No one has influenced the world like Jesus of Nazareth. He came into the world, lived a perfect life, preached the gospel of the kingdom, and in the end, like a lamb led to the slaughter, laid down His life for sin-plagued humanity. He was buried on the same day as His death, but rose from the dead on the third day. Following His resurrection, He remained on the earth for forty days (Acts 1:3). Then what transpired?

His time and mission on earth completed, the Christ returned to heaven. His ascension is recorded in three Bible chapters: Mark 16, Luke 24, and Acts 1. The simple language of Mark 16:19 is, “So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” As we sing in an old favorite hymn, “We Saw Thee Not,” we were not eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ascension, but some disciples did see Him taken up (Acts 1:9-11).

Christians are vocal in proclaiming the Christ as the Savior and risen Lord. We point to His death, burial, and resurrection as gospel facts (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). What about His ascension back to the Father? It appears that we may not give it a lot of emphasis, yet, biblically speaking, His ascension was of great importance in God’s plan to redeem man from sin.

Did you know that Jesus’ ascending to heaven was a fulfillment of prophecy? The Psalmist wrote, “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men” (Psalm 68:18). Guided by the Spirit, Paul quoted that verse and applied it to the Christ (Ephesians 4:7,8). In a vision, the prophet Daniel saw, “. . . One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom . . .” (Daniel 7:13,14). The Son of Man going to the Ancient of days was a pre- telling of Jesus returning to the eternal Father, which Jesus Himself predicted, too: “I go to My Father” (John 14:12).

Besides being a fulfillment of prophecy, what else was significant about Jesus’ ascension?

His ascension allowed Jesus to return to the glory of the Father, a glory which they had shared before the world was (John 17:4,5).

The Christ’s ascension allowed Him to fulfill His promise to go prepare a place (John 14:1,2).

His ascension was necessary in order for Him to fulfill His promise to come again from heaven (John 14:3).

Returning to the Father allowed Jesus to fulfill His promise to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles (John 16:7-14).

By ascending to heaven, Jesus was able to receive His kingdom, as per the Daniel 7 prophecy. Jesus had said this in His “Parable of the Minas/ Pounds”: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return” (Luke 19:12). As Peter preached on Pentecost, the Christ was raised up to sit on the throne of David (Acts 2:29,30). Going back to heaven was necessary in order for Him to become King.

Our Lord’s ascension was part of the plan for Him to serve as Head of the church. We read about the Father showing “His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places . . . And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:19,20,22).

 By ascending to heaven, Jesus was able to take on His role of High Priest. He could not be priest on earth (Hebrews 8:4), so He had to serve as priest in some other place . . . in heaven. “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1).

The Christ’s ascension allowed Him to bring His sacrifice before the Father, so to speak, like the sprinkling of blood done by a Jewish high priest in the most holy place of the tabernacle/temple on the Day of Atonement under the old law (Hebrews 9:18-26).

As Jesus ascended, some of His followers were watching. Two men informed them, “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). As we wait for God’s Son to come again from heaven, we watch, pray, and work (Mark 13:32-34). Thank God that the risen and ascended Christ “always lives to make intercession” for us (Hebrews 7:25).

Roger D. Campbell