In this chapter, Keller discusses the ascension of Christ and its impact on believers. Although many people view Jesus’ ascension as just another event, Keller argues that it has enormous significance on the way we live today. He encourages the reader to think beyond what happened and meditate on why it happened. First, he explains the theology behind the ascension, and second, he discusses its practical meaning for our lives.
Keller begins by making the assertion that the ascension is not merely Christ returning to the Father in heaven, but it is the “enthronement of Jesus.” He clarifies that Jesus did not rise in the air because heaven is somewhere in outer space; rather, Keller writes that Christ ascended into the clouds in order to symbolize his kingship. Just like a new king goes up the steps to sit on a throne that is seated higher than his subjects, so did Jesus rise in the air to demonstrate his authority and reign.
Keller goes on to discuss Jesus’ humanity. The resurrected Christ was still fully human; however, his body no longer endured the effects of sin. Once he ascended to the Father, he was no longer bound by space and time and could rule his people in all places and at all times through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Keller writes that because of the ascension, Jesus is sitting at the “right hand of the Father” and is representing us on our behalf “before the very face of the Father.” Though Christ has always been the supreme king and priest, he now rules as the “risen God-man” who is ushering in a new era where his church will enjoy the new heavens and new earth.
Keller transitions to discussing the practical implications of Christ’s ascension. First, the ascended Christ is infinitely available for love and fellowship with believers. Keller gives the example of Mary seeing Jesus for the first time after the resurrection. She clung to him and did not want to let him go. However, Jesus responded by saying that it would be better for her if he left the earth and returned to the Father, as it means he will no longer be bound to a certain geographical location. No longer would she sometimes get to experience him when she was in his physical presence; rather, she could experience him forever through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Keller writes that because this was made possible by the ascension, we can know Christ in a very real and satisfying way. The second application for Christ’s ascension involves trusting in God’s power. He has complete authority over his church and all of creation. As he sits at the right hand of the Father, he is ruling for His church and working out the tiniest of details for the good of his people. Keller’s final application of the ascension is Christ’s intercession for the church. Because Jesus is with the Father, believers have an eternal advocate. Christians can have confidence before the judgment throne because Christ ascended to the right hand of the father and intercedes on our behalf. Keller concludes by reminding the reader that drawing from these truths of the ascension can allow them to know Christ as supremely satisfying.
(!) Something Helpful
Jesus’ ascension was not merely a great honor for him, but it also was for us! He went to heaven to get things done for our good.
(Keller, p. 183)
As believers, we can put our confidence in knowing that God is working everything for our good (Romans 8:28). This is easy to accept when the things that don’t go our way seem insignificant in the long run. If it’s the job that we didn’t end up getting or a relationship that failed, we quote “all things work for good” and move on with our lives until something better shows itself. However, these words are a promise from Scripture that refer to all of our disappointments, including our deepest wounds. Because Christ ascended and sits at the right hand of the father, everything sits under his lordship. He has complete power to bring good out of every difficult circumstance we face. Each and every hardship is mysteriously being molded into a good gift for us, though we may not know it in this lifetime. No suffering is irredeemable. When we truly believe in the ascension, we believe that God is ruling and reigning for the good of his people. We can trust in his power.
(?) Something to Think About
This chapter left me thinking about the times that I wished my life would be better if I could just sit across the table and talk with Jesus. However, Scripture tells us that it is best for us that Jesus is with the Father and that the Holy Spirit dwells in us (John 16:7). The reality is that Christ is infinitely available to us, and we can come to him for love and fellowship without measure. Do I take time to read the Scriptures and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ through his Word? Do I ask the Father to show me his glory and satisfy me with the outpouring of his love? Do I seek him, holding on to the promise that He will be found? Do I seek to know His presence through corporate worship and the fellowship of the local church?
(.) Something to Do
Are you anxious? Are you feeling you can’t keep everything going; you’ve got to keep all these balls up in the air? Then you don’t believe in the ascension or you’re not using it as a resource.
(Keller, p. 185)
This chapter challenged me to combat my anxiety with the truth of the ascension. When I meditate on Christ’s authority in the world, it challenges my thinking that my life is subject to ruin. Even through political turmoil, pandemics, conflict in relationships, and everyday disappointments, Christ’s position in the world does not change. We should hope in the reality that he is (at this very moment!) sitting at the right hand of the Father, reigning in glory. We can wait patiently for his return, knowing that he will fulfill all of his promises to us. Here are some things we can focus on this week in light of the ascension:
Thank God that he is readily available to fellowship with us. Ask that we might know him in a deeper way.
Thank Christ that he is our advocate, and we do not fear judgment for our sin.
Rebuke feelings of anxiety when we think that life is spiraling out of control. Ask God to remind us that he is the supreme King.
Ask God to give us patient and expectant hope as we wait for his return.
Questions to Ask Your Cell Group
How have you seen God work something out for good in your life? What are you struggling to believe that God will turn to good?
Do you struggle to believe that Christ is readily and infinitely available to you? How have you known his fellowship in the past?
Do you believe that Christ is really and truly your advocate? How do you live in fear of judgment or seek to cover your own sin?