Word of the Month

Ascension and fellowship

May 2007

It is striking that Scripture does not report as much about Christ’s ascension as it does about other important events in the divine plan of salvation. In so far as the letters of the Apostles refer to it, we find a number of beautiful references.

For example, the letter to the Ephesians states: “And [God] raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2: 6). At first one might be a little astonished to read this. How have we been made to “sit together in the heavenly places”? After all, it is He, the Lord, who has ascended into heaven. We on the other hand are still here on this earth and have to cope with all sorts of things.

But what is meant is that heaven is to be our spiritual dwelling. Although we are still on this earth, we are merely guests here. Our actual home, our spiritual dwelling, is in heaven. Let us conduct ourselves accordingly. How beautiful when the fellowship in a congregation can be described as heaven on earth.

Since we have been raised up together and have been made to sit together in the heavenly places, we await our own ascension. But how do we wait?

There are two components to Christ’s ascension, namely a commission to work, and a hope for the future. In this context the Lord Himself summarised what we are to do: “And you shall be witnesses to Me” (cf. Acts 1:8).

Luke the Evangelist recorded the rest of the events of Christ’s ascension for us. There it says, even somewhat reproachfully: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?” (cf. Acts 1: 11). Let me express this just a little more dramatically: “Why are you just standing there doing nothing? Why don’t you get to work?”

We may at times be so deeply lost in thought that we are numb and unable to do anything. But we really should get down to work instead. Only by being active can we receive blessing. Let us allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit. Let us try to be a testimony in our surroundings, which by nature is associated with work.

Let us not just stand there gazing up into heaven, doing nothing. This same Jesus will come again! That is our joy and our hope and what we expect every day. May the words that were once said of the disciples after they had witnessed the Lord’s ascension also be said of us: They prayed to the Lord and returned to Jerusalem “with great joy” (cf. Luke 24: 52). They were continually found in the temple praising God. Of course we cannot be in the house of God at all times. This is not realistic. But our spiritual dwelling should always be with the Lord or, as Apostle Paul expressed it, “in the heavenly places”, that is, in fellowship with the triune God.

With such a disposition we will experience the great day when these words to the Ephesians will find their fulfilment in our ascension. May we then all be accepted!

(From a divine service by the Chief Apostle)