Sunday before Ascension Day – May 17, 2020
Scripture reading – Will Bishop
6 “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “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.”
- With Ascension Day just five days away, today we are going to look at the topic of Christ’s ascension to heaven.
- Let’s begin by going back in time to his death on Good Friday: Jesus was tried and tortured from before sunrise to late morning;
- SLIDE 4 Then he was crucified, where He hung on cross from 9am-3pm. Darkness came over the area for 3 hours (12-3), and, when He died, there was an earthquake, resurrection of certain holy people, and the curtain in temple torn top to bottom, 6 inches think in places.
- SLIDE 5 Jesus’ body was then hurriedly prepared and placed in a tomb Friday just before sundown, marking the beginning of Shabbat.
- Jesus descended to the place of the dead (sheol in Heb., hades in Gk) from late Fri through early Sunday morning. Three days: 2 partial days, one full day, holy Saturday. During this time, his body remains in the cave or tomb and his soul goes to the place of the righteous dead, Abraham’s bosom or paradise. There was also a place of the unrighteous dead, Gehenna. And a prison like place for angelic beings who transgressed God’s…, Tarturus. While there, Jesus preached to the righteous dead who had been waiting for him SLIDE 6 He breaks down the doors of hades… this is called the Harrowing of Hell and has been….
- Then He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday, before sunrise. SLIDE 7
- Then 40 days, he stayed on earth before going back to heaven. Why 40? I think two reasons:
- First, to talk with his disciples, personal conversations: Peter, who had denied him three times… James who had rejected his messiahship….
- Second, to allow for the proper length of time to pass to coordinate the sending of the Spirit with Shavout, the Jewish feast of Weeks or Feast of Pentecost. Part of God’s eternal plan that Jesus, the Passover Lamb, would die on Passover and then would send the Spirit on Pentecost, which always comes 50 days after Passover. Pentecost was First fruits of the wheat harvest and later commemorated the giving of the law at Sinai. The sending of the Spirit was the fulfillment of both those meanings, as we will see in two weeks when we celebrate Pentecost.
- After these 40 days, SLIDE 8 Jesus ascends to the Father.
- So, what did Jesus do then? What happened during those 10 days between Ascension Day and Pentecost? That’s what we will consider today.
- We will draw largely from the NT book of Hebrews. And we’re going to see that two very important things happened, both of which were essential to our salvation. First,
1. Jesus was invested as high priest
- Investiture is the public ceremony recognizing a person who has been appointed to a high office. In this case, Jesus was being formally recognized as high priest of all His people.
- Under the covenant God made with Israel, the high priest represented the entire nation of Israel before God. Every year, he would make atonement on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. He did it by sacrificing a bull for his own unintentional sins and a goat for the sins of the people. It was like hitting the reset button to make holy once again the tabernacle, altar, utensils, the people, the priests, and everything within the temple precincts.
- In the book of Hebrews, a letter written to Jewish Christians on the verge of reverting to their pre-Christian Jewish beliefs, the author depicts God as having replaced the old covenant with the new, the old high priest with Jesus, and the OT tabernacle/later temple with the true heavenly tabernacle: the place where God dwells in heaven with his entourage of angels and other spiritual beings.
- Here are two examples:
“Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the holy places, in the true tabernacle that the Lord set up, not man.”
“For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
The argument by the author here is that the OT tabernacle was built according to plans that Moses was shown by God. This is what Scripture says. Exodus 26:30 says: SLIDE 12
“Then you shall set up the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you were shown on the mountain.”
- So, Christ presents himself before the Father as having offered the final sacrifice for sins; his wounds are in plain view; and is now publically acknowledged to be high priest, of whom the high priests of Israel were a weak copy.
- And, as the Father recognizes the efficacy of Jesus’ atoning work to perfect us forever, invites him to now sit down beside him. His work of sacrifice was over:
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
- Lenski: “….this one most holy and precious blood that atoned with eternal completeness for all the sins of all sinners from Adam on to the last one who shall be born.”
He gives us unlimited access to the Father
- Where is the Father seated in the heavenly sanctuary? in the Holy of Holies, which was separated from…. by a curtain. Jesus goes inside the curtain…
- Jesus has given us full access to the Father now,
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
- In Jesus’ high priestly duties, the Father made a way for us to be face to face with Him. This is the significance of the curtain being torn in the temple when Jesus died. This gave us direct access to God.
- As high priest, Jesus continually represents us to the Father as the New Humanity, helping us, being available to us, interceding for us as our Advocate. This language of intercession or advocacy is used in several spots in the NT. Two examples:
He talks to the Father about us continually
25 …he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
1 John 2:1
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
- Need to be careful here. It can sometimes be misunderstood as Christ pleading with a reluctant Father who wants to send punishment, so he begs him not to, showing his wounds, be nice to them because I died for them. Not the case at all! The Father loves us every bit as much as Son. Together, they made our salvation, taken up into their shared life and love.
- “Christ’s intercession in heaven is a kind and powerful remembrance of his people, and of all their concerns, managed with state and majesty; not as a suppliant at the footstool but at the right hand of the Father.” Robert Traill
- Jesus is talking to the Father about us continually…. What does it look like? Lk 22:32: Satan asked to sift you, but I’ve prayed for you…; Also, Jn 17 gives us best explanation.
- FF Bruce: Jesus is a “throned priest-king, asking what he will from a father who always hears and grants his requests”
2. Jesus was enthroned as king over all
- For sure, Jesus was king from all eternity in a sense. He made all things; shares the essence of the Father as God…. Jn 17-all yours is mine, mine yours
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
- But He was not formally recognized as king until after his earthly ministry, resurrection and ascension. It was then he was crowned king over all.
Phil 2: 6-11
“Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
- Promised in OT: Ps 110:1: Daniel 7 describes….
- What kind of Coronation ceremony was staged? Can you imagine the event? This is what Queen Elizabeth’s coronation looked like SLIDE 18, SLIDE 19 This is an artist’s rendering of what Ezekiel saw in God’s throneroom….Seraphim, Cherubim, court of heaven, divine council, all the holy ones, billions of angels. Think of the choir! The colors, the music, the beauty!
- Jesus was enthroned for us and as us. What do I mean?
- For us… on our behalf. Head of church; I will build my church and the gates of hell…: He protects church through HS and angels
- As us… He is a human; the human….Our flesh is in heaven… John Duncan: “The dust of the earth is on the throne of the majesty on high”
- This has a couple of important implications:
- The fact Jesus is there is proof that we will join him in resurrection, ascension. Heidelberg Cath: “a sure pledge that He, as our Head, will also take us His members up to Himself.” He is the first fruits of all believers. He will bring us to himself and the Father. He prepares a place for us to live with him forever – Jn 14:2-3
- Because we are joined to him, we are with him now over the dark power… He conquered the evil powers, exposed them…. He will come again in glory to make all enemies his footstool and reign
- Our older brother is the King of the universe…. Our older brother is also the high priest… We can go to him at anytime.
15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
- Man of sorrows….. bent reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out
- Let’s pray