taken up into heaven.”
What does all this mean for me in my daily living as a follower of Jesus Christ? As the result of the overall “salvation package” in the Death/Resurrection/Ascension event of Jesus Christ, at least three benefits accompany those who are His disciples. Because of the Ascension of Jesus Christ we have Access, Approval, and Anointing.
1. Access – to a new and living way.
In his commentary on the Ascension, the Reformer John Calvin said, “Since (Christ) entered into heaven in our flesh, as if in our name, it follows, as the apostle says, that in a sense we already sit with God in the heavenly places in him (Christ). At the ascension, our humanity, our “flesh” has been “taken” by God’s beloved one – Jesus – into the very heart of God.” Someone once asked a commercial airline pilot if he was nervous about the responsibility of lifting off a plane load of hundreds of people. “No,” he said, “I just get myself in the air and they follow me!” In the same way, following the resurrected and ascended Christ guarantees our access into an eternal future.
2. Approval – God’s favor and blessing.
After commissioning his followers to the ends of the earth with the priority of making disciples of all peoples, Jesus began to bless his followers. “While he was blessing them,” reads the account, “he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24.51). He commissioned them, began blessing them, and the ascension began! The last thing that was happening to them was the blessing and approval of their Lord! They, and we today, advance to the nations with His approval – and He works with us while we await His return.
3. Anointing – giftings of the Holy Spirit for service.
Ten days later, the ascended Lord dispensed the enduement of power for anointed service to those waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Into the face of a hostile, mocking crowd, Peter testified to this new anointing:
God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he [Jesus] has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear (Acts 2.32-33).
In a strategic convergence, this year’s observance of Ascension Day also coincides with The National Day of Prayer (see www.ndptf.org) and the start of a ten day countdown to the Global Day of Prayer on Pentecost Sunday (see www.globaldayofprayer.com).
On this Ascension Day, the “day in between” (Easter and Pentecost) we move with assurance into access to all that God has for us, knowing that we advance forward to all nations with His approval and anointing. During the special days of prayer, a global prayer movement calls upon God for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit across our land and around the world.
Grant McClung is a member of the Church of God International Executive Council and author of Globalbeliever.com: Connecting to God’s Work in Your World (Pathway Press 2004).
DISCLAIMER: Church of God and Faith News does not necessarily endorse or sanction all or any part of this news item.