We've been going through an old list of questions and answers contained
in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In particular
we've been looking at how Christ was exalted by his resurrection. This
week I want to begin looking at how Christ was exalted in his ascension,
namely, by ascending visibly.
After Jesus was raised from the dead he often and appeared to his
apostles and spoke with them. Luke tells us this in Acts: 'After his
suffering, he [Jesus] showed himself to these men and gave many
convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period
of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God' (Acts 1:3).
But what happened after that? Jesus ascended into the heavens. Luke
tells us: 'On one occasion [after his resurrection], while he was eating
with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait
for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized
with the Holy Spirit." So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord,
are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to
them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set
by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit
comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all
Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." After he said this, he
was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their
sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going,
when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of
Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This
same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in
the same way you have seen him go into heaven"' (Acts 1:4-11). Luke's
other account of the ascension reads: 'While he [Jesus] was blessing
them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him
and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at
the temple, praising God' (Luke 24:51-53). It is clear that Jesus
ascended into heaven, and he did it visibly.
Why does such an act exalt Christ? Most people would agree that going
into heaven is a praiseworthy act. Most of humanity is trying to get
into some form of paradise and would praise anyone who makes it there.
But why is it important to note that Christ's ascension was visible?
Lots of people claim to have gone to heaven. Many Christian bookstores
will happily sell you books written by people who make such a claim
(although one popular one was pulled from publication this year as its
author, Alex Malarkey, recanted his testimony). But to my knowledge,
none of those who claim to have been to heaven also claim to have
ascended visibly into heaven while others watched. Jesus' visible
ascension to heaven is unique and as a result he has received exaltation
So do you praise Christ for his visible ascension like the apostles did
many years ago?